“Some things get better with age,” thought the internet tycoon as he stared at the unopened bottle of Ancient Roman wine. He stood backstage awaiting the curtain call of the great revelation. The bottle rested gently on a red satin display under a plastic cube. The spotlights were ready to be turned on and, on the other side of the red curtain, a cameraman was preparing to take footage of the event. To the side of the display, on a small mahogany table, atop a hand sewn silk doily, there was an ornate piece of stemware – a wine glass.
Dressed in an unblemished tuxedo, the tycoon stood and listened to his guests file in and make polite conversation in the grand ballroom of his mansion on the French Riviera. His mind began to wander. He reflected back to the discoveries, first of the sunken ship and then of the wine bottle in the Mediterranean Sea.
For the breadth of human history and pre-history, there has been a fascination with the sea. Mankind has fashioned his watercraft, sailed the sea, and sunk to the bottom of it for thousands of years. Much has been lost in these aquatic catastrophes – gold, gems, pottery and so on. The real prize to the true collector is the preserved perishable items. Finding clothing is rare, but to find an unbroken bottle is exceptional. To find an intact bottle of the famous Roman wine, the wine sung of by the bards and written of by the poets, is absolutely inconceivable and beyond belief.
One the hobbies of the super-rich is deep sea scavenging and salvage. They can afford the diving teams, the latest equipment and the finest toys. Many graduate students and doctors of antiquity are eager to find patronage with these private collectors. However, the internet tycoon employed no one. He was in business for himself as a sole proprietor and amateur treasure hunter.
Walking to the backstage window, the internet tycoon looked out to see his parking lot filled with luxury and exotic cars. Young women, with their furs and dapper dates, had made their way to his palace entrance, the last of which were entering now. The internet tycoon continued musing, his mouth watering in anticipation. He reminisced with pride as he thought of his fleet of submersible drones, casting a radar net over the ocean floor. He felt the giddiness again of the discovery of the radar blip in the channel between Corsica and Sardinia. There was the competitive rush of adrenaline when he realized that diving teams from the British Museum and Cambridge were nearing his discovery. He was there first!
He had sent a swarm of drone submarines to the radar blip and turned on the search lights. What a discovery! Such a well preserved Roman wreck! He had to keep them away. As the scuba divers neared the wreckage, the internet tycoon released additional swarms of miniature tactical submarine drones armed with electric shocks, similar to cattle prods. These undersea bees were relentless to the diving team. Helplessly, they tried to swat them away, but the friction of water makes everything happen in slow motion and salt water is a great conductor of electricity. Eventually, the drivers surfaced to lodge a complaint, which was promptly forwarded to the attorneys.
Meanwhile, beneath the sea, the drones carefully searched the Roman wreck. In the cargo hold, its stopper and glassware intact, sat the prize. With extraordinary care, he sent in his extractor subs. The subs carefully removed the bottle and placed it in a pressurized container to eventually return to the surface and be carefully depressurized. After another pass of the wreckage, he took the gold, jewelry and gems. He even took the remainder of an old Roman sword with him, since he had some extra room in one of the containers. He left the remainder of the pottery and junk to the divers that would come back. He even knocked over one of the pots, not of clumsiness, but out of spite, as he recalled his drone submarines.
As the red curtain opened, the internet tycoon felt a surge of pride and accomplishment as the display lights came alive to reveal the ancient bottle and its liquid contents. This was his bottle. He owned it. Critics would demand that he hand it over to a museum, let scientists and researchers study it, but it was HIS. What he would do with this wine from antiquity would be the most blasphemous, heinous crime in their eyes and they were powerless to stop him. For this was his bottle, found and salvaged, and he owned it.
The internet tycoon gave his presentation to a packed house. He was broadcasting live across the internet, where the self-righteous trolls spat upon his decadent ways. After an hour of self-aggrandizement, the moment came. He lifted the plastic cube and held the bottle in his hands, displaying it for all to see. Next, he removed the stopper from the millennia-old bottle. He did this with the aid of one of his modern contraptions so as to neither damage the stopper nor the bottle. Finally, he poured.
Thick, black syrup oozed out of the bottle and into the fine crystal stemware. He put the glass to his lips and tasted. As the internet tycoon swished the Roman wine syrup in his mouth and swallowed, he allowed himself to reverie on a life well spent. He closed his eyes, breathed in and held it.
What the audience saw was his collapse on the red felt carpet. Paramedics were called, but he was dead. The cause of death was poisoning. When medical science got ahold of the remainder of the wine, they discovered that it contained an ancient, lethal and forgotten foodborne illness that had also been preserved in the bottle. Centuries of dormancy beneath the sea only heightened its lethal potency. The internet tycoon had been cursed by his own ancient wine.