The Artifact (Book 2, Time Series)

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Chapter Twenty-Four: Arrowheads, Pottery, and Pain

July 2023
University of Richmond
Richmond City, Virginia

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

Wahya had mentally kicked himself for not using the bathroom before they left Morgan’s place. But he thought they’d be leaving the fascinating room where she was talking to people through the oblong object attached to the black box with lights and buttons sitting on the desk. The intricacy of such objects, and their abilities to facilitate such tasks - like talking to people who are not in the same place, fascinated him.

But no, she got him preoccupied with taking “photos” with her “phone” and he decided his bladder could wait a bit longer. He was figuratively and literally very relieved when she finally understood that he needed to go, showing him to the bathroom in this easy-to-get-lost-in building.

He wasn’t sure what she was doing in the office, though her concentration was evident, and he thought they would probably go back there afterwards, for he was sure he’d interrupted her to find the bathroom. Instead, Morgan had another thought, showing him into a different room, much like the one he’d come into this world though. It’s also full of tables and shelves and cluttered with boxes and trays of various objects.

First, opening a cupboard, Morgan pulls out a large bag of medium-sized clear plastic Ziploc bags - something Wahya is unfamiliar with. She hands him the bagful and he looks at the smooth, clear material curiously, while she opens the door to a nearby supply cabinet in search of permanent markers. Wahya watches her as she thinks through what else they need, feeling yet again clueless about what exactly they were doing or why they needed these foreign objects. From the cabinet, she pulls out a notepad and pen, seemingly satisfied that she has everything.

He listens to her as she explains something he can’t understand, the light in her eyes brightening as they walk over to an extra-large metal cabinet with several rows of flat drawers. Morgan helps him set down the armful of supplies they’d gather before pulling the top drawer of the cabinet open.

“Wow...!” Wahya is surprised and amazed by the contents - objects that he actually understands and knows about! The drawer is filled with trays of several different styles of arrowheads and other stone points. “Where did you get all these?!” He asks incredulously.

He assumes there has to be at least a hundred points in the drawer, noting that the same styles are kept together, “This is an amazing collection!”

He goes to pick up an extra-large point, stopping before he touches it, and looking to Morgan to be sure he should. They were all arranged so specifically, that he thinks perhaps they were not meant to be handled. But Morgan nods happily, obviously proud of the collection. Choosing an orangish colored arrowhead, Wahya picks it up gently, noting that both the tip and base come to points and the bottom of the body flares out creating a long narrow triangular bottom.

“Morrow Mountain.” She points to the tray of points that this one came from, and repeats the name, “Morrow Mountain.” Then she points out the tray to the right and says, “Cedar Creek.”

She continues to name off each style type and Wahya finds the organization of the hunting tools very bizarre, yet interesting. At the very least, it is technology that he knows and understands for a change, and that piques his interest. “These are not like the ones my people make though.”

He picks up a few more, examining the way the rocks had been flaked to create the points and determines that these are crude compared to the techniques he was taught, even as a child. Putting them back, Morgan closes the drawer and opens the next one down. Wahya instantly recognizes a couple of the styles here.

Pointing to the arrowheads in the tray in upper left corner of the drawer, he tells her, “These are more like how my people, the Tsalagi, make them. Depending on what you’re hunting or using it for, you’d choose a different style or size.”

Picking up the almost-clear white quartz arrowhead across from the ones he’d just been looking at, he holds it up so Morgan can see, then explains, “See how the triangular body is so much larger than the base? You want the base kind of squat, with the bottom just a little bit concave. Though some people just make it straight. Then using pressure flaking with a bone tool, you thin out the entire arrowhead so that it’s relatively flat. That makes your arrow faster than a bulkier point would, like the ones we looked at first.”

Morgan blinks at him in elated awe, a genuine smile on her face, and he realizes that this is probably the most he’s talked at one time since he’s been here, and he turns a little red, feeling her attention on him more than usual. He’s sure she can’t understand what he’s saying, but maybe she knows enough about stone tools to at least get that he’s talking about the way they’re made. If anything, it felt good to express himself, though he wishes that she knew what he was saying. “Would she be interested in knowing all of that?”

He sets down the small arrowhead again, and Morgan in turn holds out a different point, central to the ones he’s just talked about. This one is almost a perfect triangle, with two points for the base, instead of a distinct base like the others.

Taking it from her, he says, “I’ve never seen anything like this one. It’s really thin. But the side here doesn’t look quite finished off. So maybe it wasn’t turning out right and the toolmaker quit on it. It’s hard to say what they were trying for. You know, though, something like this just might make sense. You would have to haft it to the wooden shaft a little differently, but I’m sure there is a way. An arrowhead this thin could really pierce a deer’s hide easily. I’ll have to remember this for future reference.”

Morgan has all of her attention focused on the suddenly wordy Cherokee, and again he feels a little embarrassed at her intense, though thoroughly pleased attention on him. Scratching the back of his neck nervously, he hands her back the arrowhead, smiles slightly and says low, “Yeah, I can talk just like you. You probably thought I was a mute, huh?!”

Morgan seems to ignore his embarrassment and quickly closes the drawer, pulling him over to another cabinet all together. This one has large pieces of broken pottery, much of it missing, and what is there, is glued together. Wahya isn’t sure why anyone would want this trash and looks at Morgan strangely. She must have read his mind, because she laughs, picking up a decent sized piece, holding it up to him. Her face is lit up with excitement, reminding him of the expression little girls at home would have when giving homemade mud pie as a gift. No one wanted them, but you had to play along or break their hearts.

“She’s kinda cute when she’s excited.” He humors her and looks at the pottery with tiny, crushed quartz chips in the temper or clay, and nods. On the exterior, he notes the cord-wrapped paddle decoration, common on the pottery his mother and grandmother always made.

“Yeah, this is really old and falling apart, but it was probably a good old pot in its day.” Then only because he knows she doesn’t know what he’s saying, he adds, “It’s not really all that exciting, you know.”

The next piece of glued-together pottery is full of gritty sand in the clay and Wahya shakes his head in disgust, “I don’t know why anyone would make pottery with so much sand. It wouldn’t last as long, and this is kind of falling apart. A lot of grit would get in your food.”

He hands it back to her and she looks pleased with his reaction. Looking at it all he wonders, “What exactly is she doing with all this stuff? Have others from my world come through to this world with this stuff and... What happened to those people?”

“Morgan, where did you get this all from?” He motions to the whole collection, in a serious attempt to get her to understand. He needed to know if there were others like him here. She returns his question with gestures and words of her own, and ultimately, with much confusion, he believes that she had just explained that they found it all on the ground.

But before he can think on it any further, a sharp pain suddenly stabs at his stomach, causing him to double over. It’s a horrible, tearing pain, unlike any he’s ever felt before, and he cries out in surprised anguish, “Ahhhh!”

“Wahya! What’s wrong?!” Morgan rushes to him, reaching for his shoulder.

Wahya’s face goes pale and a cold sweat runs through his veins. His stomach feels like he’s been struck by lightning and as though that were true, when Morgan’s hand grabs hold of him, they both are jolted a tiny, but immense shock of electricity, not unlike the kind you get when touching someone else during dry, winter weather. She pulls her hand back quickly, then reaches out to him again more carefully, this time without any adverse reactions.

He allows her to guide him back to the Professor’s office, as the tremendous pain continues to flare within his stomach and a throb begins in his head, “Ohhhh. It hurts so bad!”

“Shh...” Morgan tries to calm him. “It’s okay. Let’s sit you down, alright?!” He knows her words are meant for consoling, and yet he senses a tinge of worry and fear in her voice.

Emory’s voice comes from the lab. Apparently, the intern had been alerted by Wahya’s groans, “Is everything alright? I thought I heard...” As soon as he spots the two of them huddled in Dr. Clark’s office, he rushes their way, “Is he okay?!”

“Water! Get some water! I think it’s his stomach,” Morgan calls out orders.

Wahya sits heavily in the chair, leaning over onto the large desk, trying to take deep breathes as his heart pounds. Near the computer, the gorget lies where Morgan had set it while she was studying intently, and Wahya reaches shakily for it. Grasping the cool stone firmly in his hand, he closes his eyes tight, sending a silent prayer for help.

Just then, Emory rushes in with a bottle of water, thrusting it into Wahya’s free hand, “Here.”

But Wahya ignores everything around him as a sudden and strong coolness, almost electrical in nature as well, comes from the stone gorget and emanates up his hand, into his arm, shoulder, then spreads through his entire body at a surprisingly quick rate. It feels icy, but good - in fact, it’s quite soothing. His pain seems to disappear as soon as the cool effects wash through his body and suddenly he feels revived.

He can breathe again, and taking a large inhalation, sits up straighter now. Wahya holds the gorget to his chest, now very sure that the Traveler was right about its lucky properties. Morgan gently rubs his back, frightened concern pouring from her, and he has to admit that he was scared, too. “What was that?! I have never felt pain like that before!”

With the pain gone, he takes another long inhale, then slowly lets the air out, focusing on the sounds around him and looks up to see Morgan and Emory talking to one another in urgent tones. He feels normal again, despite the sweat still on his brow, and he reaches up to grasp Morgan’s hand, he hadn’t realized was resting on his shoulder. Her attention leaves Emory and she looks at Wahya, whose breathing is slowing - her eyes are still filled with fear and concern, and Wahya squeezes her hand gently. Still breathing heavily, he says as best as he can so that she will understand, “Okay. Wahya okay.”

Morgan let’s out a breath of her own, relaxing just a tiny bit, “Are you sure?! Do you still hurt?! Here, have some water.”

Releasing her handhold with Wahya, she takes the bottle from him, opening it up and returning it to him so he can take a couple of swallows. He can feel Emory’s stare burning into him and glances up at the man standing over him, feeling the full force of his negativity. “What is his problem?! Surely, he doesn’t think I am weak! Or perhaps, he thinks I faked the pain to get attention?”

“Okay,” Wahya says again reassuringly in English, holding the strange, clear bottle. Morgan speaks, pulling Emory’s attention off him, and Wahya quietly watches the other two in discussion, trying to determine what they’re saying - their voices a bit strained. He hadn’t meant to cause such alarm, but apparently his stomach pain was a very serious matter.

Finally, she lays her hand back on Wahya’s shoulder and nods at whatever Emory had asked, prompting him to hesitantly leave back to the lab where he’d come from. Setting the bottle of water down on the desk, Wahya takes hold of Morgan’s hand, removing it from his shoulder and giving her a gentle squeeze. She seems a bit unnerved, and his action relaxes her a bit as she gives him a teeny smile. He smiles back at her, giving her hand another small squeeze as he runs his other hand through his hair, relieved that whatever was wrong with his stomach has gone now, thanks to the magic of his gorget.

Taking another deep breath, Wahya attempts to stand, but Morgan quickly presses him back into the chair, “No... Sit for a little while longer. We have to make sure you’re okay before you move.”

She searches his face for signs of pain, then finally releases his hand, pulling her phone out again, and calling Samantha - he recognizes her far away voice and Morgan’s proclamation of her name when she’d answered the phone. Wahya can tell that she’s telling her friend about his painful episode, and he suddenly feels embarrassed. Granted, it was painful!

But he has never been one to let pain or ailments get the better of him, nor let anyone baby him with excess worry. He needs Morgan to know that he’s okay for real - the gorget healed him. So this time he doesn’t let her prevent him from standing, giving her an irritated look as he swats away her admonishing finger-wag and looks down at her from above as she tries to finish her conversation about him with Samantha. Pocketing the gorget and puffing out his chest slightly, he says in a much stronger voice than before, “Wahya okay.”

“He says he’s okay,” Morgan tells Samantha as she nervously scratches her head. “Alright, we’ll see you in a little bit.”

Morgan looks at him speculatively and ends her phone call, giving him what sounds like a stern, yet concerned reprimand. He almost laughs - the spectacle of the woman half his size most likely telling him to not scare her like that again is a bit funny. Regardless of what she’s actually saying, a part of him feels a little good that she is concerned for him. “Not that I would, but now I see why some men don’t mind being babied. It’s different getting attention from Morgan than it is from your mother or grandmother.”

Putting the lid on the bottled water and handing it to him, Morgan surprises him by tucking herself next to him, resting her hand on the back of his waist for support, then uses her opposite hand to grasp the bicep closest to her. She begins to guide him carefully out of the office, obviously still worried about him.

Walking is no problem for him now, and normally he would have refused the assistance, especially with her being so small - if he did fall, she wouldn’t be able to catch him anyways! But the slight pressure of her palm at his lower back and her hand on his arm sends yet another sensation to his stomach - and to other parts of his body. Similar to that of the gorget, it’s a good, charged feeling, and yet definitively more pleasurable than that of the healing the stone provided. He has absolutely no desire to push her unnecessary ‘assistance’ away.

As she gently pushes him forward and out of the office, Wahya smiles inwardly at the thought of how Emory will feel when he sees her holding onto him as they go into the lab. He knew any attention she gave him made Emory more jealous, and he suddenly wanted to rub Morgan’s attention in Emory’s smug face. He wonders about this newfound emotion, as it’s not like him to feel competitive with other guys. He’d never felt the need for it before.

Wahya had felt the animosity coming from the man towards himself, as though he were unworthy of Morgan. Was he unworthy? He didn’t know where she fit in their cultural structure. But he doubted that was the case, for James and Samantha wouldn’t have allowed him to be alone with her or accompany her to her dwelling if he were so low in their society. No, Emory’s dislike was purely personal and wreaked with jealously.

Upon entering the lab, can’t help himself and adjusts his stance, pulling his arm out of Morgan’s grasp and putting it around her shoulder instead, pulling her lightly into his side. With her other arm still around his waist, it would be easy to dismiss this new position as his leaning on her for support, but support wasn’t his intention.

What his precise intention was, he isn’t sure. Friendship...? A show of affection...? A sign that Morgan is his...? But she isn’t officially anything but a friend to him - at least not yet, he acknowledges. And nor is he her anything. What about changing that, seeing if they would want to be something to each other?!

Morgan undeniably senses the daring difference in his touch, as he feels her tense slightly from the sudden contact of his whole side lightly against hers and his arm enveloping her. “How better to tell her that I’m interested in getting to know her better, than by showing her?”

Had she remained so tense for one more second, he would have released her, not wanting her to feel uncomfortable and respecting her wishes to maintain their distance from before. But to his surprise and elation, she not only relaxes her muscles, but unexpectedly tightens her hold around his waist ever so slightly.

He chances a glance down at the little blonde, unable to stop the smile that bubbles up from his chest. She smiles back up at him, “I guess you are feeling okay now, huh?!”

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