This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
James really hated gardening but it was either that or divorce. He had thought long and hard about it but chose gardening.
The back yard was in a dip and a river ran along the fence line, although the fence was little more than some wire strung between timber posts and the river a meandering creek that spent a lot of its time dry or, at best, stagnant.
It was said that in another time this place was magic. Now it was just a communal estate built a little too far away from everything and with just not enough services to support the community. “Panorama Estates” was now an old and overlooked collection of 1960’s brick two-ups/two downs, quietly getting on with being forgotten.
It must have been about three thirty on that late summer’s afternoon when it happened. James was digging the other side of the fence. Until then he had kept on his side, not for any territorial reason, just that he hated all there was to hate about gardening and to move over that side increased the area he had to tend; not good tactics by a long chalk. In this instance he was overruled, the command was issued from the back porch. “Jim, do the grass over the fence will you, it looks unruly.”
“Unruly!” he mumbled to himself as he parted the wire and stepped through the gap between the top and second strands. The ground was lush and soft with long green grass that, until now, had been left well alone. He started cutting away at the long runners of weed, hacking and cutting with the blade of his shovel.
The afternoon toiled on inexorably towards evening, the shadows grew longer and the pile of cut grass larger. Except for a short tea break he hacked away, and, to his disgust, the grass stayed as “unruly” as it had begun. When James was seriously considering packing it in for the day his shovel shuddered as it hit something solid in the soft peat. It was totally unexpected and surprised him so that he uttered an expletive that would have caused a grave look if it had been heard by his wife, one not for swearing of any kind, at any time.
The shovel was almost to its hasp; his toes on the peat and the blade stopped and met his instep, protected only by the thin sole of a Hush Puppy slip-on. It hurt and he withdrew, hopping comically in a circle around the spade’s handle, itself vibrating from the event. James was prepared there and then to be done with it, but his curiosity was piqued. He remembered talking to Mr. Donaldson, one of the original “Panoramarians”, about how the foundations and plumbing work had been so easy because the ground was soft; without any rocks of any kind.
For this reason, James was interested; he had found a rock.
He started to explore the area. Not one to dig aimlessly; too much forced gardening had made sure of that; he used his brains. He radiated out from his first strike in a straight line, pushing the spade in until it hit, lifting it, moving it and pushing it in again. This went on for about thirty minutes and his unscientific boundary marking had produced a perfect square of about six feet.
James was a math teacher; he knew that there were no perfect squares in nature. No crystalline forms make squares and there was no way any igneous formation would do it. He knew it was not a square in the strictest sense because squares are two-dimensional. His analytical mind dictated a square because he had only found two dimensions. To find the third he would have to dig.
* * * * * *
That night he tossed and turned. It was early morning when he finally gave up and went down stairs to the kitchen to make a cup of Ovaltine. “Christ, Ovaltine” he thought, remembering his student days in the sixties; drinking till dawn, smoking the best Jamaican and solving the world’s problems on the way to Hyde Park for the rally.
“Drinking Ovaltine” he sighed and shook his head “sitting in the kitchen of a middle-income comfortable two-up/two-down in suburbia, Jesus”.
What would Donny Bronley and, what was the name of the girl, the one he took to see the Stones on Eel Pie Island and had made love to in Donny’s bed while he slept on the floor, pissed and as high as a kite; Mary? No Marigold; that was it. What would they think now?
He looked out the back window and saw the spade handle sticking up proudly from the peat, the moonlight quite bright at that time. As he watched, a cloud must have covered the moon and it disappeared into the black shroud that replaced the light.
He went back to bed and, for the first time, realized what the tossing and turning was all about. It was the spade and the square rock under it. It was a hint, just a touch of excitement that the unknown tends to bring. Made more outstanding by the completely flat and lack luster palette his life was. Any excitement would have increased his awareness. And, thus, awareness increased, he finally fell off to sleep, a sleep fed by the joy of a quest.
* * * * * *
He awoke, filled with that delightful feeling one has when they awaken on a day that holds an adventure. His wife was in the kitchen and he could hear the radio playing the classical FM station. He listened and identified it was Greig, The Peer Gynt Suite, In the Hall of the Mountain King. For some reason it seemed apt and he sprung out of bed and was dressed before his wife called him for breakfast.
James entered the kitchen and kissed her on the neck, something he had not done much of lately and she was quite stunned by it. She served his breakfast in silence as he told her of his discovery and his plans to uncover it.
By mid morning James had dug down one side, and, as he had expected, reached rock. It was a strange bluish colour, not unlike the blue metal he had seen quarried to the south about one hundred miles away but definitely not anything he had seen around the riding.
The little he uncovered illustrated that this thing, for he was thinking now of it being a thing, was man made. It had been cut and finished to an almost mirror like sheen. It was a dark colour and it was flecked with silver and gold. He spent the rest of the afternoon digging. It ended up not being a cube; its dimensions being three feet by three feet by two.
Late in the afternoon, with the thing showing completely, James rested. Now that the brute work was done, it was time to study it. He felt a little apprehension, knowing that in his haste to uncover it, he had not been all that scientific and, where he had used a Tolsen’s Number 5 Shovel, he was sure archaeologists would have been at work with hand spades and fine brushes.
Still, it was done so no use worrying about it. In front of James was a relic of importance, he was sure of that. It sat gentle in its solitude in the early evening heat of a hot summer’s day. Its even dark colour was alive with the silver and gold flecks, its cut perfect and absolutely precise in its masonry.
James was in awe. He moved to it now, resolute and breathing slowly. He touched the corner nearest him and found his hand tingled slightly. He quickly removed it and moved away, it was not unlike one of those shocks you used to get in the Haunted House on Show Day.
Further inspection showed that the top right hand corner was engraved with symbols and words. The form was foreign to him although he could identify letters and bits of words. The language was not modern; he believed he would have identified the cursive form if it were. No, this was ancient. About ten inches in from the edge was a fine line which James saw was a lid join. The top must be removable. Reasoning that this thing must be hollow he started to search for a way of opening it.
* * * * * *
There was too much mud and clay on the thing to allow James to inspect it much so he started to use his math teacher’s mind to reason a plan of attack. Obviously he would have to clean it. Water was the best way but it would fill the hole, so he started to dig drainage channels to allow the water to flow away to the creek. Thank God the bank was dropping quite steeply here and he could see that it would only require about two yards of digging to get it done.
His wife was calling him now for supper and had come down once during the afternoon to survey proceedings. She did not appear interested in any of it, and her only input was to point out that he was making a “blessed mess” and that he would have to fill the hole when done.
It was darkening quite quickly so, reluctantly, he decided the rest would have to wait until tomorrow. He had classes in the morning but would be able to get back by two p.m. and would complete the work then. For the first time in years, James felt excited about tomorrow.
* * * * * *
Morning came quickly and James was up with the sparrows, something he never did. He found he could dig the drains, finish breakfast and be ready to leave by the time he normally dragged himself out of bed. The morning was great, he was a man with a mission, and relished in the new found or re-won state. He made a call to his old friend Toby Daniels. Toby was a lecturer in the Arts at the local university specializing in Polynesian Chicken Sexing or Love and Ancient Civilizations or some such. He told him of the find and swore him to secrecy, but only after Toby elicited the right to visit that afternoon and study the thing with James. The agreements were made and James was home by two p.m. as he had planned.
He suited up in his gumboots and made his way to the dig with the garden hose. It was another warm day and he could see that the peat had dried quite dramatically since yesterday. The water would not be a problem. He started to play the stream over the face of the thing and was delighted to see that the mud and clay would wash away easily, leaving a clean and machine-like surface in its wake. As he had thought, the water drained away pretty well and by the time he had rolled up the hose and cleaned up a little, most of it had gone.
Toby arrived and James made them a cup of tea, bringing Toby up to speed on the events, waiting while the afternoon sun got to work drying the area and making it less muddy by the minute. Finally, the time came to venture back to the thing, James in his jeans and tartan shirt, Toby in his worsted trousers and white cotton business shirt and tie; quite the duo for archeological activities.
They stood on the lip of the hole, the thing there with its dark stone glinting in the afternoon sun. James, arms crossed like the proud father of the centre who just stole the ball and ran it all the way for a goal, Toby with his mouth agape and repeating “my God; my God”
The inspection Toby gave the thing was like an Arab Sheik and a million pound stallion. He went over every inch of it, noticing, as James had, that touching it gave a shock or tingle of sorts. It was not uncomfortable once the initial concern had mellowed. There was no noise, just a tingle against the skin when you put your hand against it.
“I think it is a box, James. There is no doubt the writing is ancient. Perhaps Druid; may even predate them. Out of my area of expertise I am afraid, we need to get Buffy Masters down to have a squiz, what do you say old man?” Toby asked as he walked around the thing, stroking it and touching its flanks, as if working out how it would run at Ascot. James thought long and hard on it then decided, against his heart, that Toby was right. It was time to get the professionals involved.
“You know, James, this will make you famous. I reckon that whatever it is, it is bound to be an interesting find. God, I wish I knew what it was.” The look on Toby’s face illustrated his honesty in the comment.
“Why do you think it’s here Tob?” James asked while he jumped down into the hole.
Toby shrugged, “’spose it has to be somewhere, Jim my boy”.
James could not argue with that. It did indeed have to be somewhere and that somewhere was here.
* * * * * *
Buffy Masters was a lovely lady. James had not felt to use such terms in a long time, but here, standing in front of the thing in the dawn light, she was a woman of most magnificent beauty. Dressed in light dungarees and matching shirt, gumboots and woolen pullover around her neck, this lady just looked like a Goddess.
“Well, James” she said observing the thing “this is wonderful. I have never seen anything like it.”
“I told him, Buffy old thing” Toby recanted with a pride that the realization his understanding of proceedings was correct. Dr. Masters nodded to her somewhat pompous but likeable college. She turned to James. A smile as wide as she could muster crossed her face and he was amazed at the warmth that smile caused him to feel.
“I am damned if I know what it is but let’s see what we can see.” She said as she dropped into the hole. James followed her for no other reason than he felt at that time that he would have followed her anywhere.
“It is Druid” she said as she studied the top of the box. Studying the inscription as neat as handwriting but a little larger “I can not make it out; it seems to be a riddle, a rune more like. I am sure it is a Dolmen of sorts.”
James had spent the evening prior reading up on the Druids and replied “I thought Stonehenge was a Dolmen, this is a lot smaller.” As soon as the words had left his mouth he wished he hadn’t said anything. He was sure it just sounded silly but to his delight she smiled at him, continuing.
“Well, in a way, you’re right. They are usually quite large but there is no real rule to it. They can be huge and small, although this is quite small.”
She walked around it and continued studying it.
“They are chambers” she said, watching James who was nodding, basking in his new found knowledge having forgotten how much he used to enjoy learning “as a rule, Dolmens are surrounded by a circle of megaliths collectively called a Cromlech, they are usually burial chambers.” She looked around at the peat moss and nodded absentmindedly.
“There may be other stones in a circle around here, the Cromlech is important.”
“Do you think it is a burial chamber?” James asked, a shudder passing through him, subconsciously moving back a little.
Buffy shrugged, “Well, burial chamber is literal. They used Dolmens as containers at times, to hold or trap things.” She smiled at James again, and he enjoyed it “They were Mages James, their magic had elements of containment, sometimes Dolmens were believed to have been used to hold or store magic, both good and bad.” She seemed distant for a second. “Good and bad.”
She took a piece of rice paper, about the size of an A3 sheet, from her pack and placed it over the inscription. She celotaped it to the stone and rubbed over the sheet with a piece of charcoal causing the characters to appear in reverse.
“I am damned if I can make this out and I don’t want to rush it. I will need to take the rubbing back to my rooms and makes sure of one or two things” she said as she completed the work. James was standing behind her and looking over her shoulder, she moved back when he didn’t expect it and pushed against him. She laughed and James apologized as they untangled themselves.
“What now?” He asked, sort of having expected a far bigger production, something akin to the discovery of Tutankhamen with a party the size of Lord Carnarvon’s.
Buffy turned to him and said “Well, you can come and watch me translate and help decipher it if you like.”
“But, what about the thing” he said, expecting something, just not sure what.
“James, it isn’t going anywhere and it is solid stone. It must be thousands of years old. I think it will be all right, another eight hours is not going to hurt. Anyway it must weight tons, it isn’t going anywhere” Buffy completed with a laugh.
James watched Susan Masters, Doctor of Archeology; Buffy to her friends, named so for the time she ran naked through Stonehenge on a field trip in her first year at University. James watched this lady, fourteen years his junior, lift her body out of the hole and was feeling warmth that had long been missing.
She turned and smiled at him. “You coming, James?” and walked away with Toby, leaving James to follow, excited to be a part of this project, excited for a number of reasons.
* * * * * *
Over breakfast, the day was planned. James had morning study hall and agreed to meet Susan at the campus at three p.m. Toby extended his deepest regrets but had been called away to London to a board meeting of the college or some such. It seemed Toby was interested in the political side of university life and was growing his stature with all tools available. James was not in the least bit upset about Toby’s departure although crowed a few well-rounded disappointed words.
He couldn’t understand why but he just felt glad he was going to be alone with Susan Masters and mores the point, she seemed a little glad he would be able to be there herself.
His wife was a little nonplused by the goings on and let James know. He dismissed her with an “it will be all right, you’ll see, this is exciting” She went back to writing in her diary. Tonight she was going to stay with her sister in Bathgate and would be gone for two weeks. Her only instruction to James was to “clean up any mess before she returned” This annual pilgrimage to Bathgate was James’ respite; perhaps his wife’s as well.
The fortnight was his time for being a mess again. Something he was always very good at and something his wife had put right amongst other things. She was a nurse, now a matron, and had met James the night he and Fred Daley fell into the canal at the back of the Bull and Hair.
Both blind drunk and full of canal water, he broke his leg and, during his convalescence, they became lovers. In bed 4E ward seven at three a.m. to be precise. At the time her “differences” were attractive, now, they had just made him bland. He loved his fortnight.
His morning ran like a train and he was at the university at one-forty that afternoon. Susan had given him instructions on how to get to her room and had said she was free anytime after two p.m. She promised she would wait for him before starting. He liked the way she had offered to do that, acknowledging James’ right to be there without it being said.
He got lost, but that was to be expected, he was a klutz with a map at the best of times. Finally, with the assistance of an elderly lady from the Bursar’s office, James found Susan Masters. The lady pointed to the door and smiled. “Be nice to Susan, she is a gentle soul.” She said as she tapped on the door for James, then turned and walked away. James was taken aback by the candor but didn’t have time to worry about it because the door opened and Susan was there.
He smiled and stammered an apology about getting lost and a lot of other things, his mind out of sync with his reality. She stood before him in a lightweight shift dress, a pastel blue with violets, square at the neck, showing a hint of cleavage and short above her knees with a drop waist. She had dark blue socks and a pair of Bluntstones. No make-up and her hair tied up in a ponytail.
Smiling, she opened the door further, “Come in James”. He entered her office and was delighted to see they were alone. “God, stop it” he thought “this minute”. She closed the door behind him and motioned to the sofa near the window. They were on the second floor of the east wing and overlooked the soccer fields and the woods beyond. It was a peaceful scene.
“I have taken the time since to read a little” she looked at James and must have sensed his mood changed ever so slightly. “No silly” she said with a delightful laugh in her voice, “some text books, I promised I’d leave the scratching till you got here”. She patted his hand and he felt a shock not unlike that off the Dolmen “I would never do that”.
Their closeness filled the room like water. The sounds that were intruding disappeared like some huge curtain had been lowered. James was looking into Susan’s eyes and she his. He felt an urge so strong to kiss her he was lost to it. Their lips met and she moved to him thirstily, their embrace fired from some source that was foreign to James.
Then, as quickly as it had happened, the noises returned and reality crashed in. Susan moved away from James with the sudden movement, her face was red and she exhaled in a “Whow!”
“Susan, I’m so sorry” he stood and moved towards her and then stepped back, feeling the weight of the closeness as he neared her “please, please forgive me I never”
She had an expression on her face that was akin to surprise, amazement and something else, none seemed to be anger. She coughed and James just held his hands in supplication.
“Goodness me” she said, her breath coming in starts “James, what; what happened to us?”
He felt the heat of his blush move from the pit of his stomach up to his head like an army of ants chasing sugar syrup.
She smiled and moved back to James, putting her hands on his shoulders, moving into him putting her head against his chest and her lips against the skin of his neck, his shirt opened and one button loose. He felt his hands move to her back and the softness of her skin was evident through the wafer-thin material of the dress.
“Shush” she said, “what ever it is, I want more”
He was lost. His lips moved to hers and they kissed, drawing from themselves and floating together. The embrace lasted and lasted, James’ hands moving down her sides and holding her hips against him.
They were lost; Susan moaned and broke the embrace, turned and locked the door. With a single pull of the cords, the Venetians dropped to the floor and made the room darken considerably. James reached for her again and she moved to him. There, in her room, James with the most beautiful person he had ever seen, solid with his lust, light with the euphoria of this, she gave herself to him.
At the moment their bodies united, the Godhead one with his dragon, time stopped still; neither being aware of any feeling beyond this and completely full. Their lovemaking was wild, passionate, maddening. As it finished, as the physical overrode the emotions, 20 miles away, in a hole in the garden, it started.
In the top left hand corner of a stone tablet, on the first row of seven, the second symbol from the right of seven, the Moon symbol changed to a sun. The lid section lifted about an inch with a protesting growl that sounded like a thousand Banshees on a stormy wind.
* * * * * *
They lay together. The evening had descended and they had made love twice more. He had never, ever, felt like this with anyone. Completely captivated and yet, free. Susan lay in light sleep and he nodded in and out.
Dreams came and went, of soft places and warm lands, one image working its way into all. A hillock or mound, barren crags in the highlands, he was sure it was the highlands, heather blowing in a strong wind, and a solitary figure, a man, old, wizened, robed in black with white hair blowing to the side, his face smiling and long fingers beckoning. Just as words were about to leave his mouth, Susan sat up, bolt upright, straight from sleep to full awareness.
“No.” she said strongly.
James joined her looking for a danger he felt but could not see. “What is it?”
She turned to him, a smile soft on her lips. “Oh! Nothing James; a dream.” She stood, her body lit in the warmth of the evening, soft curves and shadows filling the gaps and her breasts firm and soft.
James expected it now, expected that horrible awkwardness that he had always felt after sex, as the parties endeavored to explain away their carnal lust in rational terms, with promises of ringing tomorrow, having dinner, calling around again. Susan, pulled her dress over her torso, James dressing as she did.
He stood and tucked himself in, Susan turned, now it would happen. She moved to him and kissed his lips with a gentleness that weakened him. “I think you are the best lover I have ever had, James. I have never felt like this” she completed with a smile. James smiled and kissed her back. Unlike James’ fears, the talk was of dinner. Perhaps to her flat first if he didn’t mind; and he didn’t. They drove there together and Susan parked her little Citroen 2V. They entered the flat and James was impressed with the tasteful but messy presentation of the place. He immediately felt at home.
After a shower, a shower they shared and a shower that saw the water run cold on two bodies lost in a primordial coupling that was loud and strong, they went to the Indian restaurant around the corner and had Lamb curry, Nan and yogurt dip.
Over dinner they talked of things. Just things, Susan close and near, touching him softly and laughing with him. Walking home to the flat they held hands and Susan spoke to James like she had known him for years, and he her.
Later, they worked on the rubbing. He a book runner for her requests, text books looking for symbols, words, images and needing much concentration and effort. About two a.m. they decided to finish at that and without discussion or debate, they went to bed. Made love again and slept.
The hillock, and the man; traveled to them both.
* * * * * *
Next morning, over breakfast, Susan in a wrap-round robe and James in a towel that was laid across his lap, both finding their sexuality raised beyond anything they had experienced before, talked of things to do with the thing.
They discussed the dream. Now, twenty four hours after they had met, they both felt they could tell each other anything. James felt he loved Susan with all his heart and was dumbfounded. OK, the sex was truly wonderful; truly, but it was more, their spirits, souls were bound in some way.
Susan had told him in her climax that she loved him always and later just smiled when she recalled the words. This was the strangest thing that had ever happened to either of them.
“What do you think it all is Sue?”
She smiled, “It is a Dolmen for sure. I think it is a point. These are units placed to catch and process the earth’s power. Did you know they are known to have served as altars, as on the island of Guernsey, where they were used by the Druids in their religious rites? Dolmens are particularly numerous in Ireland and Wales and in the English counties of Devon and Cornwall; in northwest France, especially in Brittany; and in Spain. They are also found in Northern Africa, in Syria, and in other countries ranging as far east as Japan.” She said as she poured fresh tea into white china mugs; the legend, “Dig to discover; dirt!” on them.
“James, Japan, isn’t that amazing?”
He nodded his affirmation.
“Points are always fours. They form a perfect square and in the middle is the top. James, they have been found hundreds of miles apart, and if worked from a map, their accuracy is to millimeters.”
“What are points used; were used for Sue” he asked, amazed at the discussion.
“Before I answer that” she said as she cuddled up to him, “I need to tell you a little about the Druids”
He nodded, saying that he had read a little of late and she said to stop her if she was stating the bleedin’ obvious. He said he would and she continued.
“They were members of a professional class in their culture, the Celtic Nations of Western Europe and the British Isles, they were not an ethnic group; their culture, the Celtic culture, was.” James nodded; he had known this even before this all began.
“Well, they filled the roles of judge, doctor, diviner, mage, mystic, and clerical scholar. In other words, they were the intelligentsia of their culture, the Iron-Age people of the Celtic Nations, although not an elite by any means.”
“Mythologies describe Druids who were capable of many magical powers such as divination and prophesy, control of the weather, healing, levitation, and shape changing” she pondered for a moment and added “still, most cultures have room for magic; it is only something we have removed in this century.”
“Their education was so rigourous that at the end of it they were virtually walking encyclopedias. The best word for them would seem to be “priests”” once again she pondered “I am loath to use this term myself for two reasons: The Romans never used it, and because Druids didn’t preach to congregations as priests do.”
“You know they had a clientele, like a mystic, a shaman, or a lawyer would have. Caesar and his historians never referred to them as priests but this could be because their own priests were more mundane, teachers and judges, less emphasis on being seers or diviners, whereas the Druids appeared to have both legal and magical powers.”
They talked on, Susan building James’ knowledge, presenting the Druids in a light he had not understood before. Possibly the most amazing realization was that they were good. The bad press was part of the Roman propaganda machine. Susan explained why it was so. It was the Celts they stood to conquer and the Druids tended to be the people of influence in the various places of that empire. Give a dog a bad name and their influence would weaken.
They studied the scratching. More so Susan studied it and James ran errands and performed look-ups in the mountain of books on the table. They stopped for lunch and Susan said they would have to go and ask for some help; later.
Over lunch they held hands and talked and talked. James expected to be going back to the university but he found himself traveling into the country in the sling seat of the 2V. Susan was an interesting driver and the 2V is an interesting car to be driven in by an interesting driver.
It was going on dusk when the arrived at a little cottage on the outskirts of a small village about 30 miles from the city. A brass plaque announced “Annwyn” and if ever there was a place the postcards came from this was it.
Steve Lang: I thought this story was imaginative, and well thought out. I also think it was an original piece, and not a rehash of previous scifi stories I've read in the past.Thank you for the effort put into this tale, and I look forward to reading more of your work!
Lauren Suzmeyan-Raine: I'm so glad you found a place to post your stories. I was horrified when I saw yours had been taken down, they are definitely the best 'reading' stories I've ever read. And I've made it my business to read every one I can. Well done.Lauren
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