Short sci-fi story.
|It looked more like a forest than a graveyard. Trees rimmed it, and the only path was narrow and unpaved. The giants of the forest reached out wooden arms, framing the path, and cutting off all but small patches of the sun's wavering light. Roots knarled up, making the path much more treacherous than it would have been, and odd pebbles shifted underfoot. It was eerie, but that was all it was, at least at first glance.
Agent Carlow turned to glance cheerfully at his men, then continued on the trail.
"Watch out for the potholes, lads; one bite from a snake and there'll be no graveyard hunting for you."
Carlow chuckled at himself. He always did after saying something that he considered to be exceptionally witty. He chuckled often.
The men continued on, adjusting the airflow through their masks and scanning the terrain with handheld sensors. Occasionally someone spotted something threatening, one of Carlow's snakes or a gas leak, but nothing terrible happened and the expedition continued in relative peace.
After a few minutes of this, Carlow turned again.
"Almost there now lads," he bellowed genially, lumbering on through the wood.
A moment later the graveyard appeared.
The men looked about in awe. They'd studied the graveyard via computer, but this was their first look at it face to face.
The graveyard was a collection of junk from primitive Earth society. In other words, an archaeologist's treasure trove. The men were a special expedition gathered to collect some important specimens of early life, to put in a local museum. They all believed that for the moment, they were in heaven.
"So this is it, boss," one man murmured.
"Yes, this is it indeed, laddies, so dig in. And close your mouths. You look like beached fish."
As he guffawed about this the men smiled benignly, pretending to know what fish looked like, then began eagerly to set to work.
Agent Johnson, the youngest of the recruits, pulled his tools from his knapsack and began to free a large, circular black object. He called Carlow over to identify it.
Carlow grinned. "Well, lad, I suppose that since you're young it's acceptable for you to be a little brain dead. That there's a tire. Remember those cars we excavated last year? Four'a these here tires'd be fixed to be bottom of 'em. The patterns in it were for increased traction."
He grinned again, proud of his historical knowledge and waiting for Johnson to acknowledge it, which Johnson did grudgingly, then slapped the other man on the back and continued on to another recruit.
The team continued for some time, smoothly, patiently, yet efficiently processing their dig. The group collected several more tires, as well as crude dishes for eating upon, several broken bottles that the sensors revealed to have held intoxicating beverages, and some crude firearms and bullet casings.
At twelve minutes past the sixteenth hour Agent Johnson shrieked in surprise.
Agent Carlow lumbered toward the carefully gridded area Johnson had been working at, trying to think of something fittingly clever to say.
"What's the matter then, laddie?" he called, coming to stand before the shocked agent.
Johnson pointed mutely toward the square before him.
Carlow's broad smile wavered as he caught sight of the body. It was horribly mutilated.
He regained his composure quickly.
"Well now, lad," he said, patting Johnson on the shoulder, "get it out man. This is history here."
Johnson nodded grimly, and set to the task of freeing the corpse.
As the day continued, the men began to find more and more of the gruesome bodies. At its conclusion, several hundred had been found, and they suspected that still more lay beneath the heaps of soil.
Carlow, not smiling anymore, found the last body. It was wearing some kind of chain around its neck, and he suspected it had been a leader of some sort.
He wiped the grime from his face, drew a sleek metal device from his pocket, and spoke tersely into it.
A few moments later the aircraft arrived, and the men soberly bundled their finds into them.
Back at the museum, Carlow carefully cleaned the leader's remains, and carried them to a case in the main room.
He scribbled a note of description and left it on the case so that a placard could be made.
THE LAST HUMAN, it read, KILLED IN THE FINAL BATTLE OF MANKIND. POSSIBLY A GREAT LEADER.
It was days like this that made Carlow homesick for his own planet.