Ascension Before the Fall, Science Fiction, Short Fiction

ASCENSION BEFORE THE FALL: CHAPTER ONE


The hot afternoon sun would not deter their endeavours for on this day they intended to enter the Bush Barrow. Some distance beyond the Barrow loomed the ever-mysterious stone pillars of Stonehenge. The reason as to why such a monument came to be is often speculated but no conclusive answer has ever been found. The only clues as to its existence lay within the tombs that surrounded it and even they often posed more questions than answers. 

It had taken some time to dig down from the crown to the base of the Barrow but they were soon able to enter the hollowed-out burial chamber wherein the centre rested a single large skeleton surrounded by various trinkets, a dagger of brass and a spearhead. They could even make out the remains of what are likely pieces from a shield. So far, nothing unexpected but the contents of this Barrow had been far more fruitful than others close to it. Francis Grey followed the lead of William Cunnington and Richard Hoare, two archaeologists he had observed closely and learned much from.  

As both men set to work, Francis focused first on the skeleton. At first glance, it appeared to be a human male, stout and tall. What made him do a double-take was the hands. Humans have 5 digits, 4 fingers and a thumb on each hand. These hands, however, had two fingers and two thumbs. Unless this was a deformity, then this skeleton was not human. That sentiment was all but confirmed when he observed the skull. The facial structure was far from human. It was like nothing he had ever seen before. He crouched down to get a better look. The jaws to this being were quadruple-hinged, with an upper jaw, and a much smaller lower which were four mandible-like lips. The skeleton did have two nostrils and the skull looked oval-shaped. He moved down the skeleton and observed that in life this being had to have been fast and agile. Francis looked over to Cunnington. 

“William, take a look at this and tell me I’m not going crazy.”

The older man repositioned himself and followed the same pattern as Francis. “You are not. This skeleton is unnatural in every way possible.” 

Richard, curious as to the discussion, finally addressed the skeleton. “That’s not all, some of these artefacts look like they had been put here just yesterday, barely any rust or signs of natural decay. There’s plenty of other artefacts I’d expect to see in a site like this but some look wrong. Like they don’t belong.”

Both men looked to Richard equally perplexed. Francis had to carefully move around the skeleton to see what the other archaeologist was referring to. He noticed to the right of the body was a perforated stone, wrought articles of bone, some small rings, a Lozenge of gold similar to the one occupying the body and a noticeably large bronze Sphere. What stood out about the sphere was the remarkable lack of decay. It also had various detailed difficult to make out engravings, the meaning of which would need to be looked at closely. 

Francis noticed something else in the corner of his eye, something glinting behind him. Turning with great care he approached it and crouched down. Using a trowel and brush he removed the surface layer of dirt that partially buried the artefact. It was elongated and also in remarkable condition. Its shape led him to conclude that it was perhaps some kind of advanced rifle. As it looked to be made of it an unearthly material. Careful not to damage it, he lifted it to get a better look. 

“Is this some kind of gun? Just why was this buried here?”

Cunnington looked over to him. “A better question would be why is something not entirely human buried in a barrow that likely belongs to some early human society. We should move these artefacts somewhere hidden. A safe place to clean them up and get a better idea of what we’re dealing with.”

“One thing though, both of you, this find could unsettle more than a few god-fearing folks. Let’s keep this between us for now,” Richard said pointing to one and then the other. 

Francis nodded in haste. “I very much agree. I can only imagine the reaction this would cause if others found out about it. This whole barrow raises so many questions.” 

Once outside the Barrow, some rope and a small wooden platform served as a means to piece by piece extract everything of significance. 

Richard held onto the rope and pulled it up once the platform was loaded. He looked to Francis who was waiting to unload it. 

“That skeleton, it is not human, Francis, no matter how we rationalise this. There’s only one place it came from.”

“Don’t be silly,” Francis said seeing Richard’s eyes dart up. “If something like that existed and wasn’t of this Earth, wouldn’t we know about it by now?” 

“Sound logic. What’s to say they don’t live among us?”

“Don’t let anyone else hear you say that. Unless you fancy a one way trip to the madhouse.” 

“You think they won’t do that even once we show proof of a Xenos skeleton. I mean think about it for a second, If people can be convinced of our orbit around the sun. Then why not Xenos life?” 

“A single skeleton and that strange gun is not “proof”. We’ll be laughed at, mocked and ridiculed,” Francis said. 

Richard frowned at that, “Don’t be so sure, you get nowhere by doing nothing.”  

Richard was right but the Earth’s orbit was an apple to the orange of a Xenos life form existing. They had the gun and bones but one thing most religious folk and scientists had in common was that they were natural sceptics. Either one would flood any hole that could label the whole thing a hoax. The idea of a life form humanoid in stature but not human would likely be a shock to anyone’s system. Was the risk worth it though? Francis desperately wanted to think yes, but at the current time he feared what threshold this would cross. What kind of world will be born from this discovery? Are we as a species ready to step into that unknowable darkness?

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