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Fair Warning

by Kat Beyer

We still haven't found the grave of Alexander, but we believe that the Ark of the Covenant lies guarded in an Ethiopian church, and we have three possibilities for the location of Atlantis. My colleagues and I spend a great deal of time and grant money just turning down back roads on hunches.

For example, I once stopped in a village for gas and coffee at a place where one rather smelled like the other. In the course of a long smoke, while we waited for the owner's cousin's son to come fix the gas pump (you have to be willing to smoke and wait long hours if you want to get far in this profession), the owner told me about a cup at his cousin's house, a cup no one must drink from.

"Most people die," he said between drags.

"They just drink from it and die?" I asked.

"Just die. Like that. But not everyone. Every now and then somebody drinks from it, again and again, and that person lives a long time, long enough to get sick of living."

"No really? Has it got poison in it? Why don't they just destroy it?"

"Can't. Old Joseph, when he brought it, he said, 'Take care of this.' Well, we give what is asked for, here, in this place."

I decided to test this.

"May... may I see it?"

He took me up to his cousin's house, where we were graciously shown into the garden, and where I saw the Grail in its little homemade shrine, set into the wall against the hillside.

Now, I have tenure and a reputation to keep up, and I did not want to violate my host's hospitality, so I waited a week before I came back to steal the Grail.

When I climbed into the night garden, the shrine stood empty, except for a polite note in a copperplate hand that read: "Old Joseph warned us that people would try to take this, even fight over it. So we leave it in the open, because we've learned that that is the best way we can protect it. If you don't want to die, please do us the courtesy of telling this story, but never say the name of our village or give any particulars that might help someone else find us. Thank you, and have a good night."

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