Silva carefully brushed the freshly loosened dirt into a small pile. Her knees hurt and her back was sore from the long hours she’d spent on the floor of the excavation, but she wasn’t about to stop now. They only had three days left to show that survivors of the great cataclysms had dwelt here, or the whole region would be leveled to make way for the government’s new space port. She scraped the loose soil up with her hands and dumped it into the basket by her side. Then she slowly stood up, stretched her arms and legs, and slowly arched her back before reaching down to pick up the basket of dirt, which she carried over to the sifting table. Rengal, their linguist, vigorously shook the sifter back and forth as she poured her load into it. “Why don’t you go to bed, Silva? You’ve been in here for nearly thirty straight hours. A few hours of sleep will do you good. Besides, we’ve already reached twelve lengths, do you really think there will be anything any deeper.” She smiled at him tiredly. “Rengal, it’s been nearly three thousand years since the great cataclysms. They started with a progressive melting of the ice caps until nearly everything was flooded, and then there was an ice age that ended almost as soon as it began, all of which occurred for reasons we don’t know.” She paused and looked around the cave. Most everyone had already gone off to get some sleep, only a staunch few were still meticulously picking away at the dirt around them. Thoughtlessly she brushed a few strands of hair from her face as she turned back to Rengal. “All the legends say that survivors went down from these caves to rebuild society, and until we’ve reached the bare stone floor and not found a single confirming piece of evidence, I’m not going to give up!” “Or until they level these mountains for their space port in three days.” Silva didn’t have time to respond. A sudden scream of joy filled the cave, as one of the girls jumped up and began dancing around. Everyone moved as quickly as they could to were she was. She was too excited to answer their questions, however, and simply pointed at the point where floor met wall. Silva fell to her knees and brushed the base of the wall with her fingers. Then, with no respect for archaeological protocol, she began digging the dirt away from the wall with her hands. Jossa, the young girl who’d first discovered the deep scratched markings in the stone wall joined her. The utter excitement that showed on their faces was enough to contaminate everyone and soon they were all scooping dirt away from the growing hole and piling it elsewhere. They lost track of time, and before they realized it a crowd of onlookers began to form around them as other members of the dig returned to the cavern after having slept and eaten. When Silva called for them to stop, everyone that had been digging collapsed. They were breathing hard and covered in dirt but smiling from ear to ear. Various of the newcomers grabbed up lights and pushed forward to shed a little more light on the words engraved in the stone. Jossa leaned against the wall gently blowing the dust off of it. “What’s it say Silva?” “I haven’t got a clue,” Silva said tracing the strange letters with her fingers. “But I thought you read Old Earth,” Jossa said confused. “I read several old Earth languages, Jossa. I just don’t read this one. Rengal, get down here!” The linguist took one of the lights offered him and held it right up to the wall so as to see the markings clearly. “It’s a prayer I think. It’s directed to Santa Claus.” “Santa Claus?” a few of the student volunteers around the hole looked at each other and shrugged. “He was a pre-cataclysm deity,” Silva explained. Still she saw blank stares of ignorance. “A god, a higher power, people used to believe that there ware supreme beings that created them and controlled their lives and so on.” Silva saw nods of understanding in the crowd and turned back to the wall. “Interesting,” Rengal whispered to himself, then louder said, pointing to the next line. “Here we can see that some humans had already started to recognize the falsity of such beliefs. It says, Christian says you’re just a myth, but I still believe in you.” “Not very bright, were they?” One of the young people from the crowd asked. Rengal just continued with his reading. “Then the writer pleads for the god Santa Claus to bring back his lost mother and says that he won’t ask for anything else for a whole year.” “That must have been the accepted cost of asking something from a god,” Jossa said, “they had to loose contact with them for a year. I wonder why?” Silva nodded. “They were primitive, I must admit. We Know they had at least near space travel, but socially and psychologically they seem to be so…” “Primitive,” Jossa agreed. “The writing is pretty deteriorated below this point Rengal said, This might take a while.” “It doesn’t matter,” Silva replied. “Someone get a camera. I think I’ll send a present to the commission. This is enough to show that survivors were here, or at least that we need to do more work before the government can deny that they were. They’ll have to build their space port somewhere else.” She flashed her biggest smile at the crowd that stood gawking at the ancient inscription. “Let’s take the day off. No, better yet, why don’t some of you go and find out what we know about the celebrations related to Santa Claus. We’re going to throw a party!” They all cheered, excited by the anticipation of resurrecting the memory of a forgotten god in an atheist world.
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