The Artifact (Book 2, Time Trilogy)

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Chapter Seven: Seeking Out an Anthropologist

July 2023
University of Richmond
Richmond City, Virginia

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

Wahya was concerned by Morgan’s sudden change in attitude when the Spirit-Man entered the room, wondering how the also pale and yellow-haired man fit into this strange world. Morgan had rushed them out of the room and along a steep downhill corridor with perfectly cut steps that looked to be made from extra smooth gray stone.

“It is too bad the Spirit-Man interrupted,” Wahya thinks, as they come to the bottom of the stairs. “The animals Morgan had captured somehow behind her small, flat ‘window’ were fascinating. How did they seem so alive, but stay so still? And learning her words for them was very entertaining.”

He smiles inwardly about her reaction to the discovery that the wolf was his namesake. He always found pride in it, but apparently, she had found it appealing. The rosy blush on her cheeks spoke volumes.

“Wolf,” he repeats inwardly in the Spirit-Woman’s language, memorizing it.

They now enter a much larger room and Morgan pauses, considering her next step, allowing him time to study her momentarily. She seems to be more relieved now, free of the Spirit-Man’s presence. He didn’t need to know what the Spirit-Man had said - it was obvious that he was smitten with Morgan. And while he was all smiles to her, Wahya had seen the look of distaste and masculine competition which wreaked from the much smaller man when it came to himself.

Jealousy, that’s what Wahya felt from him, and it only serves to make him wonder. “Maybe the two of them had been a couple before, and now they are not. Or perhaps he wants to make her his wife and she has not accepted.”

Then confusion confronts him. “I am not one of them. At least I do not think I am a Spirit. So why should he be jealous of me? Unless he does not know that I am not from here. I do not understand any of this...”

The tiny Spirit-Woman ushers him to follow her into the atrium where Wahya stops, awestruck by the twelve-foot tall glass windows lining the front entrance of the building. “Window,” he says in the spirit-tongue, hoping he got it right.

“Yes, they’re big windows. It’s a pretty view, huh?” She says in response, then looks past the glass, admiring the rainy view he thinks. It’s the same view from her window upstairs, only at ground level. Wahya doesn’t understand her words but sees her calming some and is relieved. Not knowing what about the Spirit-Man had made her anxious made him feel apprehensive at the time, and now her calm has a qualitative effect on his mind as well.

They enter a long windowless corridor, lined with several perfectly rectangular doors, each covered with wide and perfectly cut slabs of wood. He can’t remember ever seeing a place where there were so many perfect lines. His world revolves around the lines of nature, and imperfections are beautiful in their own right.

Morgan opens a door containing symbols Wahya doesn’t understand near the end of the hall. It’s yet another room, and he wonders if the spirit people ever go outside, or if they just live in a world of rooms with ‘windows’ looking outside. This small room doesn’t have any windows though, only more of those awful bright holes emanating with sick sunlight. Again, he wonders how the sun can be shining through the ceiling since it’s raining hard outside.

“Magic,” Wahya thinks. “They must be able to collect the sunlight, then use it when they need it, pushing it through the rectangular holes. That is probably why it looks bad - it is old light.”

Morgan motions for him to sit, and so he does in an even stranger chair than the initially unnerving one upstairs with wheels that allowed him to roll the chair across the floor. He’s fascinated by the extremely soft texture of the plush, blue fabric covering this armchair in the otherwise people-less staff lounge. Morgan motions for him to stay seated, and he watches as she leaves, hoping no one else appears before she returns. At least he hopes she returns!

His curiosity gets the best of him though, as he walks across the stuffy room and around the small, polished conference table to look at the colorful pattern in a square frame hanging on the wall. It’s a mixture of abstract colors - blue (the same hue as the chairs), yellow, orange, and green. A similar design hangs opposite of it above the armchair he’d been sitting in.

He wonders if the artwork has a purpose, if so, he couldn’t find the story that they told, for the lines don’t constitute any sort of object that he recognizes. “Perhaps the patterns and colors are meaningful part,” he thinks.

Thinking about the artwork of his home people, he turns his thoughts to his family, tribe, and home - or at least his Home World, as he didn’t exactly have a home right now. He wonders what they’re doing right now, hoping they’re well on their way out of the Haudenosaunee land by now. He knows he can’t do anything for them now, and pushes his memories and emotions back - he must stay strong in his mind for he’s not sure what this New World will present next.

Wahya considers his feelings about this world momentarily, his fear having been long gone once Morgan expressed her friendliness. Yet, shouldn’t he be afraid of what the others in this world will do with him? Maybe Morgan is different, and the rest won’t be as accepting of him? He shakes his head. “No, there is a reason I am here. Even if I am not accepted or liked, the Great Spirit would not have allowed me to trespass into this Spirit World if there were not a good reason.”

His confusion builds again regarding his own status. He feels mortal enough, but if he is dead, wouldn’t he now be a spirit? “Maybe I do belong here. I will take the opportunity to learn as much as I can about this world. The magic here is great, and I refuse to be frightened of it. If this is the Afterlife, then I will be a permanent resident, and must find my place here. I am a Tsalagi brave and will act so, no matter what magic is presented.”

With nothing else of interest to examine, Wahya sits again, and being truly alone for the first time since arriving in this world, he begins to notice the odd silence enveloping the room. Having lived so close to nature all his life, the lack of birdsong, wind, or even people creates a deafening silence that he begins to find almost unbearable the more he pays attention to it. Every sound his body makes seems to echo - his heartbeat, his breathing, even the sound of his reflexive swallowing is amplified in his ears.

Just when he thinks he might not be able to take it any longer and considers exiting the room to retreat to the atrium with the large windows, the door swings open, and to his relief Morgan’s familiar face appears as she enters again. He breathes out a nervous sigh, relaxing inwardly and outwardly - her very pleasant vocal presence will fill the silent void for sure.

But with her is another Spirit-Man, this one with black hair like his own, yet his locks are cut short like the others.

“He looks like he might know what’s going on,” Wahya thinks as he takes in the slightly older-looking Spirit-Man with concerned, but kind eyes. Though he’s still hesitant. What if this Spirit-Man feels animosity towards him like the other one did upstairs? He would fight anyone that he had to, but given that they’re spirits and he’s... well, he’s not so sure what he is at the moment. Was he equally strong as these people? Did he possess magic now that he didn’t know about or how to use?

Regardless, he doesn’t want to have to go to battle with anyone else today - the Haudenosaunee braves had been more than enough!

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

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

“I’m back!” Morgan smiles at Wahya, hoping he was alright all by himself. She’d hurried back as quickly as possible.

“What is it, Morgan?” The relatively young professor asks impatiently, just before noticing Wahya in all his splendor, clothed in only the lab coat and breechcloth. “Whoa, man! What’s this!?”

“I know this looks weird, but just hear me out,” Morgan pleads.

“Weird is putting it mildly!” The middle-aged professor retorts sarcastically. Then back to Morgan he nods. “Go on, I’m listening, but make it quick,” he says with stern apprehension, giving her a raised eyebrow and simultaneously eyeing Wahya.

Morgan isn’t sure exactly how to say it, but besides Samantha, James is the only other person she trusts enough with this. And Samantha isn’t available right now, so here she is pulling Professor Warner out of his office, hoping that her friendship with the married couple, and the fact that they both see her as a little sister might pull some weight.

Taking a breath, she blurts, “This is Ad... Adatlisvi Wahya, or just Wahya for short. He somehow traveled through time from the past and came out through the wall in the Archaeology Department upstairs. Now, I need to figure out what to do with him, and where - or when - he comes from.”

Dr. Warner scratches his head, looking perplexed. “Wait a minute. Did you just say he traveled through time?” Turning to both of them, the young professor narrows his eyes. “Look, I don’t have time for jokes - I’ve got a class to get ready for. Don’t you have enough to do upstairs, Morgan?”

“No, James, you have to believe me!” Morgan pleads. “I’m not messing around! I wouldn’t do that! This really happened and I don’t know what to do!”

Something about Morgan’s composure feels sincere to him, and if she swears she’s telling the truth, then there had to be some rational explanation she just wasn’t seeing. He just needs her to slow down a bit. “Alright, tell me what happened.”

Morgan takes another breath, ready to go. “Okay, so I was in the big artifact storage room and suddenly the wall opened up and Wahya literally flew out of this giant hole, knocking me over. And there was this weird glowing cloud sort of swirling around inside it, then all of a sudden it just sucked back into the hole, and it all disappeared! The cloud, the hole, gone! Just like that!”

Turning her attention to Wahya, she further explains, “Wahya doesn’t seem to know what’s going on either, and he can’t speak English and doesn’t know a lot of things about our time period. All he was wearing was the breechcloth [clears her throat slightly], and I gave him the lab coat because it was cold upstairs. And he doesn’t know what horses are, so I figured that he has to have come from before 1500!”

“Okay, okay. Wait, wait, wait!” James stops her from continuing her nonsensical run-on sentences. “You’re saying this guy came through a hole in the wall upstairs in the lab? And somehow you concluded that he’s a time traveler from before AD 1500 because he doesn’t know what a horse is?”

Morgan nods, chewing on the side of her thumb unconsciously, hoping James understands. She straightens some. “Yeah. Well, that’s the super summed up version. There’s a lot more, but you said to hurry!”

Clearing his throat and shaking his head, the Anthropology professor ushers them both to sit on the small blue sofa, matching the armchair that he takes while eyeing Wahya speculatively. Concentrating more this time, James starts again, “Okay, so when did this happen?”

“Like maybe a couple of hours ago?” Morgan looks at Wahya as though he holds the answer, then shakes her head. “I had been at work for maybe a half hour or so.”

James looks at his watch. “So, this hole just appeared in the wall and - what’s his name...”

“Wahya,” Morgan interjects, trying not to sound exasperated.

“Right, and Wahya walked through?”

“No! He fell through! Like, literally landed on top of me!” Morgan corrects him, her frustration at having to re-explain herself growing.

“And that’s how he got all dirty and cut up on his face? From the fall?”

Morgan glances at Wahya’s face with the few minor scratches and several dirty smudges. “Oh, I don’t know how all that happened. Uh... Maybe?”

Turning to Wahya, James says as naturally as possible, not missing a beat, “Could you step out for just a second, buddy?”

Wahya looks questioningly to Morgan for a translation, in obvious confusion at James’ foreign words spoken directly to him. In turn, Morgan furrows her brow, looking back at James. “You want him to leave?”

James shakes his head. “No, not really - I just wanted to test him for a reaction - to see if he could understand what I was saying.”

Morgan gives him a chagrined look. “Ugh, James! After a couple hours, I would have known if he was faking!”

“Okay, okay,” he relents with surrender. “So, he doesn’t speak English. I suppose you figured out what language he does speak?”

“No!” Morgan replies with more frustration. “That’s what I was hoping you could tell me!”

“Me?! If he came from the past, I don’t think he came from Stonehenge. You know, Neolithic expert here!” James gestures to himself half sarcastically, knowing fully that Morgan knows very well that both he and his wife, Samantha, are Neolithic and historic European culture experts. Then gesturing around his own face he adds, “He definitely looks more North American Indigenous to me.”

“Well, yeah, I figured that out, too! I don’t know - you’re the one with a doctorate in Cultural Anthropology!”

He chuckles softly. “Ah, making me a linguistic maverick!”

Rolling her eyes, Morgan replies, “Are you going to try to help, or not?”

James holds up his hands in surrender yet again. “Okay, sorry! Yes, I’ll try to help, and in the process maybe you can convince me of your time travel theory.”

“Oh, thank you!” Morgan beams with excitement.

“But if I find out you’re pulling my leg...”

“I swear we’re not!” Morgan interrupts pleadingly.

“Alright. I want to see this wall, but I’ve got to get out of here in another twenty minutes. Let’s hear some of this language he speaks.”

Proudly, Morgan hands over the notepad with her phonetic translations, and James attempts his hand at the transcribed words, with Wahya providing more accurate pronunciations as they go.

At the end of the list, the anthropologist shakes his head, “Yeah, I have no idea what language this is, but it does sound distinctly Native American. This is a good start! Did you try any animals not native to Virginia?”

“No. We just got to ‘wolf’ and then Emory came in and we left to come find you.”

“Well, if we’re betting on Native American, that’s a lot of country to cover linguistically. So, you could branch out to other sections of the country and choose animals that are not indigenous to the East. All of these animals range across the country.”

“Oh,” Morgan replies a bit dejected. “That makes sense. But if he were a time traveler, wouldn’t he just pop in at the same location, just a different time?”

James smirks and shrugs his shoulders. “According to Hollywood, sure! But, in reality - if it’s time travel at all - who knows?!”

Morgan nods, before he continues, “While you’re at it though, you could check on time periods. For example, moose lived in Virginia during the Archaic Period, but died out later on.”

“Really?!” Morgan exclaims, then shakes her head, “That’s just confusing! One step at a time!”

James laughs, the fun of trying to narrow down Wahya’s supposed home getting the better of him. “Alright, after my class gets out at twelve-thirty we’ll go upstairs and check out your wall. In the meantime, get him some clothes, and go get some lunch or something.”

Nervously, Morgan pipes up again, “Um, you don’t have anything he could borrow to wear, do you?”

James thinks for a moment, remembering the gym clothes he’d brought with him to go to the gym after work, and gestures for Wahya to follow him. “Come on, man.”

Wahya looks to Morgan, apparently wondering what’s going on now.

“It’s okay, Wahya,” Morgan nods with a smile, tugging on her pullover hoping that he understands he’s getting some clothes. “Clothes,” she enunciates.

“Clo-se,” Wahya repeats under his breath as he follows James out the door. Morgan sighs as she sits back on the sofa to wait for them. The mystery seems to be growing and she’s determined that she’s going to figure it out yet.

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