The Artifact (Book 2, Time Trilogy)

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Chapter Thirty-Five: 1,800 Years

July 2023
Morgan’s Home
Richmond City, Virginia

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

Feeling very satisfied with himself that Morgan seems to have understood the story he’d drawn out in response to Andy’s own story about himself, Wahya waits patiently on the living room couch for Morgan to return. She’d apparently had a spectacular idea, telling him to wait there while she left the room only moments ago.

“I’m sure glad Andy likes to draw, because I wouldn’t have thought about drawing out a story like that. I guess neither did any of the other adults, because neither James nor Samantha thought about picture-speak!”

He laughs inwardly, recalling Morgan’s moment of epiphany several minutes ago, and knows she felt as dumb as he had when Andy started drawing his family. At the time, he couldn’t wait to show her the drawings, hoping she would see the possibilities of communication as clearly as he had. And when she did, it was like a great weight was lifted.

Shortly, Morgan returns with a large pad of blank paper and a couple of those sticks Andy had called pens.

“Now I’m no artist, but I can make decent stick figures,” Morgan says jokingly as she settles back on the couch, handing Wahya a pen. Then, curling a leg under her, she sets her black rimmed glasses on her nose, looking thoughtful as she opens the large pad to the first page. Wahya watches her as she takes his original drawings and examines them again. Finally, beaming with excitement at the prospect of more in-depth communication, she begins to sketch something.

To his interest, she starts by drawing his gorget in the upper left corner of the paper. Under that, a stick figure with long hair and an arrow pointing from the gorget to the man. Contemplating how to express what she wants, Morgan finally draws a Tsalagi house like the ones he drew earlier. It’s apparent that she’s unsure whether her drawing makes sense, so points to the figure as she says his name, then touches his forearm to ensure he gets the connection.

“Yes, I understand. That’s me. Wahya.”

There was a bit of novelty in seeing her interpretation of himself, and Wahya smiles at the extreme cutesiness of his supposed features, thinking that it really did not look like him at all. He studies the entire picture as she takes up the notepad again, drawing another figure holding the gorget. This one represents her. Behind the Morgan-stick-figure, she draws a long rectangle with a puffy oval shape in the center. By the time she finishes the scene, he realizes that she’s talking about the moment he fell through the clouds in the wall and into the lab. Referencing the gorget again, she draws an arrow from it to the Tsalagi house, then motions to the gorget and herself by drawing a sweeping arrow from the gorget over to her.

“I lost the gorget before I came to this place. I don’t know how it came to be here, too,” Wahya replies, unsure about what she’s trying to get at. She must sense his confusion, so draws another stick-figure with a billed hat, next to a tractor in a field. Wahya easily determines that this is supposed to be Ned. Through further drawing, she shows him that Ned had dug up the gorget where the trees were growing next to the field.

“Whoa! Hold on!” Wahya stops her. “Are you’re saying that Ned found the gorget?!” Morgan stares at him, knowing she hit on something by his reaction as clarity comes to him. He continues, “That makes sense though, because I know that’s the exact same place I jumped from, and lost it falling through the trees. But what I don’t understand is how you got it if Ned had it?”

Morgan moves to a new page, drawing Ned giving the gorget to her at the lab, shown by her simple rendering of the cabinets and equipment at the university, along with a few outlines of arrowheads and pottery, like those she showed him yesterday. Pointing to Ned, Morgan shrugs her shoulders as though she’s asking ‘what?’ and points an arrow from Ned to Morgan in the picture, shrugging in question again.

Wahya sees what she’s implying now, “Okay, so your saying Ned found the gorget and didn’t know what it was, so brought it to you because...”

He pauses, unsure of why Ned would go to Morgan to find out about the gorget. Studying the pictures thus far, Wahya finally connects the arrowheads and pottery with Morgan in the lab, and a smile crosses his face as he announces, “It’s because you collect stuff from my people! All that old junk! Ned thought you might know what the gorget was and brought it to you for answers. That’s why you didn’t want me to keep it - you didn’t know it was mine to begin with!”

Then, the fallacy of his thought process occurs to him and Morgan watches as his smile fades, “But it couldn’t have happened like that. I had JUST lost the gorget, right before I tumbled out of the wall. There wouldn’t have been enough time for Ned to find it, then get it all the way over to you at the lab BEFORE I arrived at the lab myself. But still, you had it when I came through the wall! How is that possible?”

Furrowing his brow, he further ponders aloud, “Unless I took a lot longer to get here than it seemed, there’s no way Ned could have traveled all the way to the lab from his crops that quickly.” He shakes his head in frustration, “I don’t know!”

Holding out his hand to ask for the sketchpad, Morgan hands it over, studying his face and expectantly waiting for his thoughts to be drawn. Starting a new page, he begins by drawing himself again. Only a much younger and shorter teenage self, hoping Morgan gets the point that he’s talking about several years ago. He shows The Traveler giving him the gorget, then another picture of himself older, still wearing the stone. Pointing to his original drawing of the Iroquois chasing him he adds details to the page as he speaks. “I had to jump over the cliff to get away from them, but when I fell through the trees the leather cord broke and I lost the gorget.”

Back to the pad he draws what he hopes looks like him falling and losing the necklace, then the gorget falling to the ground and himself appearing in Morgan’s lab.

“Oh my God! That’s it!” Morgan shouts excitedly, and Wahya looks hopeful as she jumps up and paces as she talks, obviously excited about something. He’s curious if she knows how Ned got the gorget to her so quickly. And even more importantly, why, or how the land which Ned farms has changed so drastically from how it looked only a few days ago.

Picking up the pad as she returns to the couch, Wahya draws two versions of the cliffside. The first with the Iroquois braves chasing him again, with a far-reaching forest behind them and below the cliff. Secondly, he draws the same cliff with fewer trees below and Ned’s fields beyond them. Instead of the warriors, he depicts himself, Morgan, and Samantha with Morgan’s car on top of the cliff. He points out the differences between the two pictures and looks at her questioningly, “How is this possible?”

He watches her expression closely, as she concentrates on his two drawings. Taking up the pad and another new sheet of paper, she begins to draw furiously. Her drawing in the end shows him as a baby, then a boy, and finally an adult. Below, is the sun, followed by the moon, the sun again, and a moon. Arrows pointing forward between each instance. Beneath that, four trees showing the changing of the seasons, from bare branches in winter, flowering in spring, the leaves of summer, and finally, the leaves falling in the autumn. Circling the four trees she marks one full year, then expresses with tallies and arrows several years passing, connecting them with the age progression of himself at the top of the page. Wahya easily catches on that this represents time passing as he grows and the seasons cycle.

Finally, she draws the cliff with Wahya jumping and losing the gorget at the beginning of the timeline, with the gorget falling to the ground. A long arrow takes Wahya from the cliff, through the timeline, past the modern cliff with Ned and his shovel, and through the portal in which he ends up with Morgan.

Wahya’s face clouds over with apprehension as he sits, reading the extensive drawing, putting the ideas together into a tangible story. His gut churns and a million questions pop into his mind as the concept of what Morgan is expressing permeates his understanding. He leans forward, putting his head in his hands, taking a few deep breaths.

“Oh, Great Spirit! This is not another world, and it is not the afterlife. This is TOMORROW!” Everything becomes clear as he pieces together the previous drawings Morgan had done, “I get it now! Morgan is a Storyteller of the Past! That is why Ned brought her the gorget when he found it, and that is why she collects the old, broken arrowheads and pottery as though they are special! They are relics of the PAST here!”

He feels a little dizzy as the weight of this whole new concept of time floods his mind, “How did this happen? What does it mean? What does this mean for my family?! My people?!”

He feels Morgan’s hand tentatively touch his shoulder, and he realizes that he’s shaking. Her touch is comforting and reassuring, and he doesn’t pull away. Instead, he simply voices some of the bigger questions that come to mind, “How did people change so much? I mean, you can tell the difference between the Iroquois, Cherokee, and Algonquin peoples by their looks and ways, but I’ve never seen people with skin so fair and hair in so many different colors - yellow, red, and brown. Not to mention eye colors. And the technology has advanced much more than it could have in only a few years or even decades. Everything is so different.”

He knows Morgan doesn’t understand his speech, but looks to her anyways, a tinge of fear in his eyes. Through gestures and pointing to the tally marks in her drawing - unsure if he really wants to know the answer, he finally asks, “How many season-cycles did I pass through to get here?!”

Morgan, most likely having the same question if she were in his moccasins, instantly understands, speaking as she takes the sketchpad back, “Oh! That’s hard to say exactly, but I think you’re from what we call the Middle Woodland Period.” She begins to make tallies in groups for easier counting, “That’s 500 BC through AD 900, so a... 1,400-year span. And you could potentially be from anywhere in there. So, if we estimate somewhere in the middle of the time period, say around AD 200... God, that’s about 1,800 years from now!”

His heart thuds at the immense number of tallies she’s drawn. One hundred tallies are circled, with the next row of tallies obviously representing one hundred years per mark. He counts aloud, “Five hundred, one thousand, fifteen hundred, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen... One thousand, eight hundred years!”

Rubbing his hands over his face, Wahya’s hair falls forward. He feels nauseated, overwhelmed, and even more confused. “Damn, believing that I was dead was easier to swallow!” Then more realization comes to him, “My family is dead! Everyone I know is dead! How did this happen?!”

Taking a shaky, but deep breath, he pushes his hair back, and sits a little straighter. Morgan places her hand on his back, obviously feeling for him, though unable to necessarily do anything besides provide support. Excusing himself, he heads down the hall to the guest bathroom, closing the door behind him, as he turns on the cool water from the sink and splashes his face. Looking in the mirror, which he now realizes isn’t magic at all, but merely an innovation of the future, he goes through it all in his head again.

Finally, he asks himself, “What did my family think happened to me? Did father and grandmother live out their lives thinking I had been killed by the Iroquois, or injured and died in the forest? I don’t even know if they all made it out of Iroquois land and found their way to the other clans!”

He squeezes his eyes shut as a tear escapes at the thought of not having been able to fulfill his life among his own people. And even more at the knowledge that his family died almost two thousand years ago, and he wasn’t there for them when that time came.

“Great Spirit, why?!”

Burying his face in the towel, he takes several breathes, trying to put the enormity of the situation into perspective. Drowning the panic that had been growing in his gut, he calls up the focus and courage from deep within that he could always manage to rely on when he needed it most.

“Get it together! There are two explanations... Either the spirits have a purpose for putting me here, or it was an accident on their part. Regardless, I’m alive and well, despite the two instances when I didn’t have the gorget - at the lab and on the cliffside - and even then, I made it through. And considering that if I were still in my time, I would likely be dead from the fall through the trees or an Iroquois arrow, I should be grateful for this chance at life. My only option is to make the best of the situation and hope that the spirits figure out how to return me to my own time or help me understand what it is that I’m supposed to do here. Besides, it hasn’t been bad - different, but not bad. And with Morgan’s help, I should be just fine.”

“Morgan...,” he whispers aloud. “Maybe she’s the key to all of it. After all, the gorget brought us together. Ned gave it to her.”

With renewed determination to find the value of his current situation, Wahya exits the bathroom to find Morgan in the kitchen, preparing hot tea. The aroma of chamomile already creating a peaceful atmosphere within him.

The concern written on Morgan’s face, etches its way further into his heart as she worriedly asks, “You okay?!”

Wahya studies her beautiful face momentarily, thinking that if this had to happen, how fortunate he was to have bumped into her. If anyone could help him, it would be Morgan and her friends, James and Samantha, as Storytellers of the Past. And if he happens to be stuck here for the remainder of his life, he’d want nothing more than to be stuck with this woman.

A deep longing for her fills him with a desire like he’s never felt before as his body heats at her concern for him. What he would give to show her just how much she means to him and how grateful he is for everything. But he has nothing to give her, no physical object he can bestow as a gift. No means in which to provide her with food, shelter, or tools that would normally be befitting of such a gift.

As the relaxing aroma of her tea preparations infiltrate his senses and her eyes meet his in similar yearning, he knows exactly what he wants to give her - himself. What better show of gratitude to bestow upon this beautiful woman, than pleasure? If she’ll have him, of course.

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