They dressed in their warmest clothing, and gathered up their lamps, picks, and shovels. “Follow me, Burro. This way. Hurry!” Then Satsky did something Sam had never seen him do. He ran.
Satsky had a pick and shovel and a headlamp, but Sam, carrying the rest of the gear, couldn’t keep up with him. The night was clear, but threatening clouds blocked the stars on the horizon. He aimed for Satsky’s headlamp, bobbing in the distance. By the time he got to where Satsky had stopped, the old man had already dug a foot down into the snow. Sam began to widen the hole. He had few reasons to believe that Satsky was anything other than bonkers, but something about that artifact had convinced him that, bonkers or not, Satsky was on to something.
As he kept digging he noticed that the sides of the widening hole were lined with small, perfectly round rocks. Satsky’s rocks! So, this was why Satsky was so intent on finding more of the small rocks he claimed had been cut by machines or humans. Whatever they were digging for these rocks were part of the mystery and what Satsky was calling his treasure.
Eventually, Sam’s shovel clanked on something hard that didn’t sound like rock. When he shone his headlamp down, it didn’t look like rock either, and it was black.
“Yes, Burro. That’s it.”
Satsky fell to his knees and clawed at the snow around the dull black surface, moving the gathering of the small stones away. When he uncovered a finger depression he ripped off a glove, plunged two fingers into the depression, and pulled up. It was a hinged door about three feet square, and Sam fell back to make room for it as it angled open and lay atop the freshly dug hole.
This was impossible, thought Sam. Surely this was something built by modern man.
When the opening was clear, Satsky dove head-first into the blackness, legs scrabbling on ice as he wriggled his way in. He disappeared. Sam held his lantern up to the opening and peered in. All he could see were the soles of Satsky’s boots, about six feet in.
“Come on, Burro!” came the muffled voice.
The opening wasn’t much wider than he was. If he got stuck, there was no one to pull him out—Satsky was already inside.
“Burro! It’s here. This is where I found the treasure.”
Sam pulled off his puffy parka, bit his lower lip, and, unlike Satsky, wriggled feet first into the black. He grabbed the lantern as he fell the few feet in a heap at the bottom of a cave. The chamber wasn’t big—just room enough for two. Tall enough for them to crouch. Sam maneuvered around to face Satsky.
“You see, Burro?”
Sam held the lantern closer to see what Satsky pointed at. Bones piled in neat heaps.
“From the Eemian,” said Satsky. “A hundred-thousand years old. And look.” He turned away from the bones, and crawled over Sam’s outstretched legs, back toward the entrance. “Bring your lantern.”
The walls of the cave near the entrance were also black, smooth and machined flat. Sam removed his glove and passed his hand over the cold surface. It felt like glass. He looked closer and saw, etched in the surface, a series of unrecognizable symbols.
“I have deciphered a few of these,” said Satsky. “This is not the only Eemian site. The symbols point to others on this island. And the rocks. Burro, the rocks we find have me convinced there might be another treasure here on the island.”
All this time with never a word about any of it from Satsky, and now this. He’d found something, sure enough, but . . . ancient modern humans? Impossible. Yet, how were these perfectly machined hieroglyphics made if not by advanced technology?
“And look, Burro.”
Satsky’s headlamp shone on a deep recess in the opposite corner to where the bones had been piled. Sam crawled closer.
Embedded into the smooth black surface was a three foot wide rectangular seam running from floor to ceiling. On its right edge was an embedded circle with a five point star at its center, and below it a horizontal line of ten symbols.
“What is this?” asked Sam.
Satsky shrugged his shoulders.
“The Ancients. They have their secrets, Burro. They keep their treasure hidden from us.”
“But, this is extraordinary,” said Sam. “Surely…”
“They are watching us Burro, come. We must leave, now, before they find the treasure too.”
They exited the tomb and went back into the cold. Sam dusted his parka off from the accumulating snow that had begun to fall, and put it back on, cinching the parka’s drawstrings tightly around his face. Satsky was busy covering up the tomb’s entrance.
“Why are you covering this tomb back up, Doc?” asked Sam. “This find should be shared with the world.”
Without looking up Satsky continued to cover the cave’s door back up.
“They are everywhere, Burro,” said Satsky, looking down. “They are watching us from the skies above.” The old man pointed up to the heavens without looking up from his task. “If we are lucky they have missed our visit to the site tonight. This bad weather was the perfect night to hide from them.”
“Who are they?” asked Sam.
Satsky didn’t answer. Even as the professor closed the tomb’s hatch and covered it with ice and snow, the wind was picking up and flakes began driving at them. This was the wrong place to be in the middle of a blizzard, and Sam had to get some space to think through what had just happened. Satsky led the way back down the frozen trail, mumbling the same gibberish as before. Sam followed as closely as he could. At the top of the island’s tallest rock finger, Sam carefully felt his way along the trail on his hands and knees while trying to keep Satsky in sight. This part would have been hard enough to negotiate in daylight, but the wind whipped snow made it nearly impossible. The blowing snow eased up for a moment and Sam could see again. Still unsure of exactly where they were, he edged down the hill until he reached familiar ground. Then a noise of sliding rocks and a cry from Satsky.