The Apocalyptically Doomed Beer Adventure: Epilogue

[When we last encountered our Apocalyptically Doomed Beer Adventurer, he learned who he was working for and fell victim to some kind of device.  Now the story concludes.  It’s been fun writing these.  Cheers!!]

IMAG1440

I take a sip of my beer as I glance around the bar enjoying the ice cold,  tasteless liquid that numbs my taste buds as it flows over my tongue.  Like every Friday afternoon, there’s only a small crowd of people here.  Like every Friday, happy hour started at three.  And like every Friday, I don’t really know why I’m here.

I feel like I’ve been coming here for years, a natural feeling conclusion to my boring 9-5 work week at the local beer distributor.  Don’t get me wrong the bar isn’t a bad place, the bartender Jerry treats me well, my favorite beer is always on special when I arrive, and most of the customers seem content to keep to themselves.  It’s the perfect bar. Well almost perfect.

The bar does have a few taps that cater to the annoying “craft beer” crowd.  Those self-important snobs that feel the need to make fun of people like me who enjoy the cold crispness of a finely crafted American mass market beer.   The worst is the guy who comes in and always seems to manage to sit next to me and drink some beer called Arrogant Bastard.  Yeah, that’s the sad mentality of that crowd, always being taken in by some stupid name or hype.  I’ve never understood it, even from my seat next to him the beer smells horrible.

My thoughts are broken when a guy sits on the bar stool next to me.  He flashes me a smile as if I cared that he was sitting next to me before he makes eye contact with the bartender, “Hey Jerry!  I hear  you got the new Dogfish Head Mayan on draft.”

“Sure do,” Jerry returned as he grabs a mug from the shelf and took a few steps towards the other end of the bar before he turns toward me  almost as it was an after thought. “New beer from Dogfish Head, Micheal.  Want to try it?”

“No thanks Jerry, you know I can’t stand that craft beer crap,” I say almost out of reflex.  Jerry nods with a weird smile on his face as he turns and walks down to the other end of the bar.  I never understood why Jerry continued to insist that I try the latest craft beer garbage that came into the bar.  But what seemed even more confusing was the almost robotic response I’d give every time .  Almost as if it had been programmed.

But that’s not the only thing that had struck me as odd lately.  There was the recent fiasco at the doctor’s office.  I finally broke down and went to see someone about the pain in my side.  Most days it didn’t bother me, but some days if I twisted the wrong way, or bumped into something, the pain made it almost impossible to breath properly.  After a battery of tests, my doctor strolled into the examining room and declared that the pain was a common side effect from having broken my ribs.

“I’ve never broken my ribs,” I stated matter-of-factly, pretty damn sure that it was something that a person would remember doing.

“Well these X-rays state otherwise.  Semi-clean breaks in 7, 8 and 9 on your right side.  But by the looks of the malunion and callous formations I’d say you never allowed them to heal properly.”  What proceeded was a twenty minute argument on how his X-ray department had obviously screwed up.

And then there was the dream.  Persistent, relentless scenes of a bottle hidden inside a box, an odd tasting liquid, a chase, someone yelling.  Every night I’d have the dream and the dream was always the same.

I lightly shook my head to dispel the visions that haunted me on so many nights when a female voice startled me, ” Would  you like to try a shot?”

I turned to see a woman standing behind me with a tray containing a collection of small, plastic glasses.  While she had a great smile with a very pleasing figure and dark hair that was pulled back behind her head in a ponytail, there was just one thing that struck me odd.  “Aren’t you a little old to be a shot girl, dear?”

The instant look  of anger or irritation that crossed her face was unmistakeable.  I don’t know why but for some reason a wave of regret swept over me, and although I wasn’t normally a shot guy,” Sorry, so what do we have here?”

“Something new to our wholesalers,” she said still eying me with a look of annoyance.  “We call it the Fall shot.”

I picked up one of the plastic cups and, praying that it didn’t taste like shit, tossed the liquid down.  Obviously my prayers weren’t answered, the shot tasted as if someone combined a bunch of random liquors in the glass.   And then there was this odd warm feeling that seem to begin to course through my body almost immediately after the liquid hit my stomach.  I didn’t know why it was happening but I sure wasn’t enjoying it.

And then it hit.  A jolt of electricity that felt like fire snaking through my brain.  I remember screaming out loud as I dropped the shot glass, and sprang from the bar stool causing it to go crashing to the floor.

Before I could react, the shot girl forced another cup up to my lips in an attempt to force a second shot down my throat, “Why yes sir, you can definitely try another.”  In reflex I try to push the  woman away from me as my brain overloaded, half of it trying  to make sense of the pain that is assaulting it and the other half trying to keep me from choking to death on the pie crust tasting liquid.  Pie Crust?

I have little time to wonder where that taste in my mouth came from when I was struck by another jolt of pain causing my body to go crashing to the floor.  I looked up from my prone position to see Jerry emerging from behind the bar with a look of infuriating on his face, obviously yelling something that I can’t process.  I’m relieved that help from this crazy woman is coming when she leans over and grabs me tightly on both sides of my mouth with her hand and squeezes hard. “Come on, Hunter, I know you’re in there!”

The taste of pie spices, especially cinnamon are unmistakeable as another dose of the liquid enters my mouth.  Suddenly she’s pulled off of me, as once again my brain explodes but not with pain this time, but with visions and sensations.  Strange symbols drawn in what looks like sand, a waterfall, floating in calm pool, the sound of gunfire, light glistening from a glass bottle, the smell of cigarettes, a mosaic of stone faces, swinging through the air, the face of a man with a crooked smile.  And then suddenly, clarity.

I struggled to my feet using the bar to pull myself up and look around the room.  The sight in front of me would have been comical if not for the destruction, the shot girl and the bartender were engaged in a fierce battle, flipping over tables and scattering what little customers were in the place either to the sides of the bar, or out the door. I felt the need to step in, although at the moment it appeared that Lara was holding her own.  Lara?  I knew this woman!  But more importantly I knew the man she was struggling with.

I reached over and grabbed a mug sitting on the bar, and in one fluid motion I raised the glass to my lips and eagerly drank the liquid it contained as if I were a man stranded in the desert being given his first drink of water.  The familiar taste of Arrogant Bastard flowed into my mouth and down my throat, quenching a taste that felt like it hadn’t been sated in years.

I slammed the mug down on the bar and looked at the man standing next to me who, with everything going on, could do no more than cast me a bewildered look.   “Thanks,” I said giving him a nod as I pushed myself off the bar in the direction of the fight that was raging across the room.

Jerry and Lara had totally demolished a good section of the dinning area with their fight and were struggling in the corner.  While Lara had been holding her own for awhile, Jerry’s strength seemed to finally win out as he was hovering over her as she lay on the floor..  As I crossed the bar room he grabbed her by the shirt and pulled her limp body up from the floor.  With a horrible thud he slammed her against the wall and pulled his arm back ready to deliver what I’m sure he thought would be a knock out blow.  “You should have minded your own business, bitch.”

I got there a split second sooner.  I reached over his right shoulder with one hand and grabbing his jacket, spin him quickly around and give him everything I have with the other.  He went down as if he had been shot, not totally sprawling out on the floor because I still had a hold of his jacket with my one hand.  I sighed deeply, looking into Lara’s eyes and allowing the satisfaction of that punch sink in until I finally released Jerry’s shirt, allowing him to finally slump fully onto the floor.

“I told you I wouldn’t miss that jaw a second time,” I said as I gave his torso a self gratifying kick with my left foot.  I looked at the woman leaning against the wall who looked like she’d been through hell and with as much whimsy as I could muster I spread my arms, “Lara!”

“Hunter,” she said with a sly grin as she stepped over Jerry.  Suddenly I felt a hot sting on my chin that would have assuredly dropped me to the floor if I had not fell back against the only table that remained upright in the room.  “What the hell was that for!”

“I told you I’d deck you if you ever called me ‘dear‘ again.”

I worked my jaw with my hand making sure it was still properly aligned, “Oh yeah.  The meeting in the cave. Well I forgot.  After all that was like, what, 7 months ago?”

“Hunter,” her face turned grim.  “That was 4 years ago.”

I looked at her like someone looks at a person who speaks to them in a foreign language.   Four years?  I tried to process what Lara had just told me.  Apparently Sam had done a damn good job wiping my memory some how and dumping me in another life.  And apparently, I was lucky that Lara never gave up the search for me.  “But how did you……?

“When you disappeared it was like you fell off the face of the planet.  Nobody seemed to know anything.  Remembering our conversation I feared the worst.  But I never gave up.  I kept looking, using any means I could.  Finally, a couple of weeks ago I saw you sitting at this bar in the background of some girl’s photo on Instagram.”

I couldn’t resist an internal chuckle.  Guess I can’t dump on that social medium anymore.

“I approached you awhile back, but you didn’t seem to recognize me.  Hell, you didn’t even seem to know who you were.  I took a chance.  The shot glasses were full of the remaining liquid we shared in the cave that day.  I was hoping it could restore the mind as well as the body.”

Apparently Lara’s hopes were valid, the ninth seal’s restorative properties must have counteracted whatever had been done to my mind.  “But what the hell were you thinking?” I stepped up to her.  “Why didn’t you bring someone to help you out?  Flynn, River… JUNIOR!”

“Junior?”

“Jun….Jones, Henry Jones,” I said as I looked around the bar wondering how long we could have this conversation before someone would show up and ask a bunch of questions we didn’t want to answer.

“Michael,” her voice went soft with sadness.  Lara rarely called me by my first name.  “Jones is dead.”

The news sucked the air out of me more than any of my recent, or apparently not so recent,  blows to my ribs.

“He’d heard I’d been looking for you.  That I never gave up.  He emailed me a month before he died asking for me to come and visit him.”

“What did he want,” I said out of reflex, the news still not totally sinking in.

“He told me that if I ever found you I was to give you this,” Lara leaned over and picked up a side bag off the floor.  Reaching in, she pulled out an object that at first I didn’t recognize but once out in the open it started to unfold in to a recognizable shape, a fedora, looking a little worse for wear.

I reached out for the hat, the memories of the time we spent walking out of the Peruvian jungle flooding back like so many other memories released by the ninth seal.

“He told me to tell you something,” she said glancing down at the floor as if she wasn’t sure she should tell me.

“What was that?” I replied, rolling the hat around in my hands.

“He said, You may have lost this time Sonny, but that doesn’t mean you have to like it.

I let the words sink in as I flipped the fedora onto my head marveling at how well it fit. “I just have one question.”

“Yes?”

I raised my face up from under the brim and looked purposefully into Lara in the eyes, “Where is Calagione?”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Cast
Doctor Michael Hunter ………………………………………………………Himself
Doctor Lyle Campbell…………………………………………………………Himself
Sam Calagione ………………………………………………………………….Himself
Ramon Carrasco (Man at Kabah)……………………………………………..Himself

The Follow Characters appear courtesy of:
The Smoking Man………The X-Files; Chris Carter, 20th Century Fox Productions
The Goon/Jerry…………………………….”The Jaw”, Tango and Cash, Warner Bros.
The Men in Black…….Malibu Comics, Lowell Cunningham, and Sandy Carruthers
Professor Robert Langdon…Angels and Demons, Etc; Dan Brown, Pocket Books
Lara Croft………………………………..Tomb Raider, Eidos Interactive, Square Enix
Henry Jones Junior……Raiders of the Lost Arc, etc; George Lucs, Lucasfilm Ltd

Story by Ed Morgan
Directed by Ed Morgan
Director of Photography, Gryffon
Musical Score, Gryffon (ah we didn’t have any music.)
Sound Editor, Gryffon (we didn’t have any sound either.)
Set designer, Gryffon (What sets?)
Visual Effects, Gryffon (Really, what are you doing?)
Gaffer, Gryffon (please, you don’t even know what that is.)
Key Grip, Gryffon (or that either.)
Snake Wrangler, Gryffon (Ok, now you’re just being stupid!)

Titles and Credits, Gryffon (yeah I think they could figure that out!)

All locations and references to Mayan culture and Gods are real.  Certain liberates have been taken with actual details surrounding some locations to better fit the story.

The Apocalyptically Doomed Beer Adventurer Series was made possible by the kind people at Elysian Brewing.

This story is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to people actually living or dead is purely in jest.  As far as the author knows, Sam Calagione has never kidnapped and drugged an archeologist to get a recipe for one of his Ancient Ale beers.  As far as he knows.

PRODUCED BY:

Happy hour k9

BigHeadProds

Wait?  When did you become co-producer?

THE APOCALYPTICALLY DOOMED BEER HUNTER SERIES

[Happy Hour K-9 Productions, MMXIII]

THE END
But Michael Hunter will return, on Her Majesty’s Secret Service

……………………………………………………………………………………………………….

I walked into my house, tired and sore.  My ribs feeling like shit.  I just want to crawl into bed. “Jarvis, lights.”

“Welcome homme, sirrrrr,”  the voice slurred in a way I’d never heard before.  But before I could ponder why my home security system was acting up and why the lights hadn’t come on as they’d had a hundred times before, I caught a shadow standing in the dark across the room.

“”Where is Calagione?”  You think you’re the only Zymological Archeologist in the world?  Doctor Hunter, you’ve just become a part of a bigger universe.  You just don’t know it yet.”

“Who the hell are you?” I asked, getting really pissed that my life had seemed to turn into a revolving door of bizzaro people.

“Nick Furry, director of  S.I.G.N.E.T.,” the man said as he stepped out of the shadows.  If it wasn’t for the eye patch, he could have passed as a mixture of one of the Jedi masters from the second Star Wars trilogy and that hit man from Pulp Fiction.

“AH,” I said, deciding to be polite and pretend like I knew what that was.

“I’m here to talk to you about the Beer Hunter initiative.”

Brew Review: Elysian Brewing’s Doom (Golden Treacle Ale) The Adventure Continues

Doom 2[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.]

Brew Review: Elysian Brewing’s Mortis (Sour Persimmon Ale), The Adventure Continues

Mortis

[When we last left our Apocalyptically Doomed Beer Adventurer, he had just found the tenth seal OMEN.  But now the search for the eleventh seal proves daunting, and he finds himself about to cross paths with a living legend.]

I’d almost lost track of how long I’d been traipsing through the Peruvian jungle.  I didn’t even know what day it was.  I truly wasn’t even sure what month it was.  The one thing I did know was that many days back the people who had employed me became aware that I was not coming back in as I had indicated.  The incident at Angel Falls had proven that they somehow had an indication of my whereabouts, especially when the cigarette man commented “we have our ways” when I questioned how he’d known I was there.  With that little piece of information I stripped down to just the bare essentials for this trip, which included leaving everything they’d supplied me, especially the cell phone, back at a cheap, one room apartment in Merida, Mexico.

If my suspicions were correct someone, most likely a goon with a huge jaw, had broken down the door of that apartment, only to find a pile of my former belongings on a table in the center of the room.   Well, not everything on the table had been mine.  I couldn’t resist leaving the cell phone that I was positive they’d chipped in some way, sitting on top of a carton of Morley’s.  After all, I was sure that chain smoking bastard was going to be chewing a lot of those while he tried to explain to his “superiors” how he had let me just walk out of that jeep.

But I couldn’t gloat over that now.  I’d been lucky so far, most of the previous seal’s hiding places had been discovered and were well known, but this place apparently wasn’t.  The clue had indicated a temple dedicated to Cum Hau, a very different god then the one whose temple I’d just left in the Yucatan.  Cum Hau was an underworld God or as one of my old archeology teachers, who had a annoying over fondness for the Latin language would have said, “MORTIS“, meaning “of death”.   But most of the temples dedicated to Cum Hau had been found deep within a certain region of the Amazon jungle.  All had been highly excavated.  And none had been found to contain a bottle of magical liquid.  No, this particular temple was probably yet undiscovered.  And it was proving to be my arduous task to find it.

But after a long search of the surrounding jungle, and talking to numerous local tribes, I’d finally found an over grown cave opening that lead into a tunnel that had obviously been carved out of the surrounding hillside.  I was certain that I’d finally found the right cave when not far past the opening, I found two stone mosaics of Chaac, one on each wall, just like in Kabah.  But a little further down the tunnel I found something that I hadn’t expected.

The  floor disappeared, for a distance of about nine feet, for the entire width of the tunnel.  I couldn’t see the bottom of this “pit”, even with my flashlight, but that’s not what had captured my curiosity.  No, what held that was the object that hung from one of the beams that transversed the ceiling of the tunnel over the top of the pit.  It took me a bit to convince myself, that yes, it was a bullwhip.  Obviously I was not alone.

Garnering the nerve to swing across the gap in the floor using the whip took great effort, but I did it.  When I’d gathered myself I continued on down the tunnel that I was sure would open up into a larger room that I hoped would contain what I was looking for.  A room that I was positive I wouldn’t be alone in.

When I turned into the main chamber, the one thing I’d feared greeted me.  Standing on a raised section of the floor in front of what was apparently some kind of altar was a man in a leather jacket and a fedora, both of which looked a little worse for wear.  I quietly made my way around the edge of the wall a few feet until I could see that he was poised in front of the alter facing a familiar looking box, with what looked like a bag in one hand, and the empty fingers of his other hand waving in the air in anticipation.

I watched for a minute as he brought his hands closer to the box, his gaze intense as he glanced back and forth between it and the bag in his hand.  Realizing what he was about to do, I figured my best chance of walking out of the temple with the box was to not let this guy get his hands on it first.  So, throwing caution to the wind I yelled out.  But I was too late.  The “Wait” barely got from my throat when the man quickly grabbed the box from the altar and placed the bag where it had been.

The man, as if oblivious of me, stared at the altar for a brief time as if waiting for something to happen, and apparently satisfied that nothing was going to, finally turned to me with a smug grin on his face.  “Don’t worry, Sonny.  I know what I’m doing.”

Sonny? Who the hell was this guy?  I raise my finger in a confrontational gesture to ask that very question when suddenly an odd sound emanated from the altar.  The sound put me in the mind of machinery moving, but the tone was  more like stone moving against stone than metal against metal.

Apparently this was not a good thing, as the man’s grin evaporated and was replaced with a look of concern.  He turned slowly back at the altar, and it was at that moment that I noticed the whole alter was slowly lowering to the floor.  That might have been the most ominous thing in the room if not for the fact that several seconds later, chunks of rock and dirt from the ceiling began to rain down all around us.

The man yelled “run!”, but he didn’t need to.  I was already out the cavern door and a good 20 steps in front of him.  It didn’t take me long to reach the pit in the floor, but in that brief time it was obvious that the noise from behind me was getting louder.  What do people say?  If I didn’t know better I’d swear the whole temple was about to collapse down on top of us.  Well I knew.

In one scared act of desperation I leaped across the darkness on the floor in front of me, grabbing the hanging whip as I did.  I didn’t so much swing across the gap in the floor as hurled across it, my body being yanked hard as I reached as far as the whip would allow me, my ribs screaming in pain as I crashed violently to the floor on the other side.

I wanted to lay there for a while.  To rest.  To let my ribs stop aching.  But the noise in my ear was growing louder, and with everything I could muster I sprang to my feet.  It was then that I noticed what had happened.  The beam that the whip had been attached to had broken under my weight.  It was then that I noticed something else.  I was still holding the whip in my hand.

I had very little time to assess the situation when the other man came skidding to a stop on the other side of the pit.  Looking the situation over quickly, he put his hand out in front of him, “Throw me the whip!”

I had to think fast.  Obviously leaving this guy to be crushed wasn’t the kind of karma I wanted to walk away with, but I had to get that box from him as soon as possible.  And now seemed like the appropriate time.  “Throw me the box, and I’ll throw you the whip.”

The man gave me a look of incredulousness at what I thought was a pretty straightforward, fair offer.  “No way Sonny!  I’ve heard that one before!”

Who was this guy?  And why in the hell does he keep calling me Sonny?  “Look,” I said very aware that we didn’t have time for a prolonged argument.  “We don’t have time for this.  But I can’t leave here without that box and what’s inside of it.  I’m sorry, but I can’t.  So you’ll have to trust me.  Throw me the box and I’ll throw you the whip.”

The man surveyed his surroundings as if looking for an alternative to my proposal.  What?  Was he really considering not doing it?  Then suddenly with a look of determination, his other arm swung forward and the box flew end over end towards me.  I caught it in front of me with a sigh of relief just as a loud crash drew our attention towards the direction of the altar cavern.  As dust began to billow down the tunnel he turned his head back to me, spreading his arms in pleading manner.

Placing the box next to me on the dirt floor, I coiled the whip up as tightly as I could and with what I hoped was my best aim (I’d never actually thrown a whip before) tossed it over to him.  The man caught it and in one fluid motion flicked it behind him letting the leather cord extend to its full length.  I saw the blur of his arm and heard the crack, but I was unable to follow what had actually happen with my eyes.  Before I knew it he was swinging across the pit, having obviously been able to wrap the end of the whip around another beam.

His motion, unlike mine had been, was graceful and effortless – that is until he came up obviously short of the other side.  He was able to get one foot on the ground, but the beam the whip was attached to was closer to the far side, so in order to keep hold of the whip, he’d left himself precariously stretched out over the lip of the hole in the floor, his center of gravity getting very close to the point of no return.

I quickly stepped up and grabbed the man by his jacket and tried to keep him from falling.  He looked at me with an expression of surprise as if he couldn’t believe I was actually helping him.  “Let go and I’ll pull you back.”

“My favorite whip,” he said through his teeth as he continued his attempts to release it from the beam.

With a couple more tries, and the leather of his jacket starting to slip through my fingers, the whip finally came loose from the beam and as soon as it did, I pulled back with everything my ribs would allow, their reward for their effort being another hard crash to the cavern floor.  “Thanks,” I heard a voice say from along side of me.  “But you really need to be less demanding.”

“You’re welcome,” I said, trying to get my lungs to breath properly again.  “And you really need to be more trusting.”

Unfortunately our little bonding session was cut short by a  thunderous crash that caused me to snap my head in the direction we’d just come from.   Through the dust I saw a huge boulder roll out of a tunnel from over top of the alter chamber and come crashing down into the tunnel we were in.  Unfortunately, its drop didn’t slow down its forward progress any, and it was quickly obvious that we didn’t have much time.

Again the stranger sensed the need to tell me to run, and again I was way ahead of him as I had already grabbed the box and was scrambling to my feet.  I didn’t look back.  Hell I didn’t even look to see if he was nearby, I just ran down the tunnel as fast as I could until I was greeted by the possible life saving sight of sunlight gleaming into the cave opening.

I hit the opening and jumped, landing on the embankment in front of the cave and, clutching the box as hard as I could, rolled down to the bottom.  When I finally came to a stop, I quickly looked up at the cave just in time to see the huge boulder slam into the smaller opening , sending dirt, stone and vegetation spraying down over me and the embankment.

I lay there for a minute eying the now sealed cave, and marveling at my narrow escape when a voice came from behind me.  “One of these days I’m going to get the hang of those counterweight traps,” the man said, punctuating the sentence with an embarrassed laugh.

I turned my head to see the stranger sitting several feet away from me, likewise covered with debris.  “Who the hell ARE  you?”

“Jones,” he said brushing the dust of his fedora and placed it back on his head with a slight tip,  “Henry Jones,” he paused as if the next word was significantly more important than the previous ones, “Junior.”

That rang a bell with me.  Something I had heard recently.  What was it?  I closed my eyes and let my mind drift backwards through the previous several months of memories.  Suddenly I snapped open my eyes.  The amateur!  The one that had found the sixth seal!  He was following notes from a journal of a Doctor Jones.  I hadn’t thought about it much at time, but now everything started to fit together.  Including somethings I’d read and heard from my early days at school.  “Doctor Jones?” I asked, not believing that this could actually be the same guy.  “India…”

“Oh no,” he held up a hand and cut me off.  “I haven’t gone by that in a very long time.  It’s Henry now.  Junior to my friends.”

“But that’s impossible,” I said as I did the math in my head.  “I remember hearing stories about you and the Nazis when I was just starting out in archeology.  You’d have to be…”

“Older than I appear,” he said in a assuring voice.  “It’s a bit of a long story.”

“Yeah?” I questioned as I opened the box that had landed next to me and pulled out the cold, quartz-like bottle that was inside it.  Only recently I’d have balked at sharing the liquid with someone else, considering that I’d been specifically instructed not to, but at this point I wasn’t really concerned about my former employer’s disapproval.  “Care to share stories over a drink.”  I pulled out a couple of glasses from my backpack and set them down in front of me and when I was ready, opened the seal.

“No!”  Jones yelled letting the word trail off into a face of disappointment.  “That should have been in a museum.  Unopened.”

“Believe me.  This was never heading to a museum.  To be honest,” I poured the liquid from the bottle into each of the glasses, “I don’t know where it was heading.”  Once the two glasses were full, I picked one up and handed it over to Jones.  ” A story?”

He looked at me uncertain for a bit and then one corner of his mouth turned up in a grin as he reached out for the glass.  “Why not.”

He began his story as I took my first whiff of this new liquid.  It was light, with a touch of fruit and a certain Belgian beer like quality.  I marveled for a moment at  the carbonation.  The liquid was cloudy, but I could still see the fountain of rushing bubbles that were emanating from the bottom of my glass.

The tale he was spinning was fantastic to say the least, but it certainly wasn’t any more outlandish than the ones Lara had told me when she’d had one to many glasses of wine.  Rat filled caverns under the city of Venice.  A traitorous Austrian blonde temptress (and a fellow archeologist to boot).  Chases and escapes from the Nazis involving motorbikes, Zeppelins and bi-planes.  Getting Adolph Hitler’s autograph.  I listened intently as I drank the liquid in  my glass, enjoying the  light nuances of grapefruit, tropical fruits, and maybe even a touch of honey, that comprised the flavor.

I listened quietly to his story as I tried to figure out if there was a touch of spice in the mix as well.  It wasn’t until a 700 year old knight and the cup of Christ popped into his story that I interrupted him, “Wait, you want me to believe that you actually found THEE Holy Grail.”

“Sure did, ” he beamed and then, as if he couldn’t resist the urge to show off he leaned towards me a bit. “The Ark of the Covenant too.  But that’s a story for another time.”  And he continued where he’d left off as if my interruption hadn’t even happened.  At this point my glass was almost empty, and I was starting to feel the familiar warmth of the liquid course through my body.  Some of my minor aches were already starting to dissolve away, although as usual there didn’t seem enough potency to quell the pain in my ribs.

At this point I was starting to really enjoy the finish of this liquid.  It was really clean, with a little malty after taste and a touch of bite from the carbonation, but not as much as I’d expected.  There was also a mild sourness about the liquid that was some what thirst quenching, which was quite welcome in the hot, steamy jungle.

Soon he was finishing his story and his glass, ” The knight told us that the Grail’s gift of immortality wouldn’t go past the seal at the entrance of the temple.  And while that was obviously the case, I believe there was enough power within it to slow things down a bit if you will.  At least that’s what I believe.”  He shrugged almost apologetically.  “After all, I’m still here.”

“And your father?”

“Passed away.  Some time ago.”

“But you said he’d drank from the Grail as well.”

“True.  But most of its healing power was probably used up on his wound.  There wasn’t much left in him.  If that makes any sense.”

I nodded, although he probably didn’t think I truly understood, thanks to my recent adventures I too knew a thing or two about liquids with unusual healing properties.

“Your turn,” Doctor Jones said as he passed me his empty glass.

“Well, I’m afraid mine’s not as interesting and sadly,” I tilted the bottle up-side-down, “we’re empty.  So if you don’t mind, I’d like to tell my story while we walk.  To be honest I don’t know how long I’ve been in this jungle and I’m pretty tired of staring at vegetation all day.  I wouldn’t mind a city bar with Arrogant Bastard on draft right about now.”

“Fair enough,” Doctor Jones said as he got to his feet.  Once there he bounced a bit on the balls of his feet and crossed his arms back and forth across his chest.  “Hmmmm, this old body feels surprisingly good considering what it’s just been through.”

“Ah, well let’s just say that you have my story to thank for that,” I shot him a wink as I placed the box in my backpack and tossed it over my shoulder.  “I’ll explain as we walk.  Lead on.”

As we walked away from the cave I thought back to how this whole journey had begun and everything that had happened to me along the way.  And here I was walking in the jungles of Peru with a legend, and only one step away from finding the final seal and completing the journey I started many months before.  I had to admit, although it wouldn’t rival finding the Holy Grail, it was an interesting story that deserved to be told.

“Well Doctor Jones, my name is Doctor Micheal Hunter, and it all started when I was approached…,” but I never finished the sentence.  A hand rested on my shoulder so carefully that its presence didn’t even cause me to break my gate.

“I thought I told you, Micheal.  My friends call me Junior.”

[Coming up next – Our Adventure’s tale comes to an end as he comes face-to-face with the mastermind behind his quest.]

Brew Review – Elysian Brewing’s Blight (Pumpkin Ale), The Adventure Continues

[When we last left our Apocalyptically Doomed Beer Adventure, he had just found the seventh seal, MAELSTROM.  Now he finds himself on the verge of running into an old acquaintance.]

I ducked behind the next big boulder I could find and surveyed my surroundings.  I hated being shot at.  Of course, that would be axiomatic for most people, but their beliefs would  have been built most likely from what they saw in action movies and police shows.  My hatred however, had been built by hard empirical experience.

I looked around for another vantage point as two more bullets ricocheted off the cave wall above me.  It appeared at the moment that I had efficiently pinned myself into a corner, there being to much open ground between where I was and the next group of cover.  Deciding that escape was not going to be an option, I took the only other one that seemed left to me.  “Hey!” I yelled out into the darkness of the cave.  “I don’t know who you are, but I’m not here to stop you or take anything from you.  In fact, if you’d give me a chance, maybe we could help each other.”

I stopped and listened.  My hope was to get this guy talking, bide some time until I could figure out my next move.  Hopefully his curiosity about how I might help him would prove greater than his actual knowledge that I couldn’t.  The stretch of silence was encouraging, he hadn’t jumped at my invitation to talk, but at least he had stopped shooting.  Throwing caution to the wind, I raised up on one knee and peered over the rock.  The cave seemed empty and silent, but I knew he was out there somewhere.  Unfortunately, I made the foolish mistake of directing my focus to much in front of me and I caught the flash of movement behind me to late.  I turned as quickly as I could,  only to be greeted by a sharp pain to the side of my face.

You

My jaw throbbed with pain as I started to regain a sense of my surroundings.  I was sitting on the ground, leaning against the rock that only a moment before had been my shield.  My mind was still to fuzzy to totally make out the voice that was coming from above me, but I definitely caught the a spark of recognition in its tone.

“What are you doing here?”

I looked up but was greeted by two flashlight beams shining in my face.  I blinked a couple of times, and as my vision cleared, the two beams merged into one.  I contemplated my first words when something caught my eye.  Standing on the cave floor before me, directly under the flashlight, were a pair of leather boots.  I slowly followed the boots up until they ended, their lines continuing into a pair of very attractive legs.  I shook my head and looked again, making sure that my eyes weren’t deceiving me.  “Lara?”

The flashlight lowered to reveal a stern but beautiful female face, her piercing brown eyes looking down at me with contempt.  “I said, what are you doing here?”

“Asked”, I replied wondering why so many people always got that wrong.

“Asked?”

“You asked, what am I doing here.  And if you can resist the urge to shoot me for a few minutes, I’ll be more than glad to answer you.”

…………………………………………………………………….

I stood propped against the rock rubbing the side of my face trying to make the pain go away while I assessed my situation.  Lara stood in front of me, clad in her usual…unconventional…outfit.  But it wasn’t her tight shorts that was the object of my focus.  Nor the leather top that didn’t cover her mid rift.  Nor was it her face, framed with one lock of brown hair that had fallen out of her trademark ponytail.  No, it was the 9mm Desert Eagle she had pointed at me, a BLIGHT on the otherwise captivating vision in front of me.  I had to laugh on the inside, only Lara could manage to pull off sexy while she had a gun on you.

“Now, as I asked, what are you doing here?”

I thought for a moment.  I could try several approaches with Lara, but she probably would see through any deception I attempted and this wasn’t the situation in which to piss her off as I had done on occasions  in the past.  Instead, I decided to us a tactic that I probably wouldn’t have used with anyone else, the truth.

“About a year ago I was contacted by a group of unknowns to track down certain artifacts of interest to them.  They claimed these artifacts were spread in and around Mesoamerica  and had some link with the Mayan Doomsday Prophecy.”

Lara laughed, “Really, Hunter?  That’s bullshit and you know it.  There is no ‘end of the world’ prediction in the Mayan calendar.  The prophecy isn’t real.”

This coming from the woman who bragged one night over a couple of bottles of wine about how she’d saved the world with some “Triangle of Light” thingy?  Really?  “Well the artifacts I’ve discovered so far definitely have been real.  Eight bottles, or seals as they refer to them, each containing a different liquid with some interesting properties.  There are twelve all together, one of which I believe is hidden in this cave.” I kept going with my story, recounting my adventures of how I’d came upon each seal and the clues that had lead me to the next.  I was doing a nice bit of mental multitasking, keeping the story flowing uninterrupted as I tried to figure out what that flash was that went across Lara’s face whenever I said the word bottle.

When I’d finished my tale, I could tell that Lara was skeptical, but still curious.  “And that’s all they hired you to do?  Find each of these, seals, and drink them?”

“Yeah, I was given specific instructions.  Drink each one.  Take no notes,” I tapped my temple with my forefinger as I said the last three words.  From the several times our paths had crossed, Lara no doubt remembered my almost eidetic memory for remembering flavors in things I ate or drank, and realized why I’d be a perfect person to trust to such an unusual task.

I regained my feet and took a step towards Lara, hoping our conversation and our past had bought me a measure of trust.  The gun re-aimed at my head informed me that it had not.  “Look Lara, I helped  you out a bit several years ago with that whole Pandora’s Box business you were caught up in.  I’m just asking for a little help now.”

Lara eyed me for a minute, obviously trying to process everything I’d just told her.   “OK,” she said, finally re-holstering her pistol.  “Let’s see if you’re telling the truth.”  She reached into a satchel that was draped around her neck and pulled out a familiar bottle.  She rolled it around in her hand a bit, examining it as if almost mesmerized by the light bouncing off its quartz like surface.  Finally she held it out between us.  “Open it.”

This wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but there didn’t seem to be another option.   I cautiously reached into my pocket, making sure Lara got a good look at the object I was removing, after all I didn’t want to get shot over a bottle opener, stepped forward and with a quick flick, opened the ninth seal.

Lara put the bottle up to her nose, but her face gave no indication of what she was smelling.  “Cheers,” she said as she put the bottle to her full lips and took a long drink.  When she finally pulled the bottle down a displeasing look came across her face. “Not my thing,” she said as she handed the bottle towards me.

I took the bottle and, deciding that reaching for my glass would probably be pushing the situation, I took a long drink.  “Pumpkin,” I said after I had swallowed, ” or at least pumpkin spices.”  Well, one spice anyway.  The beer definitely had a touch of cinnamon, but the predominate flavor was more like brown sugar, giving the beer an almost pie crust taste.  I waved the opening of the bottle under my nose and picked up similar notes in the aroma.  I took another drink and passed the bottle back to Lara.

The second sip allowed me to get a better taste of the liquid.  It didn’t seem to have a lot of malt but did have a nice touch of pumpkin under the spice.  The finish at the end was clean with a nice soft bitterness and a lingering spiciness.

As I watched Lara take another drink, I felt the warming properties of the liquid begin to flow through my body.  My jaw began to ache less and I could sense the cloudiness of my mind starting to lift.  About the time the liquid was starting to have its reinvigorating effects on me, I could see that Lara suddenly was very interested in her right hand.  She turned it around in front of her several times and then began clinching and unclinching it into a fist.

“Hand felling better?” I asked, already knowing the answer.

“Yeah,” she nodded, a look of amazement and disbelief etched across her face.  “You were telling the truth.”

“I always tell the truth,” I said in a mock insulted tone.  “To a woman with a pistol pointed at my head, anyway.”

Lara, took another swig and then without a word, resealed the bottle and put it into her satchel.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“You got what you wanted.  You tasted it,” she said tapping a finger to her temple in a mocking fashion.  “It would be a shame to waste all those interest properties on just a sore wrist.  They may come in handy sometime in the future.”  She stopped for a second and licked her lips.  “Although, I wish it came in another flavor.”

“It does,” I permitted myself a joke, “eleven others.”  I couldn’t  just let her walk out with the bottle and the rest of its contents, although at this point I didn’t see any way to stop her.  I’d rather go a few more rounds with the goon again then mix it up with Lara.  Could I take her?  Maybe.  Was I willing to risk getting shot to find out? No.

“Watch yourself  Hunter,” Lara looked back at me, a hint of compassion now on her face.  “I’m sure you’ve figured out that you’re being placed in a dangerous situation.  When you reach the end of your quest, you’ll be the only one with any real knowledge of these, seals.  We both know history hasn’t always been kind to people who hold a secret.”

I nodded softly in agreement, “Thanks.”

Lara turned and started walking back down the tunnel, her long ponytail swaying with each step.  As I watched her figure disappear into the darkness my mind snapped to a sudden realization. “Lara?” I called into the darkness.  “Can you be a dear and tell me where you found it?  I need to find the clue to the next one.”

“Go down the tunnel about 150 feet,” a disembodied voice called from the darkness.  “On the left you’ll find a small passageway which leads to a room filled with stalactites.  You can’t miss it.”  I started to gather my things when suddenly the voice echoed through the cave again.  “Oh, and Hunter?”

“Yeah?”

“If you ever call me ‘dear’ again, I’ll deck one more time.”

[To be continued]

Brew Review – Elysian Brewing’s Maelstrom (Blood Orange Ale), The Adventure Continues

[When we last left our Apocalyptically Doomed Beer Adventure, he had just found the seventh seal, TORRENT, behind Angel Falls.  Now he finds himself back in the water again, but in an entirely different manner]

This is heaven, I thought as I floated around the pool suspended by my arms in a yellow inner tube used by shallow water divers to hold supplies so that they don’t have to swim all the way to shore if say, the batteries in their flashlight die or they just want a break from swimming.

I  could see why every day people who visited Cancun traveled over an hour  just for the chance to visit this place.  Every day except today that is, as my current babysitter assured me that I would have the location all to myself for the day.  A feat by my employers that probably wasn’t nearly as hard as getting me out onto Nazca, but was still impressive none the less.  I closed my eyes, drifting quietly as I thought back to the meeting that got me here.

Initially I was worried that flying to Hawaii would prove to be a huge waste of time, but I hadn’t been in Lyle Campbell’s office for more than ten minutes when I was sure Robert had put me on to the right guy.  As professor of linguistics at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and author of over 20 books related to Mesoamerica language, this was the guy I needed to talk to.

“The symbol on the bottom represents Xibalba, or what the Mayans considered the underworld.  And that the figure on the top bears the symbol of Chaac, the Mayan rain God, as you can see he is pouring what appears to be water from a pitcher into the middle symbol.  But it’s that particular symbol and the one to the right of it that have me the most confused.”

“That’s why I came to see you Doctor, I’ve never seen anything like them in my travels.”

“Well,” he paused and turned the pictures a bit, “the middle picture is obviously the heart of this depiction, but I’ve never seen anything like it in Mayan art.  It’s simply a tilted spiral, like a whirlpool or a MAELSTROM.”

Whirlpool? Thank you Doctor Campbell!, I thought.  Why had I not made that connection?

“And the figures on the right seem to be….”, he paused, stood up and walked to one of his shelves.  “You know, they actually remind me of something I’ve seen in Egyptian hieroglyphics. ”  He pulled a book down from the shelf and began leafing through the pages.  Finally he nodded, spun the book and placed it on the desk between us.  “There you go.”

I picked up the book and looked at the picture that was on the right hand page.  The picture was of a hieroglyphic of people using jugs to get water from a fountain.  Yes I thought, trying very hard not to smile as I began to put together the meaning of the images.  “And the top right symbol?” I asked turning his focus to the one symbol I hadn’t totally figured out.

“A depiction of the Mayan solar calendar.  It was used for various purposes like marking solar months, marking the equinoxes or solstices,  tracking seasons.  It could be a water mark indicating when the pictogram was placed on the rock, or it could be indicating an important date in regards to what the pictogram is trying to represent.  You’d have to translate the markings inside it to get a better idea.”

“Doctor Campbell,” I said taking the photos back.  ” I’d like to thank you for your time.  If you talk to Robert sometime soon, tell him the first round’s on me.”

“You’re certainly welcome, Doctor Hunter,” he said shaking my hand.  “Although you could have just sent me digital copies by email.  It really didn’t require you to fly all the way to Hawaii.”

“I know Doctor.  But running up my employer’s credit card puts a smile on my face.”

Sliding into my rented convertible I finally allowed myself to smile.  It had been difficult to contain my excitement in my abrupt departure from Doctor Campbell’s office but I had to make him believe that the information he had provided hadn’t meant anything to me.

I unlocked my phone and called the number that filed me with reluctance me every time I dialed it.  “Yeah, it’s me,” I said in reply to the voice on the other end.  “I know where the next seal is.  It’s going to take me a few days to do some research here, then I’m off to the Yucatan.  I’m going to need a few things when I get there.  I’ll text my list when I’m ready to leave.”   I paused, “Oh and…I’m going to need a tourist attraction  shut down  for the day, think you could help me with that?”

And now here I was, floating in a clear pool of water, in an amazingly beautiful cavern.  Xkeken is a very well known cenote in the Yucatan region of Mexico, something  the people who had laid this trail certainly never envisioned.  They no doubt thought they were hiding the seals in obscure locations, but Xkeken cenote was now a huge tourist draw, with over 300 visitors a day.

Mayans used cenote’s for a variety of purposes, not the least of which was the rare human sacrifice.  But these under ground caverns had a more domestic role in Mayan society; to collect fresh water, mostly rain water, that the Mayans needed to survive.

That’s what the pictogram on the rock face behind Angel Falls was depicting.  The symbol for Xibalba referred to the Mayan’s belief that these cenotes guarded the openings to the underworld.  The god Chaac pouring water into the swirl and the picture of people filling pitchers from it was an obvious reference to fresh water being given to the local people as a gift from the rain god.

Putting it all together, the next seal had been hidden in an one of the hundreds of cenotes scattered all over the Mayan territories.  Searching them all would be an impossible task, but luckily I happened to know a little bit of Mayan folklore.  Xkeken cenote, it was said, had such a strong feed of water during the rainy seasons that the water already in the sinkhole would swirl gently like a whirlpool.  Xkeken hadn’t exhibited this activity in modern times, but the stories persisted.

I deceptively made it seem like searching the whole interior of the cavern would take me most of the day I’d been given, but I was hoping that it would take far less time than that – in fact, the plan I had been formulating since I left Hawaii depended on it.  The markings on the solar calendar, after a little research, proved to designate both the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. These two points in the solar year are unique in the fact that on both these days, the sun travels the exact same path across the sky. This got me thinking about another interesting feature of Xkeken.

Besides being filled with stalactites, the cenote has a large hole, resembling an oculus, in the ceiling of the cavern through which the sun would shine and cast a beam onto the water below.  I was betting that solar calendar had been place on the rock face to indicate that on those particular days, at some particular time, the beam of sunlight through the hole would hit the water directly over where the eighth seal had been laid.

Of course, the people who had conceived this little puzzle had probably thought that this was very clever because it meant that not only did you have to be in the cenote on one of only two days out of the year, but you had to know the specific time as well.  Based on several markings I found around the depiction of Kinich Ahau, the Mayan sun god, on the solar calendar I believed that the correct time was when Kinich Ahau was in his “high house”, or noon.   Of course, I couldn’t wait for the next equinox, but luckily I had my own version of  a solar calendar – my cell phone with Google Sky Maps.

As I got out to the middle of pool I opened the Sky Maps app and set the time and date in the “Time Travel” mode to noon on the date of the recent vernal equinox.  Holding the phone up I moved it around until I found the icon for the sun.  Keeping the phone as steady as possible I paddled over to the spot in the pool where the icon of the sun lined up with the hole in the cenote.  If I was correct, on noon that day the beam from the oculus would have been shining directly on me, and the eighth seal was directly below me.  Of course, there was probably some astronomical error I hadn’t considered, the Sky Maps program could be off a bit, the normal level of water in the cenote could have drastically changed, or I could just be dead wrong about this whole idea.  But I had to start somewhere, and this was as good a place as any.

After placing my cell phone into the waterproof compartment of the diving ring, I pulled my mask down onto my face and popped my respirator into my mouth.  Then, with a quick raise of both arms, I sunk down into the clear water.

I had to go down about 25ft before I hit bottom, but once there it didn’t take me long to come upon an odd rock that appeared to be about twice the size of a bowling ball.  The rock was partially covered by silt, but enough of it was exposed to see that it was different from those around it, looking more like the ones that had surrounded Angel Falls.

I examined the area around it for a minute and not seeing anything out of the ordinary, I slowly attempted to move it.  It took a few tries to finally get the rock to break away from the surrounding sediment and slowly roll off to the side.  I waited for the silt that had kicked up from the movement to settle back down again and was rewarded with  a box, about one foot by 6 inches that was lodged in a niche that had been concealed under the rock.

I rose back up to the surface and returned to the shallow end of the cenote where I began ditching my diving gear.  I looked around the empty cavern, glad to see that my babysitter had heeded my request that he and the others remain outside until I was finished.  I opened the solid box and smiled as I saw the quartz like bottle nestled peacefully in the cavity inside.  My happiness turned to joy as I notice markings on the lid of the box.  I’d found both the seal and the clue as quickly as I’d hoped, if all went well, in just a few more minutes I could carry out my plan.

I sat down on the rocky shore in a place where my feet could hang in the water, and opened the eight seal.  The liquid was cold as always, and poured a cloudy, orange color with only a very light, quickly dispersing head.  I raised the glass to my nose and sat there for a moment, taking in the gentle aromas of malt and citrus.  I was in no hurry for the revitalizing properties of the liquid as, for the first time, I’d managed not to bust myself up finding this one.  After a bit I detected something else, there was more to the liquid than just the citrus like aroma you’d normally get.  There was definitely a real fruit aspect to the nose.

Finally I put the glass to my lips and took a deep drink.  The liquid gave an initial bite on the cheeks as if it had a fair amount of carbonation to it, even though this appeared not to be the case.  The liquid had a nice mouth feel, with a taste that reminded me initially of grapefruit citrus not with just the flavor, but with the slight bitterness one gets from eating to close to the rind. The finish was clean, with a mild lingering bitterness that left my mouth watering for more. As I drank more, I started to detect more of an orange than grapefruit quality about the liquid.  Considering the inconsistency of the last bottle I’d found, I was glad to see that this one was pretty good from front to back.

The warming properties of the liquid coursed through my body as if looking desperately for some pain to alleviate and, apparently finding  nothing it could work its magic on, finally dissipated leaving me with a calm, peaceful feeling.

After sitting quietly for a few minutes, I decided it was time to put my plan into motion.  I packed up my stuff on the shore, and then swam back out to the diving tube.  It took me several tries, but I finally managed to hop into it, ass first, like a vacationer drifting down a lazy river.  I pulled the cell phone out of its protective compartment and pressed the quick dial key for the new number I’d just been given.  “Hey!  No luck yet.  No, I’m sure more people wouldn’t help, they’d just get in the way.  I have to do this very methodically and the only way I can do that is to do it by myself.”

I listened to the agitated reply from my babysitter as I reached into the netting that hung off the side of the tube and pulled out one of the several Arrogant Bastards I’d managed to smuggle into the cenote with me.  “Nope, this is the only way, don’t come in until you hear from me,” I stated firmly as I pinched the phone between my shoulder and ear, and with my now free hand, opened the bottle.  “That’s right…fine…I’ll call you if I need anything.”

I put the phone back in its compartment and removed a glass from the netting and poured my beer into it.  I looked around the tranquil cavern that, for at least the next several hours, I had all to myself.  The ninth seal had waited several hundred years to be discovered, it could afford to wait a day or two longer.   After all, thousands of people a year visit Xkeken cenote to relax in its peaceful waters, and I had always wanted to be one of them.

[TO BE CONTINUED]

Brew Review – Elysian Brewing’s Torrent (Pale Beet Bock), The Adventure Continues

[When we last left our Apocalyptically Doomed Beer Adventure, he had just found the sixth seal, WASTELAND, in the plains of Nazca.  Now he was off to a completely different environment to continue his search]

I had finally stopped in a shallow pool.  I wasn’t sure how long I’d been tumbling in the TORRENT of water from the time I’d slipped, but it felt good to finally be at rest, even if it was face down in a pool of cold water.  With a start, my mind cleared and I bolted up on my hands and knees,  frantically feeling around for  the object that I had dropped during my descent.  I sloshed around the knee deep water for what seem like forever when, as if someone was making a gag joke in a movie, a quartz like bottle floated serenely past me…..

………………………………………….

My body was aching, again, but not so much from my initial fall or the trip down the short cascade afterwards, but more from the final 20 to 30 foot drop down into the pool I now found myself laying next to.  It wouldn’t have been so bad if it had been just a straight drop into the water below, but instead the small falls that feed the pool were more like a steep staircase of rock, and I had tumbled down it like an unlucky toddler, hitting every step on the way down.

I lay on the rocky bank of the pool, the only sound being the peaceful roar of the falls in the distance, watching the clouds float by as I tried to regain my breath.  I was actually enjoying the first quiet moments I’d experience since this whole adventure began when suddenly my serenity was broken by an annoyingly familiar voice.

“Are you enjoying Angel Falls, Doctor Hunter?”, the voice droned.  The fact that I had not detected the smell of his Morley in the clean, jungle air was a testament to how addled my brain was at the moment.

“Oh….yeah,” I replied, trying to get the words out between deep breaths.  “It’s a ….. wild ride …. down from the base …. to this pool.  You should try it.”

The smoking man seemed to ignore my comment as he walked over and knelt down next to me catcher’s style and scanned my prone, soaked body.  “Seriously.  Do you really call this archeology?”

I was getting enough feeling and strength back in my body to manage two moves.  The first was to raise my left hand and shake a bottle it held in a “Yeah, but I got it” fashion.  The second was to raise my right hand and flip him the bird.

“Ah,” he nodded seeing the bottle, ignoring my finger entirely.  “But surely this wasn’t your plan?” he straighten up.  “To end up washed up like a dead fish on the rocky banks of a basin downstream from the plunge pool?”

“No,” I tried to sit up but managed to only make it up to one elbow. “I slipped on …  the rocks behind the falls.”  I quickly recounted how I’d made my way behind the falls and was climbing up the rock face towards something that looked out of place.  Leaving out as many key details as I could (I still didn’t trust this guy), I explained how I’d found the seventh seal in a niche that was concealed behind the falls.

The real story was actually more interesting.  After climbing up the interior rock face behind the falls for a bit, I stopped at an irregular out cropping of rock.  At least, that’s what it was supposed to look like from the bottom.  What it turned out to be was hollowed out basin, like those half circle water bowls you’d see on a wall in a garden.  The bowl it formed had water in it from the continuing drizzle of an off flow from the falls down the rock face behind it , but it was what was in the bottom that really caught my attention.

Sand, and although I couldn’t be certain, the sand looked pretty familiar.  It didn’t take me to much digging before I’d found what I was looking for, both in the sand, and on the rock face above the bowl.

“But like I said, I slipped,” continuing my edited story as I pulled myself up into a sitting position, groaning all the way. “I didn’t stop until I landed here.”

“Ribs still bothering you?” the smoking man walked over and offered me his hand.  “You should really rest those.”

“You know, that’s funny,” I replied looking up at him. “That’s just what the doctor in Guatemala said right before some big goon came and tried to grab me out of my hospital bed.”  I stared at him for a bit and then finally giving in, clasped his hand, and allowed  him to help me up.  “How’s his jaw?”

“Better than your ribs I would say,” he returned.

I took a few steps to help work out the aches in my joints when I turned around and shot him a quizzical look, “And just why are you here?  And more importantly, how did you know I’d be here?”

“Oh, the man we had watching over you in Nazca gave us the heads up as soon as you had departed,” he said staring at the falls in the distance.  “After that,” he turned, “well let’s just say we have our ways.”

I shook my head.  I knew I should have buried the little bastard in the shaft when I had the chance.  Go with your first instincts, dad always said.  “And now?”

“And now Doctor Hunter, we say goodbye.”

“Just like that?”

“Just like that,” he said as he pulled out another cigarette.  “My superiors asked me to make sure that you survived this little excursion, you having so unwisely decided to decline any aid from us.” he continued as he turned and started walking towards the brush line.

“Marching a full team through the jungle with, I’m sure another one of  your  appointed baby sitters,  wasn’t my idea of fun,” I called after him.

“They are called helicopters, Doctor Hunter!” he called back not bothering to turn around.  “Maybe you should look them up the next time you find yourself in a library.”

Soon he was gone.  I sat down on a large rock, removed everything I needed from my backpack and relaxed a moment as I allowed myself to be transfixed by the sight of Angel Falls in front of me.  Then with almost an absent minded motion, I flipped open the seventh seal.

I poured the cold liquid in my glass and watched the carbonation build to a very small lace of bubbles on the top. “They’re called helicopters,” I said in a mocking, imitation of the smoking man’s voice as I held the glass up to see that the liquid had poured a hazy, beautiful orange color.

The aroma had a touch of malt, and something that made me think of iced tea.  I took a long drink of the liquid in anticipation of its rejuvenating properties – and almost spit it out.   What the hell?  In the front, the liquid had very little of the malt character that had been evident in the nose.  Instead it tasted of earth, and a vegetal quality that gave me flash backs of when I was young and my mom would yell at me to finish my beets.

I held it in my mouth for a minute and with a final muster of resolve, I swallowed.  I couldn’t concentrate on the warm, revitalizing feeling flowing through my body as I waited for what else the bizarre liquid would bring.  Thankfully, the liquid had a nice touch of malt in the middle and finished with a lingering bitterness.

I took another drink and found that it echoed my first.  This was an interesting bottle to be sure.  The nose, the middle and the finish had some nice qualities to it, but that initial smack of earth and vegetable in the begin was off putting.  Earthiness isn’t an unknown taste in the libation world, some of the most expensive wines in the world rely on an amount of earth in their profiles.  But thiswas like a slap in the face, and it didn’t taste like the  underlying liquid was enough to support it. Maybe if the liquid had more depth, it would have worked better.

I contemplated for a minute on whether-or-not to finish it, but the pain that ran through my body as I stood up from the rock suggested that I had no choice.  So sitting back down with a sigh of reluctance, I poured the last of the liquid into my glass.

…………………………………………………….

It took me a little while to make my way back to Caracas, but finally I was sitting in a bar with what passed as a nice beer selection, the dirt and sweat from all that time in the jungle finally removed with a few hot showers.  I grabbed the beer I had ordered and walked over to a quiet table along the back wall.  Settling in I removed the pictures I’d take of the hieroglyphics on the rock face above the bowl where I’d found the seventh seal and studied them for the umpteenth time.

They appeared to be Mayan for the most part, although a few of the symbols weren’t familiar to me.  I had reluctantly come to the conclusion a while ago that if I was going to find the next seal, I was going to need some help understanding them.

Looking around to make sure no one was in ear shot, I pulled out my cell phone and dialed a number I hadn’t used in a long time.

I waited patiently as the gentle strains of “Mona Lisa” by Nat King Cole played in my ear.  “Really, that’s your ring back tone?” I thought.

“Hunter?”

“Hey Robert!  How are you doing?”  As a symbologist at Harvard University, my old Princeton University water polo teammate Robert wouldn’t be much help.  But I was positive he could point me to someone who could.

Brew Review – Elysian’s Wasteland (Elderflower Saison), The Adventure Continues…

[Author’s Note: To my readers, November is both ‘National Blog Posting Month’ and ‘National Novel Writing Month’.  As a tip of my hat to both, I’ve decided to focus on and catch up on, my Elysian Twelve Beers of the Apocalypse reviews.  I’ll try not to make them too wordy (although admittedly, this one did get away from me), but at the same time my goal within this series is to attempt to put together a little story beyond just doing a simple review.  I  hope I succeed.]

[When we last left our apocalyptically doomed beer adventurer, he had been admonished for his failure to find the fifth seal.  But now, he was back on the trail of the others.]

The man walked into the dark room quickly illuminating every inch of it with sweeping motions of the small flashlight in his hand.  No sooner had he entered when a man wearing an identical black suit and tie entered the doorway and also stepped silently into the room. The two men circled the table that was obviously in what was supposed to be the dinning room, although it didn’t look like it had been used for that purpose for quite some time.

The table was totally covered with photos, some appearing to be arranged in a purposeful fashion while others looked like they had been just carelessly strewn about.  The second man walked around the back of the room and started to examine some of the photos.  It wasn’t until the odd arrangement in the corner of the room was illuminated with a glancing sweep of his partner’s flashlight that the second man broke the silence.  “Hey,” he whispered to the other man as he pointed over into the corner.

The first man replaced the empty bottle of Arrogant Bastard from where he’d picked it up and walked around the table to the sight of a small utility ladder sitting in the corner of the room.  On the floor in front of the base of the ladder were more photos that had obviously been placed in their spots with great care.  The second man knelt down and studied the pictures trying to make sense of the mosaic that they obviously were intended to make.

Finally the man stood up, straightened his thin, black tie with his right hand and placed his left wrist up to his mouth.  “Yeah, this is V.  He’s on the move.” the man spoke out loud as if talking into a non-existent cuff link on the sleeve of his black suit.  The man stood silent for a minute as if trying to hear a sound in the distance moving only when his partner, who had made his way back to the other side of the table, offered a large sheet of paper in his out stretched hand.

Taking the paper, the man turned slightly in an attempt to better illuminate it in the beam of the other man’s flashlight.  He turned it a few times until the pictures and words made sense.  With a sly grin on this face the man turned and nodded knowingly as he again brought his left wrist up to his mouth.  “Yes.  He’s gone to Nazca.”

……………………………………………………………………………………………

“I must say Doctor Hunter, that I am immensely impressed with your benefactor’s resources,” the man said in accent that revealed that English probably wasn’t his first language, but also contained the polished perfection that indicated he had studied at some high profile American or English school.  “Not many people get to excavate in the middle of Nazca unsupervised.”

“You’re here,” I said not bothering to take my eyes off the work that was going on in front of me.

“Well, yes, yes.  But purely in a capacity to assist with any issues that may arise from the local authorities.  I have strict orders not to interfere.”

I didn’t respond, hoping he would let conversation drop.  Apparently the short, roundish man didn’t have strict orders to not ask a ton of questions that I’d rather not answer, because he hadn’t shut up since he had joined my party.

“But tell me Doctor Hunter, in all this WASTELAND, how did you know to dig in this particular spot?”

“I got lucky, ” I stated, turning my head over my right shoulder, finally meeting his eyes for the first time since my team had started their work.  “Now if you excuse me, I want to go make sure the men are setting up this rigging correctly.”

That last statement was true.  After all, in a few minutes I’d be hanging pretty much helpless on the harness system the men were setting up, so I did have more than just a casual interest that it was being done properly.  But the first statement was equally as true.

After spending the better part of a week studying photos which contained shapes painted on a floor, debris, and some idiot’s feet, I was no closer to the sixth seal.  It actually didn’t take me long to figure out that the symbols on the floor represented the Nazca plains, but all of the lines and geoglyphs on the floor were accounted for in a detailed map of the site that I obtained from the United States Air Force, as well as what I could glean from Google Maps.  I was looking for something different, something that wasn’t on that map, something to show me where I should start my search.

And half way into what must have been my sixteenth bottle of Arrogant Bastard, it hit me.  The Nazca lines could only be seen from a vantage point well above the surface of the desert.  The floor was almost a perfect scale replica of the field but there was one section of the desert not represented on the floor – the section where the alter was positioned.

Whoever had left the clue had been very clever.  They had elevated the section of the map being covered by the footprint of the alter, so that it was actually on the top of the alter.  Where I had gotten lucky was that parts of the top face of the alter appeared in the corners of some of the photos.  After all, if you’re not going to worry about getting your feet in the pictures, why worry about getting the alter in them.  From there it was a couple of hikes up my utility ladder to figure out that the important part of the map must have been on the alter top.  You just had to see it from above, at the proper height to get the perspective needed to get the lines on the alter to line up perfectly with the ones on the floor.

A marker with the location of the next seal had probably been on the top of the alter, but without a picture of the whole top, I didn’t know where to look – exactly.  But I had to trust that my discovery had narrowed down my search area small enough that I could find whatever it was I was supposed to be looking for.  And like I said, I got lucky.

As I walked up to the rigging that had been set up over what on the surface looked nothing more like a deep hole dug  into the ground I caught the eye of a man who was examining the electric wench.  “How we doing?”

“Ready Doctor Hunter,” he said, tossing a harness rigging in my direction.

Twenty minutes later I found myself some 40 feet down a shaft that was probably no more than six feet in diameter.  The first 15 feet of the decent gave no evidence of anything other than being lowered into a pit in the desert, but then it quickly changed.  First, there was the door like structure that had covered the shaft I now found myself in.  The shaft was circular, the wall of which appeared to be made of a smooth, almost metallic substance.

Ignoring the wall, I focused my attention to what was immensely more important to me at the moment – the bottom.  A few dropped objects down the shaft had revealed no sound, except for one time that the object had obviously hit the wall on the way down, and the light I had  brought down with me still showed no sign to an end to my descent.  The thought of  being at the end of a couple hundred feet of rope in a shaft with no apparent bottom was really starting to weigh on my mind when the harness jerked to a stop.

“Hunter?”, my walkie-talkie crackled to life.

“Yeah, go”, I replied, already knowing what the issue was.

“Do you see the bottom?  We’re running out of line.”

“Not yet”, I said shaking my head.  The system we were using wouldn’t allow the men to attach another length of rope without pulling me all the way back up.  That was time I didn’t want to waste.  After all, my diminutive comrade may have faith that the people I was working for could run interference with the locals for an extended period of time, but I personally had been on the wrong end of such beliefs in the past.

I reached into my vest and pulled out a foot long plastic tube and, balancing myself the best I could, bent the tube until it made a sharp crack.  A vigorous shake brought forth a blue light, and once I was sure the tube was glowing as strongly as it was going to, I sighed, and dropped it.  It took a few seconds for my brain to process that at some point, the glow had indeed stopped moving away from me.  The stick had hit bottom just out of the beam of my flashlight.

“How much line do you have left?” I asked trying to figure out from past experience how far the beam of my flashlight reached.

“About 50ft,” the walkie talkie crackled.  Far less than I’d hoped.

“Lower me as far as you can.”

In a few seconds the harness started to work its way down again.  I focused intently on the glow stick, hoping every few feet to catch a glimpse of the floor with my beam.  I was about halfway through the remaining line when I caught something in the far distance of my flashlight.  A few feet lower revealed that I was indeed looking at the shaft floor, or at least what was now serving as the floor as the shaft looked to be filled with sand.

Suddenly there was a quick jerk in the line and my descent stopped.  “Damn,” I whispered.  So close.

“That’s it.  That’s all the line we can give you.”

I didn’t bother to respond.  I quickly figured out how much time it would take for them to haul me up and replace the rope; and mentally compared that with the time we probably had left before the sun came up and people began to notice us.  Not liking the result of that mathematical exercise I did what any sane man would do.  With a quick outward motion I pulled on the harness system’s quick release straps, and fell to the bottom of the shaft.

OK, for the record, that’s probably not what a sane man would have done.  Although the floor of shaft was indeed sand, it still was very efficient at stopping my descent with a painful thud.   I laid on the sandy floor for a bit, waiting for my body to report in on all the damage the abrupt stop had done.  One ankle from the sand.  My head and one shoulder from falling against the shaft wall when I landed.  And some ribs that were reminding me that they still hadn’t completely healed from my adventure in Guatemala.

I retrieved my flashlight and, coaxing it back to life with a few quick thumps of my palm, examined my surroundings.  The shaft just seemed to end in a sandy bottom which was quite disturbing in its emptiness.  Nothing.  Anywhere.  If the sixth seal was down here, it certainly wasn’t just laying on the floor.

“You OK, Hunter?” a voice questioned from my hip.

“Yeah,” I replied still looking around for anything that wasn’t sand.  “Go ahead and rig the longer line.  Drop it down when you’re ready.”

I stopped.  A fleeting shadow had caught my attention and I took a step closer to a section of the shaft.  I dropped to my knees and started to dig sand away from the wall when I noticed something, part of the wall was starting to angle in.  The indent started as a sharp point, and then slowly curved out the deeper I dug.

Soon I had enough sand moved away that I was pretty sure I’d discovered a niche of some type that had been constructed into the wall of the shaft.  I was making good progress clearing the sand from around it when my hand hit something.  I paused for a second and then slowly pushed my hand deep into the sand, and pulled out a bottle.

I crawled away from the hole I’d created and examined my prize.  The bottle was just like the others, made from a quartz like material that caught the light in a way to almost be hypnotic; and cold, as if I’d just taken it from a refrigerator.  From what I observed I mentally pieced together that whoever had constructed the shaft had placed the bottle in a niche at the bottom.  Whether they had then partially filled the shaft with sand to make its discovery more difficult, or if sand had simply been slowly sifting into the shaft all these years through the door at the top, I didn’t know.

I slipped my backpack off my shoulders and removed a glass, which luckily had survived the fall, from its compartment.  Sitting down I positioned my flashlight in the sand to give me some illumination in front of me and free my hands for the task ahead.  The hiss of carbonation greeted me as, with one quick motion, I removed the seal from the top of the bottle.

As I poured the liquid into the glass the reason for the hiss became apparent, the liquid held an abundance of carbonation which showed no signs of ceasing even after the liquid had been in the glass for a few minutes.  The liquid was amber, with a slight haze and a white head that covered the entire surface.  Essence of  Belgian yeast filled my nose as I inhaled deeply, followed by hints of bread and tea.

I closed my eyes and took a long drink, allowing the liquid to flow through my body bringing the rejuvenating feeling that the previous liquids had also brought.  It might not be enough to calm my ribs, but at least the throbbing in my ankle and head soon abated.  The liquid tasted floral with a slight hint of the Belgian characteristics that had been in the nose.  But there was also a spiciness, and citrus quality to the flavor.

I poured the last of the liquid into the glass, still amazed at the cascade of bubbles that continued to rise from its bottom.  The after taste was clean, with only a touch of a malt sweetness.  All in all, the liquid was light in the mouth, the flavors coming together in a nice harmony.  I was  enjoying this one, it made the drop I had to take to get to it sting a little less.

As if on cue the re-rigged harness came into my vision as I finished the last sip from my glass.  I looked around one last time for the supposed clue that should lead me to the next seal, but all I could see around me was a smooth wall and sand.  If there had been a clue, it probably had been covered up by the sand that had been leaking into the shaft all these years.  With no place to really put the sand, digging wouldn’t get me very much farther than I had already gotten.  I had to come up with another idea.

I slipped on the harness and made sure everything was secure before I gave the OK to start pulling me out.  As the rope began to pull me up my mind was churning on how to make my current situation not the dead end it appeared to be when something caught my eye.

“Whoa, whoa whoa! Stop a minute!” I started to scream even before I got the walkie-talkie fully up to my mouth.  There on the wall was a collection of swirls; faint, subtle lines that seemed to be actually raised from the wall rather than engraved into it.

But that wasn’t what made my heart jump with excitement; it was the shape that was on the wall immediately to the right of the swirling mass, a bottle, no doubt a clue to the next seal.  “How did I miss this,” I wondered as looked down to get my bearings.  “Oh,” I said out loud to no one as I realized that I had fallen past it when I released myself  from the harness. “And what have we here?”

From the mass of swirling shapes came seven thin, evenly spaced lines that seemed to run straight up towards the top of the shaft.  I hastily took a few pictures and gave the command to pull me up, being sure not to take my eyes off the lines as I moved.  As I ascended the shaft I chided myself for missing the lines on my descent, I had been so preoccupied with the floor that I had missed what was on the wall right in front of my face.

As I glided upwards to almost the top of the shaft, I was starting to wonder if I was going to find anything at the end of these lines when suddenly they changed direction so quickly that it almost startled me when I saw it.  Giving the command to stop I leaned over a little and examine the section of the shaft more closely.

The lines turned right, almost simultaneously, and joined to make a single, thicker line that traveled about one quarter of the circumference of the shaft and then stopped.  I stared at the end of the line for a second and then followed it around the shaft until it split and made it’s way downwards.  I stared down the shaft for a bit trying to mentally piece together what was in front of me with what I had seen at the bottom of the lines.

There was definitely a purpose to these lines, they had a certain feel to them, almost a flow…I stopped in mid thought.  A flow.  “Get me out of this hole,” I barked. “Tell the guys to get ready to start filling the shaft in with sand.”

My plan at this point was clear: cover our tracks, ditch the annoying little man, and get to Venezuela.

Brew Review – Elysian Brewing’s Ruin (Rosemary Agave IPA), The Adventure Continues

[Author’s Note:  This is my first post in what was to become my Apocalyptically Doomed Beer Adventurer series.  Indeed, it’s the first time I tried to write anything for the blog that had an actual story behind it.  Once I finished it however, I realized I had to continue and write an on going story for all of the Elysian Apocalypse beers.  You can find the full list of Doctor Hunter’s adventures here.]

[When we last left our Apocalyptically doomed beer adventurer, he had successfully found and opened the fourth seal, Peste.  But now, he found himself in an entirely different predicament.]

____________________

“Do you know, why, we’ve brought you in Doctor Hunter?” the man in the black suit asked as, judging from the amount of ashes in the ashtray in front of him, he extinguished what was easily his sixth Morley cigarette.

“Because I was slow with my right?” I half asked as I looked over the man’s shoulder to the goon standing behind him.  The bruising and swelling on the side of his face had gotten worse since the last time I’d seen him 30

minutes ago.   A properly placed punch to the side of the jaw, even the large shovel-like one that the goon was sporting, will efficiently snap it around taking the head with it.   He might not go down with the first one, but he’d be less able to defend himself for the second.  I, unfortunately, had reacted too slowly, a by-product of my recent injuries, and my first punch landed a couple of inches off its mark.

“No,” the man continued, not looking up from the papers that were spread out in front of him.  “You are here, because someone has beat you to the fifth seal.”  The man stopped as if waiting for me to comment on this information and realizing that, after a moment of silence from me, none was coming, he continued.  “When my superiors acquired your services,” he finally looked up, “we were assured we’d gotten the best.”

I hated this guy already.  I didn’t know which was more offensive, the smell of stale cigarettes, or the stench of government agency bravado he was trying to give off.  “Tell your bosses that I’m sorry if a two week stay in a Guatemalan hospital throw me off my schedule a bit.” I made sure the sarcasm was very apparent.

“I will tell my superiors that you thank them for making sure that you got the best medical treatment possible while being treated in what I’m sure was a less than modern medical facility,” the man said lighting another cigarette.  “But be assured, as infinite as their generosity can sometimes be, their patience never is, and they are not happy with the current situation.”

“And what is the current situation?” I asked, making sure to put a little inflection on the ‘is’.

“An amateur has stumbled upon the fifth seal while following some clues he got from materials he obtained from the National Museum archives.  Apparently an archeologist made note of some RUINs many years ago while he was searching for a gold statue somewhere in the jungles of Peru.  Apparently this amateur was able to acquire his notes and make use of them.”

“How did this amateur find out about the seals?”

“From what we’ve been able to ascertain, he didn’t.  Apparently his focus was to rediscover the location of the ruins, unaware of what they contained,” he said as he pushed a stack of papers across the desk at me. “The amateur’s notes.”

“And how exactly did you come to possess them?”

“This man was making journal entries on a PDA and then up loading them to a server that he believed to be secure,” he said.  “It was not.”

I snatched the papers from the desk and began to leaf through them.  Seemed legit.  The entries started with mentions of trying to find lost ruins described in some notes made by a Doctor Jones.  I started to scan through the words on the page quickly until I came upon an entry dated seven days ago.

Just as I was starting to believe I had been sent on a fools errand, I spotted something amongst the vegetation.  I now find myself standing outside the crumbled  structure that very much matches the description of  temple ruins I am searching for.

The Entrance
Inner Room

I couldn’t believe my eyes.  This kid is close to making one of the most important zymological  finds in recent history and he’s uploading pictures to his “blog” usinginstagram? God, I weep for the future of archeology.  I scanned through the next couple of paragraphs with interest as they described his entry into the ruins, as well as his efforts to pry the top off of an altar that was located in the center of it.

After what seemed like an hour of a combination of pushing and attempting to move the top of the altar with anything I could find to use as crowbar, the block finally was shifted enough for me to reach inside and extract its contents – an ornate box.  The box is old and made from a wood I don’t  recognize, and covered with figures that looked more Native American than Mexican.  Mayan, or some other indigenous culture perhaps?

But it was the next entry that really caught my attention.

The box contained a bottle!  Made of some material that definitely isn’t every day glass.  The way light reflects off of it is almost hypnotic.  And its cold!  Cold as if I had just pulled it from a refrigerator.  I can’t wait to see what’s in it.

No, I thought as I scanned down further.  Tell me he didn’t open it.  But my fears proved to be justified with the next entry.

The liquid was cloudy with slight carbonation which brought a slight hint of malt and herbatiousness to my nose.  The slightest hint of lemon danced on the edge of my perception.  I drank greedily, allowing the cold refreshing liquid  to wash 12 days of humid jungle from my mouth.  Everything in my mind  seemed to also wash way, allowing me to focus on only the liquid as I felt its rejuvenating effects course through his body.

Rosemary.  Definitely rosemary with more malt and hints of citrus.  And something else, something I wouldn’t have been able to identify before I started my journey.  I am sure of the name of the plant, but thanks to the few times I had found a clump of it in and drank from its sweet, succulent leaves I now know the flavor all to well.  Dang, this is good stuff!  I only wish there was more than one bottle in the box.

Agave?  Was that the plant he meant?  I let my mind wonder a bit as I imagined the collection of flavors and smells he described.  That must have been amazing.  But then my focus shifted back to the next entry.

It’s been an hour since I drank the contents of the bottle and the flavors of the liquid it contained are starting to fade from my mind.  I can now barely remember what it tasted like, even as I read back the entry I just uploaded, let alone why I opened the bottle and drank it in the first place.  But while I’ve been examining the ruins I’ve come across a most interesting discovery.  I’m not sure the significance of it but it seems to have been left here with a purpose.  And to think I’ve been standing on it all this time.

And the entries stopped.  I turned the pages in haste, hoping I’d missed something on the back of one of them, but it was indeed the last paragraph.

“Where are the rest?”

“I’m afraid that was the last entry.  He never had time to upload another.”

“Then I need to find him and talk to him.  There were supposed to be clues left at each seal location to aid in finding the next one.  He obviously found something of interest, on the floor perhaps.”

“I’m afraid that won’t be possible, Doctor Hunter.   The memory lapse he mentioned in the last entry?  I’m afraid it was far worse by the time we got to him.”

I sighed deeply, “Does he remember anything?”

“Nothing I’m afraid,” smoking man said, the information causing me to spring out of my chair as a gesture of frustration.  “But my superiors wanted to make sure that you were given these,” he tossed a large, thick envelope towards me.  “And this.”  The sharp clank of glass hitting the table rang out.  I turned to see a familiar sight, a bottle, made of an unusual quartz like material.  I’d seen four others styled just like it recently.   “You’re to restart your quest immediately with the next seal”, he waved his hand in a dismissive fashion in the direction of the door to my left.  “Outside of that door  you’ll find two men who are instructed to take you where ever you need to go.”

The man sat back firmly in the chair in a way that indicated to me that our conversation was over, and that there was no sense in trying to continue it.  I pondered my next move as I walked toward the door, absentmindedly slipping the bottle into my satchel.

Apparently the smoking man’s curiosity out weighed his desire to see me on my way as he asked one final question before I got to the door. “Why haven’t you suffered a similar memory lapse from any of the previous seals?”

“I don’t know,” I said  as I continued towards the door.  “I don’t know,” I repeated softly as tore open the flap of the envelope.  Obviously I had to get to these ruins and examine the floor.  I attempted to connect the dots between where I was and where I needed to be when the contents of the envelope stopped me in my tracks.   It contained photos, but not just any photos, high res photos that under normal circumstances would have probably taken me several minutes to realize that they were of a floor if the person who had taken them had bothered to make sure his feet weren’t in the pictures. “Idiots” , I murmured.

Sliding the photos back into the envelope, I paused at the door.  “Oh, and give your bosses a message for me,”  I said not bothering to wait for a reply before I continued.  “The next time you want me to come in, send a telegram.  I promise I won’t miss that jaw a second time.”

I didn’t even turn to see the look on the goon’s face before I walked out of the room.

TO BE CONTINUED…..

Brew Review – Elysian Brewing’s Peste

Elysian Brewing “Peste” Label

When we last left our Apocalyptically doomed beer blogger, he had just opened the first seal of Elysian Brewing’s “12 beers of the Apocalypse series”, Nibiru.  Although this brought the first Horseman; CONQUEST to bare, our reviewer did not mind, finding the Charles Burn adorned beer an interesting tempest of flavors.  Since then he has managed to locate and open the next two seals in the series (Rapture, an ale brewed with heather, and Fallout  a pale ale brewed with green cardamom), releasing WAR and FAMINE upon the world.  He had found both beers to be very solid and in fact, very close to one another except for the two key ingredients.  Both beers warranted a nod, but neither rated their own stand alone reviews.  However, upon preparing to open the fourth seal, Peste (which in French means plague); a chocolate chili ale, and thereby releasing the Horseman DEATH upon the world, he paused.   If through his deep, unyielding need for beer he was subjecting the Earth to once again suffer the plagues of the Four Horsemen

The Four Horsemen!

Huh? Wait!  No!  Not those guys!  Holy crap I’m trying to do a review here!  Is it to much to ask for my editor to display a little bit of focus please?

That’s better.  A little darker than I had in mind

Ha Ha Ha.  So you got jokes now? Are you finished? Now where was I?  Oh yeah…If through his deep, unyielding need for beer he was subjecting the Earth to once again suffer the plagues of the Four Horsemen then the  least he should do is to give the doomed souls of the world a beer review.  Is Peste a beer mankind should carry to the edge of the Great Tribulation, when trumpets sound the End of Days?

OK, I didn’t ask for a picture there.  I don’t know what’s gotten into you today, but no one thinks you’re funny.  So if it’s OK with you, I’ll get back to the beer.  Let’s taste.

THEM: The grain bill for Peste consists of pale, Munich, C-77 crystal and chocolate malts.  Both roasted and flaked barley are added and the beer is bittered with Magnum hops.  Peruvian cocoa, Ceylon cinnamon, and chipolte, cayanne, ancho, guajillo and pasilla peppers are also added.  ABV clocks in at 7.5%.

ME: Peste pours on that fine line between dark brown and black.  I got very little head from this beer which might not be surprising depending on how much oil and fat ended up in the finished product from the chocolate and the chilies.  Bubbles hate fat.  The nose isn’t anything remarkable, just a straight forward presence of chili and cinnamon which gives a slight tickle to the back of the nose.  The flavor is equally as one dimensional, a slight (and I’m talking VERY slight) feel of malt/chocolate and then heat.  Mostly that “Red Hots” cinnamon type heat, but there is a little bit of the pepper essence that comes from chilies.  The heat isn’t the fiery “all mouth” burn you get from hot sauces, but a prickly heat focused in the center of the mouth.  The back end is so clean as to almost be sterile with a little bit of a syrupiness lingering but for the most part all you’re left with is a tingling mouth.  After about 3/4 of the bottle, that syrupiness did start to carry some cocoa/chocolate notes, but by then it was too little late.   For the record, I wish breweries bent on putting heat in beers (especially ones that are supposed to be “chili” beers) would lay off the cinnamon.  Maybe it’s me, but I find its flavor to distinct and unwanted in a beer that could easily get any desired heat from the five legitimate chilies the beer contains.

Elysian has fast become one of my favorite breweries, but not everyone gets it right all the time and sadly, I have to put this one down as the first clunker I’ve had from them.  If they’d up the malt/chocolate and toned down the bite (preferable for  me by getting rid of the cinnamon) I think they could have really had something here considering the very appealing grain bill the beer is built off of.  Since it’s part of a one off series, I’ll cut them some slack.  If this was a regular offering, my disappointment would have been far greater than it is.  And in truth, therein lies Peste’s strength – that it’s part of a series.  That means 11 other beers to choose from (coming up; Ruin, a Rosemary Agave IPA and Wasteland, an Elderflower Saison) when December 21 rolls around.  Because if the Apocalypse was on nigh and Peste was the only beer left to drink, then I’d willing toss myself into the abyss to face judgement day.

*SIGH*

Time for another beer.

Brew Review – Eylsian Brewing’s Nibiru

Elysian Brewery's Nibiru with art from Charles Burns

Ok, I KNOW the question that’s been plaguing you for some time.  It’s the end of the world, the apocalypse is upon you and there’s only one thing on your mind – What the hell am I going to drink?  Well luckily the folks at Eylsian Brewing have the answer for you.

I first picked up a bottle of beer from this Seattle brewery when I was putting together a cooler of surprises for a buddy’s BBQ.  The bottle of Bete Blanche got good comments from the group so I started picking up more of their beers as they came into the store.  The other day at Two Stones Pub I had their Poison Dwarf and Idiot Sauvin on draft and greatly enjoyed both.  So the next day when I was at State Line I glanced down the Eylsian selection and saw a label I hadn’t seen before, Eylsain Brewing’s Nibiru.   A quick glance at the label and I knew I had to try this beer, the first in the brewery’s “12 Beers of the Apocalypse” series.

The brewery has teamed up with Fantagraphics Books, a Seattle publishing company known for cutting edge comics to do a series of beers leading up to the Mayan “doomsday” on December 21st, 2012.  The series will consist of 12 beers, each released on the 21st of every month.  The beers will consist of different styles, and some interesting ingredients are on the horizon.  Nibiru was released on January 21st and  is named after a planet that some believe is on a future collision course with Earth.  The label features artwork from Charles Burn’s Harvey Award winning Black Hole graphic novel.   The next beer in the series was Rapture, an ale brewed with heather, which was released on the 21st of February.  Fallout follows in March.  So does this beer have what it takes to get your through hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, the dead rising, the sky turning red, a Justin Beiber concert or the next SyFy channel original movie?  Let’s taste.

THEM:  Nibiru is a belgian-style triple brewed with a Yerba Mate which is a South American plant.  Plants used that are more commonly found in beer include German Northern Brewer, Czech Saaz and American Amarillo hops.  The beer clocks in at 7.6% ABV.

You know this it what really happened.

ME:  Nibiru pours clear and straw colored with a thin layer of lace across the top.  The nose is light with notes of apple and pear along with something I can’t quiet put my finger on that I’m assuming comes from the yerba mate.  The flavor starts with a slight sweetness but quickly turns into the apple/pear that’s in the noise.  There’s also a little bit of earthiness or woodiness to the flavor which really plays well with the fruit tones that again may come from the yerba mate .  The beer finishes with a light bitterness that doesn’t clean the sweetness totally from your mouth, so you’re left with a sticky sweetness in the front with a hop bite in the back.

Eylsian is becoming on of my favorite breweries and Nibiru did nothing to sway me from that opinion.  It’s a nice beer with an interesting twist in the flavor.  I look forward to trying the rest of the “12 Beers of the Apocalypse” as the year goes by.  And who knows, maybe I’ll grab a bottle of each and save them until December.  If you’re in the area on the 21st of that month stop in.  I’ll be the one sitting on my deck with a cooler of Eylsians next to me watching the world come to an end.  Cue the REM music….

Time for another beer.

Coming up, some thoughts on Max’s Belgian Beer Fest and Saint Paddy’s day is right around the corner.  So what better time to talk about one of my favorite movies that has beer in it!

%d bloggers like this: