Note: A friend of mine hated the ending of this story and so, for her utter pleasure, I have a more boring, more depressing, alternate ending. Feel free to read it after you finish the story.

Gold Corrupts

"It's not fair that it'll end this way," I remarked. My companion didn't stir in her seat; her sole reply was a sad, disappointed glare. She then began ignoring me completely, turning her head away and watching the constant splish of the tide grow stronger and faster.

I sat down beside her. A final gesture of friendship, really, before our ship took its last plunge. "I hate irony."

That remark of mine inspired her to turn her head. This time, however, her face was painted with a depressing bout of nostalgia. "I always used to laugh at irony," she admitted, "but you know what they say. "It's only funny 'til you're the target," or something like that."

More tired sighs emanated from both of us. "Tell me," she demanded abruptly, "when did it go wrong? When did the irony butt in and kick us out?"

What was more fitting at that moment then a final flashback, a final review of tragic events. I would have to hurry though for the brooding, stormy clouds were hurrying past the horizon.

"I guess it began," I told her, "when I went on a vacation to the Bahamas…" I could practically feel the lights dimming as I, like a bard, began my singsong tale.

I don't remember everything that happened. How could I? I do remember the feeling of the warm sand squeezing in between my toes. I recall the sun shining down gracefully overhead. I recollect the waves slowly beating against the seashore, like a pleasant drum. I wasn't happy though and that's all that mattered to me at the time. Sure, now I want to be back on the beach. Now I want to be anywhere except here. But then, the beach terrified me. It was too empty and peaceful to compensate for the superficial void in side of me.

Then, at my feet, a bottle appeared. It had rolled out of nowhere and come from the endless surf. I was curious, bored, and I had nothing else to divert my mind from my misery. So, when loose slips of paper flew out of the bottle I opened them and…a map? It made no sense. Then I saw the maps title, "Site of Sunken Gold Cargo," and rethought it. A treasure map. It made perfect sense and it was something that would occupy my time.

As I skipped away from the manipulative sandy doldrums, I almost forgot the other slip of paper. Two had fallen out, you understand, but I had seen the map and that had been enough for me. My foolish curiosity would not leave that other scrap alone. Was it another map? I wondered.

No. It was merely a warning of some kind. I can't remember what anymore. I barely even paid attention to the admonition at the time. I just rushed along to the closest port, seeking a vessel to reign over.

I had about enough money in my pocket and bank account to completely sponsor my expedition. Everything was covered, including money for the crew and essential supplies. I took out heavy loans from several banks, for some reason positive I would find the gold I sought.

"I guess you were right about one thing," she told me, smirking. "We do have the gold."

"Yeah," I sighed, "but I was blind and corrupted by money."

"Or lack thereof."

"You had money," I interjected. "You didn't have to come. Why did you? Did you really believe you'd be rich?"

"Continue with the story," she commanded, "the storm draws nearer."

She was right. Time was pressing me to continue.

Well, I bought the ship and posted ads all over town. I don't remember which town anymore, one of the boring port cities in the dreary Bahamas. Replies came in slower than I'd guessed. No one wanted to go on a treasure hunt. Not in our world, the foolish new millennium where many are brave enough to smoke through cancer but no one will join a simple treasure hunt. I guess it didn't help where our destination was, but superstition shouldn't have stopped people either. There's nothing supernatural about the Bermuda Triangle.

Well, after two weeks of eating out of trashcans, I was saved. All three crewmembers showed up on the same night. First, it was you. You, with your nonchalant smile. You, carrying your self about like a captain.

"What's your name?" I asked, ready to welcome you first board.

"You may call me, 'first mate.'"

Bah. First Mate. That's what I've been calling you, that babbling tongue twister and, as a nickname, plain old "Mate." Well, Mate. You were there for the next part.

In through the door the pair sploshed, their wet boots galoshing against the hardwood floor. Two future crewmembers. Two future mutineers. I should have known the moment I laid my eyes on the greedy pair, but I guess in my desperation I was not thinking clearly. I accepted them, one to control repairs and weather forecasts, the other, to steer the ship. I knew you and I would cook and navigate, so that was not a problem.

We then left port the next morning. I had grown too restless in the gloomy port city to wait for even one more sun to set. We set out on our journey spanning the distance between the Bahamas and the Bermuda Triangle quickly. Everything went quickly.

"You didn't suspect anything at the time?" Mate asked startled.

"Suspect what?"

"The two mutineers, of course," she responded flatly.

I thought for a second. "Did you suspect them?"

"No," she admitted ruefully.

"Ha," I exclaimed, "why weren't you smart enough to notice?"

"I trusted you to make good decisions."

I picked at the ship's metal material shyly. "Wait a second." I'd just realized something. "Why would you trust me?"

At that exact moment a large wave crashed against the ship and we swung back and forth. A look from Mate ushered me forwards.

"I guess that's my cue to continue."

Anyway, we soon were at the spot marked on the treasure map, hauling the treasure up from the depths. I did notice when the two mutineers greedily eyed the loot, but hey, I was eyeing it too. More than "eyeing" really. I was busily employing all five of my senses. I tasted the rusty metal, biting it to ensure its validity. I smelled the salty water, saturated within the medallion. I felt the smooth texture of pure riches. I heard the melodious chink as I dropped my bundle onto the deck. But I didn't see betrayal headed our way.

That night we had a raucous party aboard the ship. We'd dropped the anchor and didn't have to worry about drifting, and therefore the entire crew attended the celebration. All four of us. We broke into our stores of liquor and quickly exhausted them. Inspired by our fit of drinking, we danced our faces and eyes blood red.

The first true conflict occurred that evening. I doubt you remember; although you were the object of the conflict, you were also thoroughly drunk. Our two lovely crew members approached you and told you how lovely you were. It wasn't long before you were flattered by their drunken compliments. Intoxicated, you were an easy target, and, inebriated, they were eager predators.

They offered you to come to their room and you accepted. Forntunately, I was standing right there. I stepped forward, posturing my spine as much as I could and I commanded them to leave you alone. They disagreed and so we fought. Fist to fist. Well, actually everyone was missing. Eventually, we all collapsed and slept 'til morning. They pulled me aside later and apologized. I willingly forgave them as no harm had been done.

I slept easy that night; the large pile of unrefined cash outside my door soothed me into complete sleep. That was perhaps the most peaceful night I have ever slept. I guess the money had filled the superficial hole inside me. My joy may not have been righteous, but it sure felt delightful.

The next morning I stepped outside my cabin onto the deck. I could have sworn the pile had diminished in stature and therefore in worth. I wasn't positive, however, as I knew I could have been hallucinating in the mad excitement of the chaotic night. I didn't even wonder about why our two mutineers were so happy until I found the gold chunk hidden in pillows.

"That is definite proof," Mate interjected.

I nodded agreement.

"But the next part puzzles me," she said, almost playfully. "You came to me and explained all of your worries. Why? If you couldn't trust them, how could you trust me?"

"How? Why? Those are the questions we need not ask." I assured Mate resiliently. "Instead ask, what did we do wrong?"

Mate then pointed out, snootily, "We already asked that."

"Then let me continue answering." Another wave reached toward the boat and leapt over the side. Water now began to surround our ankles as we perched resolutely.

"Fine, continue," Mate conceded.

I walked up to our helmsmen that next morning and confronted him about the misplaced treasure. He pleaded not guilty, but I persisted.

"Fine," he eventually admitted, "I took it. But I had a right to it. All you and that lady of yours have done this whole-"

I interrupted him. "She's not my lady; she's my First Mate."

"Make's no difference. I'm the only one around here that's done any work. We couldn't have gotten here if not for me."

I had funded the whole voyage you know. But if we wanted to argue that, then fine. "What about our resident repairman?"

He laughed. "He's a worthless meteorologist." He spelled it out for me. "A scientist. And you know what. As soon as we get to land I'm taking his stolen portion of the loot."

I was somewhat overwhelmed by that last statement. He had asserted two things not to my liking. The first was the recognition that our "scientist" had also pillaged the treasure. The other unpleasant concept of his speech was that the helmsman was planning on taking someone else's portion. How did he expect to do that under the captain's neck? I was the captain after all. Then it became clear to me that they were planning on overthrowing me.

And so, fearfully protective of my newly gained financial security, I shoved the corrupt helmsman overboard. He cried out for help and fought valiantly but was soon out of view. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Wrong. The "scientist" had heard our quick skirmish and had quickly risen up to the deck.

He bombarded me with verbal assaults, along many the same lines as the helmsman's speech, so I need not relay it. It ended in a slight physical battle, whereupon I shoved him overboard. He was faster than his mutineer buddy and was able to grapple on to the side of the ship.

"Don't let me fall," he shouted. "A large storm is coming. The ship will sink unless I can guide you away from it. You don't even know how to steer this vessel."

"You lie," I snorted. "There is no storm. You will not fool me." The treasure had intoxicated me and made me blind to the truth. I think you know the rest.

"Indeed I do," Mate assured me.

"Ha," I laughed briefly, "Irony. It couldn't get much worse could it?"

"It very easily could," she smiled, "what if I was one of them the whole time."

"What?" I was confused.

"What if I had teamed up with the helmsman and weatherman to gain your trust and steal your money?"

I began to sweat nervously. She was caught in the storm with me; she couldn't escape with the money if she wanted to; could she?

"I'm kidding," she laughed. "I had you for a second there."

I heaved a deep relieved breath. "Don't do that again."

"I don't think I'll have a chance, terrible storm after all," she winked.

"Crazy how storms can appear out of nowhere," I remarked.

"We are in the Bermuda Triangle," she reminded me.

"So?"

"Storms have a tendency to appear out of nowhere here. Hence all of the superstition."

I laughed. "Superstition. Hilarious. This storm is real."

"Yeah, but people say the craziest things about the storms here," Mate continued jestingly, "like they're portals or something."

"Portals. To what?"

"Some people say to another dimension or to another time, like a timewarp or something."

"How curious. But you know what?"

"Yes?" Mate inquired, interested.

"I could draw a map of our current location and when the ship sinks someone else can collect the treasure."

"How are you going to get it to them?"

"The map?" I pondered for a moment. "A bottle. And I'll include a warning note so they don't end up in the same position as us."

I was excited and carried away in the moment. Mate didn't even try to stop me as I sketched up the map and scribbled the note. I pulled a bottle out of the hull and stuffed both sheets of paper inside. I tossed it into the water and then turned to Mate suddenly stricken with a feeling of stupidity and helplessness.

"Damn it," I shouted, "I hate irony. I hate padoxes. I hate paradoxical irony."

"What do you mean?"

"You said the storm was a time portal," I reminded her, "well I finally figured it out. It's a paradox. The map I drew was the same. The note I wrote was the same. Looking back I can remember and know for sure. You see I put the bottle in the water. It just went back in time and landed on the beach in front of me. Coincidentally, we are in the same spot we found the treasure. The map is exactly the same. And the note…well if I didn't listen before what will change this time."

"So then," Mate asked, "what did the note say?"

"The note? 'Gold corrupts. Gold inspires man to cheat. Gold removes trust from those who need it. Gold sinks ships and breaks hearts. Gold corrupts.'"

"Breaks hearts?" Mate sounded a little strange when she said that. She almost sounded in love.

"Yes, what about them?"

"Why would you write that?"

I sighed ruefully, "Asking why again?"

"Yes," she admitted glumly.

"We both know why now," I assured her. "We both know."

"Know what?" She was close to tears. I could tell.

"Know why we've done what we did," I told her.

"That's still not an answer. Now please explain it before we're both crushed by the water."

"Gold corrupts." I smiled and lunged forward to kiss her but the rush of the tide ripped us apart. It had snuck up on us. We had concentrated on each other and hadn't noticed the roaring of the angry sea.

Suddenly, a forceful current heaved me underneath the water. The laws of buoyancy didn't seem to apply in the mad rush of the tide. I struggled, trying desperately to reach surface the water, savoring each last moment I could squander. And when I was abruptly sucked further down, I lost all hope.

I screamed in pain as I felt incredible energy stream through me and my mind spun inside out. I heard voices echoing in my head. Voices, but from where? From-

"Portals. To what?"

"Some people say to another dimension or to another time, like a timewarp or something."

Memories flooded back and forth throughout me in large masses. They were getting out of control. I couldn't let-

"Don't let me fall," he shouted. "A huge storm is coming. The ship will sink unless I can guide you away from it."

A painful experience. With so much commotion inside my skull. I couldn't stand it. I-

I was busily employing all five of my senses. I tasted the rusty metal, biting it to ensure its validity. I smelled the salty water, saturated within the medallion. I felt the smooth texture of pure riches. I heard the melodious chink as I dropped my bundle onto the deck. But I didn't see betrayal headed our way.

Bells ringing. Or was it the waves splashing. What was happening in my watery grave? Why could see only black? Where were the other colors? Blue and green and gold-

"Gold corrupts. Gold inspires man to cheat. Gold removes trust from those who need it. Gold sinks ships and breaks hearts. Gold corrupts."

I attempted to force my mouth open and scream in terror. But it didn't work. Nothing worked. I flailed my arms and it didn't help. I-

I guess it didn't help where our destination was, but superstition shouldn't have stopped people either. There's nothing supernatural about the Bermuda Triangle.

Nothing supernatural about the Bermuda Triangle.

Nothing supernatural about the Bermuda Triangle.

Nothing supernatural about the Bermuda Triangle.

I finally let loose a satisfactory scream, as my mind recovered from the stress inflicted on it. Now, I was sitting on the torterous sands of the Bahamas and I could see in the distance…myself. I was picking up the bottle and pouring out its contents for the very first time.

Oh my god. There really is something supernatural about the Bermuda Triangle.

Plop. Mate plopped down besides me. "Goodbye," she smiled beautifully, "I must prepare to meet you for the first time."

"First time," I was baffled, "what do you m-"

She placed a hand over my lips. "Shhh. I must do as I do each and every time when I return."

"That's it?" I asked. "You're leaving."

"Yes, but first, I shall give you a final word of advice. Just remember what you learned on our voyage; gold corrupts, my love, gold corrupts."

And with that, she strolled away, heading to meet my old self and guide it to enlightenment.