"Now look here," Emmett said. "I've gone through enough to get here. I won't be obstructed any further."
"You misunderstand me, Dr. Florian. I'm not obstructing you. I'm just warning you that you're likely to be disappointed."
"I'll be the judge of that, young man, if you please."
The man sighed. "With all due respect, Doctor, you're not the first to come here."
"What?" Emmett cursed mentally. There had been nothing in the literature about this site. Nothing at all. It was sitting there right on the map, plain for everyone to see, but nothing was known about it at all, beyond the most cursory description. Even its name was, in the local language, unevocative. But to find a ruin that hadn't been gone over a dozen times by those who already had the tenure he sought--this was almost too much to hope for.
But soon he concluded that it had somehow been overlooked, and he betook himself there with all speed. But now this fool(the only one who spoke English in the whole area, it seemed)told him that it was all in vain. "Who has been here?" he asked.
The man dug around in a drawer of his shabby desk. "Here they are. Names right off their passports." He held out a sheet of paper which Emmett snatched and scanned impatiently.
Bergman, Saville, Moravec, Singh, Abbenford, Rokhannen...it read like a Who's Who of the great names in archaeology. And some that he had only heard the vaguest things about, probably desperate like him to make their name.
But none of them had published. In fact, now that he thought about it, Bergman had virtually disappeared from the journals in the past few years, and he couldn't recall the last time he'd seen an article of Singh's, either. Whatever they had found here, he decided, they were too eager to interpret it themselves, rather than publish preliminary data and be "scooped" by someone else. And they were obviously not making much headway, or they would have published long before now. Perhaps they were missing a "Rosetta stone" which would make everything clear. Maybe he himself would make this lucky find. It was worth a try. Perhaps his fresh eyes could see what others had not.
At the very least, since he'd come all this way, he'd at least take a look at it. Half his luggage had been scattered to the four winds, he'd found in the other half an envelope whose contents should have been mailed two weeks ago(and he was cursed if he was going to mail it from this godforsaken corner of the Third World), he'd practically gotten shot by some nearsighted border guard who decided he didn't match his passport photo, he hadn't had a solid bowel movement in days, and he was damned if he was going to slink back with his tail between his legs(where it would swiftly get soiled, at this rate).
"Anyway," the man said, "all those gentlemen have been here in the past few years, and none of them seemed particularly happy when they left. Nor did they take anything with them."
Emmett shrugged. He was never really surprised when those who were alleged to be the best of their profession turned out to be utterly incompetent. "Are there any local legends about the place?"
"Haven't heard a one," the man said immediately. "They all asked me that. Some of them, that could speak the language, went out and asked the locals, and didn't seem too happy about their results there, either. I tried it myself, once or twice, and they just looked at me blankly."
Probably a simple tabu, Emmett decided. Whatever those ruins had been, the tribe had decided it was evil, or sacred, or just private, and wouldn't tell outsiders. Maybe the locals guarded the place, and everyone had been scared off. But after the way Saville had gotten into those caves on Papua New Guinea after everyone else had given up, bringing in his own mercenaries for god's sake, Emmett couldn't believe he would back down so easily here.
But now he was doubly determined. Soon the world would rank his name above these other pathetic fools who couldn't even get anything out of a simple ruin.
The site had been easily visible from the air(when Emmett had been able to concentrate on the view instead of wondering when the last of the wing struts would give way). It wasn't hidden under jungle foliage, it wasn't buried in the side of an inaccessible mountain crevice, and it wasn't sunken under a hundred feet of water.
There were some tunnels that led underground, but if anything time had made them more obvious. Emmett could see signs that the openings had been covered, perhaps by foliage, at some earlier point. There were no signs that there had been any special arrangements to keep such plants alive in this climate, though, so...had it been wetter here? How long ago? Emmett had little idea, but it must have been a long time ago. He would check on that when he got back; this could give him a preliminary dating estimate, though of course he'd get some samples for C-14 too. He wasn't going away empty-handed like his colleagues.
In the tunnel, there were still visible footprints in the dust from the most recent visitors(Rokhannen's party, no doubt; that idiot always brought half his department with him). Obviously he would gain little by exploring the same areas his predecessors had, so he resolved to split from them at the next fork.
Before that, though, the tunnel opened out into a large circular room. In the center was a large, mostly shapeless, stone carving surrounded by an irregular groove in the floor. Interesting, Emmett thought as he got closer. Most early art was purely representational...either the abstracts got a much earlier start than everyone had assumed, or this was a carving of something no longer known. This was probably what the others had gotten hung up on, and hadn't figured out yet. He'd have to go on--he saw a few more exits from the chamber--and perhaps take a look at this on the way out. Well, maybe a once-over before he went on. He walked around it, trying to discern any resemblance to anything he knew in the odd curves...
At some point he became aware that he had walked around the chamber several times. He'd go on and look at the rest of the ruin, of course, in just a moment, but he thought he almost had a grasp on what this was...
He had no idea how much later it was when he regained consciousness on the floor of the chamber. He got up--somewhat painfully; his legs and feet seemed to be extremely sore, as if he'd been walking all day--and looked around. He couldn't quite recall how he'd gotten down here, wherever here was, and he certainly couldn't imagine why he'd wanted to be here. He stumbled out the way he thought he had come--in any case, following the bulk of the footsteps. Whatever the reason he'd come here, he had to get back and...do whatever it was he did. He couldn't quite remember right now what that was, but he was sure he'd recall sooner or later. He probably had some local bug or other, and he just needed to get back where he could see a doctor or something.
His brain carefully working around a large chunk of emptiness, Emmett Florian wandered back towards civilization.
It didn't have a name, having come to be long before such things were in use and never having seen the point in having one. Material existence was a bit more useful, since many useful things were material, and it made interaction and manipulation much easier. It had never become entirely material--the weaknesses of physicality were all too evident to it--but a few extrusions in convenient places worked wonders.
It examined the new acquisition cursorily, but determined that there was little here that the others hadn't had. It didn't even bother filing it away, but sucked its residual energy and let it dissipate into oblivion.
Some of the others of its kind had become dependent on these physical things, which thought they had volition but were so easily led that one wondered how they had come to that conclusion at all. Too blind to see the forces that pushed them this way and that, it guessed. And relying on them tied one down to their limitations, and made one dependent on the power they supplied if stimulated just right. It, itself, had preferred to rely on its own power and keep its freedom.
From the recent acquisitions, it knew that its physical-being- dependent fellows were mostly almost forgotten these days, and the withdrawal of their sources had made them into pathetical little entities indeed. One or two were still strong, and they were the reason it still kept itself hidden, but it knew that it was only a matter of time before the physical beings learned to shun the non- physical entirely(wrongheadedly, but it didn't mind that). It would be waiting for its chance, then. And then maybe it could dispense with this whole physical thing anyway. Nothing would be strong enough to oppose it.
But first it had to make sure that its opponents had all dwindled into nothingness, and that in the meantime they had no clue of its existence. The few physical beings who would have any idea of its nature were all lured here and then disabled. Once the past was forgotten, it would have the future all to itself.
Back to Alfvaen's t.b Page...
The Den of Ubiquity/ Aaron V. Humphrey / email@example.com