The Artifact (Book 2, Time Series)

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Chapter Eleven: Start Your Engine, Wahya

July 2023
University of Richmond
Richmond City, Virginia

}}}-----> WAHYA <-----{{{

“Finally, you get it!” Wahya breathes, “I have to find my gorget!”

Wahya feels a tiny bit of relief when Morgan motions that she knows what he’s talking about, her exclamation and expression clearly showing some sort of recognition.

“Dumb, dumb, dumb! I got so caught up in all this, I completely forgot about it - and I never go anywhere without it!” He already hoped they didn’t think he was an idiot, not knowing their language, or what most of their stuff was, but now he admonishes himself for making himself look like a nitwit for sure.

He remembers putting it in the pocket of the white robe Morgan had given him for the chilly air earlier. Since the cordage that had secured it around his neck before his fall in the trees was gone, he’d figured the pocket was the most secure place to keep it at the time.

“It’s probably still there. Great Spirit, I wish I could talk to these people properly! Communicating with them is definitely a great test of wills!”

Morgan is obviously describing the gorget to James, using her hands while she’s talking to make the shape of the gorget, proceeding to stab the air with two fingers, he figures to represent the two drilled holes in the middle. “It’s a good thing she talks with her hands, even when speaking to someone who understands her language.”

James frowns, Wahya assumes because he probably hadn’t seen the gorget at all. Wahya isn’t sure where James put the thin white robe he changed out of in the restroom earlier, but he’s sure that’s where the gorget is.

Tapping Morgan’s shoulder, he tries to remind her about when she gave him the robe, and rubs his arms pretending to be cold, then mimicking how he’d put on the robe, shoving his hands down his side to the pockets in the black shorts he’s wearing.

To his relief, Morgan again catches on, turns to James, “The lab coat! He had it in the pocket of the lab coat!”

“Oh! I put the coat in my duffel bag so I wouldn’t forget it while we were figuring out the bathroom. It’s in my car now, but we can go get it.”

Again, wishing he knew what they were saying, Wahya waits patiently. From James’ actions and expression, he knows the Spirit-Man understands now and he feels a little more positive about the possibility that they’ll find his gorget.

Then a sudden flicker of fear creeps into his mind - what if they had tried to make him forget about the stone so they could keep it for themselves?! The Traveler had told him it contained special magic, after all. He still wasn’t sure about Morgan’s intentions when she initially picked it up and wanted him to return it to her after he’d taken it from her when they first met. But he shakes his head and pushes the thought aside quickly. So far, neither of them have proven to be malicious, and as he has no other friends here, he decides he will have to trust them until proven otherwise.

“That other guy though...,” Wahya also tries to push his negative thoughts away about the one Morgan calls Emory from his mind, too, unsure why the man bothers him so deeply. But it had been obvious from both James’ and Morgan’s body language that neither care much for Emory either, and so he feels somewhat justified as he drops the subject from his mind.

Apparently ready to go find the gorget and lab coat, Morgan pulls him from his thoughts, leading the way back to her office to gather her things. He notes that as they leave each room, Morgan touches a panel on the walls near the doorways. At her touch, the sick sunlight coming from the ceiling stops shining!

“Whoa! They must have a way of saving the sunlight, and when they don’t need it, they somehow contain it until they need it again later! Wait until I tell Father!”

Earlier, when Wahya thought that he was dead for sure, he had put all ideas of seeing his family and people again out of his mind. But now that he isn’t so sure that this was The Afterlife after all, and now that James and Morgan have brought him to revisit the wall where he entered this world, a sliver of hope has appeared in his heart and mind. “Perhaps they think I will be able to return to my own world!” Thinking about his people, he wonders, “What will our Medicine Man, Black Raven think about all of this?!”

Morgan locks the door to the lab behind them, and they make their way downstairs, through the atrium, and to the parking lot outside. The rain is gone, and the sun struggles to peek through the gray cloud cover.

Wahya forgets about the gorget momentarily as they reach the staff parking lot where he gets his first view of the modern invention called the automobile. Several people are coming and going as they drive through the lot, and others are getting into their cars, or loading themselves with books and other stuff on their way to their classrooms.

His brain is so full of new concepts already, but this technology has to be the grandest so far. James is ahead of them, aiming for his Land Rover, but Wahya’s feet are firmly planted on the sidewalk.

“It’s okay, Wahya,” Morgan promises, as she tries to motion for him to follow her. He’s heard her soothing words so many times today, and though he’s still not exactly sure what she’s saying, he knows these particular words are meant to calm and reassure. And that’s exactly what her voice, along with the light touch of her hand on his arm, do - reassure him that everything will be okay.

He takes a breath, telling himself, “I’m Adatlisvi Wahya after all, and while the Wolf would be cautious, he would not be afraid.”

“Come on!” Morgan prods again, “Let’s go see if that gorget is in the lab coat.” She pulls him gently and he steps off the sidewalk, which seems to be made from a very dry, hardened gray clay of some sort, onto a much blacker surface, full of small rocks, but still very solid.

He’s never seen such ground before, and amazement overcomes him as he takes in all the perfect lines where the pavement, sidewalks, and perfectly manicured grass meet. “Nature never grows as straight or perfectly in my world, as things do here! Even their rocks and clay formations are in perfect alignment.”

Reaching James just as he opens the back door of his SUV, Wahya marvels at the bright metallic-red vehicle. Touching the side, he catches Morgan’s attention, and asks her in Tsalagi, “What is this?”

“Ca-r. Car.” She responds, having figured out when he’s asking about something new. “This is how we get to places quickly or travel long distance.”

“Ca-r.” Wahya tests the word on his tongue.

“Yes, car!” Morgan smiles that big pretty smile he likes to see when she’s showing him something new from her world, which he realizes has been pretty often so far.

Bringing their attention back to the issue at hand, James exclaims as he holds up the worn stone artifact, “Ah-ha! Is this it?”

Both Wahya and Morgan happily cheer in their respective languages while James studies the gorget momentarily, having seen them in pictures or on display in museums, but never handling one. Handing it to Morgan, he continues speaking with her, and Wahya is suddenly left in the dark, contemplating James’ actions. “Why did he give it to her? It’s mine, not hers.”

Morgan must sense his discomfort about not being given the gorget as she realizes that he’s blanked out their unintelligible conversation, his eyes boring into the stone. She gives him a tiny smile, holding the gorget out for him to take, “I guess you want to hold onto this for now.”

He relaxes, hoping that they didn’t want to keep his good luck gorget, and now feeling the pit in the bottom of his stomach easing up now that the gorget is safely on his person again. Looking between the two of them, Wahya nods his thanks, “Wado [Thank you], Morgan. Wado, James.”

Despite the language differences, both Morgan and James seem to understand his intent, and the atmosphere between the three of them feels more uplifted, having settled the whereabouts of the gorget. When he securely pockets the stone in the shorts he’s borrowed from James, a look of slight concern sweeps Morgan’s brows, but is gone so quickly that he barely notices.

At this point, James pulls the magic window box from his pocket, but this time puts the device up to his ear and begins to talk as though he’s conversing with someone, much to Wahya’s confused surprise. Wahya can tell he isn’t talking to either him or Morgan, and as no one else is around them, and he wonders at the strange behavior. Morgan watches James intently, but doesn’t seem to find his actions odd. When James finally removes the object from his ear, Morgan and he talk some more, seeming to come to an agreement of sorts, leaving Wahya completely in the dark. He doesn’t like not knowing what’s going on, and yet that’s all he’s felt for the last several hours.

Suddenly, James climbs into the driver’s seat of his car, putting his hands on the large black ring in front of him and giving Morgan and him a friendly smile, “See you later, Wahya! Six o’clock, Morgan - see you then!”

With fascination, Wahya watches as James closes the door of the car, effectively shutting himself up inside the odd contraption, then proceeds to start the engine. And while it’s not very loud, it’s startling to someone who doesn’t expect it, and Wahya jumps back in cautious surprise. “If I did not know better, I would have thought it just growled! These ‘cars’ are not alive, yet they makes sounds and move like animals.”

He watches with awe as James drives slowly through the parking lot, then pulling out onto the main street, speeds out of sight. James was obviously comfortable with the idea of riding inside the car, and a sudden thrill overcomes the brave who had impulsively jumped off a cliff only this morning. “That just might be kind of fun! To be able to really go as fast as a running wolf would be amazing!” Then he thinks, “Perhaps I would not have had to jump if I had a ‘car’ when the Iroquois hunters found us!”

Morgan grabs his attention again, nodding her head towards another car closer to the building, smaller than James’ and shiny black, the still-wet exterior glistening from the earlier rain.

As she begins walking to it, Wahya can’t help but be impressed, “Whoa!”

She smiles, in what he’s learning is her part mischievous, part fun smile - a smile that hints of just a bit of flirtiness. She uses it whenever she’s going to have him try something surprising - like the Coke.

“Wanna go for a spin?!” She asks in her language, her tone matching her smile.

He trusts her completely, returning her smile with one of his own - one with a teasing twinkle and a hint of daring reflecting back at her, as if to say that he’s game to take her up on whatever it is she has in mind. Especially if it has anything to do with a car!

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