One day a man going to the nest of his goose found there an egg all yellow and glittering, or so he said. When he picked it up it was as heavy as lead and he was going to throw it away, because he thought a trick had been played upon him. But he took it home and soon found to his delight that it was an egg of pure gold. One day he grew greedy; and thinking to get at once all the gold the goose could give, he killed it and opened it only to find nothing.
“Oh, brilliant. You killed the fucking goose that looked like it might save us? That’s just brilliant, Colin. Just brilliant. What the fuck are we going to do now?” Helen hissed, perched heavily on a barstool in the kitchen living-room of a fiercely contemporary barn conversion.
On the smoothed hardwood bar in front of her the now-frozen goose seemed to look at Colin through the fogged plastic bag with much the same accusatory expression as breathless, seething Helen. Her pinkish neck extended and chest heavily beneath her large white maternity smock.
“Don’t worry, my dearest,” said Colin, twirling his waxed moustaches on either side and then pinching his beard to a point in the middle, shooting a mischievous look. Despite his bravado he was on edge. He had thoroughly prepared himself for this for this moment, having taken a look at the inner workings of their prize goose.
“Don’t ‘dearest’ me, Colin. I gave up a cushy job in call centre management to help you with this hair-brained goose venture. We’ve mortgaged ourselves to the hilt and I’m up the duff. And now you’re telling me that you literally killed our businesses one asset stone dead. Tell me, how do I not worry?”
This, Colin realised, was not going to be an easy discussion. Helen, who was normally remarkably even-tempered, had become more irritable as her pregnancy progressed beyond the seventh month.
“Hear me out, my…,” he caught himself before doing it again. “My discovery is not the obstacle it might first appear to be. We have, in fact, made enormous progress in establishing the foundations of the business going forward.”
“The kind of enormous progress a fisherman makes when they sink their boat or a baker makes when they burn down their bakery?”
She was taunting him, but he held his nerve.
“No, no. This is where our business differs so fundamentally from such humble activities. Far from destroying value, what I have done is secure our financial future.”
“What? I don’t understand? Let’s look at the facts, shall we? Having blown all our golden eggs on this property we have just two golden eggs left in reserve and now one dead golden-egg-laying goose,” she said, jabbing an accusing finger into the breast of the partially-thawed goose.
“Ah, you are, of course, quite right in the factual details, m…,” he hesitated. “But, taken together with the full market context, the essential research I did on the goose has not been a disaster for the business. It is far from being a disaster. It has in fact revealed the true uniqueness of our golden-egg-producing-goose, while also ensuring us against devaluation of her eggs by decisively limiting their number, so ensuring their rarity. They are now a limited edition. In short, this means we can be certain the value of the eggs is not only maintained over time, but increases.”
“You are talking complete gobbledygook. How can having a dead goose possibly be better than having a live one?”
“Ah, well, that is where it gets really interesting. What we first need to do is to spread our new success story as widely as possible, making the story of this remarkable goose the talk of the and her eggs an unshakable benchmark of value.”
He continued with this babble, twirling his beard and hopping from foot to foot. He could keep it up for as long as it took to wear someone down. It could have been hours or days, but it was in reality two hours twenty-seven minutes and thirty-three seconds.
He first talked, offering some examples and diagrams on a notepad. He answered her volleys of questions quite effortlessly. Though she did not understand a word, her worries gradually seemed foolish. She was first angry, then suspicious, then exhausted, then hopeful, deeply, deeply hopeful.
This was the answer. Her breathing was now deep and soothing. She was sure this was the beginning of something, just as she had been sure when she first met him on retreat in the Scottish mountains. She was sure as she had been three weeks after when he had took her in his arms and invited her to be his partner in his goose venture and make babies in this soulless barn.
Gone were the doubts and gnawing anxiety that grew in her when she fell pregnant in that cold, isolated barn miles from anywhere. Gone were the doubts that rose when she found that he was already married. And gone was the stab of worry that took her when the bank account showed that the appetite for goose meat and eggs was not a fraction of what he had said. She felt as happy as when he had persuaded her that one of the geese had started golden eggs, perhaps happier still.
Colin was equally exultant as he looked at her freshly flushed face. More important than convincing Helen was that he had convinced himself. And he had done so fully. The ideas he had created buzzed now round his mind filling him with glee and excitement. This is how it had to be. There was no hope of implementing his ambitious plans for the goose if he did not embrace it himself. How could he expect anyone else to believe him if he showed any doubts himself? His anxieties and doubts had dropped away and he knew he was radiating the overwhelming confidence he felt when life went well for him. The power surged through him like the energy of an inner nuclear fusion.
She had heard from him how the goose’s value and that of the miraculously egg could be maximised and multiplied. Far from being a disaster, the untimely death of the golden goose was a masterstroke. It was not the death of a goose, but the birth of a suite of businesses under the umbrella of GooseTech.
It signalled the moment when the goose could finally be genetically sequenced. Researchers could then buy the rights to the DNA database to help work out what gene might have been responsible for the appearance of the golden eggs. There were millions of scientists willing to part with a few tens of millions of dollars to unlock the potential of endless gold production. The goose weighed 4kg, and each sample need only be one nanogram, or one billionth of a gram. So potentially there were 4 trillion samples. If they were sold at 1,000 dollars a sample, that would mean sales of $4 quadrillion.
The golden egg itself too would be the root of many times its raw value as scrap gold. It would be legendary and unique. It could be carefully micro-sampled and sold at, say, $12 per dozen atoms to those wishing to work out how the egg came to be. That works out at 4-with-22-zeros-after-dollars, or $4 million quadrillion. Then there was Goosecoin, a crypto meme currency linked to a picture of the goose looking out of its plastic bag, which would quickly build a cult following among individuals who wanted to get in on the action.
Within months of the demise of the goose the venture capital community had invested billions in GooseTech Inc, sensing big profits. They were mesmerised by Colin’s complete confidence, pointed beard and side-to-side hopping. He seemed so ludicrous and the idea so idiotic that it must be pure genius. They invested enough of other people’s money to make GooseTech the first mega-unicorn, that is a private company with a valuation of well over $1,000bn.
After a year a handful of investigations of the DNA and golden goose egg came up with nothing other than that it was a regular goose. And the gold samples too revealed that it was 22.3 karat gold. This amounted to a total revenue for GooseTech of just shy of $400 dollars, not including postage costs. No matter how much Colin hopped from foot-to-foot and pointed his beard, people wondered openly if there was much sense in doing any more tests. Would another test reveal a different answer? And there was talk of how Colin’s only previous business experience was as an estate agent in Kettering. This business, never wildly successful, had been wound up by order of a magistrate after he was found to have spent tenants’ deposits on a camper van.
It was said to have been the biggest fraud since the last biggest fraud. Colin, who had been syphoning company funds to his own account, went on the run. On a tip-off from Helen he was picked up, clean shaven on route to the Cayman Islands with a suitcase of thousand dollar bills. If found guilty he faces up to 3,466 years behind bars. ■