I imagine archaeologists to be a rugged lot. Thick-soled boots like the treads of earth-movers, caked in ancient and illuminating grime. Wide brims and handkerchiefs and mirrored sunglasses to guard against a bully-sun cracking its knuckles. Scrapes and bruises; dehydration and sunburns; fingertips raw, knees creaking, eyes gritty and red.
And pockets. Lots of pockets.
I’m not ill-prepared in my bathrobe; just exploring a different terrain. A bathrobe, because stumbling in the dark for pants will wake her. Slipperless feet so that I can follow the contours of the carpet with my toes, in the dark. Or possibly because I’ve misplaced my slippers. A mug of coffee to keep my senses warm and alert.
My bathrobe has two pockets. I don’t know what they’re for.
The stairs lead downward, walls low and close. The evidence is sparse: faint outlines of shoe prints, scuff marks, crumbs clinging to the soles of my feet. They were here, quick and raucous.
There is an eyeball on the floor, staring at the ceiling. Disturbing in any light, and unexpected. I give it a scientific nudge with my toe, and it glows. Red, blue, green, red, blue, green. It fades, leaving a purple globe in my vision. Who were they, to have this? And to what purpose?
The pupil wobbles and settles. It does not follow.
Their civilization is spread across the floor, shattered. Or perhaps incomplete. Small, colorful bits of plastic are arranged in familiar shapes. I see buildings and vehicles with wheels and wings, and tiny figures scaled to use them. A village? A city? The design is haphazard, as though it hadn’t been planned, but discovered.
I see fluorescent domes, and devices that could be guns or drills or experimental probes. Or death rays. A military installation? This appears to be an airstrip, or landing pad. The headless bodies surrounded by wreckage certainly indicate a conflict.
I can’t explain the tentacles.
I do know there was laughter. Sudden bursts of joy punctuating the soft murmur of voices. There was discussion, and the rising inflection of questions. Shuffling and thumping, and an occasional scuffle. A companionable society that smelled strongly of feet.
But I can’t know the details; haven’t known for a while. I used to know everything. When he woke and slept, what he ate and when. What he wore, and what he learned. Who was there, what they said, what they did. What the tentacles were for.
He didn’t belong to me, but had been placed within my care. He needed.
Now there are swaths of hidden time. Where I am not, and so cannot see. A society to which I had belonged, but has grown beyond my grasp. Vast, and bright, and wonderful.
All I have are clues. Fading trails and bread crumbs, shards covered in dust. Remnants of history clouded by free will and perpetual motion. My knees crack and my joints ache. Sometimes I am burned.
I don’t have enough pockets.
(Originally posted on Total Depravity.)