The Artifact (Book 2, Time Trilogy)

All Rights Reserved ©

Chapter Fifty-Five: Native Drums and Rock-and-Roll

June 2024
Richmond City University
Richmond City, Virginia

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

Dr. Clark sets the white banker’s box on Morgan’s desk, prompting the Collections Manager to stop her concentrated typing for a moment to acknowledge the elderly professor. Taking her glasses off, she sets them on top of her head to see him from across the desk better and smiles.

“Welp,” he pats the lid, “this is the last of the Billings Farm artifacts. You can go ahead and finalize the catalog once you process these.”

“Great! I thought I’d never see the end!” Morgan jokes semi-sarcastically, pressing the back of her hand dramatically to her forehead, feigning exhaustion before letting out a laugh.

“You think you’ve had a lot to do? I still have the report to finish up!” The professor raises his bushy eyebrows to give Morgan an exaggerated look of exasperation, both knowing fully that such work was really much more enthralling to him than teaching Archaeology 101.

He good-naturedly turns for his office, zigzagging between the end-of-term students who are bustling throughout the lab, moving, washing, and labeling artifacts. The atmosphere is upbeat with the vibes of the last week of school emanating from everyone.

Morgan notes Emory’s entrance, having been keeping an eye out for the no-longer intern, now part-time lab tech whose shift starts about now. She doesn’t hesitate to grab his attention. “Hey! How’s it going?”

“Not bad for a Monday,” Emory returns as he takes in the scene with surprise. “Looks like you’re already swamped!”

Morgan laughs under her breath. “Yeah, I didn’t realize so many of them needed to make up lab time before the semester ends. Of course, they all decided to come in this morning!”

Emory chuckles lightly, giving a wary eye to the group of four messing around with the wash bins, the chance of water spraying someone very likely.

While Morgan and Emory hadn’t necessarily become friends, her reservations about him have all but disappeared over the course of the past year, replaced with a sense of commonality and understanding between one another. Apologies had been made and accepted on both their parts right after Wahya’s departure back to the Middle Woodland Period.

Morgan sighs, “Francine’s here today, and you know how badly she labeled stuff last time! Can you keep her busy elsewhere so no one has to go back and fix her mess?”

Emory cringes slightly, having had to use too many cotton swabs and a whole bottle of acetone solvent to erase the ink she’d used to horrendously scribble incorrect provenience information onto a mess load of artifacts last month. “Yeah, I’m on it!” He replies before instantaneously seeking out the student in question.

By the end of the day, the last of the students have already left and Emory isn’t far behind. Typically staying late, with not much else to keep her occupied when she’s not at work, Morgan glances up as Samantha comes out of her office. “Morgan, you should really get out of here!”

“I will,” she smiles, eying the backpack Samantha has hooked over her shoulder. “Just want to finish this group of ceramics while I’m on a roll. Are you out?”

“Pretty much. James is supposed to come up and help me carry down my gear, then home to finish packing.” Samantha can’t seem to contain her own beaming smile.

“I’ll bet your mom’s excited to watch Melia while you’re in England!” Morgan comments, knowing the couple will be traveling up to Maryland with Melia this weekend before they fly out to the UK on their first work trip since her delivery.

Samantha laughs. “I have a feeling those two will be inseparable when we get back. Though, I’m having a hard time thinking about leaving her behind for two whole months!”

“I would, too, if I were you,” Morgan teases, having spent a lot of time with the soon-to-be toddler. “And she just started walking! I can’t believe she turned a year last week! It seems like you just had her.”

“I know,” Samantha sighs lightheartedly. “This year flew by. And in two months, who knows what she’ll be doing!”

Morgan suddenly gets contemplative as thoughts of this time last year enter her mind. Being in the lab doesn’t help. Picking up the change in atmosphere, Samantha says aloud what she knows Morgan is thinking, “And next week it’ll have been a year ago that Wahya came.”

Morgan sighs this time. “Yeah. I just wish there were some sign, some artifact, anything that would tell me that he made it okay. That he found his family and that maybe they found another village to live with.”

Samantha puts her hand on Morgan’s shoulder. “I know.” Then, she adds the same reassuring sentiments she’s repeated ever since Morgan had explained what happened that day, “I have a feeling it all turned out just fine, especially after what the time traveler guy told you. It sounds like he had a lot riding on Wahya, so I’m sure he ensured he would be okay.”

Morgan swallows hard, the familiar pang of sadness hitting her heart. “Yeah, it’s just that, well, I know that even if he did find his people again and all that, that he lived his entire life by now and he’s… gone.” She still can’t bring herself to say or think the word, dead. “He’s been gone for hundreds of years now. I don’t know, it’s just... sad and surreal.”

“I know,” Samantha nods, a solemn look on her face as her heart goes out to the younger woman who had confessed her immense love for the handsome brave to James and herself after he’d walked back through the portal to his own time. It’d taken a while for Morgan to get over the heartbreak of his departure, and it was no surprise to Samantha now that Morgan feels down and out so close to the one-year anniversary of his week-long furlough in the 21st century.

James pops his head into the lab, interrupting the girls’ conversation and unspoken thoughts with his bubbly hello, addressing his wife, “I hear someone needs a little muscle to carry all her equipment down to the car?!”

Samantha’s eyes light up at his voice as the two disappear into her office and Morgan smiles inwardly at just how deeply in love they are, seemingly melting just a little whenever they’re around the other. She can’t help but feel happy for them as she migrates back to her own desk, thinking about how lucky it’d been that they were both selected as leads for the College University London’s field school educator exchange program in England that same year. Otherwise, they would have never met.

“If only it was that easy to find ‘the one’... Not that I’ve been looking very hard since Wahya left...”

Morgan wishes the couple farewell and safe travels as they emerge with Samantha’s archaeological gear in tow, and finally decides to call it quits for the day as she’s no longer able to concentrate on her ceramics. Wahya had firmly rooted himself in her mind and she didn’t feel like being in the lab alone with her reopened heartache.

Swinging her purse over her shoulder, her thoughts are interrupted by the phone ringing on her desk.

Not sure who’d be calling so close to the end of the day, she answers with more enthusiasm than she feels. “Hello, Richmond City University Archaeology Department, how may I help you?”

“Hi. Morgan? This is Ned.”

“Ned! How are you?!” Morgan smiles, not expecting to hear from the old farmer, but happy that he’d called. “I was just thinking that I was going to have to get up with you next week. I got the last of the artifacts from your project on my desk today, and we’ll be able to get them ready to deliver to you within the next few weeks!”

“Oh, wow! That’s great!” He replies with his own enthusiasm. “I know Samantha said the crew was done digging last week. I’m gonna kinda miss all the excitement out here!”

Morgan laughs, knowing that Ned had been extremely interested in the exciting eighteenth-century discovery closer to the river on his property. Just as Samantha had suspected, it featured the remnants of an early 1700s homestead with three burials determined to be European settlers, their grave markers long since gone.

There had also been a Late Woodland Period Native American settlement site nearby, which had proved to be full of the proof that this land was home to one group or another for the past thousand years or so.

“I was sorry you didn’t make it out to dig after that first day with Samantha and your helper kid, Wa...” Ned struggles to remember his name.

“Wahya,” Morgan helps, amazed that he even remembered that much having only briefly met Wahya twice, and almost a year ago at that.

She, on the other hand, had communicated with Ned quite a bit over the course of the year, coordinating excavation dates in alignment with his crop rotation schedule and other land development projects.

“That’s right! Wahya. Nice kid.”

Morgan lightheartedly reverts the subject back to herself. “Yeah, being a lab worker, I was lucky to get out to the field at all. And since we recovered so much from both the sites out there, I’ve been pretty swamped with cataloging, so no excursions for me!”

What she doesn’t say is that she’d been invited by Samantha and Professor Clark on numerous occasions to come out, but each time she’d declined, not wanting to stir up memories of Wahya and the gorget any more than she had to. Plus, it was no lie that she had been extremely busy with the two artifact-filled sites, not to mention the reburial process and ceremony for the three Colonial settlers.

“So, what can I do for you today?” Morgan finally asks.

“Well, I know you all told me that I would get to keep all the artifacts from the dig, with the exception of the skeletal remains, of course. But considering how much stuff was found, I just don’t think it would be right for me to keep it all up in my attic or something. And I don’t really have the desire to try starting up my own museum or exhibit. We don’t really want folks coming out to our place to see it, but it’d be a shame to hide it all away. So, me and the missus talked it over, and think that it’d be nice to donate it to people who’d use it.” He pauses, then asks hopefully, “Got any suggestions?”

Morgan sits at her desk again, taking up her pad and pen, and clears her throat. “You have a few options, actually. And by deciding to do this now, I can arrange to transfer the artifacts directly to whomever you choose, saving you a lot of work.”

“Oh!” Ned sounds happily surprised. “That’d be great! Don’t get me wrong, I really think it’s all neat stuff, but I just feel a little unworthy, I guess, to be handling such priceless relics.”

Morgan giggles, sure that none of the artifacts were really worth much monetarily. “No worries, I understand. We just have to figure out who you’re donating it all to. Typically, people donate artifacts to the state’s Department of Historic Resources. They have a giant repository and select items sometimes go into the adjoining state museum.”

“Hmm,” Ned considers. “That sounds like a good idea.”

“I do have to warn you though,” Morgan continues. “They charge $350 a box for storage and processing fees. So, that could get pricey with everything you have. Right now,” she does some quick math in her head, “I’m guessing you have approximately thirty-five boxes of artifacts total.”

Ned whistles low. “Wow, that would be a little pricey! I have been to the museum there. It’s got a lot of neat stuff. It wouldn’t be a terrible place to send ’em. Any other suggestions?”

Morgan thinks for a moment. “I’m not sure off the top of my head, but why don’t you give me a couple days to do some calling around, and I’ll see if I can find someone interested.”

“Great! I’ll wait to hear back from you then!”

“Perfect! Good to hear from you, Ned.” As Morgan hangs up, then locks the lab, and heads to her car, she ponders her options. “There’s always the Richmond City History Museum - they may be interested. I don’t know if they’d want all of it though. But at least they wouldn’t charge us.”

Later that evening, Morgan takes her glass of wine into her home office and settles at the desk, preparing to do an internet search of area museums and historic organizations who might have interest in Ned’s artifact collection. Writing a few potential leads down, she leans back in her chair staring off into space - her mind not necessarily on task, but not really off subject either.

“Native American and Colonial artifacts...”

Her experience tells her that outside of the Department of Historic Resources, most museums won’t be too excited about taking the collections from both time periods, only wanting one or the other. And since much of it consists of a ton of small broken pottery and ceramic fragments, teeny bits of brick, and few items that museums would generally want to display or don’t already have better examples of, she fears that they may want none of it at all.

“We did determine that the Native settlement may have been related to the Cherokee or Iroquois, but it wasn’t certain. I wonder if Tracie knows of any tribal heritage organization that might be interested - I don’t suppose they have to be local, just tribally affiliated.”

She decides that it’s too late to do anything more this evening and tries to get her mind on something else as she gets ready for bed. Tonight, more than usual, she can’t seem to get Wahya off her mind. She stares at her toothbrush, remembering the day she showed him how modern toothbrushes work, and smiles at the memory of how exasperated he’d gotten with her.

“And then he lightened up with that wonderful flirty side.” She shakes her head, pulling herself from her flashback. While she often thought of him, it’d been quite some time since she’d thought about specific memories of Wahya’s week with her, trying to keep herself from despairing over him anymore.

As the toothbrush memory floats through her mind, she now recalls the box she’d packed with his things in the attic. Not sure what else to do with the items at the time, she’d figured that it was the best way to preserve the memories without having them in her face.

Looking herself in the mirror, she sighs. “It’s time to move on. I can’t go back to the sadness again. Even if it is the anniversary of his being here, Wahya would’ve wanted me to be happy. I should just count my blessings for what we had.”

And yet her internal pep-talk doesn’t have the same impact as it would have before. There’s something different scratching at the back of her mind, a change of some sort, only she can’t seem to put her finger on just what has prompted this change. “I don’t necessarily feel sad anymore. Contemplative, but not sad. Have I moved on?”

She studies her own face, trying to put words to her feelings, and now feeling somewhat guilty about moving on in her mind at the same time. While she misses Wahya beyond words, the thought of him doesn’t bring tears any longer and she feels resigned to the fact that he is gone.

Taking a deep, cleansing breath, she suddenly recalls what the Traveler had said about her specifically. “Something about my own destiny…”

She crawls into bed, the nagging feeling still there, along with the cold sensation of the bed without Wahya’s strong arms wrapped around her. As she drifts to sleep, dreams come easily. Dreams of Native American drums and rock-and-roll guitar thrumming - a perfect blend of traditional and contemporary culture coming together and holding her future in their union.

Continue Reading Next Chapter

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.