The Artifact (Book 2, Time Trilogy)

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Chapter Forty-Six: Cursed Artifacts?

July 2023
Richmond City University
Richmond City, Virginia

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

“I swear if this idiot tries to pull another stunt like that, I will tear him apart! Who does he think he is, acting like that around the women and an infant!?”

Wahya knew a few guys like Emory over the years, and for the most part he just ignored them. They were generally full of hot air, and everyone knew it. But when it looked like Emory was going to get upset with Samantha, holding her baby, nonetheless, it was more than he could take. Men who felt the need to harm innocent people, women, and children were on Wahya’s list of evildoers.

“Even if Emory is part of Morgan’s tribe or people - whatever that means in this time - I will never trust him. Men like that can turn on you whenever it suits their needs.”

He takes Emory’s apologetic handshake regardless, and allows the current anger to subside on the outside. It’s going to take a little longer to get himself calmed on the inside.

“Now what,” he wonders as Morgan and Emory exchange a few words, and Wahya can tell she feels a little at a loss at what to do. Finally, with a slight bit of irritation behind her smile of empathy, she puts her hand on Wahya’s arm and points to the tub of water she’d been showing him earlier, then motions to Emory.

“You’ve got to be kidding me, Walela! You want me to work with him to clean the stuff we found?!”

He decides that this must have been Emory’s idea and that Morgan couldn’t come up with an excuse otherwise, and thus the slightly disgruntled agreement on her behalf. Wahya nods, deciding to put their differences aside for the sake of the situation, and motions for Emory to lead the way. Morgan goes to sit at her desk at the other side of the large table, quick to start making several loud tapping noises with her fingers. Wahya remembers how she made that same tapping when she used the long, flat object with the squares and symbols to make the images of the animals appear on the glass window-object in front of her that first day. He’s sure her tapping is a bit louder today - perhaps, angrier is the better word. She glances up from her screen and notices him looking in her direction. Her furrowed brows instantly soften and a tiny smile forms on her lips, replacing the serious expression that was there moments ago.

“Here you go, man,” Emory interrupts Wahya’s thoughts, and he takes the toothbrush Emory offers, then sits at the table with the tub of water in front of him. Emory dumps a small bag of artifacts into the colander within the tub and shows Wahya how to brush the dirt off a now-wet rusty nail, then lays the cleaned artifact in a tray to dry. Wahya soon figures out that the colander ensures tiny objects don’t get lost in the dirt and grime settling at the bottom of the larger tub. Picking up another nail, he continues the process while Emory goes to write up paper tags to put with each group of artifacts.

With Emory gone for now, Wahya’s mind wanders back to Morgan, and as he watches her on the computer, he finds it hard to believe that it had only been four days ago that he’d sat next to her there, trying to tell her the names of the animals that she showed him through the screen. He laughs inwardly at how much had happened to him and also between them in such a short amount of time.

After a bit, Samantha peeks in with Melia secured in her car seat carrier. She looks at the silent group apprehensively at first, then taking in everyone’s calm demeanor, softens. “I’m out you guys. Let me see what you’ve washed up before I go.”

She sets Melia’s carrier on the floor by Morgan’s desk, and Morgan accompanies her to come see what Wahya has already put in the drying tray. There’s a bit of exchange between her, Morgan, and Emory, while Wahya listens, picking up a few recognizable words and names. Samantha doesn’t take long, and turns to the brave, smiling sincerely as she motions to the objects he’s just washed. “Thank you for your help, Wahya. Yesterday and today.”

Morgan nudges her. “It’s ‘wado,’ remember?”

Samantha laughs, recalling learning the word from James the night Wahya arrived. “Oh yeah, that’s right! Wado, Wahya! Wado.”

Wahya smiles in return and wishes her farewell as she says her goodbyes to the group and takes Melia home. It doesn’t take Wahya long to finish washing the few artifacts they’d found at the Billings Farm, and Emory pulls out several other bags of still-dirty artifacts from older projects the students had excavated earlier in the year. Getting a fresh tub of water, Wahya begins washing these objects, while Emory starts on another bagful with his own tub and colander.

The two wash in silence, not having the ability to communicate effectively even if they wanted to. Not that Wahya wanted to. As he gets comfortable with the washing process, he finds it to be almost meditative in nature. There’s not a lot of thought that goes into brushing a sherd of ceramic or brick fragment clean in the water, and soon he finds his mind wandering. First, he wonders about the objects he’s washing themselves. Shards of greenish glass, rusty nails, andmany small pieces of mostly white and smooth ceramics. He analyzes the various metal objects, amazed at the sharpness and hardness of the material, even though most of it is rusty. And all the different colors and thickness of glass amaze him as well.

“How old are these? We do not have anything like this in my time, so they must be newer things, made after my time.”

He feels a weird sense of perspective thinking that people who lived after his lifetime are now dead and gone, leaving their artifacts behind, and are someone’s ancestors now. He also wonders what the people before his time were like - the Ancient Ones. Had they left things behind that his people didn’t even know were under the ground they walked upon?!

Finally, into his third bag of artifacts from this project, he begins to recognize some of the objects. He stops to examine the items more closely. “These are stone flakes! Yes, that is where the stone was hit just-so to shave off the sliver of rock!”

A few flakes later, he pulls out a whitish stone that had been shaped into a nice point, with a tang on the other end. And with it, a similarly shaped yellowish quartz point that was left unfinished, though nearly complete.

“This is a knife!” He says aloud, breaking the silence in the room, save for Morgan’s incessant typing. With his hands dripping with water, he holds up the white and gray rhyolite tool. Emory and Morgan both stop what they’re doing at the unexpected sound of his voice in the quiet lab. Having gained their attention, he holds up the other stone tool as well, “I have an arrowhead and a knife blade.”

He hands them over to Morgan as she approaches, and listens as she examines the tools with Emory, making excited exclamations as she turns them over in her hands. For a moment, he feels proud that he had been the one to find these with the artifacts to be washed. Especially as Morgan congratulates him, handing the stones back, and giving him one of her large, beautiful smiles - he was glad to see her enthusiasm back again. But as she goes back to her desk, and Emory retreats to his own washing once more, Wahya’s sunny mood clouds over a bit.

“Why did the person who owned this leave their knife behind? It is still good. And why did they not finish making the arrowhead?”

Unsure of where these were found, he recalls having lost his own knife during the escape from the Iroquois. He wonders if the owner had a bout of misfortune like him, and possibly even lost their life, as he almost had.

“Whether or not they lived that day, they are still dead now. This is a very strange and grim task. Washing the discarded and lost possessions of the dead.”

Now that he thinks about it in this light, Wahya suddenly feels as though he’s messing with something he shouldn’t. Keeping the dead’s things brings very bad luck and he finds he can’t go on - the fun and interest gone from his task. A bit frightened now, he silently exits the lab, heading for the restroom at the opposite end of the archaeology suite. He quickly bypasses the wall in which he came into this time and enters the restroom. The fluorescent lights flicker on automatically, and he makes his way to the sink, breathing deeply to settle his nerves.

“If I were home... Oh that is right, I do not have... or I did not have a home in the past, where I come from - that is how I got into this mess to begin with - running for my life. But if I were with my people now, I would need to ask the Shaman to perform a cleansing blessing on me now. I do not want the curse of the dead’s restlessness to be on my shoulders!”

He splashes his face with cold water, closing his eyes to try and remember what he could do to ward off any bad luck that could come from touching the artifacts. This had the potential to be a very bad problem.

“But what about Morgan and Emory?! And Samantha, too?! Are they all cursed?!”

He thinks for a moment. Despite working with these artifacts all the time, they seem to be living happy lives with no definitive signs of being cursed, he reasons. Well, he’s not sure about Emory - but Morgan and Samantha don’t seem cursed.

“Maybe it is different if you are not taking it from a dead person’s body or home intentionally? And these things could have been lost or discarded long before the owners died. The Spirit World is complicated at times. Maybe there is leniency when it comes to taking these objects from the ground with good intentions. Or for those who do not know any better?”

Wiping his face with a paper towel, he decides that he cannot know for sure either way, so he better not wash any more artifacts, just in case. He contemplates how he can draw this out on the notepad for Morgan to understand, then takes one more deep breath, exiting the restroom and walking back towards the main room. As he passes by the wall where the portal had been, he stops instead of trying to avoid it as he’d done before on his way to the restroom.

When he’d hurriedly passed it before, instinctual fear from his entering this unknown time had resurfaced. But now, he reconsiders this fear, replacing it with logical reasoning - his understanding that he may be stuck in this time period forever suddenly wavering. He doesn’t necessarily associate Morgan’s time warps with what happened to bring him to this time, as he doesn’t understand the concept of time travel nearly as well as her limited comprehension, and for the fact that his travel through this portal had been nothing like the painful and electrically charged experiences he’s had twice now since being here. To him, this was simply a doorway, such as one would cross at the end of life to enter the Happy Hunting Grounds of the beyond. It’s something he can rationalize in his mind. The storm and electrical shock from before were something completely different - something very mysterious and unsettling.

With hesitation, but no fear, Wahya reaches his hand forward, his fingertips extending towards the cream-colored drywall beneath the enlarged framed photo of the archaeological field crew. He pauses momentarily, wondering what should happen if the doorway opened again and took him back to the past. He knows he wants to go back - needs to get back to his father and grandmother. Yet he hasn’t said goodbye to Morgan.

Under his breath he whispers, “Morgan... My beautiful Hummingbird... I do not want to leave her. And what would she think if I were suddenly gone. Would she be sad? Would she want to come with me?”

He rationalizes further that there’s no guarantee that touching the wall would do anything, but if he’s already in the future, then waiting a little longer to try to get back to his time wouldn’t matter, for the people he’d left behind have been gone for almost two thousand years. What’s the difference in waiting?

“I can think about it some, then try another time.”

Withdrawing his hand again, he begins to start back towards the lab, suddenly hearing Morgan’s voice escalating in the other room. Concern for her brings his thoughts to the present, but as he steps away from the wall to go to her aid, a sudden sting of pain runs through his spine and into the pit of his stomach. Doubling over, he faintly hears Morgan cry out his name, and sees her through bleary eyes coming towards him. Instinctively, he reaches into his shirt, pulling out and clutching to the gorget still hanging from around his neck. He doesn’t understand why this is happening - his lucky stone had been next to his skin all along. This should not be happening!

As Morgan reaches him, he lands heavily on his knees, and her trembling voice screams for Emory as she catches his upper body with her own - holding him up. He clenches his teeth, trying to hold back the pain. It feels like the air has been sucked out of the room and he wonders if he is being cursed for touching the dead people’s artifacts.

Holding the gorget up in his palm, fear strikes him further as he tries to focus on the suddenly bewildering sight before his eyes. Light - no, sparks of electricity - erupt in tiny bursts from his hand. He quickly realizes that the sparks are emanating not from him, but from the gorget. But how? And why?

For the briefest moment, he watches as tiny arcs of bluish-white energy flow across the surface and suddenly disappear. As soon as the light dissipates, the pain in his body simultaneously leaves, and his head clears. But he’s weak and drained. Holding onto Morgan’s steady arm for support, he suddenly feels faint, and his eyes can’t help but close with the sudden drain of energy. The last thing he coherently remembers is the feeling of multiple hands holding him - helping him - as he helplessly falls to the ground, and darkness overcomes his consciousness.

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