“Compare the color of the ground here,” said Andrew as he moved his hand in a circle over the earth with his right palm facing downward, “to the color of the ground over here.” Sandra knew he was only defining the edges of the excavation aloud and not instructing her, but she was irritated. His habit of thinking aloud made her feel as if he was talking down to her. It hatched the need to tell herself she was just as good, or better, an archeologist as he. She licked her teeth as she listened to him go on and on, and she looked at him from head to toe with a hint of aggression. She always expected him to be dirtier than he was, but then she remembered that all of his shirts and all of his pants were identical so he would not need to think about his clothing.
“We should expand the edges for belongings,” interrupted Sandra.
“Oh, I’ve looked and haven’t found any indication he had any,” said Andrew. He backed up and looked over the ground as if he could see through it. He had the look on his face a chef has just before diners begin having their meal. He had a theory that the chiefs of this tribe were judged by their generosity. Therefore, it was a great honor to have no possessions throughout their lives and be buried with none. When he examined the site, he only found one grave. That was unusual in such a beautiful location. The two archeologists excavated under what appeared to be the opening of an enormous cave. From a distance, they looked like two tiny figures under a colossal stone wave that was about to crash down upon them. Many could have used the formation as a shelter, but it was instead a massive headstone for an ancient human.
After weeks of careful work, Sandra and Andrew began to exhume a body. Sandra bit her lips as she looked at the boundaries of their dig. She was troubled. “Andrew, I don’t think we defined the edges of the context correctly,” said Sandra.
“No, no, no,” said Andrew. “They’re good. The ground penetrating radar only showed human remains.”
“I’m going to run the metal detector over the sides just to make sure,” said Sandra.
“Now?” asked Andrew. She nodded. He took a deep exasperated breath, but he estimated if he protested they would argue longer than it would take her to fail to detect a stray find.
She returned with the metal detector and began to work around the edges of their dig. Andrew listened to her move about, but focused on exhuming his chief. Then, the metal detector sounded a positive signal.
“You just had to look, didn’t you? Look, we are not going to dig out of phase,” said Andrew looking up at Sandra.
“No, we’re not,” said Sandra. “We’re going to define the edges of a new context and do a proper dig.”
“We’re not going to ruin our schedule for nothing,” said Andrew.
“You don’t know it’s nothing,” said Sandra.
“I’m leading this dig, Sandra,” said Andrew.
“Do you really just want to run with this and have that flaw in your work?” asked Sandra. “I’m not just going to forget about it.” She felt so strongly, she waved the metal detector around as she spoke without noticing. She emphasize, “I can’t forget about this.” As she unconsciously pointed to the location of the signal; the metal detector slipped from her hand, hit the earthen wall, and dirt poured down. A red object flowed down with it.
“What is that?” asked Andrew. He had seen the object in the earth.
“Don’t move!” exclaimed Sandra.
“Don’t tell me not to move,” exclaimed Andrew. “You’re the one that just over-cut the site.”
“Stop and listen, Andrew!” pleaded Sandra. He felt rumbling under his feet before his ears perceived it.
“Run!” shouted Andrew. Sandra did not hesitate. She was off like a sprinter after the gun. He would have taken his alleged chief with him if he could. Instead, he clawed with his hand into the earth where he saw a part of the red item peeking through. That decision cost him. There was a deep-seated landslide and a layer of the cliff they worked under broke off. It fell with the force of ice calving off a glacier. He sprinted, but he only made it to the edge of the debris flow. Earth and rock covered him. A cloud of dust made it impossible to see. He could not breathe from the heavy weight on his chest, and he felt himself slowly lose consciousness.
When Andrew woke, he heard Sandra crying near him. He opened his eyes, and they teared up to wash the dirt out. He looked toward the sound of her sobs and saw her sitting awkwardly on the ground. She was covered in dirt. Her wrists rested on her legs. Her palms faced upward. They were raw and had blood on them.
“Is that my blood?” asked Andrew.
“No, it’s mine,” answered Sandra. Andrew stood up and dusted himself off. Sandra let out an odd yelp as if someone had just given her terrible news.
“What’s wrong, Sandra?” asked Andrew.
“You should be dead!” exclaimed Sandra. After hearing the strange sound of distress in her own voice, she visibly tried to compose herself. She used the back of her hands to wipe the tears from her face. She slowly stood up. Andrew saw cuts on her legs. She appeared exhausted.
“Are you OK?” asked Andrew as gently as he could.
“How are you OK?” asked Sandra. She motioned toward a pile of rocks. “All of those – all of them – were on top of you.”
“Those rocks?” asked Andrew in disbelief. The pile could have filled several bathtubs.
“And those,” said Sandra pointing toward boulders that appeared to have been dragged from where he laid. “I used the truck and a chain to drag them off of you. You were at the edge of the landslide. I thought I could save you, but after I removed heavy rock after rock after rock.”
“Thank you, Sandra,” said Andrew. She stared at him. There was along moment of silence during which he allowed her to look at him.
“You had no pulse,” said Sandra.
“I’m fine,” said Andrew.
“I may have hit you with the pick,” said Sandra.
“Don’t worry about it,” said Andrew. “Nothing is hurting.”
“And I may have been the cause of some stones falling back onto your head,” said Sandra.
“Your dissertation was on exhumation methods,” said Andrew.
“Of people who have been dead for years. I was trying to get you out, you jerk. And look at me,” said Sandra looking over her wounds. She looked at him again. “And look at you. There isn’t a thing wrong with you.” Andrew realized she was right. He felt like he was eighteen again, or at least the idealized memory of how he felt when he was 18. The only odd sensation was his clenched fist. He felt something in his hand. He turned away from Sandra so she could not see him looking into his palm. There was a red jewel in it.
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