In December 2018 this story gained third place in a competition, originally published at The Hampshire Writers Society. You can read mine here, but click the link to read the other winning entries.
Found and Lost
(The Dig Diary of Max Glover)
Pouilly-Le-Fort, 25th December 2018
Just after sunrise: clear winters morning. Le Champ Maudi (The Cursed Field) next door to our rented gite. Walked the perimeter: the ditch contained the usual jumble of roofing tiles, a few broken bits of crockery, clay pipe head – Flemish?
Ran my eye slowly over the expanse of corrugated mud, sparkling with frost. A larger glint of reflected sunlight caught my attention. As I worked to free the object I realised I was brushing soil from the brow of a skull, with a blue-green iridescent ‘pebble’ of glass lodged inside the eye socket; it’s rounded and frosted – blinded by the action of time. As more glass was revealed, I had one of those spine-tingling moments. I’ve found a tear vial bottle – intact! I suspect it’s Holy Land, Roman Period, 1st Century AD. Fantastic – a once in a life time!
Sent photo to Dan Bones (osteologist at the museum) with query: Roman?
Punctured my thumb on a shard of bone which bled badly. I had to keep licking it, so returned to the gite for first aid.
By the time I got back, the kids were awake and Christmas Day was in full swing. Nancy dressed my thumb and persuaded me to stay put. I’ll go back to the dig tomorrow.
Dan emailed. He’s started his research – turns out we’re holidaying in the area where Pasteur performed vaccine experiments (1880s) on cattle infected with anthrax. Anthrax was so widespread that the abattoir on that field was closed down.
I’m turning in early. Feel freezing/generally lousy and my thumb is as swollen and red as a Boudin sausage.
Trembling, Nancy traced her index finger over her husband’s writing, then closed the tatty notebook, still unable to comprehend that these were his last words.