The Dharma Wheel Rolls

Scribophile contest entry, April 2018

When the Dharma Wheel Rolls

I took the package from the deliveryman.  Not the postal man, but the one sent by Dancho the Thracian from Bulgaria.  I laid it on the table, no need to rush, I know what it holds.  Instead my report on the findings from the elemental gas testing on the golden vase sample needs to be notarized so I will go out and get this done before making my calls.

The morning goes well and the results of the test for the gold sample are notarized.  Dancho Abadjiev has sent me incentives before, but none as grand as what lies in the box.  Here in Zurich I am free to be myself.  No one judges me, or even knows me well; so much the better for my plan.  I’ve been waiting years for this ever since I began supplying antiquities to the Helios Gallery in London.  Abadjiev has been a staple in my trade for years.  Bolshaw from Helios Gallery sent the sample last week.  He says it is from a golden vase found off Knidos in Turkey.  If it is genuine, it is one of three awarded to Hippocrates and priceless.  He will get a fortune for it at auction with Sotheby’s.  Dancho will pay more.  But he will pay it to me. 

“Yes Maschinkov, the vase is now at the Cheval Knightsbridge.  Yes in the room of R. Balbozar.  That’s right, he is Bolshaw’s man. On the day you receive my wire make your move.  Yordanov will help you.  The exit strategy will be in place and you will get my full instructions by mail.”  I hang up with Maschinkov, the concierge at the Cheval, and my Bulgarian conduit to the Thracian, Abadjiev. That vase may be the most incredible find in many years and just the 6 kilos of gold is worth the effort it will take to make it mine.

The package is calling me I must admit.  The results of the gas test show that the vase was smelted at the time it was purported to have been awarded Hippocrates and Bolshaw says it’s genuine.  I will have it.  But I’ll wire Maschinkov after some private time.  The package waits. 

Abadjiev does not disappoint.  When he wants something he is not loath to go to any length.  The gift is contained the redwood box I now hold in my lap. And as he knows I love, it is stained with the peat and the clay from the riverside area where the Queen was found.  I know his love for gold as he knows my love for…well.., sensory stimulation let us say.  The Sycthian War Queen found last year was my find, but I knew the gold and the entire mummy found in the Kurgan would titillate my friend the Thracian.  And for a healthy price it was his. All his but a little piece of her. To secure his place for future sales of things like the Golden Vase of Knidos he has spared me something of hers. The Queen and Dancho have been so kind as to ‘lend me a hand’.  I laugh out loud at my pun.  But before I open the box, I need the Asthmadore.  It is getting hard to get these days, but then again so is everything I deal in.  I will take a large pinch of the Asthmadore today.

Yes, as I knew it would be, it is the perfect accompaniment to my prize in the box.  And so to the room we go.  Special lighting, climate controlled, the right musical ambiance puts me at ease but the Asthmadore is making it a bit difficult to open the box, fit together as it is.  When I finally open the box, I am nearly overcome to see it.  The hand of the Sycthian Warrior Queen is laid on a velvet cushion.  The right hand of course, the left is sinister.  I break off the pointer finger.  The finger where that fabulous woven gold ring was until Abadjiev took it off.  That is fine. I just want the organic matter, her material.  I take the finger off at the second knuckle, drop it into my jade mortar and grind it with the pestle.  As I pulverize it I add more Asthmadore, and then insufflate the whole of it.  My body shakes with storms and bliss at the same time.  When I awaken from my passion I make the calls to Bolshaw, the helicopter pilot near Orly, and to Burgas, to connect with Dancho Abadjiev the Thracian.

The phone rings and it is one of his girls, the ginger one.  “This is Darius Pham calling from Zurich, I need the Thracian.”  I make arrangements for the delivery.  But it is based on speculation, and faith.  I send the wire to Maschinkov the next morning.

I have been sitting for days.  I do spend some time with the hand of the Queen, but just to pull in the magnificent odors she gives and to gently run my tongue on her desiccated skin.  On the 5th day I get the wire from Maschinkov.  He and Yordanov have taken the vase he says and the wire tells me he has arrived in France with it.  Yordanov did not make it he tells me.  I feign concern aloud by myself. I know that Maschinkov will not make it either.  Tonight I take another finger and load the mortar with it and more Asthmadore.  The night is blissful.

The Thracian is so very thoughtful when he wants something.  He has sent two of his best employees with a car from Bulgaria to assist me in getting the vase here from France.  They arrived last night and this morning at first light I sent them with directions to the French border to collect Maschinkov and the Golden Vase of Knidos.  Late this evening they returned.  They have the Vase and it is safe in its carpet sided satchel.  Machinkov is neither seen nor spoken of.  The Bulgarians speak very little anyway and to that end I never liked Maschinkov.  Tonight I take another finger and load the mortar with it and more Asthmadore than I have ever taken at one time.

I awaken in hospital now ten days later.  I am still in Zurich, and I am alone with the exception of doctors and nurses.  I am heavily bandaged and I am having a good deal of difficulty breathing.  I lay thus, with no knowledge of what has transpired.  In time, and I am in and out of waking for some time, a doctor arrives and wants to talk.  He looks very grave.

“Your housekeeper found you unconscious sir and told us your name.  Darius Pham is it?  You are a dealer in antiquities?  You are having quite a rough go of it sir and so I bring you the update on your condition. You came in with some severely compromised flesh, from your left hand all the way up to your shoulder and around the scapula.  It is down to the bone in many places and that having given you a bad case of septicopyemia.  We don’t know how long you were on the floor, but it seems your body was weighing fully on your right arm which was twisted rather badly.  I am afraid there is extensive nerve damage there.  What I am really concerned with is the fact that you have a virus and it is responsible for an unnaturally high fever.  Traces of stramonium and belladonna were found in your blood.  Very odd indeed, we have not seen that before. The concern is Mr. Pham that we have never seen this virus and we are not succeeding in treatment with it at this point in time.  So given the lack of knowledge we haven’t even got a prognosis for you as yet.  Have you got any relatives Mr. Pham?”

I took this in as well as I could with the fog that shrouded my brain.  I must find out about the vase.  Where is the vase? Where is the…

I am awake now but they tell me I have been out for days.  I can’t see anything except a small pinpoint of light in the center of a very black field and every part of my body is seared and seamed through with pain.  I fade.

Awake again, not able to tell how long I have been out and my body is hot, so very, very hot.  The pounding pain in my head is unbearable and the blood that has flowed from my nose is crusting around my mouth and has stained the sheet that covers me.  I cannot stand the weight of the sheet.  I smell roses, but I cannot see a thing.  My mind is racing and dropping into torpor in ragged cycles.

“Mr. Pham…Mr. Pham can you hear me?”

“Yes, yes who is it who is here” I say.

“It is the nurse sir.  You are thrashing about and moaning.  I need to change the bed pan.” She says this, even though I know it is empty and clean. My body is not working at all.

“Oh do you like the roses?”

“There are roses?” I ask her.  “I thought I smelled roses.” Or was it my bad flesh pretending?

“Of course they are roses.  And a card came with them.  Shall I read it?”

I say nothing, as I am fading again and the pounding in my head is resonant.

“It says; Dear Pham, Thank you for the vase and at such a low price.  Merely that of a road trip to France.  Your friend D. Abadjiev.”

I cannot smell the roses, or hear anything.  I cannot breathe any longer.