My name is Simon Delapore. I am a professional archaeologist, and I've been working on dig sites and researching artefacts for the past five years of my life, ever since I qualified from uni. A few years ago, I met a boy called Jackson while working in some museum in Egypt. Long story short, we're getting married in a couple of months. We work together and take new jobs where we can find ancient ruins or opportunities to explore the past. Romantic, I know. I really do care about my work, so combining it with the only thing more important in my life works great for both me and him. I can't think of a better situation.
Anyway, I'm writing this because of an experience that happened to both of us last year. My boyfriend and I have agreed never to mention it to each other, but I've been meaning to let it out, despite Jackson's disapproval. So this whole thing started in September when I was offered a job in Alaska, far away from the German city of Cologne where me and my boyfriend were currently staying. I'm always exited to get to new places, and after a quick word with Jackson, I accepted the job and we were on our way. I always get sent a virtual dossier before flying to a new dig, and I had a quick look through this one at Cologne airport. I was told by the PDFs that this site appears to date back to around 10000 B.C., and if this is true, it's the oldest site I've ever been to. Personally, I'm employed to analyse relics and draw links to my knowledge of ancient history. My boyfriend will be spending a lot more time on the field, actually excavating objects. When we arrived, we were greeted by four other trained archaeologists who we were going to work with. There was a big, muscular Russian man named Petrov who is supposed to dig out the area and use the diggers and vehicles. The second person was an older woman who was the one funding the project, an overseer from a prestigious museum. There was a young Japanese professor advising the team, and an excitable young man from Texas; this was his first job. The first few days of digging were pretty much as predicted, and the building buried was quickly identified as a makeshift pasture, one of the earliest of its kind ever found. The 10,000 B.C. date was pretty much perfect, but it surprised everyone because of how old it was. We kept digging for a week, and everything was pretty bog standard for my line of work; until Jackson took me to one side asking to 'have a word'.
"Hey," he said. "I've noticed something a little unusual about this job." I paused, expecting him to go on. "Well," -he was sounding concerned now- "the age we've recorded on this site just doesn't add up."
"No offence babe," I interrupted, "but we've used the best technology in the world on this. The building dates back to 10000 B.C. no matter what it looks like." He shook his head, preparing to retaliate.
"I know, I know, but there's definitely something wrong with this. You've never seen anything like this, right?" I put my arms around his waist, bringing our two chests closer.
"Look," I said in a calming smooth voice, "if you're really so scared we can talk to the director, but perhaps this is more exiting than worrying." I stroked his hair as he blushed and smiled.
"Fine," he giggled. "I'll trust you, but don't say I didn't warn you."
After this conversation, we were both a lot more relaxed and really started to find some valuable artefacts. The farm building we were on was surprisingly big, making our surprising discovery even more noteworthy. When we excavated the whole pasture, it had been about four months since we started the job. While we were dusting off the last few things we hadn't yet recovered, Jackson called us all over to something particularly unusual he'd found. It was a very simple figure which was typical of the time. It depicted a simple man and was made of one stone but there was something slightly wrong with it. It was a sickly green colour, and we couldn't quite identify what it was made from; but the one thing we did know was that there was no way a standard early settlement would have access to anything this unusual. Jackson gave my a knowing glance, looking as worried and superstitious as before. The little man was left with me to analyse and the others spent their time looking for the origin of the green rock. A few days went past until we heard a low-pitched and loud shout summoning us all to the building. I moved over quickly, clutching the little green figure. Everyone was collected except my boyfriend, who was sleeping at the time at the time. We all gathered around Petrov, who was on the floor scratching around and drawing our attention to a makeshift tunnel in the floor of the room. Instantly, the man from Texas; called Jacob; slid down through and called us all to follow in his lilting, southern accent. The others all moved down quickly; clearly exited; leaving only me and Rowan, the overseer.
She was about sixty, so she carefully and slowly lowered herself into the hole, insisting I did the same. I took a moment to pause and scribble out a note and leave it on a nearby table, knowing how easily Jackson gets afraid. When we all slid down; Petrov lit up a torch revealing that we were in a damp dark cave, with various carvings and paintings on the walls. All of this was so early and primitive it went slightly past my area of expertise. Miasaki, the Japanese professor guessed it was from about twenty five thousand B.C., making it infinitely older than the rest of the site. Eagerly, Jacob began to walk down the hall at a quick pace, snatching Petrov's torch as he went. The damp opening got darker and darker until I could hardly see anything and the others went ahead without me. I put my hand on one wall and called for them all to wait as I franticly followed the bright flashlight. I clutched the little green figure as hard as possible as I followed as the walls seemed to get closer and closer, choking me while I still struggled to follow the light. It was about five minutes until the white sheet in front of me was consumed by the mossy walls of the cavern. "Shit!" I said under my breath. "You lot get back here!" I shouted. "Someone?!" I shouted louder, but I soon realised that there was no response coming. I'm not a man who gets scared easily, so I kept calm and slowly hiked directly backwards towards the entrance; my hands still aggressively pushed into a wall and grabbing my little figure. I got confused and lost quickly despite the linear passage and the growing and shrinking amounts of space. After another five minutes or so my heart rate was admittedly climbing. I realised I was moving downhill and eventually I felt a thick, viscus liquid around my ankles, presumably water. I stubbed my toe on something and bent down, finding out that I had hit some ancient metal vase, small enough for me to grab and put in my backpack for when I returned to the surface. I'd been done that hole for hours and hours now and my head was beginning to throb from tiredness. I took out my backpack to use as a pillow and thought I would spend a night down there, and hopefully someone would find me in the night.
I was right, as when I awoke I was fortunate enough to see a flashlight shining over me, dancing on the ankle high water. "What?!" I exclaimed, "Is someone there?!"
"Ah! Mister Delapore! I found you," a voice called back in a thick Russian accent. "We are no longer alone, eh? Follow me!"
"Petrov?" I asked, feeling dazed and confused. "Wait, give me a second to get up." I'm not sure if he heard, but he laughed as he lifted me up by the arm and pressed through the water, carrying the flashlight in one hand and a pickaxe in the other. He waded through the water in front of me until it got to knee-high depth. I moved after him as fast as I could but still not quite keeping up. "Slow down," I panted. "Do we even know where we're going?"
Petrov paused. "Well, as long as we keep going onwards and remain positive, we're bound to reach surface eventually!" he called back. "Are you hungry? Thirsty? I have everything we need in my backpack." I had my hands on my knees and I was gasping, I quickly requested the water and he walked over.
"Wait, can I hold the torch? You're faster so this way there'll be less chance of you leaving me."
"Of course," he smiled, "anything else you need?" I shook my head and tried to climb up the wall. I noticed something unusual in the wall.
"Hand me the pick, please," I grunted.
"Why?" Petrov sounded uncharacteristically sceptical and distrusting.
"I just want see if we can get through this little opening." I smiled at him.
Petrov shook his head. "There's no point, let's keep moving!"
I grabbed the pick quickly, shouting out the phrase, "What's there to lose?"
Petrov glared at me. "Give me the pick." He put a hand on my shoulder, just as the wall crumbled away. "Look. There's nothing there! Let's get going!" I ignored him and just kept pushing forward, into the dark opening. I saw a section of wall covered entirely in moss, but just before I could pull it back Petrov grabbed my chest and pulled me away, saying nothing. I was just nimble to slip out of his thick arm's hold, grab the flashlight and rip away the moss. Behind it I saw something unusual... it was Petrov. He knelt in a small compartment to one side of the main passage, his pick pushing through the top of his skull and coming out at the bottom of his jaw. I pulled the little figure out of my pocket and turned around. There was nothing there. I don't know why I was clutching the little green man but I ran and ran the other way for what felt like hours. By the time I had to full on my back, I had no idea where I was, but I still shone my light around catching my breath and sipping from the dead Petrov's water bottle. I knew what I saw; and I knew that whatever it was I was travelling with was somewhere out there in the twisted caverns. I spent a whole day wandering after that, and I didn't see any life until I felt a cold, hard piece of metal sticking into the back of my head.
"Down on your fucking knees, now," I heard a panicked American voice spit at me.
"Jacob?" I spluttered, falling to my knees, "Is that really you?"
"Shut up!" he screeched "I'm not falling for this again."
"Okay, okay, chill out," I was shaking. "Please! what are you doing?" I started crying, "You haven't seen Petrov have you?"
He paused, "Yeah... what did you do to him?" I could hear he was becoming more compassionate.
"Look," I panted, "I've been attacked by that thing as well. Look, I've got Petrov's water bottle; I've seen his body."
I could practically hear Jonah thinking until he came out and said, "Show me. Then we talk." Crying more now, I produced the bottle and shakily handed it over. He pulled the gun away, "I'm sorry, I trust you." We shook hands and I lit the way as he watched out with his gun. We spent a full day on the move until the young Texan simply passed out from exhaustion. I lay down to sleep next to him and suddenly realised that I had never let go of the little stone man. When i woke up I was frozen in place for almost ten minutes. In that time all I heard was the sound of maggots chewing on something and the occasional southern-sounding whimper. I never turned to look at Jonah, taking his gun and leaving him to his fate. I felt more for Jonah than Petrov. I couldn't have turned to look at him but I knew that whatever happened to him, but I knew it was painful and horrifying.
My thoughts turned to Jackson after that. I had no idea what was happening to him, my poor baby could be getting maimed or hurt on the surface; but I was so wrapped up with my fellow underground victims that I forgot my boyfriend even existed. I wandered for almost another day until I heard a little whisper coming from the floor deeper down. I slipped further and further down towards the source of the noise; as the loud whimpering and crying of a woman got louder and louder. Rowan. I slid down, looking for her and illuminating my steps with the flashlight. I found her lying on the ground, nothing was keeping her alive and she begged me for just a drop of water. I stood there, looking down on her frail, dehydrated body. There was absolutely no way to tell if it was really her or that other thing, but as she desperately clawed towards me, I had to make a quick decision. I shot her in the top of the head. I took a second to look at the feeble sixty year old woman's body, lying there on the damp, bloody floor. I don't know to this day if I killed the real Rowan or not, but sometimes I think of that poor body being eaten by maggots underground in the horrific cavern.
It was just me and Miasaki down there, I could've been the only one left. I travelled deeper and deeper into the cave, occasionally seeing signs of a very, very early civilisation; but I could only think about getting back to the surface and seeing Jackson again. I'm not much of a survivor; but I'm not the kind of man who'll give up easily. I spent yet more hours clambering down towards the earth. I finally fell down into a very unusual and shockingly well lit passage, spiralling down even further. I paused and turned off my flashlight. I thought I could hear something coming from much further down the passage. I crept down and eventually came to a point where I could see down the whole passage which all led towards some huge, dark basin which looked to be so deep it never ended. I saw many, many skeletons and artefacts from the settlement above. I found myself taking the little green figure out of my pocket and holding it at arm's length. This wasn't my decision, as I was clutching the figure so hard my fingers bled. In a moment of pause, I saw someone moving towards the pit, and eventually he came into the light: Miasaki. He looked down into the pit, his eyes seemed grow in shock as he said something in Japanese under his breath. In a split second, I saw his eyes light up sickly green, and something about him changed. Green boils and rashes appeared all over his skin as he fell to his knees, eventually tumbling into the pit. I pulled the figure up to my chest and cried, ready to die. I fell down onto the floor and closed my eyes, not wanting to see what was in that dark hole.
I don't know what happened down there, but the next thing I remember is that I was lying on the surface, as Jackson tried to keep me awake. When I fully came to, I embraced him and hugged him; crying into his strong shoulders. He told me that everyone else on the dig was killed by some kind of toxic fumes. We were paid for the job and explained to the authorities what happened down there. We had to spend weeks down there being investigated and having the cavern blocked off. I told my boyfriend what I saw, and he, strangely, seemed to believe me. Finally after about a month, we were being taken away. The last thing I saw I never told Jackson about was that there were five graves behind the dig site, not four. As I looked down at the graves, Jackson put a strong, confident hand on my shoulder. I smiled at him, keeping confident; as my hand forced even tighter around the little green man.