Dr. Emma Margulis adjusted her visor and rivulets of diamond sand fell across the plexiglass. She tapped the display on her suit’s forearm and then pointed a laser scanner at the massive structure jutting out of the windswept dunes.
“Is everything alright?” Milli shouted over the wind.
Emma didn’t answer.
The progress bar appeared on her visor as she guided the laser along the intricate pattern of glyphs edged on the side of the colossal monument. It was the first evidence of intelligent life outside the solar system. Its discovery had been hailed as one of the greatest in human history. Dr. Margulis was the first exo-archeologist to be given access to this amazing discovery in the hopes of learning more about the mysterious beings who inhabitted this planet before even the Earth was born.
The scanner on her arm beeped three times.
Dr. Margulis read the results silently, and without saying a word, she tapped the interface and again pointed her arm at the alien monument.
“What is it?” Milli said looking over Emma’s shoulder.
“Something is wrong with the scanner,” Emma said pressing the button. “Maybe sand got into it.”
“It can’t be,” said Milli. “I checked it before we left. You know how thorough I am.”
Emma knew the scanner could easily withstand the conditions of this alien desert. But she could not accept the results that she had just seen.
She pointed the laser at the glyphs and rescanned them.
In the sky, Sirius A and B streamed their haunting light on the windswept plains. Diamond eddies swirled and glittered in the air with a deep purple hue.
The scanner beeped again.
The results appeared on Emma’s visor display, hovering on her visual field like orange ghosts. She read the words aloud.
“Do not look for hope in this abode. Seek thine own inheritance. Look for a place worthy of yourselves and rest in it, and do not constrict gods in their own houses, as every man is happy in his place and every man is glad in his house.”
Milli listened to Dr. Margulis with open mouth, not quite believing what she was hearing.
“This can’t be real,” the girl said. “It must be a hoax. Someone messed with the scanner. This language is not in our database. So how can this translation be accurate?”
Through the hazy violet atmosphere, Emma saw the light from the transport shuttle blink on and off over the hills.
“Time to go,” she said. “We mustn’t tell anyone about this. Not yet.”
“But what if this is real? Emma, this sounds like an Egyptian inscription! What is it doing out here, light years from Earth?”
“I am sure, my dear Milli, that there is a perfectly reasonable and pedestrian explanation. A glitch, that is all.”
In reality, Emma didn’t believe her own level-headed interpretation. For the software to commit an error of this magnitude was unthinkable. A word or two, yes, but there was no way the scanner would misinterpret an entire phrase that just happened to be strikingly similar to an ancient Egyptian curse. Yet, the alternative explanation was too fantastic to believe.
She directed her research team to pack up. In the sky, the light of the binary suns reflected off the sand, and the glyphs on the monument began to glow.
The archaeologist and her research assistant looked at each other. Emma felt exhilarated, but her trepidation was reflected on Milli’s stare. Looking up at the monument, silhouetted against the spectral sky, she felt small and lost, as if the cosmic rug had been pulled from under her feet.
On the way back, Emma looked at Milli, and in the girl’s eyes, she saw the haunted look of someone who had seen too much too soon. Emma tried to smile but only managed a weak one. She then looked at the monument receding below them, enveloped by the crystalline sand. When it had disappeared on the horizon, Emma sat in silence, listening to the low hum of the shuttle, and the rustling of diamond dust striking the glass.
Thank you for reading my entry to the Ink Well challenge. The prompt for this week was: Inheritance.
The title and general theme of the story was based on the verses from TS Eliot's Little Gidding
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning
~T. S. Eliot- 1955
The ancient Egyptian curse is based on this one I found in this page, though I cannot vouch for its authenticity.
Image by @litguru