It takes two hours to unearth the remainder of the structure and just as Philippe believed it is indeed shaped like the pupil of a cat’s eye. Beneath the pupil shape is a series of struts that connect what would otherwise be a shape impossible of standing upright to a bulky plinth. The struts and plinth much like the structure itself bare markings, save for perhaps the base of the plinth. The object is too heavy for them to extract it from where it sits. However, with it having been fully excavated the hum has grown stronger. Philippe wouldn’t call it louder but would liken it to an audible version of a standby light. Millions of possibilities, all of which relate to what this object could be continuously race around in his head. All seem too fantastical and yet he doesn’t wish to discard even one of them for he hasn’t a clue as to what the purpose of this object must have been. Yet, it clearly had a purpose. They know this due to the fact that during the excavation they discovered steps that descend toward the thing that is the focus of the expedition.
If not for the discovery of the object Philippe would’ve been plenty enamoured by the uncovering of just the steps. They are formed of stone, as black as soot, uneven no doubt from the wear and tear of the millennia that have passed since they were laid by some hands or another.
During the unearthing of the base of the structure thousands of images were taken of every inch of the objects surface so that those tasked with searching for symbol matches to ancient and lost languages have material to work from. This limited any overcrowding that would have inevitably occurred had Philippe not agreed with the idea put forward by another of the undergraduates, Ethan. He, like Benjy, was sent on this expedition due to poor performance. Unlike Benjy however, Ethan is a curious man with a studious work ethic. It strikes Philippe that, as he combs over the scrawled symbols, judgements made about Ethan’s personality seem to be largely unfounded. The archaeologist can only imagine what would be written in the poor man’s file. He rolls his eyes at the thought of it but is well aware of how relentlessly rigid the education sector can be. To put it nicely, it is a sector that only knows how to elevate and propel those capable of learning in one of the manners that fit their procedures. Philippe hates to think of the number of bright souls who have been crushed beneath the weight of the education sector because they do not fit into the narrow confines that have been set. The thought saddens him and not solely due to the reality that it has likely robbed his area of expertise of potentially brilliant minds. He knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, it’ll have robbed many other sectors of the next wunderkind who might have ideas capable of propelling mankind further along the road of progress.
“Doctor Akinpelu, we think we’ve found something.” Amelia cries from the rim of the now substantial bowl shaped pit. The object is sat vaguely in the centre of this pit while the excavation teams continue to dig out the stairs. That was a decision all of their own making but one Philippe fully supports. He honestly does not want to spend more time climbing up and down a ladder than is necessary. When the stairs are revealed they will be all he uses.
Having turned away from the structure, the archaeologist looks up and then around until his hazel eyes land on the outline of Amelia. She is easily distinguishable from everyone else on this dig due to the presence of her spiky neon pink hair. How she gets it to stay up like that Philippe doubts he will ever fully understand but is very aware that he doesn’t need to be.
“I’ll be up in a minute Amelia.” Are the words that leave his lips.
He strides confidently toward the nearest ladder. Amelia is stood along a section of the rim of the pit that is across from where the stairs are being excavated. Philippe mounts the ladder and slower than he would like lumbers up it one rung at a time. He can feel his back is covered in sweat, his shirt as loose as it is sticks to his damp skin below. It’s uncomfortable and were they located anywhere else in the world they would soon be forced to pack-up for the day. Thankfully, it is summer and there are hours of daylight remaining. Just as well seeing as the expedition does not have floodlights to erect around the dig site.
Having scaled the ladder and put his feet back on ground, Philippe turns. Amelia has moved away from the rim of the pit, he can’t say he blames her. She has a smile across her face. Rarely has he seen her like this. He always marked her as someone who smiled as seldomly as is possible without it coming across as her being miserable.
“You’ve found a match?” The archaeologist blurts without thought, forgetting his manners in all his excitement.
Amelia nods and then urges, “We’ve found several. It’s fascinating.”
“Come on then, lead the way.” Philippe urges with a flick of his wrist that doesn’t really look like anything. Nevertheless, it has the desired effect as Amelia breaks into a brisk pace that Philippe falls into step with.
“I think you’re going to be so excited when you see what we’ve found. Oh I really want to spoil the surprise.” Philippe has to resist the urge he feels to chuckle in response to her statements.
Somehow, Amelia manages to contain herself and spoils nothing. In fact, all she does on their walk is giggle excitedly a few times and query about the progress of the dig. Philippe informs her of the progress and says that they’ll be taking imagines of the struts and plinth because they bare markings also. Amelia’s eyes light up in response to that and just as they enter the research tent.
The research tent is located at the very edge of the village of temporarily erected structures that serve the expeditions purposes away from the dig site. It strikes Philippe now that perhaps he should not have agreed to put the research tent as far from the dig as he did. He shrugs knowing there is little point dwelling on what has had done. Then notes how expectant the faces of the undergraduates are as a result of him having entered the ‘room.’
“What’ve we got?” Are the first words out of the doctors’ mouth as he scans the young faces before him. Not all the undergraduates are here. Some of them are helping at the dig site while the rest are aiding some contractors with preparing a well earned meal to fill their stomachs and carry them through to the end of the day.
It’s going to have been a long one by the time everyone finally turns into their sleeping bags. Philippe hopes the short night-time hours will be sufficient for everyone to replenish their energy supplies. After all, long days are likely to be a staple for a while. He can’t say how long precisely, chiefly because he simply does not know. It could be as little as a few days or as long as weeks until they learn all they can about the object.
He must remember not to overwork his team. They need rest. He has to factor that in. He’s is well aware he is going to find that difficult. Philippe is used to working his way, which is to keep picking away until an answer presents itself. He can’t force his solitary habits onto the others, he hears himself say.
“We have more than a dozen matches, we think.” Ethan informs with a winning smile.
“A dozen? We only had nine when I left.” Amelia exclaims in surprise and delight.
“Which language are we looking at here?” Philippe queries while making a b-line for the mass of smushed together foldout tables that are littered with tablets, nanodisplays and a few monitors.
“Not one, we’re looking at multiple doctor.” Bianca announces with pride.
“Multiple?” Philippe had not expected that. He thought it was a long shot that the symbols would have matches at all. He feels a little dejected that this isn’t a whole new language previously lost and in need of fully deciphering, but that feeling quickly passes.
“How many?” He feels the need to question right after. He doesn’t feel he can wait longer to learn the answer organically. He finds it too fascinating to remain patient.
“We believe we have five so far. Some have more than a thousand years between them.” Ethan informs.
“Show me what you’ve got?” Philippe feels like all his Christmas’ have come at once.
“We’ve got matches to Cyrillic…” Bianca places down a nanodisplay and a tablet showing the match. Philippe with this first glance would agree. “…, Ancient Egyptian…” Another pair of items is set before Philippe; again he would at first glance concur. “…, Japanese, Sumerian…” Ethan and Bernard set down their evidence for matches. Philippe nods. They differ a little but not enough that he would discard them. “…and cave paintings.” Amelia lays out a series of matches. Philippe’s jaw drops. They are not just matches, they also factor into elaborate murals. Ones that have long been theorised to be documenting proof that advanced life had at some stage lived upon, or visited, Earth and its early humans.
Silence hangs in the air. Philippe is gobsmacked. His energy had been low before due to the hours of hard work under the boiling sun. Now he feels a new lease of life. He would say this sudden spring is akin to how stories have described the effects from fountain of youth work. A smile splits across his face; he blinks, scans the faces around him, clears his throat and then waits. Everyone is on tender hooks. They are desperate to hear what one of the leading authorities in this field has to say.
“This is without doubt… the most amazing discovery I have ever had the pleasure to be a part of. You’ve all done excellent work.”
In response the faces of the undergraduates, all five of them, light up. Each could not feel more proud of themselves than they do right now. Or that would be true if they didn’t have one more detail to share.
“We’ve translated the words we’ve matched.” Bianca admits.
“You’ve what?” Somehow Philippe’s smile grows wider. The undergrads would not have thought it possible if they did not witness it with their own eyes.
“Do you want to hear what we think we’ve got?” Amelia queries sheepishly.
“Absolutely. Give it to me. Fed me all the knowledge you have learned.” In response to such a statement there is a loud round of laughter.
The archaeologist realises now he should have agreed to a university funded dig years ago. He imagines how far he might have gotten if he had. The past it the past, it cannot be changed.
“This we think means Shadow.” Ethan points to one of the markings nearby.
“While this looks to be Arch. Go figure no surprise there hey?” Penelope, one of the other undergrads, remarks. A short group chuckle follows.
“What about this one?” Philippe queries feeling drawn to one of the symbols presented before him.
“It means connection, as far as we can tell.”
“But this one is definitely danger.”
“Yeah and this, this is sever.”
“That one’s collect.”
“Bodies is here.”
“Mistake is there.”
“Twist, I’ll put money on it.”
“Pollute, beyond any doubt is what that one means.”
“And what do the last two translate to?” Philippe is eager to learn. Though, he cannot fathom as to what, if anything, all these words are supposed to tell anyone. It strikes him it could be a warning. However, it could just as easily be the components of a story. In his mind it would make far more sense for it to be the latter. If it were a warning it would be written clear, repeated and easy to grasp. This is none of that and by the looks of things does not repeat a single time. His conclusion is made.
“Uh, we have repeat and link, we think.”
“What do you think it means doctor?” Bianca asks after a long period of quiet has hung in the air.
Doctor Akinpelu settles on informing them of his personal conclusion, “I believe it is a story of some kind. Perhaps recounting the history of whatever the structure we have discovered belongs to.”
“Doctor! Doctor! DOCTOR!” One of the contractors screams as he rushes into the tent. The man is dripping with sweat. A terrified look is carved into his face. His eyes meanwhile are wide and wild but at no point become still. Philippe recalls the man’s face and along with it his name, Oscar.
“What is it? What’s happened?” Philippe feels the panic from Oscar, and whether he wanted it to or not it has affected him. He regrets that but knows that what is done is done.
“The…The object, it’s active.” Oscar blurts following a stumble that is the result of a catch in his throat. He wishes he had a drink in hand. He’d down it in one. He doubts it would be enough. At this moment he feels as if he could down twenty and still need more.
“What do you mean it’s active?” Philippe responds confused.
He is pleased to hear that his tone is back to normal instead of elevated a near full pitch higher than usual however.
“It turned on. It’s like a doorway. There is a shimmer between the uprights.” Oscar’s hands shake as he gestures with them as if he hopes that will aid his words.
“Show me.” Philippe demands.
He has to see this. The man is either delusional from dehydration or speaking truth. The archaeologist cannot say which he finds more… interesting.
The archaeologist rushes after the scurrying Oscar followed closely by the undergraduates. They make sure to keep hot on his heels. Philippe considers that perhaps interesting is not the word that he should’ve settled on and yet he feels disinclined to choose worried, which was the other option that came to mind.