“The Alchemists”

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baroque – _the alchemists_ – f

 

 

 

1.

 

“To be happy and to know you’re happy

is the over-flowing of the goblet of life”

 – Alan Watts

 

 

            The cork exploded from their third bottle of Dom Pérignon for the evening, spilling over the lip and onto the deck of the bow. J.D. rushed to the bottle with his arms out-stretched, capturing the cascade of pale gold sparkling liquid in his palm as Rikke guided the stream into his chalice. Their faces bubbled over with fine wine, mirth, and success. They drank deeply from the goblet of life, and their lives had smiled back at them. They sailed towards the setting of the Western sun; the orange orb obscured by a thin layer of haze that slunk deeper and deeper into the furthest reaches of the horizon.

 

            He and Vincent stood at the helm, sipping brandy and watching the wheel tick to the left and then the right as the ship plowed towards Halcyon; the foreign shore. They had not quite recovered from a long silence between them when He popped the question:

“Have you decided what you’re going to do with your ninety percent yet?”

Another silence followed, briefer, and quickly broken by Vincent’s subtle chortle, and the clinking of ice in his drained glass. “Oh, I have plans.”

“So, where to now? Singapore? Beijing? Dubai?”

“Hong Kong,” Vincent smiled as the words escaped his lips. “That’s where all of the money in the orient passes, and I’m going to get my piece of it.” Figures. He had accepted long ago that Vincent would always have very different motives and aspirations than Him, and that there was nothing wrong with hungry eyes and a devilish grin.

Besides, He thought to himself, why are mine any more pure? All Vincent wanted was a form of perfection, and he had lived with the chance to achieve it.

“Are you thinking you’ll gun for number one – the richest man in the world?” Vincent merely smiled, chinked the ice in his glass, and gazed deeply into the horizon.

 

Rhodes chortled with this week’s women at the stern. He stood with his back to the sunset, silhouetting himself against the brilliant orange hues of the sky. The girls were along for this trip and this trip only, but his intentions didn’t bleed through to his cool eyes or bright expression: he smiled jubilantly at them, happy to be sharing this beautiful feeling with these wonderful girls for the time being. There was no future in his musings, no plans extended to their logical conclusions — he knew that good times were short-lived and the unpredictability of their situation, and his only goal was to show the girls a good time on the high seas, to dazzle them with luxury before ditching them in some foreign port. The girls held no grander expectations — they were aware of male intentions, and they were no strangers to fair-weather friendships. They smiled vibrantly back at him, happy just to escape the torments of their lives left far behind, if only to catch a glimpse of the Midas touch in action before they ventured far off in the orient alone, gleefully abandoned on a distant shore. Rhodes looked at Him as He approached the buzzing group on the starboard deck, and the women turned their heads as He sauntered past. He kept His eyes to the horizon without falter as He made his way to the bow. Rhodes brought his attention back to the group when he noticed that He would not break His pace. The girls followed in turn, bringing their eyes back to Rhodes and his brand new Armani suit.

 

            He approached Her at the bow as She was fiddling with the golden band wrapped around Her left ring finger. She gazed listlessly off into the horizon, Her thoughts resting miles beyond. He brought Her mind back home gently with a soft touch on Her left shoulder. She shuddered under His fingertips as She woke from Her dream.

He slid His body towards Her, closing ninety percent of the distance between them. His hand glided down Her spine smoothly as He kissed the back Her neck. She leaned back into Him, sealing the chasm between them in embrace before the sea.

He reached His hand down to Hers and turned the band on Her left ring finger, revealing the massive gem She had been hiding in Her palm. The tinted diamond seemed to posess a sort of natural effervescence, giving off a pale purple light as it captured the orange glow of the late equatorial evening and projected it through it’s own soft lens. She bashfully spun the crown back around Her finger, then shot a hesitant glance past His eyes. A brief moment of silence fell between them. Then, He parted his lips to speak:

            “Why do you still wear that thing? You know we aren’t getting married.”

A coy smile broke across Her face. “I’m not quite sure,” She started as She reached Her right hand across to Her left, “I guess I figured I would try to keep up appearances,” She twisted the band over Her left knuckle and slid the ring into into Her opposite palm. She turned Her right plam face-up, presenting the ring to Him as the brilliant stone sparked in the glow of the setting sun. “…You know — for your friends.”

            “I’m pretty sure they already know you are leaving me.” He lifted the ring from Her palm and held it over the railing, producing a shining beacon at the very front of the bow. “Are You still headed to Burma?”

            “It’s still Myanmar, dear,” She cooed to him as the wind brushed Her hair from Her face, coming to rest behind the tip of Her left ear, “& yes, I am. But I might see Laos, first. I’ve never  been there before, and I hear the people are nicer now than ever … to Americans.”

            “That’s fabulous,” He said as He flicked the ring from His fingers and into the sea. It hit the water with a gentile ‘sploosh’, sinking into the murky waters with a pale blue glow. His voice sounded hollow to Her, melancholy, like a fiddle on the Apalachian wind. She froze, agast for a moment, before regaining Her composure.

            “Dear!” she exclaimed, “That was a ten-million dollar ring!”

“How would you know? & besides – you know money is worthless, anyways.”

 “I had it appraised – Why did you do that?”

He looked deeply into Her eyes and took Her hand into His. He lifted it to His mouth, kissed it gently, then spoke: “Because I have something better for You.”

He reached His hand into His coat pocket and removed a small item. It was a small, dark, velvet box with a golden latch on the front of it. She looked at it briefly, then took it from his hand. “What’s this?” Her eyes darted up to His to take a snapshot of His expression before they fell quickly back on the little black box. Her fingers hesitated at the latch.

“You know this isn’t going to change anything.”

            “I know. But I wanted you to open it.” The small box sat like a paperweight Her hands – She held it over the bow of the ship and it weighed heavily on Her, like an anchor pulling Her down towards the murky waters. Her fingers reached towards the clasp on the front, opposite to the clamshell’s hinge. She slid her nail under the latch.

            The box snapped open. A dull glimmer twinkled like a distant star inside a coffin.

“It’s pretty… Should I know what it is?”

“It’s diamond, dear.”

“Oh.” There was slight disappointment in her voice, vastly overshadowed by a strong sense of curiousity. “Is there something… else?”

“It was my Mother’s.”

“Oh.”

They stood listening to the waves slapping against the hull below, in sync with the flow of the calm Japanese winds along the strait.“You know I would never leave you, abuse you, use you, or screw you… indiscriminately,” He spoke lightly, and playfully chuckled at His own wit, “I love you to death, gorgeous, & you mean the world to me. Without you in it, the future seems a little darker, and sunsets turn an ashen shade of grey.”

 

            “I know,” She cooed to him, “You’ve told it all to me before. But, all the same, I’m not interested. Not anymore. & I’m leaving to Burma once we land — alone — and no one is going to stop me.”

 

            “Of course.” A still silence fell between them, broken only by the gentile sounds of the wind and the waves. Finally, after what seemed like hours, He stirred. He reached towards Her hand, and removed the untouched ring. The box fell between them and the wind threw it against the hull mid-flight, making a metallic thud as it toppled from neglect into the sea. It landed with a splash, and they watched it as it tossed and turned on the surface of the choppy waters, struggling to stay afloat. They watched it swim for a moment longer until it drifted out of sight, past the bow, and far from mind. Both pairs of eyes turned back to the horizon,  gazing deeply into the sinking of the oriental sun, and once again He began to speak: “So… what are you going to do with your two percent?”

            “Travel.”

            “Of course.” The words came out his mouth and fell flat on the foreign waters. He took the ring between his thumb and pointer and flicked it over the bow. The ring spun like a flying saucer, arcing up towards the sun before dipping downward and diving into the ocean. They locked eyes, speaking in tongues through their pupils. She began to cry. She took him in a final embrace, drying Her tears on the lapel of His shirt, promising that She would love him forever.

Far off sounds in the clouds above shook them from their dream. They turned their focus skyward as two nuclear-powered S-2 saucers rocketed across the sky, trailing two beams of light that intersected each-other before parting ways in the sky over head.

            “Well I’ll be damned,” He said, just loud enough for Her to hear, “I would recognize the sound of those bastards anywhere.”

She cast Her gaze to the edges of the sea as the saucers of their own design passed over the crest of the Earth, sailing directly into the setting of the Western sun, and through the horizon. “Believe me, dear,” She cooed in His ears, “I know what you mean.”

 

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