The archaeologist dug another hole. 50 feet north of her last one, this one was relatively easy to dig. There were no tree roots or big rocks in the soil, which was soft and not too dense. She stuck her shovel in the ground and hopped on top of it, sending the spade slicing into the earth. She tossed shovelfuls of dirt into her screen, where she sifted through it, searching for artifacts, before tossing it onto a tarp and dumping it back into the hole when the test was complete. This was how a site test pit was dug. She had dug thousands of them, and she would dig thousands more.
She got down through a couple feet of dirt and hit the subsoil; the layer of soil formed before human beings walked the earth. She thrust her shovel forcefully into the hard-packed clay. She jumped on her shovel again, and heard the sharp crack of metal splitting rock.
The archaeologist stopped digging, crouching to peer into the test pit. She reached in, scooping up rocks and dirt in her gloved hand. She shook loose the dirt and held aloft the rock, examining it.
In her hands were the fragments of quartz spear point, broken in half by her shovel.
“Wow.” She said softly. She had reason to be excited: the projectile point could be 3,000 years old. Curiosity welled inside the archaeologist.
But something felt wrong. Maybe it was the heat, maybe she needed water, or maybe it was her lunch sitting heavily in her stomach; but for some reason, the archaeologist felt uneasy.
The full moon shined faintly in the blue sky overhead, visible alongside a lying afternoon sun. The day was hot, for the late fall, but 2018 was a year beaten by intense heat.
She bagged the fragments in a brown paper bag, and labeled it with a black sharpie. She put it in her backpack, measured the soil layers in the hole and filled it back in. Then, she slung her pack back on her back and walked on.
The archaeologist dug another hole 50 feet south of the last one. And another, and another, in a long line, running parallel to the highway.
The Archaeological and Historic Preservation Act of 1974 mandated the preservation of historic artifacts and cultural materials that might be destroyed by any federally-licensed construction project. This highway expansion was such a project, so the state of Maryland had to contract an archaeological company to investigate before construction could begin.
For an archaeological company like the Maryland-Capital Archaeology Group, this highway expansion was a fat contract, guaranteeing months of steady work. However, the state was a demanding client, and archaeology was not their priority.
The archaeologist moved on and dug several more test pits until around four, when work was done. The crew packed up their equipment, walked back to their cars, and drove home.
The sun set on the highway, as the last wave of rush hour traffic rolled north along the interstate. Darkness draped itself across the ancient island of forest.
The fallen leaves rustled. Someone awoke in the darkness.
He stood on the hill and watched the endless stream of lights roar down the highway.
He was frightened. He had never seen anything like this before.
“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh!” The man let loose a scream, standing naked in the cold night. Trees shook as birds took flight in fear.
The man was afraid too.
He shook with terror as the cars drove by, blaring light and noise like a herd of thundering, charging animals.
He screamed again, clutching at his overwhelmed ears, before retreating deeper into the forest. He scanned the ground, looking for workable stone to create a weapon. To the man, these strange animals seemed dangerous and hostile.
He found a suitable piece of quartz and began hammering away at it with a another large rock, chipping off flakes, gradually shaping the stone into a blade. After six hours of work, the ancient man wielded a formidable stone point.
It was deep in the night now. The air was still, and the herd of strange animals had thinned greatly.
The ancient man was hungry, so he began to search for food.
He saw deer tracks, but they were too fast to hunt without a bow or an atlatl.
He walked until the tracks turned, and suddenly he was faced with the highway; a vast, foreboding expanse of asphalt.
The hard pavement felt strange on his feet.
The man saw none of the roaring animals around, so he took his chance and ran out across the highway.
As he neared the concrete median wall, a car’s lights appeared in the distance.
The ancient man jumped the median and sprinted across the rest of the highway, diving into the bushes on the other side. His heart pounding, he looked up just in time to see the car shoot past.
He ran back out onto the side of the highway, looking back and forth down the road.
Its sheer width staggered the ancient man. It seemed to go on forever in both directions. He knew it had to lead somewhere.
The ancient man walked the way we know as south, a way he knew by the stars.
He walked south until the great road split, branching off in great soaring platforms to the east and west. Up ahead, down a small road, he saw lights in the distance.
His feet began to hurt from the asphalt, so he walked instead on the soft grass beside it.
As he drew closer, he saw clearly the colors of a neon sign: green, white, orange, and red.
He pressed his hands against the window in wonder. Confused, he tapped on the glass, to be sure it was solid.
The ancient man heaved the door open and stumbled into a 7-11.
“Hey what the hell man?” Shouted the cashier. “You’re fucking naked!”
The ancient man turned around, looked at the cashier, and spoke, asking questions in his own language. The ancient man’s language was over 3,000 years old, and the cashier had no hope of understanding.
“No shirt, no shoes, no service!” The cashier angrily declared. “Get out!”
The ancient man didn’t understand the cashiers words, but he heard the hostility in his tone. He tried again to communicate, holding out an open palm and speaking again in his ancient language.
The cashier noticed the stone knife. He reached down and pressed the police panic button under the counter, as discreetly as he could, but the ancient man had already turned his attention away.
The ancient man saw the food which filled the aisles and shelves, and began to investigate. He grabbed a bag of chips from the shelf and sliced it open with his stone knife, sniffing and tasting a lone potato chip before crunching them by the handful.
“Hey, you can’t just take that!” The cashier shouted, pointing angrily at the ancient man.
The ancient man shouted back an insult in his ancient language. He was getting tired of the cashier’s hostility. He had all this food, and he didn’t want to share any of it!
Finishing off the chips, he moved on to some gummy candies. Drawn to their colorful packaging, he grabbed a bag and sniffed it tentatively before tearing it open, sending gummies flying everywhere. He grabbed a handful from the bag and gobbled them up.
“Get your crazy ass out of here!” Yelled the cashier. “I called the cops, they’ll be here soon, so you’d better leave!”
The stone age man shot back another insult as his eyes landed on the slurpee machine. He walked towards it and ran his hands along its metal face, tentatively grasping the handle with both hands.
He pulled the lever, and the machine gushed a stream of sugary red slush.
“Woah!” Exclaimed the man in his ancient language.
He stuck a finger into the stream and tasted the ice.
It was delicious, like a stream of sweet fruit, and he cupped his hands to drink more.
“Stop that!” Yelled the cashier as the stone age man slurped slurpee from his hands.
The ancient man was sick of being berated by the cashier, so she flung his remaining slurpee at him, splattering him in the face and chest with red sugary ice.
“What the fuck?!” Exclaimed the cashier, throwing up his hands in shock as the ancient man pointed and laughed.
The red slurpee ice pooled in the fountain’s well and began to overflow, spilling out into a red growing puddle on the floor.
The ancient man shouted at the cashier again, before scooping up some more slurpee.
A siren blared, and the ancient man jumped with fright. He turned towards the red and blue lights, brandishing his stone knife to face this new danger.
The car came to a stop and a lone officer jumped out, standing behind the open drivers-side door, aiming his gun at the stone age man.
“Drop your weapon!” Ordered the police officer.
The ancient man froze in terror.
“Drop it!” The officer repeated.
The ancient man held up his hands, trying to reason with the officer in his ancient language.
He took a single step forward.
With that step, the police officer fired, pulling the trigger four times, sending four bullets crashing through the seven-eleven’s plate glass window and hurtling into the chest of the ancient man.
He collapsed in a heap, spilling his blood across the grimy white tile floor. He lay for a moment, twitching and groaning, before his life passed from his body.
The cop walked over and looked down at the ancient man’s naked, dirt-covered body. He crouched down and peered closely at the stone knife, a puzzled look scrawled across his face.
“Who is he?” Asked the cashier.
“Probably just a vagrant.” The cop said, rising from his crouch. “Must’ve been insane, running around naked like that. He’s got a weird-looking knife though, not like anything I’ve ever seen.”
“That’s a stone knife.” Said the cashier. “Like a caveman would use.”
The cop cocked his head and shot the cashier a glare. “If you’re so smart, what are you doing working here?”
“I just watch a lot of discovery channel.” The cashier answered with a shrug.
“A caveman knife, huh?” The cop said, scratching his chin. He cracked a wide grin. “Well, that’s the craziest fuckin’ homeless guy I’ve ever seen.”