The Artifact (Book 2, Time Series)

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Chapter Twenty-Seven: The Storm in Wahya's Mind

July 2023
Ned Billings' Farm
Redwater, Virginia

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

“Great Spirit! She kissed me! She deliciously kissed me!”

Despite having quickly broke away from the mouthwatering kiss she’d delivered, Wahya’s heart still races and he can’t remember ever feeling this erratic inside. Sure, he’d had desires - and acted on them in the past, but they were reasonable, sortable. Beyond Little Doe, the few other women he’d kissed or been with had been meaningful in their own ways, but there was no drive to further the relationship. Little Doe, on the other hand, had been very special in her own way - that’s why he’d wanted more of a life with her. Yet even that relationship was so different than this was with Morgan now.

Morgan, he decides, is inexplicably wonderful in all the right ways. She’d been nothing but kind and thoughtful, funny and flirty - very flirty - yet intelligent, resourceful, and definitely independent. “Beautiful and an excellent kisser,” Wahya finishes off the list in his mind, eyeing her as she straightens herself in an attempt to look natural, as Samantha comes into view.

He tries to mirror her nonchalant attitude as her and Samantha begin to converse, and he wonders if Samantha knows, “James warned me to watch myself with Morgan, and I doubt he’d appreciate us getting so friendly just yet. Even if she was the one who instigated the kissing.”

Then he laughs to himself, “Well, I did sort of provoke her into it. But she definitely started it - throwing pinecones at me, then laughing when any other woman would have been mortified and apologized. Or giggled, then ran away shyly.”

He reflected on how Morgan had indeed apologized - while she stood there, without an ounce of fear - or apologetic sorrow - laughing hysterically! “If that wasn’t a turn-on, I don’t know what is! Ugh! These stupid pants are too tight in the wrong place right now!”

Samantha suddenly begins to lead the way out of the trees, and he catches Morgan’s eye as she side-glances him tentatively, as if to gauge his thoughts, then smiles as though she’s keeping a secret, kicking the pine cone his direction before striding off behind Samantha.

“Damn! She’s still flirting, even now! We just need to get to the car so I can try to relax this hard on away - or at least make it not so obvious!”

Several minutes down the bumpy dirt road, Wahya’s mind escapes to the surrounding landscape. It’d been nice to wander the wooded area while the girls talked to Ned. It helped him gain a little clarity after trying to keep up with this crazy, new world. Looking out the right side of the car, Wahya is amazed by the giant fields. His people grew crops of corn and squash, but they were tiny in comparison hundreds of acres here. Had they stayed longer, he would have liked to have investigated the plants to compare them to what he knows.

He isn’t really sure what they’re doing out here today and wonders why everyone wants to see his gorget. Thinking about it, he isn’t even sure if any of them believe in its magical properties, yet they examine it like it’s something amazing. “It just looks like a rock and they have all these things like cars, windows, and those little rectangular boxes they talk to each other with. I think it’s called a ‘phone.’”

He remembers then that Morgan still has his gorget - she’d taken it from Ned before saying goodbye to the farmer and reminds himself that he’ll have to get it back from her later when she’s not so busy talking seriously with Samantha. Morgan makes a left-hand turn up another dirt road after the cliff wall had disappeared, tapering down to ground level. Traveling up the slope, it’s not long before they ascend to the top, the nose of the car pointing in the direction they’d originally come from. To their left is the side of the cliff, about ten feet away, and they tower over the trees. To his right is about ten feet-worth of cleared land before dense forest stretches for who knows how far.

Samantha soon breaks the silence, “Stop here.”

Wahya looks in the direction Samantha points, seeing Ned’s loud tractor in the distance, straight out from where Morgan has parked the car. As he steps out, he notices the darkening clouds building slowly on the horizon - rain will be coming before long. It’s breezier up here than it had been down in the treeline and Wahya closes his eyes in the early evening sunlight, feeling the gentle, warm wind blowing through his hair and across his face. He’d felt more at home this afternoon here, than any place in this world yet, and he feels a twinge of sadness creep into his heart.

He opens his eyes to see Morgan and Samantha, who have moved closer to the cliffside, pointing to various distant locations, seeming to be making plans. For what, he isn’t sure. Deciding to revert his fears of not being able to return home and the worry for his people to something more positive, he tries to concentrate on the words the women are saying in an attempt to recognize anything that he’s heard before and can understand.

He’d always been pretty good with languages, knowing Algonquin well enough to communicate with their tribal allies to the north and east. And he knows a fair amount of Iroquois - at least he’s able to insult them in their own tongue. He wonders what Morgan’s language and people are called as he stares into space, sitting so his legs dangle over the cliff’s edge, listening to the syllables and sounds the two women make.

In the far distance, the sky darkens further, and a streaking bolt of lightning strikes a faraway point. But Wahya doesn’t notice as he meditates on the new language and stares off into the treetops below. Something seems so familiar about his view, and with a sudden force, as though the air had been sucked out of his lungs, an immense feeling of déjà vu overcomes him. His focus on Morgan and Samantha is quickly lost, and his attention is now drawn to the trees stretching below his feet.

“I know this. I’ve been here before!”

Closing his eyes in concentration, Wahya remembers a similar scenario - hearing a foreign language in his memory. But it had been men talking instead of women. No, not talking - shouting. As though he’s being transported from his body, his thoughts carry him along.

Running... Through the woods... Gasping for air...

His mind’s eye sees the Iroquois braves, chasing him yesterday morning. He can almost feel himself fighting the tall, lanky hunter only so many yards back into the woods, before making a run for it... Through the trees and into a clearing... No, not a clearing - a cliffside with treetops below!

“A cliff! Trees below!”

He suddenly recalls the choice he had to make - to either die by the Iroquois or face an uncertain demise by jumping into the dense, leafy trees. Wahya’s eyes snap open and he stands quickly, moving back from the cliff’s edge. His heart pounds with the vivid memory, and he spins around, almost expecting the braves to come out of the trees behind him. But the trees no longer grow to the cliff’s edge, and there are no Iroquois coming out of the forest on the opposite side of the dirt road.

Looking back at the expansive space past the cliff, Wahya remembers the feeling of free-falling several feet before his legs broke his descent as he crashed into the upper branches of the trees below. He remembers the pull of the leather cord around his neck as the gorget was torn from his body halfway to the ground. His body remembers the jolting hit as he crashed to the ground and began to roll down the steep slope. As realization dawns, he whispers hoarsely... “This is the same place!”

He spins around again, examining the terrain, “The trees are different, yet the same. Ned’s fields were all woods and meadows. But the cliff is the same!”

Running his hand through his long hair, Wahya feels a cold sweat on his brow and takes a shaky breath. His eyes, wide in fear, soon narrow as reality makes itself apparent, “This is not a different world, but my world. Just different...”

In that moment, Wahya feels electricity in the air and he looks towards the horizon where he’d noticed the storm brewing earlier. But instead of slowly advancing as it had before, the blackening clouds have already rolled in significantly closer. The wind is much stronger now, whipping his hair around his shoulders and face, and the pressure of the air is almost suffocating.

Worriedly, he spins around to find Morgan and Samantha, and oddly sees them continuing their conversation as though nothing’s happening. Despite the wind whipping around where they stand, their clothes and hair seem untouched by the natural forces. Somehow, they are shielded in a bubble of sorts and they can’t even see the storm all around them.

Wahya tries to shout in their direction, hoping to get their attention, to tell them that they must leave now. But the words seem stuck in his throat. Panic surges through his mind as he chances a look directly above, only to see the dark, roiling clouds circling overhead as if he were in the eye of the storm.

Then, there it is. That pain! Like a stitch in his side at first, but within the pit of his stomach. Praying towards the sky, he calls for help within his mind, “Oh Great Spirit!”

It’s not extremely painful, but somehow, he knows it will grow worse, as it had before. And more than anything, he knows that it has everything to do with the storm above. He closes his eyes, face still towards the sky, praying for his life. Then a jolt of energy suddenly hits his shoulder. But not the same painful shock that had hit him at the lab. This energy is warm and powerful yet soothing at the same time.

“Wahya?” Morgan’s voice overpowers the storm.

“Morgan? How did she get over here so quickly?!” Wahya wonders in surprise.

Suddenly, the air stills and the pain inside slowly disappears. He opens his eyes, expecting anything but what he sees.

“Come on, we’re leaving now,” Morgan says in her unintelligible language. Then adds, “You might want this back,” as she holds the gorget out to him. The wind is gone and the gentle breeze from before resumes. The storm clouds are back in the distance again, having only advanced a little further from their original position on the horizon, and the sun shines into his eyes, making him squint against the brightness as he looks across the landscape.

Back to Morgan, he realizes that it’s her hand on his shoulder, and she smiles at him as she plants the gorget into his palm. Confusion fills his mind and he suddenly wonders if he really saw or felt what he just thought he had. The gorget is warm in his hand this time, probably because it had been in Morgan’s pocket instead of laying out on the desk at the lab as before. But miraculously, the definitively soothing wash of energy emanating from the stone still cools his blood and internal system.

“Is everything okay?” Morgan asks, looking at him oddly.

Wahya truly focuses on Morgan finally, his whole being more grounded again. A fractional flicker of concern crosses her brow and Wahya smiles it away. Tightly squeezing the gorget in one hand, he reaches out and takes her hand lightly, “Vv Vv. Yes. Okay.”

Releasing her hand again, the two walk back to the car, where Samantha is already waiting for them. Wahya silently gets into the back seat, while Morgan picks up her conversation with Samantha once again. He doesn’t even know how he would go about explaining what had just happened to the women in the front seat, so for now he determines to keep it to himself.

Discerning that he must have had a vision, as neither Morgan nor Samantha seem to have noticed anything, he goes back over it again in his mind, trying to memorize the details, as he’s sure they’re important. Looking out the window, he realizes that one thing isn’t a vision. And that’s the cliff. Without a doubt, it’s the exact same cliff he’d jumped off yesterday. And he knows the gorget must be connected.

"I lost it in the trees. I distinctly remember it being pulled off by the branches. How did Morgan have it when I rolled into the lab?!”

And with that thought, another realization hits him squarely in the gut, opening up a whole slew of questions and concerns, “If I jumped from the cliff here, how did I end up in the lab? If this is the same world, just a different version of it, the two places aren’t even close together!”

Despite Morgan’s attempt to bring him into the conversation throughout the drive back, Wahya can’t bring himself to listen. Worriedly, he runs his thumb across the semi-smooth surface of the gorget, contemplating everything that happened to him yesterday morning. A sense of foreboding begins to fill him with dread.

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