Friday, March 16, 2007

Flickr Fiction: Anachronism

Williams decided he hated Australia. There had been nothing but hours upon hours of the sun climbing into the sky and the sweat falling into their eyes, soaking past hats and sweatbands; hours of lugging packs and, once they reached the site, setting up tents and marking off the area with rope and pulling out tools. Trowels, chisels, tiny picks, brushes.

The small pickup with the equipment was already there when they arrived. Anthony was sitting in the cab with the door open, legs hanging out, chugging from a water bottle and grinning that annoying, eager-beaver grad student grin of his. Karina looked asleep, leaned back in the driver's seat. Williams didn't blame her. The heat was like a blanket, soporific and heavy.

It was like working under a blanket, too. Except for the occasional buzzing of flies and the faraway tink-tink of their tools carefully chipping away at the layers of packed dirt, it was quiet. Nobody seemed to want to talk. There was something about this place; a feeling of ancientness, of dead things under the earth.

The sun was dipping down toward the horizon when Anthony let out a whoop. Williams looked up; Anthony was carefully prising something out of his area of the dig. Probably nothing; probably an animal bone or, if they were extra unlucky, a rock. He looked back down at his own square of the grid. Dirt, pebbles, and what might be a human tooth but would need further examination.

Suddenly Anthony gave a strange sort of grunt. "Take a look at this," he said, faintly, his voice rough. Williams eased himself, somewhat painfully, out of the cramped squat he'd been in for the past half-hour or so and picked his way carefully to where Anthony was working. Karina had already gotten there; Mason and Bell didn't bother.

"See?" Anthony gave Williams a sort of shell-shocked look, and Williams got a creepy feeling in his gut.

Williams picked it up. "Definitely looks Neolithic period, if I'm not mistaken. Look at the wear on the teeth. Not bad for your first dig," he told Anthony grudgingly.

"Okay, but look," Anthony persisted. Williams turned the skull around in his hands, the rough, worn bone shedding grains of dirt that were thousands upon thousands of years old. And...there was something else.

"It looks like a bullet," Karina blurted out.

"More like a musket ball." Anthony scratched at the sunburn on his neck.

"I can see that," Williams said, irritably, the strange feeling in his innards growing more intense by the second. "But this guy lived about 20,000 years too early."

***

This week's piece was inspired by The Gallipoli Campaign by Flickr user paşanın yeri. Check the usual suspects for more Flickr Fiction: The Gurrier, Isobel, Elimare, Chris, TadMack, Neil, Valsha, and Mari.

5 comments:

elimare said...

Cool, was wondering what it was leading to.

TadMack said...

Ooh,I like this... it's like those great Harry Turtledove time agent novels, only somebody died... screws with archeologist's heads, he does...

a. fortis said...

Did I ever tell you my mom went to high school with Harry Turtledove? (Gardena High...) I've seen the yearbook-picture proof! He was a few years older, though--it's not like they hung out or anything...

Donal said...

Great opener, I love vaguely supernatural mysteries.

I had high hopes for that photo myself but I imagined them cannonballs surrounding the head of a giant. Ho hum, into the ideas folder with it.

Valsha said...

Aha - time-travelling, trigger-happy, musket-toting Neolithic creatures. It all makes sense now!

This was great. And great fun. I love it.