Day 9: The Man with the Axe

Several miles north of Stonehenge in a mobile lab, Cameron Thornton cataloged the contents of Professor Martin’s discovery, a stone box with ornate carvings of sportsmen throwing javelins and hammers. The professor babbled on about its unidentified culture and made several calls to his archeology colleagues. The variegated edge of the lid fit the corresponding top of the box with Incan precision. It took them an hour to figure out what angle it had to be pulled to come off.

The colors of the artifacts looked fresh, goblets and cylinders with bright reds, oranges, and a few blues. A brilliant green tunic with black cords resembled a modern day hoodie without the hood, but the textile appeared to be finely woven wool, perfectly preserved. From the moment he saw it, Cam wanted to try it on. He saved it for last. If not for the impressive workmanship and rich materials, he would think these were brand new.

With each artifact, Cam also made a cursory evaluation in his journal, describing the intricate metalwork, the gems, and the pigments. Someone very close to a king owned these.

The weaves of the shirt were perfectly constant, straight rows reaching hemlines that seemed to be woven into it rather than stitched. The color shone like a forest in sunlight, the natural color absorbing Cam’s admiration. It held together better than his favorite sweater.

He was alone in the room, Martin off on his cell phone somewhere. He stroked the front of it, the wool silky against his fingertips. He’d cleaned up after the dig, so he didn’t feel it would sully it if he wore it for a minute or two. A few ratiocinations later he took off his shirt, and pulled the artifact over his head.

As his head came out the top, heat buffeted him in darkness. “What the…?” A fire roared before him, and around him sitting on logs were strange men dressed in fur, though they were so finely crafted, it gave them an august appearance. He caught some of their features, cold and brutal, in the flickering light. He froze, getting his bearings, realizing he sat snugly with them on the log, wearing the same shirt and clutching an axe.

One of the men took sudden interest in him, his cruel smile widening. He spoke, but Cam didn’t understand. He spoke a second time and laughed, but Cam still couldn’t comprehend him. When the man arose and stepped toward him, Cam bolted out of the ring and pulled the shirt up over his head.

He took it off to find himself back in the brightly lit lab. Some of the equipment was knocked over and tools spilled on the ground. After carefully laying the shirt down, he picked them up, and discovered a fresh carving reminiscent of Ogham on the bench with a stick figure holding an axe. He shuddered.

Professor Martin returned to the room. “Why’s your shirt off? You’ll catch cold.”

“I… um… thought there was a bug in it.” He shook his own shirt out and put it back on.

“Hm. Are you finished?” Martin asked.

“Not quite.”

“Well, get to it. We have a whole new culture to explore.”

“Yes, we do.” He remembered the sinister smile. “What kind of men were these?”

“If you want to badly enough,” said Martin, “You’ll figure that out.”

Cam regarded the professor and considered how badly he did.

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