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 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, earth formed before human beings walked the earth. She thrust her shovel forcefully into the hard-packed clay, 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 it was mixed with an alarming tinge of dread.
The full moon shined faintly overhead, visible alongside a lying afternoon sun. The day was hot, for the late fall, but 2018 was a year beaten by intense heat.
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.
But it didn’t matter how she felt, whether she wanted to learn more or walk away, it was her job to walk away, 50 feet to the north, and dig another hole. She bagged and labeled the spearhead fragments, but the crew wouldn’t come back to further investigate this spot for at least two days. They had too many other test pits to dig in the park, in long lines running parallel to Interstate 270. The eight-lane highway was being expanded with two new toll lanes.
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 hire 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 stone age 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 stone age 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 stone age 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 stone age man. It seemed to go on forever in both directions. He knew it had to lead somewhere.
The stone age man walked the way we know as south. He knew it by the stars.
He walked south until the road split, with great soaring platforms curving off on either side. The platforms towered over him as he walked in their shadow.
The stone age man saw lights in the distance.
His feet began to hurt from the asphalt, so he walked instead on the soft grass.
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. He tapped on the glass to be sure it was solid.
The stone age man heaved the door open and stumbled into a 7-11.
“Hey what the hell man?” Said the cashier.
The stone age man turned around, looked at the cashier, and spoke, asking questions in his own ancient language, which the cashier had no hope of understanding.
“No shirt, no shoes, no service!” Declared the cashier. “Get out!”
The stone age 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 in his 3,000 year-old tongue.
The cashier noticed his stone knife and discreetly pressed the police panic button under the counter.
The stone age 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 stone age man.
The stone age man shouted back an insult in his 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.
“Ooooooooh!” Exclaimed the stone age man.
He stuck a finger into the stream and tasted the ice.
It was delicious, and he cupped his hands to drink more.
“Stop that!” Yelled the cashier as the stone age man slurped slurpee from his hands.
The stone age 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 stone age man pointed and laughed.
The red slurpee ice pooled in the fountain’s well and began to overflow, spilling out into a growing puddle on the floor.
The stone age man shouted at the cashier again, before scooping up some more slurpee.
Then, the police showed up.
A siren blared, and the stone age 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 stone age man froze in terror.
“Drop it!” The officer repeated.
The stone age 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 plate glass window and hurtling into the chest of the stone age man.
He collapsed in a heap, spilling his blood across the seven-eleven’s grimy white tile floor. He lay for a moment, twitching and groaning, before life passed from his body.
The cop walked over and looked down at the stone age 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 local vagrant.” The cop said, rising from his crouch. “Must’ve been insane, runnin’ around naked like that. He’s got a weird-lookin’ 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. “Well if you’re so smart, what are you doin’ workin’ here?”
“I just watch a lot of discovery channel.” Said the cashier.
“A caveman knife, huh?” The cop said, scratching his chin. He cracked a wide grin. “Well if that ain’t the craziest fuckin’ homeless guy I’ve ever seen.”