The Picture Of Finca Dorian Gray

The following story is a work of fiction in the tradition of Sprudge Spooky Stories celebrated each Halloween season. Read from our archive of Sprudge screams here.

“And now ladies and gentlemen, the moment you’ve all been waiting for,” the auctioneer states to a packed auditorium vibrating with not quite contained excitement. “We’ve reached the final three lots of the day, and they are sure to be something special.”

The private auction has brought in bidders from around the world, and those that couldn’t make the trip are watching online, hoping to grab one of these very exclusive coffees. The first 15 lots came and went without much fanfare, a $50 a pound Gesha here, a $75 per pound lactic fermentation there, even a washed Eugenioides that broke the $100 mark. But they were all appetizers, chum to whip the sharks into a feeding frenzy for the main course, three ultra-rare small lots from the famed Finca Dorian Gray in Kona.

“First up from our friends at Finca Dorian Gray is a fully washed Green Tip Gesha,” the auctioneer bellows to the room full of global suits who could barely keep their bespoke wool trousers attached to the foldout chairs they were assigned. One so bedecked rump even loses purchase with the edge of the vinyl-covered padding, putting ass to ground and toppled chair to noggin, paddle arcing overhead in a parabola so perfect it would make a calculus teacher blush.

“I’ll take that as a bid, Mr. Jeffries,” the auctioneer chuckles, bringing the crowd to a nervous laughter that helps cut the palpable tension in the room. “If it’s alright with you gentlemen, we’ll let Mr. Jeffries have the first bid at $250.”

“$500!” a man in the back yells.

“And we’re off! I have $500, do I hear $1,000?”

“$1,000 here,” states a more composed bidder somewhere amid the sea.

“$1,500…”

“$2,000…”

“3,000!”

“$6,000,” calls out the representative of a German roasting company.

Welcome to the party, Mr. Schmidt, didn’t know if you were going to be joining us,” the auctioneer jests. His job was easy today. The bids would be coming fast and in large chunks. Records were going to be broken today and he just got to sit back and enjoy the show.

“$7,500,” cries out a man from behind a computer. A bid had come in from an unexpected online participant. The crowd hushes at the number. The auctioneer looks over at Mr. Schmidt to see if he would like to continue. The stately German raises an impressed eyebrow and gestures that he doesn’t intend to go any further. There are bigger fish to fry.

“$7,500 going once… $7,500 going twice…” The auctioneer gives a pause to see if anyone wants to challenge the high mark. “Sold for $7,500 to the online bidder! Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new world’s most expensive coffee.” The crowd offers polite applause, knowing full well the design won’t make it through the hour.

In a dark wooden room, a dusty ticker tape machine awakens. It whirs back to life, offering to the decrepit vault the faintest of glows before vomiting out a thin procession of yellowed paper.

Tick ​​tick tick tick tick…

“SOFTS Arabica: $1.08 per pound.”

In Tolima, a farmer rips his coffee trees out of the ground to replace with cacao, avocados and bananas, anything that will sell.

“This is truly a special day for coffee producers everywhere,” Alexander Gray says to the crowd. Young Alex is a fourth-generation coffee farmer and heir to Finca Dorian Gray, so named for his great grandfather, an Englishman who came to own a plot of land at the highest peak on the Big Island through mysterious means. He addresses the crowd with faux-shock at the record price, offering up perfunctory congratulations to the now and soon-to-be-former champ.

“Truly,” the auctioneer avers. “Well, let’s get on with it then, shall we? Our penultimate lot is another Gesha from Finca Dorian Gray, this one double carbonically macerated and lactically fermented before being left to dry for seven days on raised bed, being meticulously turned by hand every two hours.”

A hint of desperation begins to creep into and overtake the crowd’s excitement. There are only two lots left and the mere thought of playing the bystander in this historical event is as revolting as it is motivating.

“The bidding starts at $5,000.” 10 paddles go in the air simultaneously. Before the auctioneer can figure out which bidder snuck in first, a new voice rings out.

“6,000.”

The bids are now coming in too fast to keep up with. $6,000, $7,000, $8,000, the price has blown past the record with not so much as a mention. As the feeding frenzy subsides, the winning bid settles in a tasteful $9,105 per pound. The German stoic has once again been edged out, this time by a representative of a prestige roaster in America.

“We’ve got another new world record!” the auctioneer bellows.

When asked about the winning price point, the American bidder humbly opines about “how grateful we are to be able to pay a fair price for all the hard work the producers put into this exquisite coffee.”

The dank room crawls out of darkness once more. The mechanical beast wheezes and churns, and another line of desiccated paper marches rank and file toward the floor.

Tick ​​tick tick tick tick…

“SOFTS Arabica: $1.02 per pound.”

Tick ​​tick tick tick tick…

In Mina Gerais, a farmer works day and night to harvest his crop. Due to a frost-ravaged crop the previous year, he’s unable to pay migrant laborers to help pick the ripe cherries. His family and neighbors help out as much as they can, but they aren’t in much better shape and have their own farms to attend to. Most of the cherries shrivel and turn purplish-brown before giving in and falling to the earth.

“And now we’ve come to our final lot of the evening,” the auctioneer states to the crowd, who now foaming at the mouth like a pack of rabid dogs. “It’s the reason we are all here today.” He’s really milking it now. The night is about to reach its crescendo, and the auctioneer can’t help but add a little more tension before that sweetest of raptures. “A coffee that needs no introduction.” With each pregnant pause, the mass of bodies now in a frenzied state, wolves now belying and ill-fit for their $2,000 Brooks Brothers sheep’s clothing, prowl ravenously closer and closer to the stage, stepping over chairs if not tossing them to the side completely . “It’s time ladies and gentlemen, for La Miel de Dios, the Honey of God.”

The stories preceding this coffee were already the stuff of folk legend. On the cupping table, it made one Q-grader weep inconsolably after a single taste. Another said that every coffee they had before La Miel de Dios was a lie. Still another quit drinking coffee altogether because they wanted this to be the last coffee they ever tasted before they died. It compelled even the most persnickety taster to give it perfect auction marks, achieving a legendary score of 100. In fact, all the cherries not deemed perfect enough to be in this micro-micro-lot just broke records minutes earlier. It was the closest thing to empirical evidence for the existence of a loving Creator that the world ever had known, the Good Lord slipping up and almost tipping the bit entirely with a single cup of coffee.

Are we ready? the auctioneer calls out. Adrenaline coursing through his veins, he grabs the microphone from the stand on the lectern, wrapping the cord a few times around his wrist and jumping up and down like a singer in a hardcore band about to implore their fans to get the fuck up and start a circle pit.

“The bidding starts at…”

Before the auctioneer can get the words out, the throng rush the stage, screaming incalculable numbers. “$9,106!” Someone in the crowd yanks the microphone cord attached securely to the auctioneer’s wrist, hurling him grab off the stage and onto the ferocious sea of ​​limbs clawing at any part of his person they can.

“$10,000!” shouts the no longer reserved German into the microphone he has secured between both hands as though he was singing along to the chorus of his favorite song. A team of buyers representing a pan-Asian conglomerate are now working in concert, playing the tug of war with the auctioneer’s legs, trying to loose him from the German grasp so that they may offer up the GDP of a small country in the frenzied chase of Infinity.

“$12,000!”

“$15,000!”

“$20,000!!!”

That old glow warms the room again.

Tick ​​tick tick tick tick…

“SOFTS Arabica: $.95 per pound.”

Tick ​​tick tick tick tick…

In Huehuetenango, a farmer’s youngest son and last hope of continuing the family business returns home from college. His father has yet to learn of the job offer letter in his back pocket from an investment firm in Guatemala City.

Tick ​​tick tick tick tick…


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