They call me a magician as if only a holy man could do it. But magic is everywhere; people just don’t know how to see it. There’s magic in the trees and the grass. The sun that gives us all life, feeds the plants and they spit out the invisible element that allows us to breathe. My mother, the witch, taught me how to transmute metal at an early age. People call it sorcery, watching the lead undergo the process of turning into silver, and they are right.
I never understood why I was allowed to be so public with my talents and my mother must hide away as if she were some kind of beast to be feared. She’s the kindest, most feeling person I’ve ever known. She taught me about certain herbs that could save people from the very brink of death itself, she showed me the magical lenses that allow us to look at far distant stars as if they were so close I could touch them, and she showed me how to make fire and lightning just by mixing different powders and liquids.
I remember one day asking my mother if magic was a gift given to my mother by the gods.
She laughed and said, “Aye, little one, you could say that. Do you remember the story of Perseus and how he stole fire from the gods?”
“That’s one of my favorites,” I had said.
She continued, “Once we discovered what the gods were hiding from us, we went back for more. That’s when we found all of the gods magic and power. And we took it for our own.”
“Hell’s bells,” I muttered and my mother had smacked me on the ear for it.
“Everyday,” she went on. “We are finding more and more treasures that the gods have left behind.”
“What happened to the gods, mama?”
“They’re all dying out, little Robb,” mother said to me. “One by one. And they are being replaced.”
“By what?” I asked.
“By us,” she smiled. I’ll never forget that smile. It filled me with a wonderful excitement to run out and explore; find all I could find. I wanted to question everything and my mother was more than willing to help me.
She began to train me for a magician at an early age. She told me that many kings and lords had magicians in the court rooms these days but that I would surpass them. She often told me that I would be the next Merlin perhaps even serving the next Uther Pendragon. She showed me all the different types of sorcery and each had a name: biology, alchemy, chemistry, astronomy, physics. I absorbed the information greedily and I was eager to share my talents with the world.
“Nay, little lark,” she would say to me. “Not quite yet. You aren’t ready. But one day, you will go court and you will dazzle him with your abilities. Until then, we must hide a little longer.”
“But why must we hide, mama?” I asked, confused and frustrated. “Why can’t I tell the rest of the village of my mother, the great witch?”
She slapped me then. Tears sprang to my eyes and I looked at my sweet mother with fear and alarm.
She grabbed my arm roughly and told me, “You must never tell anyone that I am a witch. Never ever. Do you hear me, my boy?”
“But-“ I began but my mother cut me short.
“People are afraid of witches. They think we’re all evil and horrible and cruel crones bent on making men suffer. You can dazzle a king with your magic but only if you’re a boy.”
I started to cry then and choked through my tears, “That’s not fair.”
“Nay, my lad. It isn’t fair but it’s the damned truth.”
“You made that potion for Bran the Blacksmith. You saved his life with that potion.”
“And I did it in the dead of night,” my mother said. “While he was sleeping in his bed. I waited until no one was around and I poured it down his throat. Thank the gods no one saw your mother, Robb, or they would have surely burned me alive.”
A fresh wave of tears flowed out of me.
“It’s harsh, isn’t it, my boy?” my mother asked me. “The world is just the same. Hush now, little lark. Dry your tears. There are times for tears and there are times they must be saved like precious jewels. It didn’t used to be like this. Thousands of years ago, before you or your mama was even born, men worshipped women. We became goddess of light and fertility and love. The times are changing, little lark, and those who will not change with them are doomed to be left behind.”
They never did find my mother out as the brilliant witch she was. I made sure of that. When I became of age on my 17th birthday, I went to the court of King Leon. He had sent out the call for a man of magic to stand at his side. He was convinced that evil spirits were tormenting him and he offered a lordship to anyone who could sway the demons. There were hundreds of wizards and warlocks and priests gathered at the castle, including me. We stood in King Leon’s court and I watched as the different magicians performed exorcisms and gave him baubles and charms to ward away evil spirits. Every night, we would wait to see if it had worked but much to the chagrin of the other wizards, the king would return to court, aching, sore, and tired, telling all of the horrible apparitions at the foot of his bed.
The entire process took months but after long last, it was my day to remedy the king.
“Approach, sir,” said King Leon, looking years ahead of his age. His eyes sagged and drooped with sorrow and weariness. “What is your name?”
“Robb, your grace. Robb Ravenhair.”
“Tell me, Robb Ravenhair,” the king asked with little hope in his voice. “I fear that these terrible apparitions are sucking the life from me. If this is not remedied soon, I shall surely perish. Can you save your king?”
“Yes, your grace,” I said, with the utmost confidence. “I can.”
King Leon scoffed completely without humor.
“Merry,” he said. “I have heard these words before, young sorcerer, from men far older and more experienced than you. No doubt yours is the overconfidence found in all of the male youths. What makes you so bold, sirrah? I asked for a magician and all I have found is a strutting cockerel. But, alas, I have become most desperate. What ensorcelled charm have you brought for me to wear now, eh?”
“I have no charms to give your grace,” I explained. “But rather I have questions.”
The king cocked his head at me but bid me proceed. Ah, but now I have captured his curiosity like a wild animal. The day was already mine.
“Your grace,” I said. “Does the demon only appear at night? Only when you are drifting off to sleep?”
“Aye,” he said.
“And when you see it, you are struck solid as if with fear? The demon has cast some sort of enchantment on you to steal away your movement, am I not correct?”
The king sat forward in his throne.
“That is correct,” he said.
“Ah, but the demon is not always the same form. He can take the form of whatever is your darkest nightmare as if plucking the information from your open, dreaming mind. And he does not always appear by the foot of your bed. Sometimes, he appears by sitting on your chest, trying to suck the breath from your very lungs.”
The king was astounded.
“How could you know all of this?” he asked, enraptured.
I smiled at him and said, “I have met with this hoary host before, your grace.”
It was true. When I was 9, my mother had cured a man of the same affliction. He said he would wake in the night, unable to move, with a monster sitting on his chest or waiting for him at the end of his bed. My mother explained to me that this demon was one of the mind. The demon would enter through his dreams and use the victim’s mind to project himself. I suggested calling a holy man but my mother laughed and said no man would be needed. She made a concoction from a rare orchid and poppyseed and bid me take it to the man as he slept. I crept in to the poor man’s hut, late at night and when I found him tied down in his cot, I was shocked to see his eyes wide open, full of terror. I quickly poured the potion down his throat and almost immediately, the man’s eyes began to close.
Much to everyone’s surprise, except mine of course, the man was completely healed in the morning. The demon had been banished. Many people thanked God for what had happened but me and my mother truly knew for whom thanks should be given to.
I pulled out of my tunic a simple vial of the very same potion and presented it to the king. While I did not have the same flair for theatrics as most of the other magicians had had, I did have the cure for the king’s woes. He stared at it uncertainly but he did take it.
“Drink this, your grace,” I told him. “And your demon woes shall be a thing of the past.”
That night, I stayed in the castle in a guest room prepared for me. I was given the freedom of the castle. Anything I required I had but to ask but I asked for nothing but a loaf of bread and a flagon of water. I was as restless as though I had my own demons nipping at my heels but it was not so. I was simply nervous. I knew that the tonic should work but doubt trickled into my head nonetheless. What if, for some reason, it did not take effect? What would become of me then? I could not bear the idea of having to return to my mother a failure and to look into her eyes to see the hurt and disappointment that would surely lie there. I would be mocked in the court as nothing more than an arrogant churl.
I watched the sun rise that morning. Despite the utterly sleepless night and the negative thoughts relentlessly trying to scale the walls of my psyche, I don’t think I have ever gazed upon something as beautiful as that rising sun. My mother had taught me that every star in the sky is actually a sun just like our own but impossibly far away. She said that every star had it’s own worlds, maybe not far from our own, and that there were millions of them, spread out in countless directions. It was of the other worlds that sprang to mind as I watched our own star rise over the horizon and felt a grand sense of adventure. As I looked into the sky, I thought of a man, millions of miles away, standing on a strange, unknown planet looking up at his own night sky with it’s own constellations, all with their own tales and origins. I could picture this man looking up at the stars and seeing the one that now orbits our planet and perhaps thinking of me, to him a strange unknown creature on a planet he would never step foot on.
I was called into the court but all of the fear had slipped away, into the void of the heavens, and drifting out to new worlds. I appeared before the king and smiled at him as much as my weary face would allow.
“Robb Ravenhair,” he intoned.
“Aye, your grace?”
“I do not know from which echelon of heaven you were sent from but truly you must be an angel.”
The king stood up from his throne and approached me. He threw his arms around me and took me completely aback. I never knew a man of royal blood could act in this fashion.
“My boy,” the king laughed through joyous tears. “You have saved your king! You must tell me how you made that potion; it was sheer brilliance!”
“That is but a taste of the scope of my magical abilities, your grace.”
“Name your reward. Anything in the kingdom is yours for the taking; simply name what you desire most and I will make it yours.”
Without hesitation, I said, “I wish to work along side you, your grace. Make me a magician in your court and allow my mother to come live here in the castle are the only things I ask.”
I fell to my knee and bowed to the king. I was appointed Court Wizard right there on the spot. My mother was sent for immediately. I think she enjoyed castle life. Perhaps not as much as she enjoyed our life in the hut but she acclimated well enough. My mother was much enjoyed by the king as well. So much so that he even entertained the idea of allowing women to learning healing magics at a young age. Mother lived to the old age of 62 and passed away with me by her side.
“Do not cry, my little lark,” I remember her saying. “This is not an end but rather the beginning to something bigger than any of us. It is not goodbye, my wonderful son; it is till we meet again.”
I’m not sure I then fully understood what she had meant then. Years passed and I continued to serve the king dutifully. I remember the fateful day as if it had just happened. I am old now and then I was but a young pup of a magician, not what I am today, but it’s still all so clear to me.
A group of men had been sent to a mountain with shovels and axes charged with the duty of digging there to discover what may be found. Many minerals and precious metals were recovered and far more than they bargained for as well. One of the men had been killed by a fire-breathing dragon and the other men had all fled in terror. They came directly back to the king, telling him of the terrible lizard, it’s fearsome claw and acrid breath that brought naught but death. King Leon had sent his strongest and bravest knight, Sir Alexander, but the man had not returned for months now.
“There is no doubt about it, your grace,” said one of King Leon’s chief advisors. “Sir Alexander is most assuredly dead.”
King Leon removed his crown and rubbed his brow.
“Aye, you have the right of it,” he sighed. “Send out a proclamation. 1,000 gold pieces to whomever can kill the horrid thing.”
It was then that I interjected and said, “Pardon me, your grace, but I will take that challenge.”
King Leon laughed the mirthless scoff he was so fond of.
“A jest, Lord Ravenhair, and a poor one at that. Be serious for a moment.”
“I am, your grace. I am not a man for mockeries, you know this better than anyone. I am a man of magic. I have not failed you once yet. Let me take the beast on.”
“This is true,” said King Leon, stroking his beard. “But could this be the first time you fail me? You are only a man and far too important of one for me to lose. I’ve already lost Sir Alexander to the accursed foe.”
“Place your trust in me, your grace. I know I can do it.”
It took a little more convincing and badgering but finally the king consented to my leave of the castle and I soon began my trek to the mountain where the damned thing called home. The men I traveled with were extremely superstitious and fearful but I told them that I did not fear this dragon.
“It may not be a dragon at all,” I told them. “Have any of you actually seen a living dragon?”
“I’ve seen the bones of one, once,” said one of my traveling companions. "A mystic for the East had found the skull of a dragon buried in the ground and brought it to the king to see. What a frightening visage it was! A gigantic head with daggers for knives. God only knows how awful it must have been when it lived.”
“Granted,” I said. “But have you actually seen a thing like this alive? If the creature left behind a skeleton, surely there must be more of them somewhere. But where? It’s all very curious, if you ask me.”
“You ask too many questions,” said the man sullenly.
“Nay, good sir,” I retaliated. “It is that you simply do not ask enough of them.”
We reached a point in our travels where the caravan stopped and the men charged with the task of escorting me dared go no further. It was only a day’s walk to the dragon’s cave so I loaded my pack with provisions and began to set out. I reached the cave just as the sun was setting. I must admit, the long shadows that the sun cast over the rocks and trees did give the cave an ominous aura to it but I was determined to push on.
I ventured into the cave with a lit torch and began to travel downwards. The cave walls shimmered with stones left unclaimed by the terrified miners. As I descended further and further, I began to see these remarkable lizards; remarkable because they had translucent skin and no eyes of which to speak of. I made a mental note to return when this was finished to study these bizarre and magical creatures more closely.
I soon became enraptured with my own thoughts and the thrill of exploring the cave when I came upon the body of Sir Alexander. Sure enough, his face and armor were burned badly. I set the torch into a holder that the miners had set up earlier and examined the man. His sword laid in his hand. He must have tried to fight something, but what? This particular part of the cave seemed too small to house something as large as the dragon the miners had described. They said it was 20 stones tall and the cave couldn’t have been more than 7 stones tall. So how is it this man came to be burned?
I heard a low rumbling behind me as if from a great animal. I spun around, startled, but I wasn’t met with the gaping maw of a dragon; only a enclosure of rocks. But these rocks were different and odd in that they had clearly been put there for a purpose. Did the miners stack the rocks in this fashion before feeling in terror? No, surely not. This had been meticulous work, clearly and would have taken them too much time, especially if they were as panicked as they were. I then noticed a small hole in the stacked rock formation. I looked back at the late Sir Alexander and saw that in the way he fell, he must have been directly facing this hole when he died. Very carefully, I put my hand up to the hole and, by God, an invisible force was pushing at my hand! I pulled my hand away quickly and had an idea. I went and grabbed the torch and, by sticking my arm out at a safe distance from my face, slowly raised the torch to wear the invisible force had pushed me. The torch exploded into a stream of fire. I dropped it in my fear and backed away. I expected at any moment, the terrible lizard would break down the wall of stone and come barreling after me.
But it never did. This puzzled me and I began to observe the stream of fire more closely. Why had the dragon only attacked me when I put my torch up to the hole? Surely when I showed it my hand would have been the ideal moment of opportunity. I set the torch back in it’s holder and sat and watched the flame until it went out on it’s own. This time, I put my face to the hole. Again, no flame, only the strange force on my face. The force came with the terrible stench that the miner’s had claimed to be the dragon’s breath. I stayed there longer than I should have, giving the creature ample time to kill me but it never did. I was determined to see this creature and understand why it would not attack. I began to pull away the stone wall with my hands until the hole was made wide enough that I may enter.
What I found inside was remarkable and only served to give me a thousand new questions. Apparently, I had unwittingly uncovered a tomb of at least five. To whom the tomb belonged I could not say for the name had been lost to the sands of time; also lost was the status of these people. I could only assume that they were of noble birth or at the very least extremely wealthy because the five mummies were surrounded by gold jewelry and beautiful ceramics depicting great battles and tales from a bygone age.
But where was the dragon? The tomb was hardly big enough to house the six people that now stood in it and there were no other exits than the one that I had just entered. A creature of that size and magnitude does not simply vanish into dust. My curiosity burning, I resolved to come back later and discover the secrets of this cavern but for now I would set up camp and rest.
When dawn came, I made my way back to the caravan and was met with shouts of joy and laughter.
“You survived!” said a monk, clutching his beads to his breast. “God be praised!”
“Of course I survived,” I told them. “There was nothing there to put my life in danger.”
I had explained to them my exploration and discovery of the tomb of the five nameless nobles and the mystery of the disappearing dragon.
“Perhaps it flew past you with such speed that you did not notice it,” said one.
“Or maybe dragons have the ability to become invisible at will,” proffered another.
I shook my head at both these explanations.
“Merry, and then I would have felt the wind as a great beast of that size rushed pace me with remarkable force that it would have laid me flat on the ground! And if it had been invisible, it must then also be intangible for I walked all around that tomb and never once ran into something I could not see. There was something in that tomb, good sirs, and there is no doubt that it killed Sir Alexander and that poor miner fellow but whatever it was that laid waste to those men, and aye, the force that caused my torch to behave so queerly is assuredly gone. I suggest we make up a party to go and fetch the valuables from the tomb and present them to King Leon.”
The men agreed and I was soon back at the caverns. As the men began to load gold and art unto the caravan, I explained that I would be spelunking further into the depths. Perhaps I may even again catch a glimpse at the bizarre lizards I have found before.
I found many dozens of the little beasties in fact. By propping up my torch just so, I managed to get one to stand still long enough to sketch it. I made a mental note to come back when I have some kind of bow so that I may kill one and dissect it. I also found a curious pool of water that was a most pleasant temperature. I stopped here a while to bathe myself.
Deeper into the cave I dove, finding all kinds of useful minerals that could be, when finely ground to powder, used in all kinds of potions.
That’s when I spotted it.
Deep in the cave, among the rocks was a oaken door just large enough for a man to walk through. It was standing all alone and seemed to lead to nowhere. I was fascinated by it. Could the late nobles above have put this here? Why? What purpose could it possibly serve? Strangely, nothing held the door aloft but it held fast when I tried to push it over.
My curiosity aflame now, I decided there was only one course of action. I opened the door.
From the personal blog of Lan Castor - November 15, 3452
As you all know by now, you know that I am a treasure hunter. In case this is the first time you’ve ever read my blog or you’ve been living under a rock for the past 1,000 years, a treasure hunter is a person who finds super old artifacts and sells them to the highest bidder. I know a lot of you in the comments think what I do is morally outrageous and that most of the things I find belong in a museum which I would be happy to oblige…as long as the museums have the money. If you want the artifacts to be in a museum so damn badly, go get yourself some gear and get the artifacts yourselves.
I’ve never actually said this on this blog and actually, I’ve never even told anyone this before but all of the really good finds I give to my grand dad. If you’re a regular reader then you already know about Grand Harry, or Harry V, as I call him. My Grand Harry recently passed away. He died in a hospital among friends and family a week ago and lived to the ripe old age of 497. I’m still not completely over it but I think if I write about it, it might help.
The artifacts that I’ve given him over the years I’ve decided to keep. I can already see the comments now; telling me that I’m stupid to hang on to them and that I should sell them and become filthy fucking rich. It’s not about the money though; it’s never been about the money. I don’t do this job to get rich like so many of you out there do. I do it because I love this work. I have all that I need. I have a ship that gets me where I need to go, I have money to pay for internet; I’m good.
Many of you probably don’t know who Grand Harry was but I really suggest you google him sometime. He was one of the best treasure hunters of his time and all of his stories were super cool Yes, I’m the granddaughter of that Harry Castor. Mind blowing, yeah? I’ve never brought up the fact that I have a famous granddad before because I didn’t want people to make a big deal out of it, you know? But he taught me everything I know. In fact, he was one of the main reasons I got my treasure hunter license in the first place.
I went down to the bureau when I was about 15 and I was super nervous. It’s actually not all as simple as just grabbing gear and a ship and heading out into the stars to find cool stuff that people would buy. There’s a reason we’re called hunters and not finders. All of this stuff has been hidden by history for thousands, sometimes millions of years and you’re lucky to find a temple that hasn’t already been picked clean by other hunters. For people who don’t know, the test to become a treasure hunter is deceptively simple. You have to compile a short essay of why you think the bureau should accept you and then they tell you to go find an artifact that hasn’t been discovered yet. Sounds simple, yeah? Except you have to do it in 24 hours. That’s near impossible, even for the best hunters.
I remember telling Grand Harry on the day of my test, “I don’t think I’m cut out for this sort of thing.”
“Bullshit,” he said. “You’ll be great. They’ll love you.”
“You have to say that. You’re my Grand Harry.”
“It’s still the truth, little lark." (That was my granddad’s pet name for me.)
“But what can I find in only a day?” I complained. “Most of the planets in our solar system have been picked clean already and there’s no way I’ll be able to visit another system in the time given to me.”
“You’re overthinking it, girl,” he told me. “All they’re asking for is an artifact. Something from the annals of history. Should be easy to find in our solar system.”
“Which history? Mars? Venus? Earth?”
“Yes,” he said with his old shit-eating grin.
“Goddamn it, Harry,” I said, laughing despite myself. “You’re not helping.”
“You think too much, Lan. Sometimes the simplest solution is the best one.”
I went in and submitted my essay. The judges were actually fairly impressed and that made me feel loads better. But then there was the test to deal with. By sunrise of the next morning, I would have to return with an artifact of some sort. I went back to Grand Harry’s ship. He let me crash their sometimes whenever mom and dad were fighting over some stupid shit so I was there almost all the time. We were in orbit around Earth at the time and I was racking my brain in my room, pouring over every history book I could find, trying to find a temple or a tomb that might have something, anything, that looked like it had potential.
After a while, I kind of forgot how nervous I was and just got caught up in reading all of Grand Harry’s old history books. I grew up with all of these books and it was cool to go back and rediscover them. Do you ever have that kind of moment? The one where you read a good book and you fall in love with it but you just sort of put it on the shelf and forget about it until you come back years later and it’s like meeting an old friend? I guess most of my readers probably don’t have “analog” bookshelves anymore but me and Grand Harry were kind of old fashioned like that.
I remember becoming weirdly fascinated with a book about ancient astronomers. This was one of my favorites. It talked about Issac Newton, Robert Hooke, Galielo, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, and Carl Sagan, just to name a few. I loved these kind of books because it was full of guys who were just as passionate about space and history and science as I was. I liked looking back on these men who dreamed of surfing the stars and I often wondered what it would be like to get in a time machine and bring them to the present day. What would they make of a society that reached as far as an entire galaxy when, back then, they were all trapped on a little blue green planet? I especially liked the part about Edmond Halley. Did you know that he actually did a lot more than just discover a comet? He worked a lot with Issac Newton and together discovered the mysteries of gravity.
I was letting my mind wander when I had an idea hit me like a brick to the brain. I rushed into the cockpit of a personal exploration pod and departed from the ship. I took a plug from the pod’s console and plugged in.
Grand Harry hailed me on my com, “I take it you thought of something?”
“Grand Harry, I’ve had the most wonderful idea. I know exactly where to go. I just have to find where it is in the solar system right now.”
“Well,” said Grand Harry and I could tell that he was smiling. “I can’t wait to see what you’ve dug up. I’ll keep your dinner warm for you, lark.”
I googled the current path of Halley’s Comet and found that at this time, it was currently visiting somewhere by Jupiter. I jumped into hyper drive, put on an audiobook of the Canterbury Tales, and made my way out to the gas giant. I was on the Wife of Bath’s Tale when I finally reached my destination. I started to scan the skies and eventually found the comet. I matched my speed with it as best as I can and launched the pod’s harpoons into the surface. It was a rocky landing to be sure but by some miracle, I managed to land on it. I used the claw like “hands” of the pod to drill into the comet and got a chunk the size of a small dog’s head. I retracted the arms and made my way back to the ship.
The next day, I landed on Earth and made my way to the Bureau of Treasure Hunters in San Francisco. It was about 5:00 AM when I got there and I decided I would just sit on the steps and wait for them to open the doors. I hadn’t ate much of Grand Harry’s dinner and I hadn’t slept at all. I knew that this would pay off and I knew it would work deep in my…soul, I guess? I don’t really know what to call it. I watched the sun rise over the planet Earth. I’ve visited every planet in the solar system, including Pluto, the prodigal son, as it were, and I think that Earth has the absolute prettiest sunrises of all time. The sunsets on Mars are pretty kickass but the sunrises of Earth simply can’t be beat. I would recommend visiting Earth just for the sunrises, really. I know it’s kind of considered an old-fashioned idea to visit Earth but it truly is a magical place.
People used to believe in magic once upon a time. People used to believe in mythological beasts like dragons, chimeras, and Medusa but we know better now. But I wonder about the kind of technology we now posses. Things like the internet; an infinite library of all the knowledge in the known galaxy accessed by bionic ports surgically implanted in the back of our skulls so that all knowledge can be instantly transferred directly in our brains. This sort of thing would be considered magic by anyone from someone like the 15th century. Even the ability to fly, let alone the ability to race across the stars near the speed of light and effectively travel through time is essentially no different than sorcery of ancient times. I think about this stuff a lot.
I saw the Custodian of Records come to unlock the door. He was a friendly looking old man with a bushy mustache.
“Morning,” he said congenially
“Actually, today is my trial.”
“Ha,ha, yeah, I was too when I first came on,” he said. “I’m sure you’ll do fine.”
“I know I will.”
“Hell yeah, that’s the spirit.”
The trial took place in the main hall with the five Nobles. In case you didn’t know, that’s what the judges are called in the treasure hunting business.
“We’ve read your essay, Miss Castor,” said one of the Nobles.
“We were very impressed, Lan,” said another Noble. “The trial given to you, as it was given to all of us, was to find an artifact that had never been brought to us before within 24 Earth hours. Have you accomplished this feat?”
“Please present it to us.”
I reached into my backpack and pulled out the small rock that I had wrapped up in a t-shirt. I unfolded the t-shirt and showed them.
“A rock?” said one of the Nobles.
“A piece of Halley’s Comet,” I explained. “This is one of the oldest artifacts in human history. Discovered in 1705 by Edmond Halley, this artifact was found near Jupiter. It’s been seen several times by Earth denizens for hundreds of years but never before has it been collected and presented by an artifact to this council. This is my find.”
The council of Nobles looked at the rock and then to me and back to the rock.
“We will need some time to discuss this,” said one of them and they left to a back room. I took a seat and tried to breathe. Oh god, I hope this worked. After what seemed like forever, they finally came back in.
“Miss Castor,” said a Noble and then corrected herself by saying, “Lan. This is highly irregular, you understand?”
“It also happens to be a remarkable find. We have thought long and hard about this and the decision is unanimous.”
She got up and held out her hand.
“Welcome to the Treasure Hunters.”
The relief and excitement and joy I felt in that moment was truly indescribable and unsurmountable. I ran up to Grand Harry later in tears and he was worried that I didn’t get it. I showed him my license and then we both started to cry. I never saw him cry. Not even when grandma died.
As I mentioned before, Grand Harry has passed away. I remember the day in the hospital like it was yesterday. I had to keep leaving his room so I could go cry in the bathroom. I wouldn’t dare show that kind of weakness to him. Not to Grand Harry.
The day he died, he said to me, “Lan, I’ve lived a rich life, haven’t I.” It wasn’t a question; not really.
“You really have Grand Harry. About five centuries ain’t half bad.”
“Nah, I guess it isn’t. But it’s funny, you know. All this time, all this life, and all I want is to go out on one last treasure hunt.”
“There’s a cave I found a couple of months back. I haven’t really gotten a chance to look around in it yet but I wish you could come with me.”
“Maybe, little lark, I can.”
I cocked my head at my Grand Harry.
“You could wear a visor with a video link to my tablet,” Grand Harry explained. “I can talk to you through the coms. It’ll be like I’m really there.”
Part of me was extremely nervous to leave Grand Harry for any amount of time. What if he passed and I wasn’t there? What if I set up the video link and all I got was a doctor telling me how sorry he was for my loss? But I could not deny a dying man’s request; especially not when that request comes from Grand Harry.
I flew out immediately to the cave and wasted no time in getting into my gear. I turned on the camera in my visor and got on the coms, dreading who might answer.
“Grand Harry? Still there?”
“Always, lark,” I heard the familiar voice in my ear. “I promise.”
I was glad that Grand Harry couldn’t see the tears well up in my eyes then.
“Ok,” I said in a shaky voice. “I’m heading into the cave.”
“Where is it? I can’t see?”
“It’s underwater. Ready?”
“More than ever.”
I submerged into the ocean and let myself gently drift down until I hit the ocean floor. I took a good look of my surroundings. The ocean looks so different from below; a world lost to time now ruled over by the creatures of the waters.
I made my way to the cave entrance. I tried to imagine what this landscape must have looked like when it was still above the sea. A lush, green English country side that the sun used to touch upon everyday, brining life to the people and creatures of the past. It felt like time traveling, underwater exploration. It’s one of my favorite things in the world to do.
I entered the cave and tried to look at everything so that Grand Harry didn’t feel cheated. I know he was just thrilled to be along for one last hunt but even so, I needed to make sure I captured everything.
“Look at those stalactites, lark,” Grand Harry said in my ear.
“Beautiful, aren’t they?”
“You be careful out there now. No telling what underwater beastie has claimed this place as their home. Might be you’ll run into a sea bear down there.”
“There’s no such thing, Grand Harry.”
“I’m only teasing,” he laughed.
I went down deeper and deeper into the cave. At one point, I found an underwater river. It’s exactly what it sounds like. There’s such a thing as a river that can flow just like rivers on the surface but completely submerged. I even managed to find a tomb. I went into the tomb and of course it had been licked clean but I did manage to find a single gold coin.
“What a find!” said Grand Harry excitedly.
“Looks like 14th century, maybe?”
“Maybe so, maybe so. Hang on to that one; it’s a beaut.”
I ventured further down and Grand Harry was being weirdly quiet. It made me nervous.
“Grand Harry? Still with me?”
“Always, lark” he said slowly.
“Lan, I’m so proud of you.”
“I know you are.”
“But I’m your damned grandfather,” he said in a kind way. “We need to say it once in a while. It’s just what grandfathers do.”
“I know but…you’re scaring me.”
“Nothing to be scared of. I see that now.”
“You be good now.”
The radio went silent.
I fell to the ocean floor and burst into tears. My body shook in great, racking sobs that simply couldn’t stop. It was like all the times I had wanted to cry in front of him were now pouring out of me, far too late for it to be of any good now. Decades of bottled up tears were now scrambling to be the first out the emotional cell I had kept them in.
I thought about turning back. No need to explore the rest of the cave now. Who would watch? And yet…I’m not what you would call a new agey type person but in that moment, I knew that I still had an audience and that he still wanted one last hunt. And a true treasure hunter would not turn back if there was still cave left to explore. So we went deeper into the cave.
That’s when I found it.
Deep in the bottom of the cave, there was a door. Not like in the wall or something but just standing on it’s own, leading to nowhere. I walked all around it and tried to see what was holding it up. Even when I pushed against it, it wouldn’t budge. The strangest thing was that it looked like an electronic door that I would find back home, on Grand Harry’s ship. But that was impossible, right? This kind of technology is recent and wouldn’t be found in a cave that no one has been in for centuries. Or maybe someone put the door down here but why would they? What purpose could it possibly serve? I walked up the door and reached my hand out. I was astounded to see that hand panel for the door opened and appeared to function perfectly despite all the pressure and water. What else could I do in this situation? I opened the door.
Somewhere, two people opened the same door. One of the people happened to be a woman while the other happened to be a man but truly, it made no difference. It also mattered little where they were born and, indeed, when they were born. What mattered is right here, at this very moment when they are about to meet.
They approach each other. One recognizes clothes from an age impossibly far away and the other doesn’t recognize anything; he has never seen anything so unfamiliar in his lifetime, nor will he ever again. One tries to speak but finds that sound does not exist in this place. They both wonder if this also means that time and space do not exist. Have they died? Where do they stand if there is nothing to stand on?
They have been thrust into the margins, as it were; the in-between places. Reality is far from stable and there is overlap everywhere. This overlap is where the two people stand now. The hole to this place took the form of a door because our brains could not comprehend anything more than that. All this did the two communicate to each other and without once uttering a single word.
One held out a hand to the other. And the other took it.
They were no longer alone. The in-between place had become full as far as the eye could see with people, plants, and animals. Each and everyone of these creatures had a thousand tiny strings of light extending, curving, and twisting out of themselves and connecting to another. There was not one thing there that wasn’t connected to something else. Some of the strands even led up into the heavens among the countless stars and stretching out into infinity. The two people looked at themselves and found that they too were wove into the web of life.
They noticed colors in each of the strands and they noticed that there was an uncountable possibility of color hues, combinations, and even colors they did not know existed and would never be able to recall again. They observed that each person had a color of their own, a color that seemed to radiate out of and through their very being. If you followed the webs, you would see that the each person contributed their own color to the new one. There was no one solid color, only a thousand billion mixtures of them all. Everyone contributed to everything else and back again.
The two people, the man and the woman, began to run their fingers delicately along the delicate dew-like strands of energy. As they did, they saw everything who made that person what they were. What they had been like, what they would be like, and what they are in this moment. They saw a woman who brought laughter and hope into every life she encountered, a man who devoted his life to art, love, and the art of love making, an animal who had lived all of five years before freezing to death in a freak blizzard, alone and unafraid, a tree who had lived over a thousand years to be burned to ash, a man who killed people for sexual pleasure, a woman who beat her children and then hated herself for it; they saw absolutely everything.
They were shocked to find that they were directly connected to some of these evil people and comforted when discovering they were attached to the good ones but as they ventured further, good and evil became more and more gray with every passing memory. The question of morality, which had always seemed so obvious, was now under harsh scrutiny and reevaluation.
They walked through the life web for what would have felt like centuries had time found its way into this place. On Earth and far across the galaxy, life was connected to each other; there was no exception to this, they found. Eventually, the infinite crowd began to disperse to somewhere else. The man and the woman would implore with the departing ones to stay awhile and say of where they were going but they all shook their heads and disappeared into the ether.
The woman and the man found themselves alone again, the web mostly dispersed except for the rope of light that connected them. It was funny, in a way; all this time observing the connections between others and not once had either of them thought to see their own to each other. The web was a thick one, thicker than any other connections they had seen and the colors that enveloped them were nearly identical. Nothing passed between them, nothing could be said for there was no need. They made eye contact and embraced each other, both feeling whole in a way neither of them had ever felt before. Simultaneously, they began to weep and yell and laugh all at once. In their minds, they spoke to one another on a plane of communication unknown to humans. They ran and laughed and made love and they strode forward equally in everything.
They could feel that the in-between place was beginning to slip away from them. They embraced one last time and began to walk in the direction that they had came. They both looked back and both felt that they shouldn’t have for some reason.
One thought of the life she would now live knowing everything that she knew; everyone and everything she had been and of all the implications that lie therein. She had seen bits of herself capable of horrible, unspeakable things and other parts of her being accomplishing feats she never thought possible by human hands; wonderful remarkable things.
The other thought of everything he would become. He had always believed that it would be dangerous for any one person to know too much of his own future lest they try to change it and thus, knowing of the connections he now knew, change the universe. Perhaps that is they way it should be. Perhaps this glimpse into the future was not set in stone but he would never again be sure of himself in this. Until his death, he would feel uncertain whether or not he was in control of his own life or no, knowing full well what his life and lives to come would be like because of his actions. He knew he would feel this way because he himself had seen it.
Standing back to back, looking over a shoulder, the woman and the man looked at each other longer than they should have. This place had given them more than any human being had ever deserved and they knew that they were being greedy to linger within it but a connection remains that cannot be severed between these two.
They walked out the same door from two different points in the time stream.