Bradley Schuster and the Holy Grail: The Cup’s Story, Part I


The cup was created on the island of Atlantis. From what she knew about life on Atlantis—for example, the classical Greek plays about Troy were favorites, but Rome was not considered a serious threat—my best guess for a date would be 350-300BC, plus or minus a century or so.

She was created by Razuni, a Master of Psionics, and intended to be a top-of-the-line toastmaster’s cup. A toastmaster’s cup was a fairly common device designed to make the speaker who held it more eloquent. They were used by ambassadors, lawyers, slam poets (apparently we weren’t the first to invent the art form), and anyone who loved the art of oration. Psionics is the science of magic, as near as I can determine.

But Razuni made a mistake during her creation. A notorious skinflint, he’d used a defective gemstone rather than the prescribed ‘large, flawless fire opal,’ hoping to compensate by something he labeled ‘the Razuni Phenome­non.’ But the parapet design on her lip, intended only to focus and amplify the power of a cheaper stone, instead caused two unintended powers.

First, she is sentient. The Boomer hypothesizes that thought waves bent back onto them­selves—sort of like an invisible three-dimen­sional Möbius strip—is what sentience really is. I can’t add a thing to that explanation—I’m not that good at making shit up yet.

Second, if the cup has recently been ‘charged’ with wine and is held while speaking, the audience treats the speaker’s words as commands or absolute truths. Sort of like a good mass hypnotist. A small percentage of people are unaffected by the effect, and only martyrs and masochists will do something truly harmful to them­selves. Proximity improves results; intoxicants make the audience more susceptible.

My introduction to psionics and Atlantis and magical devices all took place on that first morning. But I’d already experienced all three of the cup’s powers firsthand. The sentience, along with her ability to telepath it, obviously. But my elegance about Judy Blue Eyes “soar­ing on the winds of the evening so she wouldn’t bruise her skin of per­fectly ripe apricots” was all cup-induced eloquence. And when Judy Blue Eyes believed my shouted monologue about the cup being the spirit of a witch sacrificed by her coven was really just me practicing Louis XIV.V’s speech—that was a vivid and convincing demonstration of the hypnotic effect.

Razuni discovered the power-to-convince quite by accident at a stag party given for a retiring spice merchant—a wild affair with entertainers and scantily-veiled dancing girls to enhance the rich food and free-flowing wine.

As the festivities reached a climax, Razuni offered a toast which, after a suitable build-up of oratory elegance that rolled off his tongue like the angry sea on the great outer walls, ended with the words, “Raise high your goblets and bow down before our own hero, Egryll.” When Razuni looked up, the assemblage of fat merchants were literally doing what he had commanded: all were bowed at the waist, as if trying to sniff each others’ butts, while holding their wine cups high over their heads.

He never learned that she was sentient.

Razuni spent the next eighteen months using the cup to vastly increase his wealth. Businessmen accepted his invitation to dine; by the end of the meal they were convinced that it was imperative to invite him into partnership. Merchants insisted on offering severe discounts; customers flocked to buy, even at prices that seemed a touch high.

Any time left over after the demands of making money was spent coming up with new ways to spend it. Rich carpets and wall hangings embellished his home, jewelry adorned his fat fingers, exotic birds and butterflies flitted in his garden. A personal chef pampered his palette while a psio-healer worked overtime to maintain his looks and libido against the encroachment of age and culinary excess.

A lot of people today spend their entire lives doing just what Razuni did and never grow bored with the accumulation and spending of wealth. But the cup made it all just too easy. Sucked the joy of victory and the gratification of being brilliant out of the process. But he stuck it out going through the motions for another year, all the while subconsciously looking for something to give new meaning to his life.

That’s when he fell in love.


This pithy summarization of what I learned that first morning may give you the impression that the cup and I hit the ground running as a smooth-working team. Ha. Nothing could be further from the truth. I asked hundreds of unnecessary questions instead of just letting her talk and would get off track at the drop of a hat (which, since I had all of my hair then, I didn’t actually own). Here is a sample of our meanderings that first morning. Think of them as outtakes in a funny movie.

* * *

I was born on Atlantis, on the big is­land to be more specific.

“OK, you said that before, but I didn’t take you seriously. Atlantis? Bullshit. You’re just saying that to impress me, believing us Americans to all be fascinated with Atlantis.”

Silence, long enough to remind me that she’d already demonstrated the capability to maintain long periods of silence. No reason to continue this game; I was doomed to lose.

“I thought archeologists and historians had pretty much decided that Atlantis never existed. Where was it? Did it really sink into the ocean like the myths say? How long ago was this?”

Her answer was immediate. Apparently, having won the contest of wills, she wasn’t one to do end zone dances.

I don’t know the answer to any of those questions.

“How can you not know things like that if you’re telling me the truth? I was born in Atlanta, which is like Atlantis except for a couple of terminal letters, and I can tell you precisely where it is and the exact date I was born.”

Yes, I know, I was acting like an asshole. I can only plead that I wasn’t thinking very clearly that day, having already played hide-and-go-seek with a crazed maniac and a pistol and had my fundamental belief systems ripped apart and turned upside down before spending the morning talking to a goblet.

What is your earliest memory?

“Mine? That’s easy. Debra McKinzie’s parents hired a clown for her fifth birthday party. He made animals out of balloons and juggled and rode a unicycle and was the scariest thing I’d ever seen.”

So you don’t remember anything before you were five?

“Not really. People don’t have any memories before around that age, although they sometimes back-create very vivid memories from pictures or stories.”

That sounds reasonable to me. When I was five, I was hanging out with a woman possessing a huge sexual appetite in a little port town in Palestine. Probably Capernaum.

“But wait a minute? What about Atlantis?”

You young men are all the same! Wanting your cake but sweet-talking to try to eat it too. Doesn’t work like that, unless you just want me to make something up. Let’s see, Atlantis was about 200 miles east-southeast of Crete, and this all took place about 4200 BC.

I would like to say that was the last time such an exchange took place. But she was right: I was young and headstrong. And, I’m ashamed to admit but here it is—a touch sexist as well. At least I got past it long before April’s showers had turned into May flowers.


* * *

My first conscious memory was a wild jumble of random thoughts, conflicting feelings, and overwhelming sensations. Along with a most wonderful taste, although I didn’t really know what ‘taste’ meant yet. After some time the craziness faded, leaving me with an orderly awareness of what was going on around me. Sights and sounds, except I obviously have neither eyes nor ears.

“I’m like that, too. It’s when I’ve been drinking and when I haven’t.”

I could hear the cup chuckle clearly in my head. Although we were strangers and still feeling each other out, I could already tell she liked and appreciated my wit. Not that I need much encouragement. Irreverence at the world around me was—still is, actually—my only real talent and my best defense.

No, you big galoot. Not like that at all.

“So what was it?”

It turned out to be when my mother was holding me and when he wasn’t.

“A mother can’t be a he.”

I know, dear. I’m just pulling your leg. Actually, it was my creator, an extraordinarily tal­ent­ed psio-maestro named Razuni. He had a reputation as one of the most skilled practitioner of psionics that Atlantis had known in centuries. Often he would snap his fingers and teleport us from his laborato­ry to the market to buy fresh straw­ber­ries for break­fast. Maybe he could have saved Atlantis if, like you say, it blew up and sank into the sea. But Razuni had a fatal flaw—compulsive dishonesty. He derived far more satisfaction from cheating a customer than creating greatness. As a result, he squandered his creative energy trying to per­fect ways to swindle others and never accomplishing anything tru­ly worth­while. With the exception of me, or course—and I was an accident.

“So is this psionics sort of like alchemy? Early science with a lot of superstition thrown in?” My skeptical nature was unwilling to accept psionics aka magic on face value.

How much superstition can there be if you can snap your fingers and teleport?

 * * *

“So how come you spent years with Razuni and he never found out you were sentient? While you and I have only been together for half a day and we’re already talking like old buds?”

Because Razuni was a self-aggrandizing butthead all of the time. Whereas you are never self-aggrandizing and only a butthead occasionally.

Hardly the greatest of compliments. But really, when you think about it, a pretty nice thing for her to say. Not to mention that I, Bradley Schuster, was the only person in the world spending Sunday morning having a conversation with a cup.

old book2


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