Captive cola shelved for collector’s craze, emblazoned with the bright colors commemorating some ancient Olympics, waiting to be valuable once again. Dark sticky acid sludge held in thermo-chemical stasis, the slow breakdown of light filtered through tinted glass, the seal will rot and expire before the solar energies finish the subtle transmutation, the carbonation gone out ages hence. Caramel-colored water waits past its fizzy date, the lost Mecca on the dusty shelf, sugar-sweet trove that could feed a hundred generations, impenetrable in its slick tomb, surrounded by the corpses of ants.
Entombed, forgotten, amid the detritus of years, the cool and damp and dark draw down to work their strange alchemy, which has shattered lesser things with the slow work of years.
The familiar clink of spade on glass, and eager hands clear away the dirt of human habitation and the ruin of cities and people and ages. Faded now are the five rings, weathered and chipped the ancient dietary facts, but raised and vibrant on the bottom in letters of glass, the original bottler.
The gavel falls, once, twice – a bid, a raise, the video feed registers a new spate of activity, numbers on the screen incrementing higher as users at their distant computer terminals raise their limits. The heat dies down, longer pauses between raises, the contest becomes a momentary news item, search engines register the slight uptick in hits. Commercial data is exchanged, addresses relinquished , advertisements planned and commenced, marketing nostalgia ware to the idly curious. The gavel falls, the ads are clicked, do you want to upgrade to next-day shipping? Sold.
In the lab, under sterile lights, the tumult of the crowd is lost. There were riots at the mad science plans, the cultural loss, petitions signed and legal actions filed to halt the grievous violation. Calm men and women spoke of scientific progress, lost wonders, promise of new stuffs and chemical miracles. In the lab, the technician readies the probe.
Nanotendril snakes it way along a badlands of scarred glass. At this scale, the scratches of years transform the smooth surface into a treacherous landscape. Initial circumspection shows the seal worn but intact, protected by the agglutination of sterile dust and dirt from the fungi and bacteria that would colonize such stuff. The sharpened head burrows in, dragging the body behind, pseudo-worm musculature digging through the seal to taste the trapped air with tech first developed for burrowing through Antarctic ice. Digital chatter fills databases, collecting every chemical impression as the snaky probe continues the slow crawl, now suspended over precious millimeters, to make contact with the dark brown lake below.
Glass wine, refined for ages, the acid slowly eating at the imperfections, gaining flavor as the walls slightly dissolve. Awash in unfamiliar chemicals, lost with parent species: the taste of kola nut and coca leaf, strange extracts still intact amid the carbonic acid and dissolved sugars. The lab room cheers, the chemical data of their prize secured: a new cola for a new generation.
In the museum, under soft lights, climate-controlled tomb, the violation sealed, the brown-black lake still once more. Commercially exploited but not discarded, rescued by the archaeologists, the anthropologists, the art collectors. Shuffled from auction block to galley, studied and measured, decrypted and decoded. The essays and articles fill volumes and wikis on speculation, facts, petty academic politics, and scandal. No one seriously tries to drink it. Then the lights go out.
A three-fingered claw lifts it from the crèche where it had been laid, the centerpiece of the tomb-complex, another artifact of a strange and forgotten race. Lights flash at the entrance, the sound of motorized vehicles, and the claw secures its prize. The penalty for looting is death.