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TIMEKEEPER

by Stephen McKinnon

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© 2000 - all rights reserved

CHAPTER I

Dr. Creighton watched the two men brushing sand away from his latest find. The hot sun burned down on their backs as they leaned over the exposed rock, causing them to tire easily. Younger boys, to quench the thirst of the workers, were carrying water around. Earlier that morning, they had uncovered the remnants of a skull. The cranium was smaller than any of its type found in the past. The jaw and cheekbone appeared human, but not of this age, he was sure probably an earlier ancestor. Maybe even the missing link. He contained his excitement as the crew continued to dig.
A cloud of dust was rising far off on the horizon. This could only mean one thing to the doctor. His regular visit from the Indian government was about to take place. They were quite easy to work around for the most part, but had a tendency to talk a lot. He wanted to work quietly at his project and this was sometimes difficult with them on the location. If he said anything to them regarding his further discoveries they would chatter on forever. It would be wiser to wait until more was known, before sharing the discovery.
He walked over to where his truck was parked and laid the pieces of the skull on a cloth sheet. He then folded the remaining material over them for concealment. After this was completed, he walked back to the hill overlooking the dig.
The "dig" had been broken up into several small groups who were working in various locations over the valley of sand below. Up until now, the articles found were reasonably insignificant.
But with the discovery of the skull, it seemed things were about to change.
A shout came from one of the Indian men working below. He was waving a small brush over his head.
"Come see," he yelled. "Come see."
Creighton moved down the slope, sliding in the loose sand as he walked.
"What is it?" he called back.
"Come see," the cry came once more.
It took little time to the worker. The man stepped aside as the Doctor arrived and pointed at the tiny opening at his feet.
Creighton kneeled down and leaned his face closer to the sand.
"I can't see anything in there, can you?"
"No, not I." the man answered.
"Just the darkness, Sahib."
"Never mind," Creighton said.
"Leave it now. Go help the others over there," he added, pointing to workers on another site.
The man met Dr. Creighton with a confused stare.
"Quickly, over there," he repeated.
A car was nearing the tents surrounding the dig. The government workers would soon be there.
He returned to the top of the dunes and moved towards the tents. By the time he arrived, the car had come to a halt near the largest canopy. Artifacts were being cleaned there and that was usually where they met with the archaeologists.
A short, overweight man with black curly hair stood at the entrance when Dr. Creighton arrived.
"Hello Doctor," the short man called as he approached.
He was smiling a very broad smile, displaying his widely separated teeth. There was quite a contrast between the two men.
Samuel Creighton stood six foot, three inches tall. His hair was light brown and cut short over his ears. He looked more like a football player than a professor of archeology. At thirty-five years old, he had already written several papers and participated in too many digs to remember. Since April, he had been in the Thar Desert, just outside of Jedhpur, at the request of the Indian government. He had been called away from his tour in the United States when a local had carried some bones into the city of Delhi. Within days, a dig had been initiated. Being one of the leaders in the search for prehistoric man, Dr. Creighton had been summoned.
Samuel Creighton stood in front of the short man.
"Hello Raj," he said.
"What brings you out on a hot day like today? I thought you weren't coming until Saturday."
"Nor did I, Doctor," Raj replied. "But Dr. Dickson insisted on coming out at once."
"Dr. Dickson?" Samuel questioned. "Who is Dr. Dickson?"
"I am," came the answer from behind.
Creighton whirled around. A brunette woman in her mid-thirties stood facing him. She was tall.
About five ten, Creighton figured. He extended his hand to her as he took in her slim figure. She offered hers back.
"I'm sorry to drop in unexpectedly like this," she apologized.
"But I wrote several times and received no response. I am studying the same field as you, and the Indian government has approved my request to assist in this project."
Creighton looked toward the rising sun. He squinted his eyes as he did. The smile he originally had when he was introduced, was now gone.
"I don't suppose arguing will do me any good," he said without turning away from the sun.
"Not much," Dickson replied.
"I'm here now and intend to stay. I won't be a problem, I assure you. You may even find I have the expertise you need as an assistant. No matter what, I am here for the duration."
Creighton turned back toward the excavation. He was half way back when he heard the labored breathing behind him. He turned around to find Dr. Dickson trudging behind him.
"Where do we start?" she asked.
"You start over there," he said, pointing to where several men had gathered.
"Part of a skull was found there."
Creighton turned back toward Raj. He was already climbing back into his car. He waved his hand and smiled as the car lurched forward. Soon, only a cloud of dust was visible on the horizon.
Dr. Dickson was busy cleaning away sand from some exposed rock at her new workstation. She seemed unaware of Dr. Creighton or the others as she continued to work.
Sam watched her chisel and dust for a couple of minutes, then returned to the site of the tiny opening. From time to time, he noticed her glance in his direction. The two men who had uncovered the hole had returned to carry on with the painstaking work.
By evening, the workers had uncovered most of a doorway. It was a large plate lying over a stairway down under the edge of the desert. Parts of the rock slate had been broken away allowing enough light in to expose the passage.
The two men working with him were chosen by himself. He selected them because he felt they were trustworthy and able to keep silent when required. He had worked with these same men on other excursions in India. They knew that he was an honest man and the credit for the discovery would go to India, along with the artifacts.
Sam was writing notes in his daily log, when Dr. Dickson called from outside his tent.
"May I come in?" she asked.
Sam stepped over and pulled open the flap.
"Come in," he said.
The tent was dimly lit by one lantern, but he could clearly see the outline of her lithe body through her sweat soaked tee shirt. She was wearing khaki shorts and work boots with socks rolled up just over the upper.
Sam smiled at the sight of her. She was quite good looking, he thought to himself. Even in her disheveled state, she was quite exquisite.
"Are you finished gawking?" she asked.
Sam's face reddened. He didn't realize he had been staring. He turned away from her.
"What do you want?" he asked gruffly, trying to change the awkward moment to his favor.
"I came over to introduce myself properly," she said, "though I can see you're in no mood to socialize."
"I'm sorry," Sam apologized, turning to face her once again.
"I didn't receive any letters you claimed to have written, and no one asked if I wanted an assistant.
Of course you are welcome here. I was just surprised, that's all."
Dickson smiled as he spoke, which made Sam relax a little as well.
"I'm Beth," she said. "Dr. Dickson is a little stuffy I think."
Sam smiled back and extended his hand once more.
"I'm Sam," he responded.
Beth shook hands with him and he offered a cup of coffee from a small kettle sitting on a bench next to his table.
"It's probably not hot," he stated as he poured. "The burners been off for about fifteen minutes."
He finished pouring and handed her the cup.
"This will warm it a bit," he said, as he opened a small flask.
He poured some of the contents into the coffee.
"Whiskey," he pointed out as he poured.
"It gets cold at night. This will warm you."
Beth sipped at the drink, but kept her eyes on Sam. "What have you found?" She asked, nodding her head in the direction of his work area.
"I've noticed you over there. You've found something you're not talking about."
Sam smiled.
"You're very observant," he said.
"Come morning you can see for yourself. Meanwhile, tell me a little about yourself."
He gestured toward one of the folding cloth chairs nearby and she sat down. For the next two hours, they exchanged stories of semi important discoveries while sipping on coffee. Finally, talked out, Beth returned to the tent she had been assigned.
Sam watched her as she walked away and then picked a flashlight from his pack. Making sure no one was watching, he headed toward the doorway.
When he arrived, he shone the light on the upper edge of the rock. He had seen some markings there earlier, just before calling it quits for the day. He pulled a brush from his back pocket and started cleaning away the area. The symbols began to come clean. After it was completely clear, he took his logbook and drew the symbols into it. He then swept the dirt back over the markings and returned to his tent.
In the dim light of the lantern, he began to compare the markings in the log to other ones he had seen before.
After several hours with no success, Sam threw the book on the table. He could not make any connection. He was frustrated and enthusiastic at the same time. Here was something never before discovered and he could not make heads or tails of it. He lay down on his bunk and was soon asleep. He awoke not long after to the sound of people moving around outside.
Beth stuck her head into his tent.
"Time to go at it again," she said.
"Yeah, I'll be there shortly," he answered.
Sam stood up and went over to where he had left his book.
"Damn," he thought.
"I need to know what those markings mean."
Beth had mentioned on the evening before, that her specialty was early languages.
Sam decided it would be in his best interest to have her take a look at this. It had become obvious over the last week of digging, that this was not the work of any missing link. The way the stone door had been chiseled smooth and the detail in the symbols, were further indication that a people of greater intelligence were responsible for this.
He opened the tent flap and called for Beth. She was standing with some of the workers, conversing in their own language. At the sound of his voice calling, she went over to him.
"What is it Sam?" she asked.
"Come in." he said, "I want to show you something."
He led her over to the table and opened the book to the symbols.
"What do you make of these?" He asked.
Beth examined the scribbles on the page.
"Where did you find these?" she questioned.
"I'll show you later," he promised.
"Just for now, tell me what you figure them to be. I've never seen anything like it myself," he confessed.
Beth looked them over for a while. Then she turned to Creighton.
"I've got a friend in London that I would like to see this," she said.
"His name is Professor Jake Edmund. He showed me some symbols like this that he had found in the Gobi Desert several years ago. He might have a better idea of what they mean than I do."
"Go to it," Sam replied.
"But don't tell him anything about it until he arrives. I don't want any of this leaking out just yet. And tell him not to bring anyone else."
Beth was starting to sense his excitement. It was growing in her as well. She still did not know where he had found this.
Sam was pacing the tent.
"There's something very big here," he was saying.
"Something very big."
Suddenly, he stopped still.
"Come on," he said to Beth.
"I want you to see this."
He was striding quickly as they approached the crest of the hill. Beth had to run to keep up with him. He didn't seem to notice her at all. When they arrived at the site, Sam brushed the dirt from the door top. Beth could clearly see the markings.
Sam lifted his arms in a wave that brought several workers running. He ordered them to get the equipment down here. It took several minutes to have the hoist erected, but soon all was ready to lift the stone. Rings had been fastened into the stone on all four corners. Chains had been attached to this and chain pulls onto those. The chain pulls were fastened to the moveable hoist.
The first three attempts to loosen the stone failed. But on the fourth try it gave slightly. Eventually, it broke loose and the crew was able to push it off to the side, where it was lowered onto the soft sand.
Sam looked down into the shadowy depths of an ancient stone stairwell. Beth stood at his side and looked also. They turned to each other simultaneously.
"Bingo," Sam said. "We're in."

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