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Rated: E · Fiction · Fantasy · #2282002
An eccentric billionaire & his secretary go off on a quest to find immortality. 1700 words
Dudley Duncan, 47, eccentric billionaire, and Periwinkle (Peri) Withers, 26, who had been Dudley’s private secretary for three years. discussed his recent finding among his scrolls.
“What I’ve learned from my latest research, my dear,” he told her, “is that there is a wonderful artifact that I must discover. This artifact, according to my scrolls, is supposed to bestow immortality on the one who finds it.”

“Immortality?” Peri asked. “Does that mean living forever?”

When Dudley nodded inattentively, Peri went on: “Whyever would you want to live forever?”

“Anyone would,” he scoffed. “Any wealthy person who has a great deal to offer the world would certainly wish to live forever, if he could.”

“Well, I wouldn’t,” she muttered as he turned away.

It’s the city of Frisco in the year 2239, and Dudley Duncan, a well-educated but superstitious billionaire, has decided to set off on a voyage of discovery. For many years, his hobby has been collecting ancient artifacts connected to legends and myths, and studying the scrolls he’s located. And he has now discovered the possible location of an artifact that may give him what he’s always desired – immortality.

“You must accompany me, Peri,” he told her.

“Where are we going?” she wondered.

“If I become immortal, I shall need a secretary to help organize my life, and what I wish to do with it.”

Peri turned her head away and rolled her eyes, but she did want to keep her job. “Yes, sir,” she said. “And I assume there will be hazard pay if I go along with you?“

“Of course, my dear. You see,” he went on,” I must become immortal because I have recently come to the conclusion that I am a superior being who deserves to live forever.”

Peri privately disagreed with this, but told herself, Such a superstitious man can’t possibly find any such artifact. And even if he does, I doubt very much it’ll make him immortal.

Dudley had become a billionaire just last year, when the most recent of his stocks had tripled and then quadrupled in value. He had inherited a hundred million dollars from his late father many years before, and had invested everything. This had now paid off handsomely.

He had bought himself a $4 million yacht, which was currently tied up in a Southern California marina, and had furnished it with velvet, satin, silk, and teak wood fittings, costing another million.

To his credit, he had gifted Peri with a lovely fox fur coat, an emerald necklace, and a purebred poodle. So she, of course, felt under a great obligation to do his bidding, if she could.

Thinking about his superstitions, she recalled they included breaking a mirror, which he believed would give him seven years of bad luck; Friday the 13th; the “Evil Eye,” whatever that was; and his lucky charm, a gold four-leaf clover given to him many years before by a lover.
And so the two of them readied themselves to set off for ‘wherever,’ as Peri thought of it.


As they were boarding his newly purchased spaceship, the Venerable Lady, Dudley continued to talk about this artifact, despite the fact that Peri was making very few additions to his monologue.

“You see,” he said as they walked through the hatch into the luxurious lounge, “the secret to this artifact has been hidden for millennia. In one of those scrolls – it was one that I discovered from Damascus, I believe – I uncovered a myth about a secret legend that tells of this special artifact.”

She nodded as they took their seats in the lavender lounge, while the Captain made sure they were well strapped in, and two pretty female servers took their drink orders.

Their seats were lilac-colored plush velvet, and reclined. All four seats in the lounge faced a huge television screen, on which currently showed a music video she knew was by her boss’s favorite singer, Patsy Klein.

Paying slightly more attention to the video than to her boss, Peri heard Dudley say, “I believe this legend will lead us to the secret of immortality. The clue seems to say that it’s hidden on ‘a young planet in a faraway star system.’”

She nodded again, and he went on. “This is why we’re traveling in my private spaceship, you see.”

“But why do I have to come along?” She knew what he’d said, but she just felt like whining.
“Because you are my intrepid sidekick,” he said, impatiently. (As if he’s Indiana Jones, Peri thought). “You’ll be doing all the logistical and planning work. I’ll tell you where we’re going, and you’ll get us there.”

“How will I get you anywhere? I don’t know how to pilot a spaceship, and even if I did, I’m not sure I could read a star chart to save my life.”

“That’s all right, my dear. I just mean that when we land, it will be your responsibility to ensure our arrival at our destination.”


“If we might be interrupted in our attempt to reach the artifact, or if someone or something tries to stop us, you will be the one to get us through.”

“Me? But what about my family? I told them we were going on a business trip, but they’ll be expecting me back no later than next week. What if it takes a lot longer to find this artifact?”

“I’m sure it won’t take us too long, my dear. And remember, you’ll be getting a hefty bonus.”
“And if I don’t get back? Will my bonus then go to my family?”

“I have taken care of that,” he assured her.

Hmm, she thought. She settled back in her chair and tried to relax, intending to at least enjoy the video and, possibly, sleep.


The search ended when their ship crash-landed on a strange and weird world with no name, a world that wasn’t identified on Dudley’s star charts.

“Peri,” he announced excitedly, “this is the location of the artifact.”

“How do you know?”

“It just feels right,” he said.

When they had gotten themselves established in rooms at the local hotel, Dudley and Peri went out, “To see what we can see,” Dudley said.

After he confirmed to himself that this was indeed the world described in the clue, he proclaimed, “Peri, you must now retrieve an artifact that may be what I’m seeking.”

“What? You’re not sure of it?”

“Never mind, my dear,” Dudley said, waving off her concern.

This artifact turned out to be located on top of a person’s dwelling. Peri climbed the outside ladder (Without permission, mind you, she noted) to get it, and nearly fell off close to the top. But a young man, a native, sitting on the house top, reached out and grabbed her hand.

“Did you get it?” Dudley demanded when she stepped off the ladder. He’d been safely hidden in the shadow of the neighboring house.

“I got something,” she said. “And I nearly fell off, Dudley!”

She handed it over to Dudley, who grabbed it and ran off to admire it in private. But, as he examined it, it appeared to be nothing but a hologram, and dissolved right before his eyes.
He was profoundly amazed and hurt when this happened.

“Peri, come here! What have you done?”

“Nothing,” she called back.

But a spirit of the artifact arose just then. It swirled around Dudley and somehow he learned that it had not been his secretary who was to blame, but he himself.

Subsequently, before Peri could reach him, terrifying events been to happen to Dudley. A mirror showed him aging to a skeleton and a skull, and then dropping to the ground as dust.

He saw a painting of a six-armed monster, with five eyes and claws for hands. “How awful that is,” he exclaimed, and it came to life and chased him up a tree, and then left.

Then his attention went to his fingers and toes, which seemed to be dissolving into coins of an unknown nature.

And finally, he saw his father whipping a horse, and then turning toward him, preparing to whip him.

Then the artifact informed Dudley, “What has interfered with your success in holding onto me are your superstitious beliefs, especially your belief in your lucky charm, when you should have resorted to your own intelligence.

“These hallucinations should have made you use your brain to recognize what they were, rather than relying on an insignificant little piece of metal.”

Dudley attempted to defend himself, but the artifact continued.

“Your other flaw is your fear of breaking a mirror. You should have broken that mirror where you saw yourself aging. When you were faced with that solution to the situation, your superstitions were working against you.”

“But, but . . . .” Dudley stuttered.

“In addition,” the artifact went on, “your belief in your superiority causes you to fall short in your estimation of the danger you find yourself in. You believe that because of ‘your superiority,’ you must succeed simply because you wish to.”

“You are exiled to this place, and may not leave it. You will spend the rest of your brief life learning more and more that you are in fact inferior, rather than superior, and that all your billions cannot help you now.”

As the artifact faded, Dudley heard himself thinking, And I’ve learned too late that this is the price I must pay for my chutzpah. I am not a superior being.

Thus he knew that he had lost the artifact, which told him it had now hidden itself once more and arranged that the clue to the secret of its existence would lie somewhere other than where it had been. He also knew that the ‘inferior’ Peri had left the world, and was actually the superior being.

Peri had been transported back home with little, if any, memory of the journey or her involvement with Dudley Duncan. And Dudley, the ex-billionaire, now realized he would no longer be able to hunt for this artifact, as his memory of all that had transpired was gone.

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