"We’ve broken through!" she panted. "It was almost like the ground just–opened up underneath us! We were lucky no one fell in."
They hurried to the site, and gaped at the large sinkhole-like opening.
"We had all just quit for the night when this happened," Natasha continued. "There was a slow rumble, and the ground just–fell away!"
Peter stood quietly, thinking. "I’m going to post a guard here till morning. I don’t want anyone going any nearer than–twenty feet. Come on. Let’s get back to the lab."
Morning dawned cool and clear. Between Peter and Megan was an unspoken question and answer. Peter’s face was grim when he confronted her the next morning.
"I’ve been thinking half the night, and I’m going to be the first to go down."
Megan smiled and shook her head. "And I was thinking the other half. I am. It’s my project, Peter, and you-know-it!" She turned and headed for the door to avoid an argument, but he stopped her by grabbing her arm. She swung back to face him. "You know I’m right," she added anxiously.
"That’s not the point. This has nothing to do with rights or priorities." He was silent for a long minute. "What about – if we both go at the same time? Together?"
She considered, then nodded once. A quick smile flashed across her face. "And don’t try to get ahead of me," she added.
Peter pursed his lips to keep from laughing, and shook his head. Whew! That woman–. Words failed him.
As they were rigging the ropes at the site, she spoke in a low voice so no one else could hear her. "It’ll be all right, Peter. You’ll see. I know what you’re thinking, and you’re wrong."
"I hope so." It took all his control to keep from visibly shaking. There were few times in his life when Peter had been truly terrified, but this was one of them. The last time had been in the Canadian forest.
Slowly both were lowered over the edge, their headlamps aglow. Two minutes later, their feet touched ground, and they looked up at a turquoise sky.
Peter’s lungs exploded with pent-up air, and he broke out in a heavy sweat. Megan looked at him, smiled, and nodded. He managed to return a rather feeble one.
"What do you see down there?" Natasha called.
"Give us a minute, will you?" Peter called back.
They looked around, awed. They were standing on the roof of a pueblo, and it was as if no time had passed. All around them they could see objects, perfectly preserved, just as if they had left yesterday. The houses were three deep, and as they flashed their lights toward the plaza, his hand unconsciously sought hers. Almost they expected to see people gathered there around their fires, cooking and eating, telling stories and singing.
"Do you feel it, too?" she whispered, looking at him.
He nodded, then glanced up. "Come on down, Natasha."
For the next several days, Megan divided her time between the cave and the dig. The translations were going well, but there were some symbols that were eluding her. She also had the feeling that she should be remembering something, but that, too, was elusive.
Megan threw down her pencil in frustration. She was sitting at the long conference table with her drawings spread out before her. "This does not make sense! None of it makes sense!"
She sat back in her chair and raised her arms over her head to stretch tired muscles just as Peter slid open the glass door.
"Coffee?" He held out the mug in his hand.
"Oh, yes! Thank you, Peter." Her voice was tired.
He came to look over her shoulder. "Getting anywhere?"
She shook her head as she took a drink from the cup. "I wish I could say yes, but the more I study this, the more confused I get. Peter, nothing makes sense about this!"
"Well, like this." She pointed to one of the figures with what resembled horns. "Now this is a Two-Heart–an evil being. He was supposed to have an animal heart as well as a human one–Two Hearts."
"And this?" He pointed to a semi-morphic figure that seemed to be enveloping the Two-Heart.
"That’s one of the things that baffles me. I’ve never seen that figure before, and can’t understand why it’s there. And these"–she pointed to a grouping of seven small figures. "Why seven? Four is their sacred number."
She looked up at him in puzzlement. "And it’s not only the figures. It’s the absence of any kivas. Kivas are–the keynote of their culture! It signifies their origin! And yet there is no sign of one here. That makes no sense at all!"
"Are–you sure these are Anasazi?"
"Oh, yes. There can be no doubt of that. But–why these inconsistencies?"
Peter thought a minute. "Could it have something to do with the age of the pueblo? I mean, maybe 500 years earlier, things were different. Maybe this tribe thought differently."
She frowned up at him in puzzlement. "Umm. And that brings up another inconsistency–this level of advancement is 1,000 years ahead of its time. The first recorded Anasazi lived in pit houses–little more than a hole in the ground with a crude shelter over it."
"So–maybe something happened to–send them back to the equivalent of a--stone age?"
She half-laughed, and half-sighed, shaking her head. "As Alice says, ‘Curiouser and curiouser.’"
Peter stood up from where he had been sitting on the edge of the table. "Come on. You, Natasha and I are going back in there and see if we can find something we’ve overlooked."
"Here it is." Megan pointed to the puzzling petroglyph. She looked at Natasha. "Have you ever seen anything like this?"
The dark-haired girl slowly shook her head and followed the illustration to the right. "See here– the large figure breaks apart and becomes seven, and six of them go off in all directions."
Megan considered a minute, then nodded. "Yes. I see that. But what does it mean?"
"I don’t know. I wish I did." Fascinated with the star map, she again flashed her light upwards. After a few moments she gasped, and returned her light to the figure surrounding the Two-Heart.
"Megan, that’s it! Look at the shape of the figure, and the shape of that star pattern!" Her light pointed to a particular section.
"They’re the same! That figure is the same shape as the Pleiades!"
The sound began as the faintest of whispers, and at first only Peter, with his sensitive hearing, perceived it. Gradually it grew stronger, until both girls heard it, too.
"Where’s it coming from?" Megan’s eyes were large, as they darted around the cavern.
With the sound came a strong wind, and instinctively Peter pressed the "record" button on his tape recorder. As the wind grew stronger, he held the girls in each arm.
"Protect your eyes!" he roared. Instinctively, both girls buried their faces in his shoulders, and he leaned into the wall to offer them as much safety as possible.
In a few minutes it was over, and they were all gasping for breath and trying to calm down.
"Will you please tell me," Megan panted, "What was that?"
Peter shook his head. "I’ve never experienced anything like that before!" He took an instrument off his belt. "The EM is going crazy! It’s already off the dial!"
"Then it was electromagnetic, not just wind," Natasha put in. Her eyes turned to Megan. "Whenever there’s a paranormal incident, there’s usually an electromagnetic residue. That’s what Peter’s picking up. It means it was something other than--just wind."
Peter had turned off the tape recorder when he had picked up the EM device. "Let’s get back to the lab. I want to see if I picked up something on this tape."
"Sometimes sounds or words you can’t normally hear can be picked up on tape. Just like cameras pick up things you can’t see," he explained to Megan as he programmed the computer to examine the tape. He worked with it almost an hour, trying at different speeds and with various filters, and finally began to hear some words. He flipped the switch to external so they could hear it, too. The sound was between a whisper and a hiss, but they could make out the words.
"We are the Gualetaga, the people of the Pleiades. We came when our system was dying. We are the Gualetaga. We came to bring our ways. We found evil here when we came, and defeated it. We fight evil; we protect all from evil and danger. We are the Gualetaga. For those that left us, the
evil in the land was too much. They forgot their origin. They forgot their purpose. They forgot themselves. All they knew was wiped out, lost to them forever because of the sickness of evil. Only we who remained here had the memories. Only here was evil finally defeated. We are the Gualetaga. We are the protectors."
The last sentence was faint and garbled, and after that was silence. For some time no one spoke; all were caught in the spell of that voice and its message.
At last Megan found her voice. "It explains so much; why I was warned of the trap, why there are no kivas–they knew their true origins. And-" The last thought was left unfinished as it dawned on her what she had been trying to remember. "Of course! That is an old Hopi legend–that they came from the stars! I had forgotten it, because I only heard it once, long ago. I should have remembered when I saw that star map on the ceiling!"
"That’s why it’s there!" Natasha put in. "They were showing us where they came from!"
"So you have your proof now?" Peter asked.
"Well–it proves it to me, but who will believe it? And who will believe that tape? We were there–we went through it. But everyone will say it’s a fake!"
"We’ll make them believe it," Peter answered quietly.
The mobile lab was closing up and preparing to leave. Peter went in search of Megan and found her in the cave, leaning against a wall, thoughtful.
"Megan. You ready? We’re leaving soon. You’re going with us, aren’t you?"
"Yes. I’m ready. And I’ll be going with you; at least until I can make new arrangements." She looked up at him and smiled. "I want to thank you and your organization for all your help. It made the way a lot easier."
Peter gave her a puzzled look. "What’s the matter? I thought you’d be ecstatic! You have your proof now!"
She laughed a little shakily. "I know. I am. I just-"
"Well, if this is ecstatic, I can’t wait to see totally elated."
They laughed together, and she added, "I just sort of feel--lost. Like–what do I do now?"
"Well, you write your paper, and you keep investigating this site. That should take a while."
"Oh, yes. Years," she answered, dryly.
He took her arm and gently drew her toward him. "Of course, you could do that on a part-time basis, like when I’m away on a case."
Her mouth opened in a silent "O", and he could no longer resist kissing her. After the initial surprise, she answered with her whole heart.
"Or you could help me here, full time." Even in the dim light, her eyes sparkled.
"Or you could come and work with me, full time. We could always use another expert."
Megan shook her head. "Natasha is very expert at her job."
"Hmm. Well. We’ve got a lot to talk about. And it may take a long time. A very long time."
"Yes. It might. And we always have such interesting conversations," she laughed.
They turned out their lights and kissed again, and the ceiling above them took on that soft, bluish glow, as a little-noticed breeze swept over them in blessing.
"Listen to the footsteps of the wind."