“Dr. Brinkley! Come here!”
Dr. Joshua Brinkley stood up and fanned himself with his hat. Six weeks at this dig, and he still hadn’t gotten used to the heat. By this time next month, he mused, I might have sweated enough to get back to my college weight.
The walkie-talkie crackled again. “Josh! Quickly! I think I’ve found something!”
He sighed, put down his tools, and lumbered towards the examination tent. Every day his assistant would be convinced that she had made an archaeological breakthrough, and every day, Josh would have to explain to her that although finding a piece of pottery or spoon was important, they were only small pieces of a larger puzzle. She just didn’t get it yet.
He rolled his eyes and pulled the walkie-talkie off his belt. “I’m coming, Belinda!” he snapped into the mouthpiece. “Where are you?”
“In the cave.”
Of course. Belinda hadn’t been able to stay away from the cave, even though all the physical evidence of human activity they had uncovered was at least half a mile away. Josh had pointed out to her that the cave wasn’t really big enough to shelter one person, much less a society, but Belinda was convinced it would be the key to her GREAT DISCOVERY.
Josh grabbed one of the rusty bicycles parked by the tent and climbed on. “I’m too old for this,” he wheezed as he pumped the pedals.
She was waiting for him at the mouth of the cave. “Before you say anything, I need to confess something.”
He scrambled off the bike, out of breath. His clothes were soaked through with sweat. He looked at her and raised one eyebrow.
“I’ve been doing some extra research on this particular area. According to some ancient manuscripts, this is where the Garden of Eden used to be. Let me finish,” she said quickly when she saw Josh beginning to frown. “I know all about the other people who have searched for Eden. I know this could be a wild goose chase. And I know it’s basically just a creation myth. But there’s something…I can’t explain it. As soon as I heard about this site, I knew it was here.”
Belinda reached into her bag and pulled out a musty tome. “According to the Assyrian Codex–”
Josh snatched the book out of her hands. “Where the hell did you get that? Isn’t that supposed to be in the university library?”
“I borrowed it. That’s what you do with library books, isn’t it?” She took the book back. “Besides, it’s not like it’s an original or anything.”
He raised both eyebrows.
Coloring slightly, she cleared her throat and gingerly leafed through the pages. “If my translation is correct, Eve may have brought the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil with her when she was banished from Eden.”
“Dammit, this isn’t a Dan Brown novel. That’s probably a metaphor.”
“I know, but–”
“And even if it was literal, those fruits would be long gone by now. Organic matter decomposes quickly, as you know.”
“Unless they were preserved.” She grabbed Josh’s hand and led him towards the cave. “Trust me, you’ll want to see this.”
Scowling, Josh followed Belinda into the cave, ducking his head as they squeezed into the entrance. There was hardly enough room for the two of them to fit standing up, but Belinda simply grinned at him as she pulled on one of the rocks jutting out by her head.
There was a click, and a large boulder that had blocked the back of the cave rolled slowly away to reveal a tunnel. Cool, stale air blew past his face.
Josh’s heart began to pound. He opened his mouth, a question on his lips, but she had already started down the cramped passageway on her hands and knees. Swallowing, he turned the miner’s light on his hat on and followed her down.
At least it’s cooler in here, he thought as he made his way through the dank tunnel. When had he gotten so jaded? Twenty years ago, he had wanted to be Indiana Jones. Somewhere along the way, the politics of academia had stripped him of that wonder, leaving him with nothing but cynicism and about six inches of fat around his belly. But now…what if this discovery turned out to be legitimate? His mind whirred with the possibilities.
He coughed. The air was getting even more stale, and the path grew steeper. Belinda kept a running commentary of her research as they traveled, explaining about the legend of the descendants of Eve who wanted to recreate Eden with the fruits she had smuggled from the Garden. Belinda’s excitement was infectious, and Josh found himself becoming impressed with her thoroughness. He was so engrossed with her story that he almost forgot the dark, clammy walls closing in on them both.
The tunnel opened up into a larger cavern, with a ceiling high enough for them both to comfortably stand. He did so, cursing his age once again as his knees creaked in protest. He reached out to the wall to steady himself.
“Welcome to Eden, Dr. Brinkley.” Belinda quickly turned on several lamps she had left in the space.
When his eyes adjusted to the bright LED rays bouncing off the walls of the cave, he saw ancient glyphs carved into the stone all around him. Carved into the floor was a giant eye, and embedded in the center of that eye was largest piece of amber that he had ever seen. His heart beat even faster, and he began to take more shallow breaths.
“I know it sounds crazy, but I believe that’s THE apple. You know, the one Eve ate.” Belinda was aiming her flashlight at the amber, pointing at the objects trapped inside: a partially eaten fruit, several seeds and seed pods.
He was dizzy. Very dizzy. He wanted to congratulate her, to celebrate, and to take every precaution that this cave was not contaminated any more than it already was. He wanted to call all his colleagues and brag about this discovery. He would be famous! They both would be. But he couldn’t breathe. Why couldn’t he breathe? His legs gave out from under him.
Josh watched in shock as Belinda leaned over him. She was wearing an oxygen mask. “Sorry to do this to you, Dr. Brinkley, but this is my discovery now. I don’t need you anymore.”
The amber eye stared at them both, watching with dispassionate curiosity. These humans weren’t the first to try to unearth the secrets of Eden, and they wouldn’t be the last.
The eye blinked, and the room was once again bathed in darkness.
Belinda screamed. Josh struggled. Then they both were silent.
For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Eric Misener gave me this prompt: Well, this certainly gives new meaning to the phrase ‘the apple of his eye.’. I gave Jester Queen this prompt: Write a story in which one character is telling a lie.