Five Silver Discs
by Michele Dutcher
Part 1 and Part 2|
appear in this issue.
When he arrived at the lab at 10:30, the Frenchman found the curator behaving anxiously. As the group assembled slowly, taking their seats carefully, Señor Maleto studied everyone who entered. “Someone’s been talking,” he leveled at the seated group suddenly. “I realize it’s difficult to keep something of this magnitude within these four walls, but it remains paramount we get this translated before the story hits the press.”
He held up a newspaper. “This is the El Heraldo de Mexico Pantalla. It is this morning’s edition. Yesterday, we were two paragraphs on page C12, and today we are three columns on A3.”
“It’s probably the reporter that the watchman started dating,” sighed Marlene. “She’s been chomping at the bit for first rights to the manuscript.”
“Let us offer her exactly that, if she agrees to hold off further publication for forty-eight hours.” The curator placed the newspaper on the countertop behind him. “Marlene, will you see to it she’s given our proposal this morning?”
Marlene rose to her feet hesitantly, gathered her purse and put on her blazer. “I’ll see to it,” she told the group as she left the room.
Señor Maleto waited quietly to hear the sound of Marlene stepping into the elevator. There was the sound of the doors shutting just before the hum of the elevator descending.
“I can’t prove it of course,” he exhaled, “but I believe it’s her. I think she is the leak. I’ve already given the reporter the heads-up on the situation. I just don’t want Marlene in here.” He relaxed, finally, placing his palms on his knees before leaning against the table surrounding the disc.
“If we focus,” said Jean-Michel, “we should be able to finish the translation today.”
“Agreed,” affirmed the assistant at the computer. “Let’s set that as our goal.”
“Then let us start the session,” said the curator.
Everyone’s attention shifted to the silver disc at the center of the table. It was embossed with an etching of an anaconda. Seven tones were heard and an image appeared.
Ava-rei floated above the table, seemingly in her late twenties. Her red hair was tinged with grey streaks by her ears. Even with that, thought the Frenchman, she looked perfect. She seemed to him the kind of woman who could witness the destruction of a planet and still stand strong enough to survive and thrive. He was amazed by her resilience and cowered by her authentic beauty.
As she spoke, her words poured through him. “Fellow survivors greetings. If you arrive in this meeting house while we are gone you are welcome. Now that the water has returned to the seas... we begin to search the new coast... boats coming from the west. My mate, Thoth, has seen an island... a mountaintop of the old lands. More of that land might appear.” The vision hesitated and looked at her black canvass shoes. “Maybe not. Those of us here find it hard... the way things have become.
“We got an air talk ten lunars... ago from the great red cliff people. They said the ground there... turning to ice... moving north. We tried to answer the air talk but... it was a just a circle call for help.
“Be careful, fellow survivors, of the star in the sky. It burns the skin as it floats above us. The star in the sky... the cause of rapid age in our children. Ten babies here with us look older now. We keep them in the caves as much as possible.”
The red-haired female stopped speaking and kneeled, motioning for someone outside the holograph to join her. A dark-skinned child ran into her arms. “This is Moxami. Only four circles old... but already walking and says words run together. If she keeps going like this... Moxami may die before two hundred circles old. Beware of the star. It hurts children.
“A good thing, now that the cloud wall fell from the sky — there are color arcs which show after small showers. These arcs are like the rock arcs... crystal arcs. Have you seen them?
“A good thing also — the lights in the night sky. As a sky runner, I saw them before Day One, when I flew above the cloud wall, but I stand now on the dirt and watch them. Others stand now seeing the lights for the first time.
“There are now 183 here... 47 here from the west sea. Broken is one of our power boxes. I use the skyrunner’s power boxes to make this spoken word. Thoth has tried to fix, but without good pieces, the power box may be lost. We use the other one for heat at night. If the other power box fails, we may leave our warrior city and go down to the coast.
“Wait for us till we return. We wait for you.”
* * *
Later that night, as the interpreter lay beneath white, starched sheets and a gold-colored cotton bedspread, he smiled, thinking of the redhead he had recently met: not Marlene but Ava-rei. She tussled her bobbed hair for him once more before his exhausted body gave in to the need to sleep.
Some time after midnight Jean-Michel dreamed that he was home, walking in a park. There had been a severe drought and the shrubs, the trees, even the grass were brown and dry and dying. Suddenly he heard the sound of children laughing. Following the noise, he floated to the top of a hill where a dozen children splashed in a fountain. As he watched, he realized Ava was there too, playfully chasing the children into the water that poured joyfully from a bronze pitcher held by a statue of Pan. No one would ever know, not even the dreamer, but Jean-Michel quietly chuckled in his sleep.
Jean-Michel sat quietly at the bar beside the hotel’s indoor pool. He watched the reflection of ripples in the water as they ran up the red walls only to hit the ceiling and run back down again. Thirty-something couples lounged about in white linen clothing, chuckling at small tables with bright orange tablecloths. “Una margarita, por favor,” the Frenchman told the bartender. He watched the young man shake the iced concoction in front of the three-dozen lighted bottles behind him. The hanging paper lights stood out like small moons against the cave-like ambience of the midday bar.
“May I sit?” asked a friendly feminine voice at his elbow.
Jean-Michel looked up from his light lunch. Of course the voice belonged to Marlene.
“Sit, please,” he invited, motioning to the chair beside him.
“Merci, Monsieur Dumont,” she responded, smiling while settling in at the bar.
“Thank you for speaking my native tongue,” he smiled back. “I hear it far too infrequently I fear.”
“I spent six months studying art in Paris years ago,” the cheerful woman offered freely. “Ombligo de Brumoso, por favor,” she instructed the bartender.
The interpreter quickly eyed the other hotel guests who were sitting at a safe distance. “Did you catch up with that reporter?”
“I did.” She hesitated. “But I got the impression she had already had the proposition presented to her. She listened, but she really wasn’t listening. A person can tell, you know.”
The tall fruity drink arrived, complete with paper umbrella, and Jean-Michel instructed the bearer to put it on his tab. “Merci sitôt de nouveau,” she smiled.
“In a very short time, secrecy will no longer be an issue,” he told her.
“True, true,” she shrugged while cradling the Fuzzy Navel between her palms.
“We should be able to finish up by tomorrow evening,” he lied.
“Aren’t we meeting again this afternoon?”
“Hieme has been having difficulty activating the last two discs.” His body position instinctively became more guarded.
“I’ll call Señor Melato then,” she said beginning to rise, “and see if there will be an afternoon session today.” She reached into her black leather handbag and retrieved her cell phone as she walked towards a door marked Damas.
The interpreter relaxed as he finished his enchiladas. Pushing the platter forward, he ordered coffee while retrieving a pack of Camel Lites and a Zippo from an inside coat pocket. The cherry on his cigarette had burned half-way down the cylinder by the time the museum assistant returned.
“It seems they’ve had no luck at all activating either disc. They’ll be working through the afternoon trying a variety of tonal combinations,” she told him while reclaiming her seat.
Jean-Michel nodded while rising. “Mañana then,” he told the lady while signing the Visa receipt with a bar pen.
“Mañana,” repeated the redhead cordially.
* * *
Twenty minutes later, the interpreter was seated beside the showcase in the lab. Also present were Señor Maleto, the stenographer, the expert in mythology, the two Peruvian archeologists, a historian from Britain, and the computer technician: Heime. Jean-Michel noted the time — 1:17 p.m. — and unlatched his watch, setting it beside him on the table.
In the center of the showcase was a silver disc embossed with a fleet of men riding reed boats, surrounded by jumping fish and peaceful waves.
“Are we ready?” asked the museum curator.
“Ready,” answered the half-dozen men and women round-robin. The rat-tapping of the keyboard was heard, followed by seven tones, and then she was there with them, floating above the silver disc. Ava-rei-pua hovered there, eight inches tall, wearing a coat of jaguar fur with thick white material covering her legs. Behind her stood a man whose posture seemed to be protective of this woman. She raised her hand in greeting as she began to speak.
The words poured through the interpreter. “Fellow survivors greetings. We are Ava-rei-pua and Zehuti-thoth once of this frozen mountain city. We leave this record for you to know we have sailed to a rock in the west sea. Our second power box — broken three weeks before. We use power from the sky runner to give this message.”
The man behind her placed his hands on her shoulders as he began to speak. “There are tribes... primitives — no marauders — along the coast land. They came from the middle after the water stopped. We cannot match their lust for blood. I now wear a birdman mask when I walk on the coast. It frightens them at night.” The man, Thoth, held up a feathered, full-head mask in the shape of a bird’s head.
Ava began to talk again. “After three battles, I am going to the island... the belly of the world. I have with me my brothers, Hotu Matua and Machaa... fifty others.” The woman sighed deeply before proceeding. “Zethu-Thoth will use a skyrunner to look east for fuel and survivors. Then he will return to me. We have a reed boat with three masts... leave as soon as the weather breaks.”
“This will be our last greeting.” Thoth put his hands on his hips. “This new world... harsh indeed. The land is ice below our feet. Our tools become useless. Makei-makei has died of what looks like aging... only 640 years old. If we survive as a people we must search out warm safe place to plant. The Ava people take with them sweet potatoes and young reeds out of which their ship is made.”
The image of the man stepped beside the smaller red-haired woman and reached into his heavy white flight suit. He pulled out a wooden pendant attached to a leather string. “Ava, I give this as a wish for you, so you may be huge and happy when I return.”
The woman examined the token, turning it in her hands. She placed it over her head, around her neck. It was a wooden pendant resembling a stocky smiling female. She turned back towards the Frenchman seemingly looking directly into his eyes. “Fellow survivors, we have with us the builder of statues here in this mountain city. When we arrive at our new home... this one will build images of rock to show we are there... we are waiting for you.”
As the pair moved out of sight, two kneeling statues with eyes turned skyward could be seen in the background. Another carving could be seen over a stone doorway: a man looking heavenward with tears on his cheeks. And the image was gone.
The small group drew a breath, almost in unison. The curator was the first to speak. “Unfortunately, we have been unable to activate the fifth disc, the birdman disc. It may have been too badly damaged over the millennia ever to be re-activated. So our work together is regretfully finished.
“The museum will be releasing full information to the newspapers in the morning. Of course we look forward to reports from each of you. Tomorrow morning before leaving, please pick up transcripts of these tapes from the front desk at the hotel.” Señor Maleto made a slight bow to the experts assembled before him. “Thank you each, once again. I trust your journeys home will be safe and enjoyable.”
As Jean-Michel left the laboratory, he wondered how pleasurable his journey home would ever be. His life was comfortable and intellectually rewarding, but there was a deeper need in some dark corner of his soul. It was a need that could have been fulfilled, perhaps, if he and the lady from the holograph had lived during the same time period. He was slightly amused to find himself envying Zehti-Thoth, who faced rebuilding an entire world but had the woman Ava-rei-pui at his side.
Copyright © 2007 by Michele Dutcher