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Halloween Fantasy (part 69)

 
Joe Spivey's picture
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Bodil and Dr Awolowo spoke together.

“Boat?”

“What Boat?”

Cybil began to search through her notes as Amy carried on.

“When we started asking about ‘unusual’ stuff being found, several people told us about this boat that turned up a couple of years ago. Well, excavated I guess, kind of.” Amy’s attention was taken by Cybil showing her the notebook. They exchanged whispers, with Amy nodding and pointing at things on the screen.

Bodil’s patience began to thin.

“What do you mean by ‘sort of’? That’s not an academic term I’m familiar with.”

Amy snapped her attention back to her audience.

“I’m sorry. We were just… Anyway, sorry.” Amy licked her lips. Aside from being famous in her field, Professor Hill was also well known for being rather tetchy with her students. “All I meant was that the excavation wasn’t exactly old but, well within the timescale we are looking at.”

Amy would swear she actually saw Professor Hill’s hackles fall. She went on with her story.

“What was found was an overgrown collapsed building on what would have been the water’s edge seventy years ago. As we know, the water level has dropped along certain parts of the river due to silting and many small creeks have been formed. The boat was found in one of these.”

Dr Awolowo interrupted.

“I thought you said it was a collapsed building?”

“Yes sir. That’s right, and inside was the boat. If you’ll look at the pictures Cybil is sending you.”

The two senior academicians turned to their notebooks.

The first pictures showed a typical excavation site, all coloured flags, large sieves and muddy duckboards. Then the camera moved to show the excavation itself. After the initial debris layer, a large black hole had opened up at the bottom of the carefully scraped dig.

“Fortunately,” Amy continued. “Nobody was hurt when this collapse happened. What was originally thought to be a cave in the small hill they were investigating turned out to be collapsed roof of a large timbered building.”

Now the photographs showed floodlit examples of sections of the building.

“As you can see, the building was very large and seems to have been constructed from whole tree trunks formed into a stockade and then roofed over. Tests showed these trees to have been cut exactly around the time we are investigating.”

“There seems to be evidence of a lot of burning. A fire?”

“Yes Professor. Exactly right.” Amy turned to Cybil and whispered some instructions. After a few seconds another slideshow of pictures began. “The fire engulfed the whole building, eventually causing the roof to collapse.”

Pictures began to appear that weren’t burnt trees. A boat, some might even say a small ship, was buried under the roof timbers. Its twisted metal hull and superstructure testament to the immense heat of the fire that had engulfed it.

It was Bodil whose professional mind sought the answer to the obvious archaeological question.

“Can we date it?”

Cybil looked up from her screen.

“Yes professor. Just a moment.” Her fingers did things on the screen.

A brightly lit, professionally taken photograph of a ship afloat on clear blue water popped up on all their notebooks.

“This is the Ásbjörn. A thirty metre stern trawler registered in Iceland. She disappeared, surprise surprise, seventy years ago.” The image was replaced by another. Now cleared of all the roof timbers and three quarters of a century of debris that had covered it, the rusting hull of what was clearly the same ship loomed from the screen like dying monster. “And the Ásbjörn two years ago.”

The mention of the date wasn’t lost on Bodil.

“And now?”

Amy and Cybil shared a look. Cybil’s fingers moved. Amy cleared her throat.

“After an investigation of the interior of the boat, it was sealed a week later and reburied.”

Bodil frowned and shared a silent exchange with Dr Awolowo. There was usually only one reason why a dig might be sealed. Images appeared in slow succession on their notebooks as Amy’s subdued voice explained.

“The hold of the boat was found to contain many bodies. Over a hundred. Men, women and children.” The highly detailed photographs showed several piles of decomposing corpses. “Some bodies were autopsied and revealed causes of death ranging from blunt force trauma, gunshots, even starvation. Mainly, though, these people died from exposure to massive amounts of radiation.”

The slide show ended.

“There is strong evidence that the fire was started deliberately, probably with the intention of incinerating the corpses. But, because the bodies were kept in the insulated hold, the fire which gutted the rest of the ship entirely, never touched them.”

The room fell silent. Bodil felt nauseous. She had seen death in her time, even uncovered mass burials before. But they had been skeletal remains, treated with respect yes but still distant with time.

Amy hadn’t sat down. Bodil looked at her and Amy took this as a cue to continue.

“The report at the time included an investigation among the nearer Gu-Nar settlements. They were reluctant to talk at first but it seems that at the time the ‘Trespassers’, that’s what they called them, arrived all contact was lost with two villages on the river. They were never seen or heard of again and the sites of the settlements can’t be found.”

A new picture appeared on everyone’s screen.

“That is until about six months after the Ásbjörn was reburied. Rumours started appearing that there had been a survivor.” The picture showed a very old man in tribal attire. Toothless, bald and with only one eye. “This is Willum. He is being cared for by the people of a small village a day’s travel west of here. If we can talk to him he might have useful information.”

Comments

Hyle Troy's picture

((  see?  each episode the plot becomes more twisted,, damn you!   :)

I would rather die peacefully in my sleep, like Grandad, than screaming, like his passengers

Joe Spivey's picture

((lol, trust me, it IS all going somewhere.

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.



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