The Artifact (Book 2, Time Trilogy)

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Chapter Forty-Seven: Escalated Problems

July 2023
Richmond City University
Richmond City, Virginia

}}}-----> MORGAN <-----{{{

Morgan’s idea of a fun time washing artifacts with Wahya was ruined, as Emory pointed out, so astutely, that he could wash artifacts with Wahya while she got the database ready to start cataloging the finds from the Billings Farm. Still perturbed, she hadn’t quite gotten over her irritation until Samantha came in to check their progress and say her goodbyes for the day.

Then, her spirits were further buoyed when Wahya found the rhyolite knife and projectile point with the artifacts he was washing from another site just east of the city. She remembered the first time she washed artifacts, and the feeling of amazement at all the amazing things that had been found - things that no one had touched for years, decades, or even centuries. Now, after a couple years as the Collections Manager, the ordinary and commonplace brick fragment or more modern whiteware ceramic sherds seem much more lackluster than they had been before.

While she waits for the Billings Farm objects to get washed, she begins to catalog the artifacts Emory had washed earlier in the week. He was right, she admits to herself, she did have work to do, even if she’d rather be the one to work with Wahya. Emory didn’t know the artifacts well enough to catalog and his job was to wash artifacts.

After a while, Wahya heads back into the connecting artifact storage rooms, probably to find the restroom, Morgan figures. She smiles at the memory of him trying to tell her that he desperately needed to go when they were here last. They’d seemed to come a long way in communication since then.

Emory interrupts her attempt to refocus on her work, breaking the silence, “How much does he know?”

Looking up from her computer, she looks at him, confusion on her face. “Excuse me?”

Emory stops brushing the large brick fragment in his hand, rephrasing the question. “How much does he know about what happened to his people, historically? You know, Christopher Columbus, John Smith, the Trail of Tears?”

Morgan frowns, the thought having crossed her mind earlier in the week, but not recently. She stands to look at Emory better. “Nothing. I haven’t mentioned anything like that.”

Emory nods slightly. “Don’t you think you should? He has a right to know, after all.”

She thinks about her answer before speaking, knowing that this topic would eventually come up at some point, just not expecting Emory to be the one to broach it, and not right now.

“Well, it’s complicated. First off, it’s sort of hard to explain all that in stick-figure art. And that’s a lot to take in at this point. I mean, he’s just figured out that he’s in the future. Who knows what he thought before? Then, if he ends up going back to his own time, I wasn’t sure if his knowing would change history or something.”

Emory laughs at this - a hint of sarcasm in the tone. “Changing the horrific fate of the Native American people who were murdered and overrun by European colonists would be a bad thing?!”

Morgan knows she fell into that - her wording not exactly aligning with her thoughts on the subject - she wouldn’t wish that history on any people. Her stomach sinks at how bad not telling Wahya makes her look.

Trying to recover, she chokes out, “Nooo! That’s not what I meant at all! I wasn’t thinking on that scale.”

“Ah, you didn’t think one Indian could go back and change the mindset of the eastern population of tribes so that when the Spanish, English, and French arrived, they would have the smarts to fight them off instead of inviting them in?” He shakes his head condescendingly. “You give him very little credit.”

Morgan scowls now. “Emory, that’s not what I meant either! Why are you trying to make it seem like I have an agenda?! I just haven’t told him, and it’s mainly because I don’t know how or if I should.”

Emory studies her momentarily, then sets the brick he’d been scrubbing back in the tub, wiping his hands on a paper towel. Folding his arms across his chest, he nods with surety. “I’ve got you figured out.”

Morgan huffs and rolls her eyes, then attempts to ignore him, sitting at her desk again, trying to focus on her screen. Coming closer to peer at her over her monitor, Emory gives her a look that says he knows something she doesn’t. Looking up at him, she snaps, “What?!”

Leaning on the edge of her desk, with his face over her monitor, he sneers, “You think he’s some living artifact and you want to keep him in pristine condition for as long as possible. You don’t want him to become part of this world and time, nor do you want him to go back to his own time either.”

Morgan’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise - she hopes he doesn’t mean what it sounds like he’s saying. Emory continues nonetheless - his voice rising slightly, “You’re not taking him seriously, Morgan. He’s a real person with a life and feelings, not a pet or plaything. You’re stringing both him and you along, thinking that just because you’re sleeping with him you can ignore the facts and the truth.”

Morgan’s mouth opens in shocked rage. How he jumped to those conclusions, she’s unsure, but he’s dead wrong. And how did he know they were sleeping together?! That has nothing to do with what he’s talking about and frankly, none of his business either, she fumes inside.

As she begins to stand, formulating her retaliation, he continues, “What’s even worse is that you’re not even honest with yourself. You’ve had a week to go through this in your mind, and you’re treating it like a fun little diversion from the real world.”

“Emory! You son of a bitch!” Her face is hot with fury, and she doesn’t know whether she should yell, cry, or punch him in the nose. She chooses the former, raising her voice steadily, “That’s not true! I care about him!” Then after a slight hesitation, she admits her deepest feelings as tears threaten to form in her eyes. “I love him! You wouldn’t know anything about that, you... you jealous little...”

“Prick,” Emory takes up where she leaves off. “Go ahead, I know what you think about me. Boy, have you let me know this week, in no small terms. Only thing is, I’m no longer jealous. In fact, I wouldn’t want anything to do with you after this.”

Morgan’s eyes begin to tear now. Not that she wanted his affections, but the idea that he seriously thought she was playing games with Wahya hurt her deeply. She honestly and sincerely thought the world of Wahya and wanted no harm to come to him. Moving from around her desk, she’s determined not to cry in front of Emory, and makes her way past the intern to the door - her goal to hold it all inside until she can get to the restroom.

But as she enters the artifact storage room, her eyes land on Wahya, and suddenly all the anger and hurt turns to fear. Wahya’s face is pale and contorted as he huffs out an agonizing grunt of pain, doubling over next to the very wall where he’d entered her time.

“Wahya!” She runs to him, catching his body as he begins to fall, struggling to stay upright. Worriedly, she helps him to his knees. “Wahya, are you okay?!”

Morgan’s first thought is of the gorget - where is it?! Surely, this must be part of another time warp. He answers her silent question by pulling the stone that hangs by the parachute cord from beneath his shirt, his forehead breaking out in beads of sweat. Knowing she can’t hold him up on her own, she shouts for Emory, as Wahya struggles to hold the gorget up for her to see.

She suddenly gasps in fear as the stone catches her eye. The gray surface begins to spark, then suddenly radiates with a bright, bluish light, not unlike an electrical current, pulsating across and through the stone. Regardless, Morgan continues to hold tight to her love, willing the forces of bizarre nature to back off. Wahya’s eyes focus on her pleadingly, pain and fear obvious in his expression.

Within seconds, Emory and James arrive at her side, just as the light from the stone begins to fade. Losing her grip on Wahya, Morgan struggles before both men help her to lay him on the floor as unconsciousness takes him over.

“Wahya!” Morgan wails as James pushes her over slightly to get to Wahya himself.

“What happened, Morgan?!” He shouts hovering over Wahya’s unconscious frame.

“It was another warp thing, I think! I just came into the room and he was bent over with pain. When I caught him, he pulled out the gorget and it lit up like...,” Morgan swallows, trying to catch her breath. “Like one of those electric glass balls at the Science Museum. Then, it went away, and he started passing out!”

James frowns with confused concern. “We need to get him to a doctor or something. I’m going to call for an ambulance.”

Emory stands, ready to help, just as the brave’s eyes fly open and he jumps with a start, startled by the people so close above him.

“Whoa! Take it easy, don’t sit up too fast!” James orders, holding Wahya’s shoulder reassuringly.

Morgan’s heart skips a beat as relief floods her mind and body, and she lets out the huge breath she’d been holding. A big tear finally rolls down her cheek, and she takes his hand with both of hers, leaning in to give him a small kiss, ignoring the other two men in the room. “Wahya, are you okay?! I... I thought... Oh, I’m glad you’re alive!”

Wahya smiles tentatively, seemingly embarrassed by the attention, but also glad to be alive as well. “Time... warp,” he carefully repeats her warning words like they’d practiced.

“He knows about time warps?” James asks with surprise.

Morgan’s eyes fill with tears again, and she rubs Wahya’s back. “Yes, that’s right.” Wiping her tears away, Morgan straightens a little. “Well, I told him that the symptoms of the time warps are pain and the electrical incidents, and so he knows the words. I don’t know that he necessarily understands the concept of relating it to time though.”

“I thought you said the gorget was like a protectant against the time warps?” Emory pointedly asks.

Still mad at him, she refuses to look in his direction and mutters instead, “Maybe it isn’t. Or it’s getting weaker or something. I don’t know!”

“More importantly,” James interjects, “this is the first time he’s passed out. I still think he should see a doctor,” he suggests for the second time.

“But the hospital will want identification!” Morgan protests with dismay.

“What about the school doctor?” Emory suggests. “Just say he’s visiting from out of town and left his wallet at your place.”

“Yeah,” James agrees. “She may not be able to do much, but at least give him a basic checkup. I’ve sent students down to her office a few times, and she’s pretty laid back. I can help you take him. I just finished class for the day and came up to see if you all were ready to go home.”

Morgan nods, feeling better about this option, and looks at Wahya, who’s been watching the three worriedly conversing, his own face creased with concern. The two men help him to stand slowly, and the still-dizzy Wahya hooks his arms over both James and Emory’s shoulders for support, while Morgan hurries ahead to open doors and get her car. Driving them across campus, she pulls up in front of the Administrative Building, and James and Emory help him out of the car. Wahya seems much steadier now, and is able to walk on his own - albeit slowly. Morgan hurries to park and catches up with the group as they go to check into the tiny clinic.

Fortunately, no other patients are waiting, and the doctor comes out to see who has come in, not having a receptionist at the desk. Her monogrammed lab coat reads Dr. Tracie Fischer.

“Hey folks, what can I do for you?” The tall, matronly brunette says in a friendly, yet professional tone.

James takes the lead. “Hi. Our friend here suddenly had a severe bout of stomach pain and then passed out briefly a minute ago. He seems much better now, but we thought you might be able to check him out.”

The doctor’s brow furrows, as she looks at Wahya, then smiles. “Hey. Have you ever had this happen before?”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Morgan offers. “He doesn’t speak English. He’s visiting from out of the country. He’s had the stomach pains a couple times this week, but never passed out with it.” Suddenly, wondering if the stomach pains might really be a legitimate medical problem and not an effect of the time warps after all, she adds, “I’m not sure if the stomach issue is new or not, but I don’t think he’s had them before.”

“Okay,” the doctor notes. “Do you know how long these pains last and how severe they are?”

“Yeah, they’re real short,” Morgan elaborates. “Maybe no more than a minute. And he seems like he’s in a lot of pain when it happens. But as soon as the pain goes away, he seems just fine. He eats real good and all that.”

“Okay, I can take a look, but I suggest getting him to the hospital at some point soon so he can get some better tests than I can do here. Is he going to be staying long?”

“Staying long?” Morgan questions. “Uh... I don’t...”

“That’s sorta up in the air at the moment,” Emory pipes up. “Family issues.”

Dr. Fischer nods. “Ah. I see. So, let’s get some paperwork filled out and we can get started.” She grabs a clipboard from the reception desk and hands it to Morgan to fill out, then asks “What’s his name?”

“Wahya. Wahya... Adatlisvi,” Morgan replies, remembering how she’d introduced him to Ned.

The doctor pauses, looking at the younger woman questioningly. Then, turning her attention to Wahya, she smiles again, “Alright, Wahya. Nice to meet you.” Pointing to herself she continues slowly, “I’m Tracie. We’re just going to make sure you’re okay. Okay?”

Wahya gives her a friendly, but weak smile in return, holding out his hand to shake hers, at which the doctor gives him a firm handshake in return.

“Do you have your student ID?” Dr. Fischer asks him, looking to James for assistance, unsure of how to ask for the patient’s identification.

“He never got one since he wasn’t originally going to be here, and he left his wallet at the house by accident,” James volunteers.

“Oh. Okay. You know, you should probably get him an ID if he’s going to be here all semester,” the doctor warns. “It would’ve made inputting him into my computer a little easier.” Looking back to James, as Morgan continues filling out the paperwork, she asks, “What language does he speak?”

James pauses, unsure of what to say, and Morgan, having already come up with the lie for her sister, and not sure if Dr. Fischer speaks Spanish, replies quickly, “He speaks a dialect of indigenous Colombian, but I can’t pronounce the name. He’s from a tribe down there, and has spent his life pretty isolated, so doesn’t know Spanish either.”

When Dr. Fischer raises an eyebrow, Morgan continues the tale, “He was supposed to be at the Archaeological Field School with Professor Clark in Mexico. They had an interpreter there for him and all. But somehow things got mixed up and he ended up coming to Richmond City instead. I’m holding down the Archaeology Department’s lab for the summer, so instead of sending him back home, or to Mexico, everyone decided to let him work here with me to fulfill his degree requirements.”

James and Emory both give her surprised looks, trying to hide their shock over the elaborate story before the doctor notices. Morgan’s heart is racing - all the questions and lies getting the better of her, so she quickly puts her head back down and continues her attempt at filling out the form, most of which she has no answers for.

“And do any of you speak this dialect?” The doctor asks hopefully.

The trio shake their heads, and Morgan wonders what the doctor is thinking. She shows no outward evidence that she doesn’t believe them, but she doesn’t necessarily seem to wholeheartedly take their story to heart either. Instead of continuing the questioning, Dr. Fischer begins to help Wahya up from the chair he’s been waiting in, talking slowly and quietly, “Alright, come with me, Wahya.”

Morgan stands to follow them as she hands the clipboard back to the doctor, but the older woman holds up her hand. “You all can wait here. I’ll bring him back in a little bit. The TV remote is on the counter if you want to watch anything.”

“You don’t want me to go with you?” Morgan asks worriedly.

“No, it’s okay,” the doctor assures her in a firm, but friendly tone. “Since you don’t speak his language, I’ll have to manage on my own anyways, as none of you know much of his health or history anyways. He’ll be fine, I promise.”

Dr. Fischer’s expression is soft and sincere, and she points towards the door for Wahya to enter. The other three look at one another worriedly, knowing they can’t do anything but allow her to lead Wahya away. Morgan, in turn, gives her lover a tentative smile, regardless of her frazzled nerves, not knowing what the doctor might find regarding Wahya’s health, and worried that she might find out about his time traveling. But she knows he’s not well and needs to see a doctor, and Dr. Fischer seems nice enough. She’d rather he be in this doctor’s clinic than at a government hospital, full of men with guns and doctors ready to open his brain.

Wahya returns her smile, seeing the worry in her eyes, and simply tries to console her. “Wahya okay.”

At that moment, Morgan wishes she could take him in her arms and whisk him away from whatever ails him, be it time or illness. As Dr. Fischer closes the door behind them, Morgan knows in her heart that everything is going to change - for the worst or the better, she doesn’t know - but change is no doubt on the horizon.

“I love you, Wahya,” she mouths, as she sits in a chair and closes her eyes, praying that he’ll be okay.

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