Submission for the XRP Short Story Contest over at XRPCHAT.
Hellfire engulfed the sky and on the heels of the screams, the rains came.
Musty floor boards hidden beneath granite flooring supported secret walls and arcane ceiling murals. For the seventh night in a row, the dream shattered his sleep and left the smell of sulfur in his nostrils.
The bed frame creaked as he sat up and rubbed his hands over his sweat covered face. Knees creaked more as he brought his legs up to his chest and hung his burdened thoughts over them. It was hot. Embers in the fireplace popped and danced in the red glow of what had been a crackling blaze hours before.
What time was it? Just after 3:00 AM. Still time for a few more hours of sleep.
Sleep? He’d been asleep his whole life, thinking himself the king only to realize now in his fading days he was still the fool. The journey through ancient wealth had taken him right back to where he started. But now he had a second chance, another opportunity to make a different choice. Walk a different path. Tomorrow.
Tomorrow he would change the world.
Before laying back down he pushed the cold wet blankets to the side and turned the pillow over. The dry side folded around the weight of his head. Staring up at the painted ceiling he wondered what it meant. A golden chariot. Descending angels. A broken man stretched over a large jagged stone with one hand pointed towards the sun. A naked woman standing by a plant and pointing towards the moon.
One of his ancestors had it painted back in the 1800’s. All of these years and he never once thought to investigate its meaning. It was always just there. A clue waiting to be uncovered. A mystery waiting to be solved. A work meant to be completed.
Ever since the mysterious Japanese man with an American accent visited him a week ago his life had been a whirlwind of meetings, revelations, and reflections on a life spent maintaining an empire of centralized money. What started with gold coins over two hundred years ago was now about to be unraveled in a matter of seconds by his own hand. What would his mighty forefathers think of him? A traitor? A weakling? A man of diminished intelligence and drive?
Turning on his side he could see his lumpy shadow on the wall as bed and man became one in the dark. Its edges shimmered and teased him with a subtle mockery. The energy which held this old house together always made him feel oppressed. After his death, he would have it torn down and the land donated to some cause or another. Who would care? He would be forgotten and no one would know that it was him who allowed the world to change.
All the wars. All the screams. The sulfur which permeated his existence as it leaked from the cracked foundations of his ancestry. Once his counsel had been sought after by Presidents and Popes, it all meant nothing now. The world had moved on without him. But he had one last move, one last place to rest his king. The younger of his bloodline could carry the torch from there and continue what he would begin tomorrow.
Tomorrow he would change the world.
An eye opened. The room was now flooded with the morning sun. It was cooler as the autumn air tightened itself around the brick and mortar of the house. Sounds of the help could be heard down below as breakfast was being prepared and other work around the estate commenced. A car engine fired up outside, his chariot.
The old pipes moaned as he showered. Water in the toilet gurgled. Steam ran down the walls like a thousand tears. Hanging on to the recently installed safety handle he used his other hand to rinse the shampoo from his hair. The water poured down over his head and he watched it swirl around the drain and disappear. As he turned the taps off the pipes banged inside the wall, thump, thump. His closes friend at this moment was the towel he reached for.
Passing on breakfast he walked out of the back door and towards the waiting limousine. The driver, who had been with him now for over thirty years, held the door open.
“Looking striking this morning, sir,” he said.
Smiling he entered the back and put on his seatbelt as the driver closed the door. There was no morning paper. No briefcase full of important matters. No phone which needed a purpose. It was just him and his old bones.
The limousine pulled around the front of the house and headed down the long drive towards the gate. It was as if the house was screaming at him from behind. It’s long gnarled arms reaching out to stop him from leaving. Stop him from changing the world. Claws scrapped across the roof the car and down the back window as he slipped from the clutches of the past and pulled onto the main road.
Staring back at the house he couldn’t help but feel that it was a sad place, a lonely place, a place full of confusion and fear. It was a place he was leaving behind.
Crossing the bridge over the river Main the car bounced and skidded on the morning freeze, as it had a thousand times before. The driver corrected and turned left off the bridge. The old town passed on the right. New York. London. Hong Kong. How many times had he traveled this road? How many conference calls with the capitals of the world?
Everything had changed so fast. Just a few years ago no one of importance had been talking about blockchain technology or Bitcoin. If they were, it was through cigar clinched laughter over hundred-year-old Scotch. But as the Japanese man Satoshi had said a week ago, Bitcoin was only the beginning. It was a test, the first evolution of a simple celled organism.
Now the Cambrian explosion was about to happen.
Entering the modern glass and steel European Central Bank through the underground parking garage brought his attention back to the day’s importance. The elevator to the top floor was fast. No more push buttons and brass levers. Everything was moving around him at the speed of light. It was too much now.
Exiting the elevator he walked straight towards the large boardroom. The glass doors parted and he entered a room full of energy and anticipation. The head of the table was reserved for him. Every other seat was taken. Some faces he recognized and others were strange to him. Each face held a different look. Some looked at him with kindness, some with fear. Some were impatient like they were waiting on some archaic ceremony to be finished. Others just stared expressionlessly and avoided eye contact.
Someone somewhere in the room was saying something about getting the capitals on the video conference. There was a bustling of activity and three screens on the far wall turned blue. London appeared first, followed by New York, and last Hong Kong. Each screen was filled with similar boardrooms full of people with similar looks. Each represented the most powerful banks. Banks which still came under his control through majority shares held across multiple smaller banks and financial institutions. This allowed him to remain an important man, at least for the next few minutes.
Hellfire engulfed the sky and on the heels of the screams, the rains came.
The dream flashed through his mind, the war in Vietnam and the liquid flames which burned flesh and forest to the bone. That is where things first started to change. Television brought the horrors to the living rooms of the average person. War was no longer some far off distant fight for freedom. It was now happening to all. Wealth from war was no longer unburdened. Saturn now devoured his children with the lust of the flesh and the greed of gluttony.
Someone to his right was talking about fiat currency no longer being the best vehicle to move value around the world. Every bank and institution represented there had been piloting software developed by a company called Ripple. This software allowed billions of dollars to be moved in the blink of an eye. Trillions could be saved and re-purposed back into the economies of nations. All loaned through his banks of course. The Internet of Value, as it was being called, was the greatest opportunity since the Industrial Revolution swept across Europe.
Five papers were laid in front of him. Reaching into his breast pocket he pulled out a pen. It was made of ivory and it was said the ivory came from the splintered hilt of Napoleon's sword after the defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. Each of his forefathers used this pen to sign consequential documents which marked the movement of the world’s wealth between nations and banks. This pen started wars and collapsed empires. It had been the most powerful of weapons, more powerful than a nuclear missile and mightier than the great aircraft carriers which dominated the oceans of the world.
A voice from the Hong Kong screen was talking about Africa and how the Internet of Value would give the poorest nations of the world unfettered access to the global financial system for the first time. The ecosystem which was being developed around a digital asset called XRP was creating a revolution across multiple fronts. The efficiency and effectiveness of the Ripple software were maximized with the use of XRP. Every transaction and every movement of value within the globes decentralized ecosystem would use XRP as the base currency. There would be no more unearned wealth through currency arbitrage and unfair rent-seeking practices.
Others had attempted to explain this to him but it was Satoshi who got him to understand. The Japanese man had been working under the radar for years since disappearing after creating Bitcoin. Like the Count of St. Germain traveling throughout Europe meeting with Kings and Queens, Popes and bankers to build the central bank system which created the liquidity for the Industrial Revolution, Satoshi had been quietly meeting with the leaders of the world for a different purpose.
The banks under his control, some of the largest in the world, were important for this new ecosystem. Adopting XRP as a new standard would send a message to the rest of the world and other banks. It would mark the transition point from the old world to a new world. It would be the origin point of a new type of technological revolution. What he started would be followed by others in the days ahead.
There was a tightening in his chest.
Over the last week, many thoughts had gone through his mind. Like who was Satoshi really? St. Germain had given his family the wealth all those centuries ago. But even back then it was said that St. Germain was immortal and appeared at intervals throughout human history to guide and direct humanity. Was Satoshi the re-appearance of the Count of St. Germain?
Each of his banks adopting XRP as the new base standard would also activate XRP Validators. These validators build trust in the system and each bank and large institution adopting the XRP ledger could run a validator. The more validators the more decentralized the ledger becomes. This was difficult for him to understand but Satoshi explained how it meant no one nation, bank, or institution could control or manipulate the ledger. Even a consortium of institutions running validators couldn’t work together behind the scenes to manipulate because the whole process was automated. This was one of the learnings from Bitcoin, as the largest owners of the asset could game the system in the background.
Never would he have thought that in order to maintain the wealth of his family he would have to work with others to bring wealth to the rest of the world. Once he signed these papers the new systems would be activated and his banks would instantly become a large part of the new digital ecosystem. At that moment the world would be forever changed. Others would follow and within hours and days, the Cambrian explosion will have begun.
The ivory pen was slippery in his hand. Gripping it tighter he quickly signed all five documents and returned the pen to his pocket. Standing, the room around him erupted in cheers and acts of congratulations. Stepping away from the table he exited the room with hardly a notice.
Once back in the limousine he exhaled and studied the sounds around him. Nothing. Silence. The stillness of change embraced him. The dream vanished from his thoughts and the smell of sulfur from his nose. Where was Satoshi now he wondered?
The golden chariot pulled out of the underground parking garage and headed towards the countryside. Below he could see the broken remains of his former self-stretched across a flat rock and a woman standing in the tall grass of the field, pointing in the direction of the sun.
As he passed over the old house its brick and mortar crumbled to dust. Long arms with gnarled fingers reached up from its center and grabbed at the chariot. Missing they fell back into the collapsing framework and disappeared forever.
The golden chariot soared higher towards the sun and he laughed out loud to himself. How simple it had been all along. The weight of a thousand burdens released him. The world was now for others to manage. A different world awaited him. The great work was completed. - JC