Finding, Falling | Jon Marks

Technology intercedes on the life’s work of one man.


Finding, Falling

Jon Marks

For The Eighth Wonder Award


At 140 miles the payload unfurled solar wings, an eagle taking flight around the earth at 17000 mph, eyes scanning and transmitting.

Stumbling under his load Masud pushed forwards through the gathering gloom, night settling like ash, thick and uncomfortable. A scarcely hopeful, high pitched voice reached out of the shadows towards him “Newspaper for you sir?”
The man almost ignored the children, but glimpsing their faces – their age – he ground slowly to a halt, struggling to control his burden, “Let’s have one then kids,” he called into the darkness before him, rifling through a pocket for some coins.
“Thanks so much sir,” a hand darted forwards, lifting half the form of a small boy out of the shadow. Newspaper and coin changed hands; over in an instant, the child melted away. A glance at the headlines stopped the commuter dead, not even noticing the load sliding off his back. A low whistle of concern echoed the street as he straightened, muscles protesting, and a frown creased his forehead, driving away weary happiness.

Silently slipping into bed beside his wife his mind turned frantically, but no solution came. Slowly, as stars began peering through the curtainless window, he drifted to the embrace of broken dreams, of pyramids and thieves, pharaohs and poverty; hounded by worry.

A shocked half-scream ripped Masud from sleep; the inhalation that followed tore him from the bedroom. Swaying on her feet, tears cascading, white knuckles wrapped around a chair, yet her other hand still clutching the newspaper. His wife. “No one believed you. All the scorn.” Rising to a trembling crescendo: “All the abuse…” she trailed off, eyes turning dull as the reality of everything sank deeper than mere vindication. Before he could hold her a sobbing pulled her unconsciously to respond to her baby, but for once it lacked the power to pull her back into the world.

Cairo absorbed the archaeologist, once more carrying the huge canvas bundle, full of gently jingling tools. Early morning streets were a jumble of workers and tourists, hawkers vying for attention, and always, at busy intersections and precincts the armed police. Dully noting their increase in number he refused to consider what this might mean, rather filing the information away.
Reaching Giza, he flashed a work pass, accompanied with a weak grin to his friend. It went unreturned. Worry etched the guard’s face, but as he stepped to intercept the worker Masud sped up, for once unwilling to chat, not yet able to accept what he knew must be true.
Hastily erected cordens barred all access, not even allowing him to see his excavations; turning from a flashy information board with disgust, he dropped his tools and forced his way through the weak barrier, striving to see his work. Shouts had no power to stop him, and it was not until two foreigners grabbed hold of a shoulder each that he was halted.
“What do ya think you’re doing” one bellowed, “We put tape up for a reason.”
“What am I doing!?” Masud threw back hotly, “What have you done?” he tried to wave to just behind the slope of the pyramid, but held tight, he failed. “That’s the last three and a half years of my life that you’ve just destroyed.”
Affronted by the accusations he replied vehemently, “No-one’s going to destroy anything. We’re archaeologists, we preserve it all, we don’t destroy it.”
Sagging in their arms at these words, all the emotion fled from Masud; after being harshly escorted out he nearly didn’t go back to his tools, but shouldering the bag he tried to console himself that he could sell them when money ran out.
Unable to break the news to his wife, the man paused outside a TV shop as the news rolled: “Scientists say that a new satellite has detected a huge cavern in the bedrock under the Great Pyramid of Giza. Apparently man-made, it was used about 5000 years ago, most likely by the ancient Maadi culture, who left a huge amount of copper within the chamber. World renowned archaeologists are convening in Cairo, and it’s rumoured this may unlock the mystery of why the pyramids were built at Giza. Whatever the case, this looks set to be the discovery of the decade, perhaps even th…”
A bowed figure walked on.