Five Silver Discs
by Michele Dutcher
Part 1 and Part 3|
appear in this issue.
|part 2 of 3|
“It’s some kind of chart,” said the curator. “She’s holding up some kind of chart.”
Señor Maleto came around to the front of the holograph as the image ran her finger along an edge of one of the bold lines on the sheet.
“Look at these symbols here and here,” whispered Jean-Michel as he used a pencil to point. “They’re hieroglyphics. The high stylized form used by the Egyptian priests almost five thousand years ago.”
“It’s a map,” exhaled a historian. “She’s showing us a map with hieroglyphics on it.”
“I’ve got it!” the interpreter exclaimed. “It’s Hieratic. I’ve seen the writing, but I’ve never actually heard it spoken. It’s a pre-Greek language spoken among the upper classes along the Nile River. Give me a moment to filter the speech patterns, remembering how the individual symbols would sound.”
Jean-Michel allowed the words to flow through him as the hovering woman spoke. “The last... um... hairy elephant was killed for fun... four ellipses ago... years... But that’s okay... it would have been dead by now anyway.”
Marlene grabbed a pen and began to write down the interpretation. The image was pointing to a spot on the map “killed here...”
The image looked down and away. “You see other hairy elephants... trade talks when you come.”
“Get a stenographer from the office in here,” someone called out as a man raced out the door.
The image hovering above the table sighed and stopped for a moment. She lay the chart at her feet and then removed her white skullcap. She tussled her short red hair for a moment before it settled neatly into a short bob. “Thoth,” she pleaded into empty space, seeming to gaze directly into Jean-Michel’s gray-green eyes, “...if you come while we fly... wait for us, as we have waited for you. Wait for me as I have waited for you. Ava-rei, saying off.” The image was gone.
The interpreter crashed into the cushion on the back of his chair. He rested for a moment, attempting to regain his composure. “I’m in.”
“You don’t think it’s a fake, then?” asked Marlene. “From a linguistics point of view, I don’t see how it could be. Could we see the disk again, from the beginning?”
“Give me just a moment,” said the technician, keying instructions into the computer. And there she was again, in skullcap and flight suit, hovering over the display case.
Jean-Michel once more began processing the words the vision was speaking. “It seems to be some form of greeting,” he began to explain before beginning the literal interpretation. “...welcome, survivors... this is for you if you come while we fly... plenty of food... we are finding others... bringing to this city.”
“This is where she picks up the map,” whispered a historian. She was pointing to the chart now, circling a space on left side of the sheet. “...where the rock fell from the sky...” She pointed now to a symbol and a dot next to a bold line on the right side. “...raising us far from the coast. The cloud wall fell next...mountains exploding...something about steam.”
And then her spoken message about the hairy elephant was repeated, along with the ending.
The assistant rushed back into the lab, breathing heavily. “The office said they could have a professional stenographer here first thing in the morning.” The young man waited for instructions. “That’s not soon enough,” demanded Jean-Michel, instinctively tightening his left hand into a fist. “We must move on to the next disc as quickly as possible.”
The museum’s curator held his arms up to quiet the situation. “Let us take a moment to consider.” He looked around the showcase, at the four people seated there. “I realize we all want to rush forward into this thing, but perhaps it would be best to start fresh in the morning. We can’t be sure how many times these discs can be activated, and these words are far too important to lose due to undo haste. Although they are obviously being recorded, a stenographer would be a fail-safe for the interpretation. And, by tomorrow morning, two Peruvian archeologists and an expert in pre-historical mythology and religion should be in attendance.”
Jean-Michel crossed his arms, relaxed, and shrugged. “You’re right, of course, Señor. But let’s be sure to start right after breakfast tomorrow.”
“Excellent, let’s assemble here at nine A.M.”
One by one the small assemblage began to trickle out of the room. Jean-Michel rose from his chair, shaking the stiffness from his hips and knees. The trans-Atlantic flight paired with middle age was catching up with him. He watched the plate until it had been safely stored in a fireproof cabinet.
That night the Frenchman fell asleep under a blanket of paper made up of the one-hundred-and-thirty symbols of the Hieratic language. Somewhere in his being, he knew he was like a kid waiting for Christmas morning.
“It’s 73 degrees on this bright Tuesday morning in beautiful downtown Mexico City,” announced the radio clock on Jean-Michel’s bedstand. He checked the glowing red digital numbers. It was 7:36. He must have hit the snooze button a few times in his sleep. He decided the staff at the museum had been correct: it would be better starting fresh this morning. He must have been exhausted.
By ten-till-eight, the Frenchman was sitting at a table for six under a white five-foot umbrella in the hotel’s outdoor café. The orange tablecloths and the blue and gold china were friendly reminders of the status of the hotel’s guests.
All this affluence was a far cry from his childhood hometown: a small village in France. He wondered briefly what his breakfast table would have looked like if his grandparents hadn’t moved the family to the States. His skill with languages had become apparent early, as he interpreted for fellow students of different cultures on playgrounds in New York City. At eighteen, while his classmates were climbing onto ships headed for Korea, his flat feet and his language skills led him into a career as an interpreter for the Navy.
Señor Maleto, a lab member, the stenographer, and the two archeologist from Peru were eagerly greeting the new day with hefty breakfasts in the rose garden café. Marlene was the last to arrive and took the seat beside Jean-Michel. No one spoke about the discs. No one could be certain who might be listening in such an open location.
By 9 A.M., everyone was at the museum’s lab, facing a silver disc embossed with a six-toed lama.
“Are we ready to start?” asked Hieme.
“Ready,” echoed the group round-robin.
“Then let’s begin.” He tapped out instructions on the keypad. Seven tones were heard and a holograph appeared above the table. Before the assemblage stood an eight-inch man with red hair, peppered with gray, dressed in a metallic flight suit. The image took a deep breath, smiled, and began to speak.
Jean-Michel allowed the predominately Egyptian language to pour out of him in English. “Greetings fellow survivors. I am Makei-makei. Since the rain stopped five lunars ago... perhaps months... we search for survivors around us... may not be here, in this warrior city when you arrive... allow this disc to welcome you... sky runners will return.
“Until a few... days ago... trapped inside... food here for all... one hundred and twenty of us... most dead from the shaking and the water...”
The image looked down as if lost in deep thought. He brightened again as he looked to Jean-Michel’s right side. “I have with me my Ava-rei.” He motioned with his hands for someone out of range to step into the holograph. He was joined by the red-haired young woman as his smile broadened. She nuzzled under his arm and poked the gray-haired man in his abundant belly.
“Makei-makei should tell you it is the day of his birth,” the teenager laughed. “Speak how old you are.” The man hesitated. “This day he is 637 circles old.”
The middle-aged man pretended to be disturbed. “And you are 142 circles, young one.” He placed his hands on his hips.
Jean-Michel thought his heart would jump through his chest. “Wait for us to return... we wait for you.” As the two began to step out of the holograph, a four-foot box with blinking, lighted hieroglyphics could be seen in the background. And then the image was gone.
The stenographer put his pad and pencil in his lap, and laid his hands flat on the table. “Have they all been like this?” he asked Jean-Michel, clearly mesmerized.
The man behind the computer fielded the question. “This is only the second disc we’ve interpreted. If I were to venture a guess, I’d say this is an earlier recording than the first because of the age of the girl.”
“Right you are,” agreed the Señor Maleto. “The girl in this one could well have been the woman Ava-rei-pua in the jaguar disc.”
Marlene leaned into the discussion, “What did she mean, ‘653 circles old’?”
The interpreter did what he did best. “The word she is using is basically pre-Coptic in nature. I have no reason to doubt she’s referring to the orbit of the Earth round the Sun, what we commonly refer to as a year.” He drew himself up from his chair and plunged his hands into his pockets. “If I had to decide, I’d say this young woman meant exactly what she seemed to be saying: this man, Makei-makei, is 653 years old.”
“But how could that be possible?” insisted the stenographer.
The expert on mythology stepped in at this point. “There was belief, widely held by primitive societies that, at some point in humanity’s past, people lived hundreds of years, not just our typical seventy. The Hebrew, Gaelic, Native American, and Egyptian cultures, to name just a few, all believed people enjoyed incredible life spans before some kind of disaster befell mankind. After this event, whatever it may have been, people were forced out of the comfort of a hospitable environment and shoved into the world as we know it today.”
“Imagine what could have been accomplished if people lived for a thousand years instead of the typical four-score and ten,” said Marlene.
“That’s right on target,” agreed the mythology expert. “In our present world, knowledge is like a stick in a relay race; it’s handed off over and over again every sixty years or so. Primitive people believed there was a time when humans could accumulate knowledge for a millennium before being forced to pass it on.”
“People, people,” interrupted the curator, “we’ll have plenty of time to debate the meaning of these holographs after we see them in their entirety. Let us not get ahead of ourselves.”
“I favor proceeding to the next disc immediately,” said Marlene.
The curator looked down for a moment, shaking his head in disagreement. “Unfortunately, I have a non-related conference scheduled for two p.m. If I miss it, things might look unusual to too many people.”
“Then let’s meet back here at 11 o’clock mañana,” suggested Marlene. “That will also give Tobias the time he needs to process a basic manuscript of what we just heard.”
“Agreed,” said the half-dozen scientists and linguists who formed the tight circle around the lighted case. “Eleven A.M. it is.”
* * *
Immediately after finishing dinner in his room, Jean-Michel keyed an email to Andrew Ruddell on his laptop.
“My old Friend,
I’m full in...
I stand amazed...
So I’m here for days.”
He spent the rest of his strength that evening attempting to verbalize Hieratical symbols.
Copyright © 2007 by Michele Dutcher