There were more than a hundred women who appeared before Rebecca’s round-eyed awe and curious wonder. The last few were not wearing buckskins but wore clothing made of fabrics that looked as though they were a stretchy material. The very last one wore bright green lycra-looking knee pants topped by a worn, grime spattered smock, vivid purple sandals, and long dangling clear-crystal earrings. That woman was about to touch one of the icons within the framed oblong of an electronic field covering her inner forearm. Before a single word left her lips the hologram shimmered and disappeared.
“What the hell just happened?” Southard blustered, trying to calm the million questions scattered in her brain.
“In what is currently called Cappadocia,” Atsila told Rebecca, “our people lived not too differently from how things are now. Although the technological advances were much greater.”
Angered by Atsila ignoring her real question and the hologram vanishing, Southard spit the sand particle into her palm and snarled, “What was that woman doing? And what was she going to say?”
Ama didn’t answer her questions, but said instead, “Without that bit of silica on your tongue you wouldn’t be able to understand what she said, anyway.”
“I still see the two of you in sharp focus, and since you’ve in a manner of speaking managed to gag her, you can tell me.”
The two women stood. Atsila smiled. As they turned to leave the room, she said, “No. I’ll be sending you the coordinates of the site. You tell Ian to start the archeological excavation process and once we know he’s done it we’ll meet again.”
Alone, Rebecca remained in her chair. Tell Ian about this? Surely not everything, not until I sort through it.
Still clutching the particle of sand in her hand, with her other she rummaged around in her desk drawers until she found a roll of celotape. Carefully, she removed a piece and placed the speck onto it. Using two more pieces of the tape she completely sealed it and secured it above the inside of the top desk drawer.
She spent the rest of the afternoon in inner turmoil, countered by outwardly calm-looking contemplation. Before leaving for the day, she forced her mind into detached composure and checked her emails. True to her word, Atsila sent specific coordinates for a location in Turkey. Rebecca murmured, “This will create interesting dinner conversation.”
Traffic was light, but Ian was already home when she arrived. The TV was blaring and he was cutting up vegetables to make one of his concoctions. “Hey there Babe,” he crooned as he stopped chopping long enough to peck her cheek and refuse the offer of assistance.
“What are you making?”
“I know. I know. You married a Canadian with a French mother and Scotts-English father, so you think all of my dishes are strange.” Grinning, he continued, “But you always gobble them down.”
Rebecca didn’t respond to his teasing.
Eyebrow cocked, he asked, “So what’s the trouble, love of my life?”
“I had a meeting with some Cherokee women this afternoon. Long story short, they gave me the location of a long lost archeological site in Turkey.”
Rebecca shook her head.
“Cherokee? Turkey? Where’s the connection?
“They implied their ancestors left Cappadocia around twelve and a half thousand years ago to come to the North American continent.”
Ian stopped chopping, put the knife down, and asked, “You’re not making this up, right? It isn’t a joke?”
“That’s what I thought at first. But no, I think it’s possibly real.”
He left the vegetables and sat on the bar stool next to Rebecca. “Tell me about the women.”
“There were two. One looked older than dirt, but was feisty as hell and the other was sophisticated and beautiful enough to have modeled for a Frank A. Reinhart painting.”
Rebecca sighed. “They’re weird, but somehow magical.”
Cheeks flushed, she said, “They actually stole both of my DNA samples I’d sent off to find out about my ancestry.” Seeing Ian’s questioning frown, she told him, “They said they were looking for me.”
He tried to sound nonchalant, but his face betrayed his thoughts. “They stole your DNA and now you’re telling me I’m married to some Indian princess or maybe the Chosen One?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Rebecca grumbled. “I don’t know what they’re up to, but I printed out the location Atsila sent me. They know a lot about me, and apparently much about you. They believe you’ll do your magic to obtain the authority to dig up their ancient city.” Peering closely at Ian, she asked, “Will you?”
Pensive, he whispered, “Maybe.” Within seconds he beamed. “Sure. I’ll look at the coordinates and scratch around the idea and if there’s a possibility something can be found that old—why wouldn’t I give it a go?”
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It was unusual for anyone to make an appointment with Professor Rebecca Southard other than her grad students seeking advice about their thesis or dissertation. The email request was vague, but out of curiosity she agreed.
Unlike the chambers seen in movies of the academics in Oxford or Cambridge, hers was small and modern. A window did offer a view of a pleasant greenbelt outside and along her inner office walls there were medium height cases of book-lined shelves covered in cheap blonde-wood-veneer.
Hearing a tap on the oblong of opaque glass centered in the middle of her office door, Rebecca remained seated as she called out, “Enter.”
An elderly woman seemed to flow through the door. A much younger one strode in two steps behind.
“Please take a seat,” said Southard, motioning to the straight back chairs facing her desk.
Once settled, the woman whose wrinkles were deeply etched into her face swiped her severely age-spotted hands over her gray streaked hair. “Dr. Rebecca Southard, I am well over ninety years old. Some would believe I’m no more than a bag of skin covering old rickety bones.” Pointing her finger, she declared, “Don’t be one of those people.”
Surprised and unsettled by her remark, Rebecca eyed the woman longer than would be considered polite and then glanced at the younger one.
“My name is pronounced AHT-SEE-LAH. It means fire, and this is my great, great, great grandmother. The correct way to say her name is AH-MA and it means water.”
Southard moved forward in her chair, “You already know my name and my professional designation. Now, may I know the purpose of this meeting?”
Atsila responded, “We discovered from your DNA you are of Cherokee blood—with some Choctaw your mother’s family tried to deny—and are going to tell you where a city was buried that proves civilizations similar to the one we live in now existed during the past hundreds of thousands of years.”
Rebecca flared, “How did you get my DNA?”
Her voice was mild when Atsila said, “You sent away for your ancestry on the Internet.”
“Oh.” Once more feeling off center, Rebecca replied, “Sorry, I snapped at you, are you part of that company? Twice I spit into the tube and both times they told me the sample got corrupted.”
Ama sniffed before saying, “We took them. Needed to confirm you are the one we’ve been looking for.”
Southard sat back in her chair. “This is a prank, right? Who sent you here? One of my students? Or was it Ian?”
Atsila shrugged. “We did look at Ian as an option, but his genetic lines were broken too far back. He’ll help you with the discovery.”
Rebecca narrowed her eyes and stared at the women, wondering how to select the right questions that were a surging torrent in her brain. She took several deep breaths before saying, “Tell me your story and we’ll go from there.”
It was Ama who held out her hand. Cupped in the center of her palm lay a single grain of sand. “Place this on your tongue.” Seeing Professor Southard hesitate, she said, “Don’t swallow it. It’s only a silica crystal. Do as I say and you’ll find our story most enlightening.”
“How do I know it isn’t a drug—or poison?”
“Ask your heart.”
Ask my heart? Is she nuts?
Using her right index finger, Rebecca touched the granule that adhered to it. She eyed it under the bulb of her desk lamp before deciding it was only sand and stuck out her tongue to place it there. Instantly, the women appeared different. Not only did they have brilliant red, yellow, green, orange, purple, and blue lights emanating from and surrounding them, some filmy threads of unrecognizable material no thicker than a hair, connected them to each other. Rebecca saw she too, was connected by those same strands.
Before she could deal with that shock she noticed a holographic procession of women had formed itself between Ama and Atsila. She watched as each of the women’s hologram image stepped forward, turned around allowing for a full view of her body, and then evaporated for the next one to be completely seen. The first woman wore a long faded calico print dress and black ankle boots. Then each of the following women wore a variety of shift-like dresses, or tunics over pants, and moccasins tailored from tanned animal hides. Beads, shells, and fringe were a common accessory to the clothes. Some sported facial piercings, others had chin tattoos, and a few wore bands of red paint from ear to ear across their eyes.