[When we last left our Apocalyptically Doomed Beer Adventurer, he had just found the Eleventh seal MORTIS. But now his adventure has come to and end. Has he?]
The dream is always the same.
The emotions always seem to rotate through my mind like a parade that is DOOMed to continually circle the same city block.
First comes elation as I pull the box from the Mayan crypt that for hundreds of decades had served as its hiding place. It seems familiar, as if I’ve seen many boxes like it before, but for some reason this one is more beautiful, more significant. My body is afire with excitement as pull the bottle from inside holding it up to the light, a veritable rainbow glistening from all the facades of the quartz like material that it appears to be made of. Everything around me seems to move in slow motion as I pull out a glass from my backpack and open the bottle. As I pour it, time seems to almost stop, I can see every drop of liquid cascade into my glass, as if the flow of liquid was not a single stream, but a collection of a million tiny droplets. After what seems like an agonizing span of time, my glass is full and I take my first sip….
Then comes disappointment. Although I don’t know why. The liquid is clear with a nice amount of carbonation which leaves a nice lacing on the glass as I take each sip. The flavor seems straight ahead pale ale – a nice touch of malt along with an adequate amount of balancing hops. It’s nice, but not overly complex, so why is it so disappointing? What is it about this liquid that makes me wish it was so much more? I take another whiff from the glass and enjoy the malt/hop aroma as I try to figure out what’s bothering me about it. It was like I’ve reached the end of some grand journey, and the final destination wasn’t what it was advertized to be.
Finally are confusion and fear, as the quiet is disrupted by a deluge of commotion and shouting. I’m running, trying to find cover, trying to escape. As with most dreams I’m not 100% sure what is chasing me. I just know every time that I’m sure I don’t want to find out what it is, don’t want it to catch me. But my exit seems blocked at every turn, as if the place I’m in is anticipating my every move and hindering my escape. Finally it ends as it always does, I stop, there’s a figure standing in front of me and I hear a voice shout, “He’s here!” And then I feel a jolt run through my body. And then darkness.
Yes, the rush of emotions are always the same. Because the dream is always the same. Well not always, every now and then, at any point during the dream for what seems like no reason, my eyes will be flooded with a bright light. I’ll try to close my eyes against it, but it’s almost impossible to to shut out the dagger like assault on my retinas. And no matter what I do I can not free myself from it. But it’s not just the light, it’s what’s in it, shapes, dark figures, hushed whispers. Sometimes I try to focus on the words, to try and interpret what’s being said. Sometimes I attempt to call out, to try to get the attention of the people I believe to be encased within the glaring light. And then there are the times I just try to walk into it, to hopefully escape the dream, but it’s impossible, as if the light is some force holding me at bay.
But no matter how hard I try, in the end the light disappears, and darkness takes over, and the dream continues.
And the dream is always the same.
First comes elation as I pull the box from the Mayan crypt that for hundreds of decades had served as its hiding place It seems familiar, as if I’ve seen many boxes like it before, but for some reason this one is more beautiful, more significant. My body is afire with excitement as pull the bottle from inside holding it up to the light, a veritable rainbow glistening from all the facades of the quartz like material that it appears to be made of. But soon the colors that are lightly flickering off the bottle begin to grow. The colors melt together into white light the way they never have in the past, and slowly the light expands, until it is all that I can see.
The light is almost painful, as if my eyes haven’t been exposed to it for a very long time. I want to open them but the more I try the more it hurts. I can make out the shapes more clearly this time. There appears to be two of them, black in contrast to the bright light, standing over me. Standing over me? Where am I? This isn’t how the dream goes.
The dream is always the same.
Except this time. Suddenly I’m prone, almost floating is a cloud of comfort, the bright light surrounding me from all directions. I’m becoming more aware of my surroundings as the light begins to pull back. I’m apparently in a hospital room, even if it weren’t for the stacks of monitoring equipment on the cart next to me, the sterile white decor would be unmistakable. For the most part I don’t feel that bad, that is expect for my ribs and an odd taste in my mouth.
I blink several times as my eyes struggle to focus, the two dark shapes in front of me coalescing into two men, each wearing a black suit, and sporting thin, black ties that even in my reality deprived state can tell that they’re seriously out of date.
“How long,” I choke the words out, my mouth not working any better than my eyes. The odd taste seeming to creep up my throat.
“About two weeks,” one of the men answers stiffly, as if totally unphased that I had woken up.
“Hmmmm”, I turned my head to see if anyone else was in the room. “Surely the nurse’s dress code hasn’t changed that much.”
The men remained silent apparently unimpressed with my attempt at humor. I’ve seen enough Steven Segal and zombie apocalypse movies to know that waking up in a strange hospital with no recollection of how you got there was not a good thing. Waking up with two strangers guarding you like you were a prized museum piece was certainly not good. Suddenly one of the men raised his wrist up to his mouth and broke the silence. “He’s awake.”
I attempted to ask who he was talking to, but I couldn’t get the words out. My brain was still trying to reconnect to the rest of my body and apparently at the moment my mouth wasn’t high on the priority list. Which was fine by me, I probably didn’t want to waste a bunch of energy conversing with a guy who probably wasn’t going to give me a lot of answers anyway. I didn’t know exactly where I was, but someone was interested that I was awake, and if I was a betting man, I’d bet it was a pissed off man with a Morley hanging out of this mouth.
I let my eyes drift around the room trying to take stock of my surroundings, when suddenly the door opened and a man walked in. The man was about average height, with a very proper cut of dark hair on his head. He appeared confident as he stepped between the two men and approached me, turning his head down to the foot of the bed and slowly surveyed up my body until he finally reached my eyes. With an almost apologetic smile that seemed to curl more on one side of his mouth than the other, he finally spoke, “Hello Micheal.”
It didn’t even register at first that he knew my name, all that did register was that it wasn’t who I expect. My expression must have conveyed my confusion as my visitor cast me an odd look.
“Something wrong, Micheal?”
“I was….,” I focused hard on each word, each one kicking up that funny taste in my mouth. “I was expecting a cigarette smoking friend of mine.”
“Oh yes,” the man nodded as he walked down to the foot of the bed. “Well, the truth is, he’s no longer in my employment. Pains me really, he was a good man. But the mistake of letting you walk into the night in Merida could not be over looked,” He spread his hands apart with a sly smile on his face. “Wouldn’t you agree, Micheal?”
The third time he said my name something clicked as if I was experiencing some sense of deja vu. Something from my past. But my brain was having trouble focusing on what was going on in the room at the moment, the past was still beyond its reach. But I took a shot. “I….I know you?”
“Of course you do. Think back. About 6 years ago? The University of Princeton?”
I concentrated, trying to remember. Like a rat running a maze my brain was desperately trying to remap itself one neuron at a time. Flashes of distant memories began to pop in and out of my mind like scenes circling in a Viewfinder. A University campus. Me talking in front of crowd of people. Me extending my hand after introducing the next speaker. A man walking from the side of the stage with a big grin on his face, a grin that seem to curl more on one side than the other, the face growing more familiar with each step he took, his hand extending as he reached me. As our hands clasped his face melded into a final vision of recognition, “Sam?”
Sam Calagione, the owner of Dogfish Head Brewery was well know in the craft beer community and the archeology world alike. It had been a symposium, that Sam and I, along with Patrick McGovern had been invited to speak. I gave an introduction and a brief over view of the history of beer and brewing from an archeological standpoint, and then I introduced Sam, who was going to discuss the approach of brewing these historical beers with modern interpretations.
“You hired me?”
“Sure did, Micheal. Hired you. Set you up with everything you needed. Sent people to help you when you needed it. Kept people off your back when you required it. I must say, I thought we made a pretty impressive team,” he finished with a self gratified nod of the head.
“Sam, I, I don’t understand…” The last word drifted out of my mouth.
“Oh it’s quiet simple really. I gained knowledge of the seals during some research McGovern and I were doing for an up coming book,” he walked around to the opposite side of my bed and sat on the edge. “Of course to him it was just a legend, nothing more. But think of it Micheal, twelve unique and extremely rare beers, hidden by a civilization thousands of years ago. I was intrigued by the possibility.” He picked up a medical chart from the nightstand next to me and seemed to study it, ” How could I resist the chance to see if they were real?”
He stood up, replacing the clipboard back on the table and slowly made his way around the bed, running his finger along the railings, “But I realized quickly that I couldn’t do this myself . If I undertook the search for them, word would spread and soon every craft beer idiot out there would be looking for them. Plus I had to be honest with myself, while I’m pretty good in the lecture room when it comes to this sort of stuff I lack some of the, field skills, that you and some of your fellow adventurers possess. No, the best way for me to find out if these seals truly did exist was to hire someone, and support them from the shadows. And you, Micheal. You, were my guy. And you succeeded,” he shook his fists in front of him in excitement. “You really did it,” his excitement turned to air of seriousness. “But you almost went and screwed it all up with that little stunt you pulled. Luckily, we had a tight leash on you. Not as tight as before you dumped all your stuff in Merida I’ll grant you, but still enough to catch up with you as you found the last seal.”
“Evidently,” I said not really caring how they caught up with me at the moment. “So now what?”
He look disappointed, “Why I would think it was obvious, Michael. I’m going to take several of those amazing liquids and introduce them as part of my Ancient ale series. Well,” he shrugged, “not without a few tweaks of course. I’m sure the recipes can be improved upon by the addition of some maple syrup from my family farm.” He smiled down at me, “wouldn’t you agree.”
I stared into his eyes for a bit not believing I was having this conversation. Sam had set all this up so that in the end, he could have a couple more beers in his Ancient Ale series? It seemed to much to believe. Hell, it seemed to much trouble to believe. But if what he said was true, that meant I was now the center point of his plans. I had tasted each liquid and could pull out the flavor profiles of each from memory, that is once my brain rewired properly. The words Lara had said to me in the cave flashed into my head, “We both know history hasn’t always been kind to people who hold a secret.”
“Nice plan you have there, Sam. Of course you have a problem. In reality you don’t have the seals – I do,” I imagined myself raising my arm up to tap a finger against my temple. Unfortunately my arm didn’t obey my mental command.
“Ah, well that’s where you’re wrong Michael. See, I don’t need you anymore. Before we brought you here to Christiana Hospital we made a little stop off at the brewery. And thanks to a little something some friends of mine where able to get their hands on,” he reached over and played with a few of the knobs on one of the pieces of equipment that was on the cart next to me,” I’ve already taken everything I need out of that amazing head of yours. Don’t believe me? What do you think that funny taste in your mouth is from? A side effect I’m afraid.”
This story was growing more unbelievable by the moment This was something that I hear happening to Lara or Junior, but not to me. But right now I had no choice but to act as if everything Sam has told me was the truth. Which means he’d already gotten what he needed. Which meant, “So what about me?”
“You? Relax Michael, ” he said as he pulled out a pair of dark sunglasses and put them on. “This isn’t some cliche ridden spy novel where the evil mastermind threatens to snuff out the life of our handsome hero. Do you remember that amateur that beat you to the fifth seal? The one they pulled from the jungle with his memory missing?”
As he said the last words he nodded over to the two men that I thought had been standing motionless during our entire conversation, but sometime during our exchange, they too had donned dark glasses and were now both eying me, one holding a small silver cylinder in his hand. “Yeah,” I said not sure what was about to happen. “Of course I do.”
“Not for much longer I’m afraid.”
And then there was a flash of light.
And then nothing.
Except for the dream.
And the dream is always the same.
[Next – The epilogue and ending to our story.]