Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Flash Fiction - The Excavation, Part Two

Good evening,

 Sorry I'm late. Let's pick up from where we left off.

***


            The pain kept him awake. Rocks had served as his cushions. His back ached and his neck throbbed, but he focused on the searing agony in his leg. He faced upward. The archaeologist had no immediate idea of how far he had fallen. The never-ending darkness and the pin-point of light above him gave a hint.
Okay, Calum Grady told himself, I’d say I’m five, six miles down? But how am I still alive?
Memories from the past few moments replayed in his mind. He remembered the fall. He remembered the rocks tumbling below and around him. Above it all, he remembered his once-rapid descent becoming a slow drop. At the time, he thought his mind was playing tricks on him. When he felt the way the air cradled his body, however, and when he felt the pressure around him, it told him another story. It did not stop the hard landing, but it softened the blow all the same.
A low-gravity field, he reasoned, Cushioned my fall on the way down. Probably something the natives installed to prevent workplace accidents. Thank god for dead civilizations.
            He flipped a switch on his belt and fiddled with a small dial. Slowly, he unhooked a com-wire and brought it to the side of his head, fixing one end into his ear and the other to his mouth. “Anyone there?” he grunted, pausing to play with the dial some more, “Anyone? Andrew? Joan? Can anybody hear me?”
The reception settled. Static cleared away. His comrade barked on the other side: “– lum? Calum Grady, this is Joan Holliday! Come in! Are you there?
 “I wish I wasn’t,” he groaned, pushing himself up. Aching, his eyes focused in the darkness, “I seem to be in some huge chamber. It’s so dark I can’t see anything, and I left my torch with –”
Never-mind that! How the hell are you still alive? I can’t even see you!
“Never a bad time to believe in miracles, I guess. Where’s Carter?”
He fainted. I radioed the Department, though. A rescue team’s on the way.
“Of course he’d faint,” he grumbled aloud. He winced. Fire screamed through his leg. Gingerly, he brought his fingers down it. Halfway-down, he felt it bending at an irregular angle, “I think my leg’s twisted.”
“So much for miracles.”
“I’m fine,” he said, struggling to his side. “I’m going to try and work out my surroundings, maybe see if I can make sense of where I am.”
Setting his hands to the ground, he pushed himself up. He slid his good leg in front of him and put his weight on it. Calum recalled his training. Years before, he took courses in acrobatics. Calum Grady knew how to fall and he knew how to keep balance, and he knew how to carry himself in case his limbs were incapacitated.
On the other end, Joan heard him struggle and gasped a little, “Good god, Calum. Are you trying to stand?”
“I get bored easily,” he joked, rising and steadying his body. He levelled his arms at his sides and smiled to himself.
“How dense are you, exactly?”
“Ask the missus,” he said, hopping forward a little, “She has all kinds of stories.”
            He almost heard Joan shake her head. There was silence for a moment. “Tell me about her,” she suddenly said, as though genuinely interested.
            Calum rolled his eyes. He thought the conversation was over, “Why?”
            “It’ll take your mind off of the pain.”
            “I’d rather keep my mind on my surroundings,” he lied, hobbling left, “Who knows when the floor’s going to collapse again?”
“Do it for me, then,” she told him, “I’d rather not sit here and listen to you grunting, anyway.”
He huffed through his nose. “For you, then.
“We met fifteen years ago,” he told her, stumbling around a fallen stone, “My friend’s a journalist. One of his articles exposed a massive mineral smuggling ring founded by Alde Pharmaceuticals. There was a big gala hosted by the Department of Justice in his honour. All of his friends and all of his friends’ friends were invited. It was a mess, at first. I spent the first half of the evening nursing my drink, not bothering anybody.”
I can picture that,” Joan said, “You don’t seem like the social butterfly.
“I didn’t see the point,” Calum admitted, “Sometimes, I still don’t. I don’t know what songs are popular. I avoid all the hot gossip. I live in the past. I swim through history. What am I going to say to other people? Hell,” he laughed, putting his hands in front of him, “What are they going to say to me?”
What did you see in her?
“I’m getting to that,” he said, as his fingers grazed a wall in front of him. Stone ridges met his hands as he eagerly brought himself close to it, “Anyway, my friend had enough of me guzzling wine and glaring at the guests, so he brought me over to join his friends. I found myself face-to-face with five journalists, two dignitaries from Persia United, and her.”
And who was she?
“Back then, a bookkeeper for the Department of Communication.”
“Was it love at first sight?”
His hands slid along the wall, “Not at all. Her world was all digits and barcodes, budgets and balances. She hated reading because it bored her. Ancient history was all dreams and fairytales. We had nothing in common. But, later, we met at another gala, and then another and another until... I don’t know, I guess we realized that that wasn’t important.”
What’s her name?
He pressed against a ridge that was wider than the rest, “Her name? It’s –”
Something buzzed in the dark.
In seconds, the ceiling flickered. Circles of lights flashed off and on in the darkness. A low hum bubbled through the air. Calum Grady turned his body around to face the vanishing gloom.
Rows of glass cylinders lined the sides of a wide and circular room. Walls coloured a deep shade of purple flanked Calum on all sides. The cylinders were affixed to large metal structures with a silver coating. Display panels and buttons dabbed the sides. Blue lights flashed along their exteriors. A whirring noise sounded throughout the room.
It was then that one of the cylinders opened.
***

 By the way, have I mentioned that I am writing for BlogTO. Because I am.

 This yarn concludes next week!

See you next time!

-RWI

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