by Mr White
An archaeological dig unearth the voice of a distant past.
|The party of archaeologists is weary, out in the field, their ancient river bank nearby. The summer sun beats down their bent necks, fingers dry and sore from working the trowel and clay. So the break for sandwich and ale is more than welcome when it finally arrives. Landy, the big, thick set patriarch of the group holds court, his little wooden fold-chair creaking with his weight as he rests the pint on his swollen barrel of a belly. ‘‘Not a bad haul, and I’ll hazard a guess the river will offer up some remarkable treasures yet - must get onto the Environment Agency, find out when they’re finally dredging or re-dressing it.’’ His obscenely white false teeth shone in the sun, an open smile ever ready beneath the big shock-burst of unkempt white hair. ‘‘As I said, it’s got to be evidence of Iceni re-settlement.’’ said his most ambitious junior. ‘‘Don’t be rash Judy, I’ve told you, be a big disappointment to you if your proven wrong - let’s be patient, see how the lab works out. I’m really not convinced they ever extend this far North.’’ Judy, the youngest of their full time gang at 29 is eager to show the Iceni did, in fact, shade this far North, possibly re-settled the great buried marsh before its underworld gripped and finally tugged their material distinction down as they became absorbed into the domain of all the others. This could be their last testament.
Rob, next to her, was thoroughly infatuated with Judy’s vital energy for the work, her beauty a matter of indifference to her in her ambition to rewrite historical geography. He knelt on the grass by her feet, could feel her next to him like a quickening balm, a pool of composure with an ever strengthening undertow. She had to like him, could he imagine this hint of latent magnetism? Landy continued. ‘‘It’s possible it is Iceni, though perhaps not interred by their own hand, don’t you see? Is it not more likely a haul interred by others after their demise?’’ Judy glanced at Rob, but the sphinx of her face remained an impenetrable read. ‘‘Too much speculation - the coin though Iceni doesn’t signify settlement, the frequency of the horse and wolf motif is of course highly indicative, but others were settled and passed through here. Who knows how the coin traveled this far North?’’
With this Myra returned with cake. It was, in fact, Landy’s birthday. ‘‘Myra, you shouldn’t have.’’ ‘‘Come on Landy, you can’t just ignore the fact your sixty today. Quite a milestone.’’ Myra was the earth mother of the dig, she and Landy had set up this group back in the 70’s. Her fiery red hair was much faded now, it’s long shiny curls straightened, weathered and grayed by the ravages of merely a few decades. Her once full, lithe body was also more straightened; her movement now had a tightness, though her eye retained that timeless, liminal blue which once suggested a mind shaping off into some distant world. Back then Landy was smitten by her as Rob now by Judy. ‘‘Come on, someone call the others, it’s time to celebrate this all too perishable milestone.’’
Later, Judy was sat on her own, fingering and gently rubbing a silver coin. Rob waded through the seed heads towards her. As she heard his diffuse, watery tread through the long grass, she put the coin in the small pocket of her jeans. ‘‘What’s up? Why so glum?’’ His voice, supposed to be warm - endearing, only grated. In her company he was too self conscious. He sounded too steep for confidence. She didn’t reply. Rob settled his backside next to hers, though at a safe distance. He crossed his finger on his knees. Resigned, they both just peered at the flashing water. The wind whipped the surface, interrupted the skies dazzle. Judy’s eyes were swollen with inner thought. Rob, weary of this apparent brinkmanship, just peered into the weeds choking the far bank. The sun flared out from a passing white cloud, again the water seemed to flare with it; then Judy caught what seemed a red gleam in the current, it flashed as it passed through the sun’s rippled pulse. For a second her eyes appeared to light up with some inner light but at the same time they narrowed, her shoulders seeming to relax from their startle as her eyes settled to a markedly piercing intensity. ‘‘Judy..’’ ‘‘Shush, kiss.’’ Rob felt an instance of haste. He turned as she leant her face into his, her soft mouth giving, but a strange activity in the giving; his masculinity felt strangely passive in such a reactive eagerness. The current he’d felt was coursing through them both, his into her and hers enveloping and softening him as he felt himself rise and press against his tight cotton jeans. He ran his hand along her smooth back where her tee shirt sat up, and tried to insinuate his fingers along the fullness beneath her stubbornly tight jeans. ‘‘OK, that’s enough.’’ With that she snapped the charge. Rob’s eyes and mind were dilated. Did that signify the start of something? He felt quelled; any words want to descend to his tongue felt ridiculous, like so much idle confetti. Judy stood up, tall, erect - imperious. She slipped her fingers inside her pocket and took out the coin. She fingered it briefly; then cast it aloft where it arced and fell to the river with a definitive plonk. ‘‘What was that?’’ ‘‘Be calm Rob, an Iceni coin.’’ ‘‘And the kiss?’’ ‘‘You ask too much, don’t spoil it.’’
Back at the camp Landy and Myra were delegating lines of trench to the volunteers and field interns. When Judy arrived she knelt by the canvas tarp and immediately picked up a small earthen gold silver goblet. It had a stylized figure of a horse and wolfs either side in raised relief; nodules signified corn and possible planets, solar symbolism apparent. She held the cup in a supplicating gesture. ‘‘Judy, what are you doing?’’ Landy’s eyes swelled large behind his round rimless glasses. ‘‘You need to feel the item, know its form and true identity, then you might glean the actual spirit of it’s time.’’ ‘‘Yes, yes, yes - very deep I’m sure, but we’re here to work, not play-act the Druid Priestess!’’ Myra looked disturbed. ‘‘Judy, what has got into you, these aren’t toys. Have you been drinking?’’ ‘‘No more than you Myra. You see the past and the future can be felt through this cup. This land will soon enough be under the salt, its past shall talk louder then than it does now. Our outlook is too material, we simply don’t feel the ply of tomorrow.’’ ‘‘Judy, what are you saying? This is very unprofessional of you. Please put that cup down and return to your work.’’ Landy was already red, a bad sign. When his face became flushed he was close to blowing his top. It’s the price you pay for the many hours of usual good humor. ‘‘Calm yourself Landy, you shall not live to see the coming transition, though it’s already begun.’’ Now Myra flamed red. ‘‘Judy, how dare you say such a thing, that’s a terrible thing to say.’’ But Judy’s eyes narrowed to two needle points of intent. ‘‘Consciousness will return. The Iceni had a considerable bit of it, but not enough. Too much myth, not enough authentically felt. They were too want to sacrifice spontaneity for ceremony and political power. A classic case of obscured distillation. But you were right Landy; this find was not buried by Iceni hand. It was interred by Romanized citizens after the fall of Rome.’’ ‘‘Speculation - though you might be right, that’s actually my initial interpretation.’’ Landy’s face had cooled; he glanced at Judy with increasing curiosity. When Judy glanced back, that needle of intensity between her lids, for a brief moment he felt its arc, saw a red glint. Then his own owlish visage appeared to recede, his gaze narrowed, a gaze sharpened. Judy seemed to open her eyes wide as though she’d been suddenly dazzled. She held the cup out in her right hand; then replaced it on the canvas where it had been placed with pride behind a small pile of silver coin and soil. But Myra’s concern for Landy caught the change in his visage. ‘‘Are you Ok Landy?’’ ‘‘I’m fine Myra.’’ Now it was his turn to pick up the cup. ‘‘Let’s just say this little episode has opened my eye. There’s much I have to learn. Not just from myself. Judy was spot on when she said things will change. The future lies in the desert; they will harness the power of sun. As this land becomes an archipelago, consciousness shall return to its better felt form.’’ With this there came a shrill whistle above. Landy gazed aloft with a knowing smile, his glasses catching a flash off the sun, not unlike the surface skin of the water nearby. It was a red kite, just below the tops of the mighty oaks in the field. As he glanced, Myra thought she caught a subtle gleam in his eye as the kite reflected on the surface of his glass. Then he took them off, lowered his head and rubbed his eyes. The kite loomed above, Myra and Judy gazing at its effortless beauty as it seemed to float over them, the twist to its tale as it curved away towards what they believed had once been the location of a sacred causeway.