The Artifact (Book 2, Time Trilogy) (EDITING)

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Chapter Forty-Nine: Weekend Plans

July 2023
Richmond City University’s Medical Clinic
Richmond City, Virginia

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

“I don’t know what to say. If it really was a time warp that brought him here, then this is some sort of miracle!” Tracie Fischer sits back in her office chair, having just run through everything Morgan and James told her about Wahya. The forty-five-year-old physician wonders at the chance that of all the places they could’ve taken Wahya for medical attention, they brought him to her. They had no idea that she was Cherokee and could speak the language.

Morgan sighs, feeling as if a great weight has been lifted. Now that Tracie is convinced Wahya is not from this time, Morgan is filled with the relief that comes with confiding in someone more able to help them. Tracie had that professional, yet trustworthy and caring disposition that Morgan is sure makes her an excellent doctor. “So now what?” Morgan asks no one in particular.

“Uh, I don’t know,” Tracie is the first to answer. “As for his health, he seems extremely healthy. The wounds from his fall on Monday are healing nicely, and I can’t see or feel anything wrong with his stomach. If it were appendicitis or some other stomach problem, it should come and go more frequently and there’d be other signs. I hate to dismiss it, but you said it only happens in conjunction with this weird electrical phenomena. It might be completely related to that and have no bearing on anything happening with his physical body in a normal medical sense. I’ve already explained to him that if he has any stomach pains, period, he needs to tell someone. I might be able to borrow some lab equipment at the hospital, but that’ll be tricky. It’s too bad the university isn’t a medical school.”

She sighs, “Otherwise, I have no idea what to do about the time travel situation, so I’m no good there. But in the meantime, if you have any questions or things you need to communicate with Wahya about, I can try to help with translations. Granted, my Cherokee is pretty rough, and with the difference in time periods, some things might not even translate right. It’s sort of like American English versus Renaissance English, you know?” She laughs with a little nervous sarcasm. “I really don’t know how qualified I am as a translator. You sure you don’t want to find someone else? I can try to find someone tribally affiliated who deals with language on a professional level.”

“No, please help us!” Morgan exclaims. “At least for now, until we figure out who to talk to about the time travel bit. It’s going to be hard enough convincing someone else, and you seem to be doing just fine!”

Tracie smiles, letting out a nervous chuckle. “Well, I’m very honored to be a part of this. Okay, for now I’ll be your translator, but eventually you’ll have to be open to taking him to the tribe. The elders and tribal council will be more adept at helping him adjust to modern society, if he’s going to be a permanent resident in the twenty-first century.”

Morgan notes Emory’s approving nod, and meets James’ searching eyes—he knows her feelings on this. Reluctantly, she agrees with a nod of her own.

Tracie sits up, leaning over her desk. “I have to go pick up my daughter from soccer practice in a half hour, but in the meantime, I can try to translate any burning questions you might have. Then, if you’re available tomorrow—I don’t see patients on Saturdays—I can meet you again here and we can talk more.”

“I’m free tomorrow,” James replies quickly, and Emory also agrees that he can be there.

Morgan is about to chime in when she remembers, “Oh no! I’m supposed to go to the beach for my dad’s fiftieth birthday tomorrow. James, I was actually going to ask you if I could drop Wahya off with you in the morning. But I don’t want to miss out on this either. Maybe I could just tell them I’m sick...” She shakes her head, “No, I’m supposed to pick up the cake on my way there. My sister ordered it from a fancy bakery here in Richmond City and they can’t come all the way here to get it. Damn!”

“It’s okay Morgan,” James interrupts her overflowing thoughts. “How about this, you go ahead and go to the birthday party. Your dad only turns fifty once. Drop off Wahya at my house in the morning on your way out, and if anything exceptionally riveting comes up, I promise I’ll call you.”

“And I’ll take notes for you, and for the record,” Emory pipes up.

Morgan is disappointed, and tries not to pout, sure the whole thing will be riveting. Yet, she knows they’re right. They need to talk to Wahya as soon as possible to get to the bottom of things, and she can’t miss the family get-together. “Yeah, my sister would kill me if I didn’t show up at this point. But you have to call me if you find out anything important or exciting!”

Once Tracie’s anger had subsided, and she’d begun to believe their story, he’d been overcome with elation, his energy bursting with joy. Now, he’s equally thrilled at the prospect of being able to communicate with everyone and better understand the world around him. Morgan tries not to spoil his excitement with her disappointment over not being a part of tomorrow’s get together.

Tracie turns to Wahya, and explains tomorrow’s plan, then asks if he has anything he wants to know before they all depart for the day. He thinks for a moment, then responds to her in length. Morgan’s curiosity is piqued as Tracie’s expression turns to one of surprise and amusement as he speaks in length. When Tracie finally addresses the rest of the group, the knowing smile she’s trying hard to hide still shows through. “He’s already gathered from your excavation at the farm yesterday that, as archaeologists, you dig up historical finds to learn about the past. But he wants to know, when you dig up dead people’s things, if you know that you could be cursed. It is believed that no one should handle a dead person’s items.”

Emory gives a conspiratorial snicker under his breath. “Way to get right to the point!”

Morgan, ignoring Emory, tries to put her thoughts into perspective. Before this week, she probably would have brushed the idea of cursed artifacts off completely. But she knows how inconsiderate that would be to Wahya’s beliefs. She clears her throat. “Tell him that... That we try very hard not to dig up the dead unless it’s necessary to save the remains from destruction otherwise. But when we do, we try to do it with respect for the dead and their beliefs. We hope that our intentions are known and that we will not be cursed. Otherwise, most things we dig up were discarded as trash or lost, and therefore we don’t feel we would be cursed.”

Everyone stares at her in silence, and she knows what they’re thinking—how until relatively recently, historically-speaking, archaeologists were well known for grave robbing and other atrocities that are criminal offenses today. She also reflects on how in the Americas, the Native American people have been hit the hardest by that trend, with a long row of recovery and retribution yet to go. After all, the now familiar Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, meant to recover stolen remains and sacred objects taken from federal lands over the years, was only enacted in 1990, with many heated legal cases still in effect today regarding the rights to human remains and objects yet to be returned to their tribes and families.

When no one says anything, she blurts in defense, “Okay, I suppose if cursed artifacts do exist, then there’s several archaeologists who should be very, very cursed for their sins! As for me, I personally hold the best intentions in mind when dealing with burials and other artifacts, and I know the University’s current archaeology program is big on following the law and very much practices ethical archaeology. We’ve repatriated every NAGPRA-related artifact the school had in its collection years ago, not that there were many.”

“Yeah, I’ll vouch for that, too,” Emory says with consideration, breaking the tension in the room. “I just think it’s funny that he hit on that topic already. I mean in our field, we’ve heard all kinds of arguments about why museums should be able to keep native remains and all, but it’s interesting hearing the native perspective coming right from a historic figure himself!”

“It does kinda put it into perspective, huh?” James agrees with a smirk, knowing anthropologists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were equally notorious for their nefarious methods of obtaining sacred native objects and information.

“Alright,” Tracie tries to get back on track. “I’ll tell him that you do it with good intentions and that you believe that will keep you from being cursed. Does that sound right?”

“Yeah, keep it short and sweet,” Morgan agrees.

Tracie returns the message and Wahya nods his understanding. He returns a message of his own, and Tracie repeats, “He says he cannot, in good conscience, help wash artifacts anymore. He’s just not as confident as you are about the ancestors and their curses.”

“Fair enough.” Morgan gives Wahya a smile, trying to convey her understanding and respect for his beliefs.

Tracie exchanges a few more words with Wahya before she stands, signaling the end of their translation session. Following the men on their way out the door, Tracie pulls Morgan back. “Wahya has some things he wants to ask you privately, without James or Emory. Here’s my business card. Call me Sunday afternoon, say around two-o’clock, and we’ll do a phone session, okay?”

Morgan glances ahead to Wahya, who’s walking out with the other two guys, and she’s suddenly nervous. What sort of things does he want to speak privately about?

“He’s got it bad for you,” Tracie answers Morgan’s unspoken question. “That much he didn’t have to say, but it’s obvious the way he talks about you.”

Morgan blushes.

“We’ll talk more Sunday. In the meantime, write down anything you want to ask for tomorrow and send it with the guys.”

“Okay.” Morgan gives Tracie a heartfelt smile. “Oh, Tracie, I can’t thank you enough for this!”

It’s Tracie’s turn to redden, “No, thank you, and thank the Great Spirit that you guys came to me! I haven’t felt this connected to my own heritage and people in years!” Tracie’s eyes begin to mist, and she takes a deep breath, holding back her emotional overflow. “This is a great blessing!”

Morgan grins, unable to stop herself from giving Tracie a quick hug. “I couldn’t agree more!”

“Wado, Morgan! Wado to all of you!” Tracie beams at the group as they head out.

~~~

Having gone back to the lab to close things up, Morgan locks the door as Wahya waits for her, and Emory waves his goodbyes—their spat from earlier seemingly forgotten by him. While Emory seems to be treating her normal again—the angry, cruel side of him gone—Morgan still feels apprehensive about his emotions and motives. It’s not like he apologized or anything anyways. He’s still in the doghouse in my book!

Pushing thoughts of Emory away for now, she focuses on Wahya, simply enjoying her time with him on their drive home. The atmosphere between them is more mellow this evening, perhaps due to the happenings of the day with the time warp scare, or the added fact that they both feel more at peace knowing they now have a means to communicate in depth through Tracie. And yet, a part of her wants to hold on, just a tiny bit, to the mystery that not being able to speak to Wahya provides their relationship.

As she gets ready for bed that night, Morgan begins to fret, a tinge of worry scratching the edge of her feelings. The lack of vocal communication doesn’t make our relationship purely physical, does it? I feel like I have a deeper, emotional tie to Wahya. Surely, it’s not a shallow relationship like Emory was saying. Everyone else who’s seen us together knows we’re into each other—Samantha, James, Jess, and even Tracie. That’s what worried James and Samantha, right? That I was already emotionally there?

Trying to get away from what others thought, she asks herself what she really feels. I do love him, just like I told Emory this morning... I just can’t help wondering if being able to actually talk to each other—even if it’s through Tracie—is going to change how we feel about each other. What if he doesn’t like me after he knows what I’m talking about? What if I don’t like him anymore? She rolls her eyes, scoffing under her breath. Nonsense! We’re the same people with the same personalities that we’ve had all along.

She worries again about what Wahya wants to talk to her about. A part of her is sure that it will be something wonderful, like that he feels for her the way she feels about him. But what if it’s something else that he needs to confess? Something like he’s married or that he’s a terrible person somehow. With the possibilities mounting into the infinite, she tries to quell the doubts from her mind, knowing that worrying about it is just going to make her miserable.

Morgan quickly writes down some things she’d like Tracie to ask Wahya tomorrow. Emory’s rant about not having told Wahya about what happened to his people historically still festers in her gut. Okay, I’ll write that down and see if Tracie can explain it to him. Or, for that matter, if she thinks it’s wise to tell him. She would probably be able to explain it culturally better than I could anyways.

Finishing her notes, she crawls into bed next to Wahya. He sleepily pulls her close against his bare chest, the gorget resting in the crook of his arm and his warm body cocooning her. She relaxes into him, the feelings of security and love overpowering her nervous ponderings. Too tired for love making tonight, the pair mutually tuck into each other instead, drowsily snuggling.

“I love you, Wahya,” Morgan whispers into his neck.

He plants a kiss on the top of her head and murmurs as his eyes close, “Gvgeyui, Walela.

}}}-----> * <-----{{{

CHEROKEE [TSALAGI] WORDS TO KNOW:
Gvgeyui. = I love you.

Walela = Hummingbird

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