Cover Photo: The Gift of Forever by Dino  Blyer

The Gift of Forever


            The excavation of the pit had been going on for the better part of two days.  Like many diggers working on the vast grid, Chad was beginning to think his particular stratigraphic unit had every outward appearance of yielding no evidence of early human occupation.  Monotony was kicking in.  The heat from the sky was amping up.  To make matters worse, a strange annoying bird was hovering overhead.     

            Professor Prescott recognized a teachable moment.  Raising his voice, so it would carry across the wide expanse of the site, he proclaimed, “There are few shortcuts in archaeology.  This is not to mean that there is none at all.  Rather, it is just to say, since this is a Paleo site, the sheer depth of its antiquity precludes such circumventions because the persistent passage of millennia has eroded most, but hopefully not all, traces of organic evidence.” 

            Chad liked it that his professor always spoke in paragraphs, as if the entire span of life itself were merely a series of opportunities for protracted lectures.  His mentor glanced at him and walked to the pit, which was framed by taut lengths of string and plumb lines at the sides and corners that would later aid the excavators when it came time for mapping the grid.  Prescott gazed at these, and then stepped back, remarking to no one in particular, “Looks kind of like modern art.”    

            The young man looked up from his ponderous work and lamented, “Professor, I don’t think we’ll be finding any art in this square.  Nor will there be any gold mines.  I’m afraid it’s going to be as sterile as sterile can be.  And that damned bird --- why in the hell won’t it fly away?”

            “Chad, it’s nothin’.  Don’t get distracted.  Focus on the excavation and be patient.  With any luck, you might find some faint residue of garbage.  Now that would be a true gold mine.  I swear to God you might just strike it rich.  Remember, this project ain’t no Pyramid-of-Giza or Temple-of-the-Sun bullshit.  Those Egyptologist and Mayanist scholars are spoiled rotten.  Hell, all they have to do is close their eyes and point their trowels in any direction, and they’re almost certain to bump into buried treasure --- but the stuff people throw out --- now that’s the real news.  It tells you how they actually lived.  And that’s what we’re doin’ here.  It’s darned important.  Don’t you forget it for one second.  We’ve gotta get the magic mojo workin’.  Later on, back at the dorm, we’ll be doing some soil analyses to see if we can get any traces of phosphate deposits.  When we do that, it might help us to zero in on where the pockets of potential artifacts might be found, which will be certain to make your life a whole lot easier.”

            Chad had often heard this refrain.  Still, he loved hearing it again.  For everyone working on this dig, it was a sentiment, which nearly took on the character of a familiar song that people

enjoyed hearing repeatedly.  Chad told himself it was important to have a good chorus that he could recite to himself as a way to ward off the glare of the relentless sun that he and the team were working under.  Prior to this, he had worked on several digs and was rapidly accumulating experience for his resume.  In fact, he made a mental note that he was becoming a bit of a shovel bum.  He relished the notion of such an existence --- a semi-nomadic lifestyle of going from dig to dig had a genuinely romantic feel to it.  He liked it so much that a fresh idea sprang into his head --- perhaps such an approach to life was not very different from what it must have been like for the people whose artifacts he and the team were seeking to liberate from the ground.  The ancient people were trudging around just the way he was.  That was pretty darned amazing.  For a moment, he stopped shaving away the dirt at the bottom of the pit.  Softly flexing his fingers on the handle of the trowel, he closed his eyes tightly.  The warmth of the sun mingled with the squinting darkness to create a throbbing orange light that had overtones of splotchy reds, blues, and greens.  The colors blinked at him, beckoning and persistently causing him to think of the nomads with renewed strength that was provided, courtesy of his brimming imagination.  Kaleidoscopically, the ancient wandering band came into focus.  Yes, he could see them --- they were a group of hunter-gatherers, perhaps twelve or thirteen in number, who were following the migrating herds of megafauna that inhabited the fertile zone between the warmer woodland areas to the south and the glacial tundra environment to the north.  The mastodon and mammoth would no doubt be plodding throughout the landscape in search of sedges and grasses for their subsistence.  Earlier, Professor Prescott had given lengthy descriptions of them back at the dorm of the local junior college where Chad and the crew had been staying for the last few days.  Indeed, the leader of the dig had engaged in good-natured arguments with another academic, Doctor Francois Chirac, who was visiting from France as a consultant.  The doctor had said that most likely the people living in this area in that faraway time had gone overboard and hunted the megafauna into extinction. 

            In fact, he maintained such a scenario was an early example of man’s depletion of the world’s natural resources.  “Yes Professor, I guess you could say it was the precise moment when man started to innovate, so this innovation left its big footprint on the environment.”    

            Chad recalled his professor’s reaction.  Ever the skeptic on matters of this kind, Professor Prescott had rebuked the notion, saying, “And now you’re goin’ to tell me the footprint wasn’t benign.  No Francois, it ain’t necessarily so.  I’m not a bettin’ man, but if I were, it probably wasn’t that extreme.  It’s my humble belief that if one of the men in those Paleo bands happened to be lucky enough to dodge the horns and jumbo feet of a mastodon and manage to kill it, he most likely never stopped bragging to his buddies about his so-called feat of bravery until the day he died.  I respectfully disagree.  A more likely scenario was that the climate simply got warmer and the megafauna failed to make the necessary adjustments.  Let that be a lesson to all living things.  Even at that early juncture, the world was not so benign.” 

            For once, Chad put the lecture on hold.  He squinted harder and the orange light took on a more spangled combination of colors, waffling back and forth like the spectrum of a prism, until darkness reasserted itself and prevailed again, providing a backdrop so he could see the Paleo wanderers coming over the ridge.  The cold must have been unbelievable, absolutely chilling and to the marrow, making a modern day Siberia feel like Miami Beach.  Still, they somehow managed to ward it off.  The leader of the nomads paid scant attention to the frigid gusts.  He had a load of things on his mind.  He pointed to a lumbering figure in the distance --- that was the prize they were after.  The mastodon snorted and lumbered further away from them before it disappeared around the edge of a large outcropping, leaving a wispy cloud of blowing snow in its wake.  For a few seconds, Chad wished he could have traded places with one of the nomads, but then he opened his eyes and, looking across the site, his gaze fell on a large outcropping of granite.  He uttered a short chuckle, as if to ask whether this nearby outcropping was the same as that outcropping which had appeared in his daydream.  It dawned on him --- that was the way it must have taken place.  Yes, something big had indeed taken place here.    

            Then he opened his eyes and decided it was high time he got back to work.  He looked over toward the edge of the forest only to see the weird-looking bird again. 

            “Go away!” he yelled and the bird abruptly flew off further into the woods.  “Good riddance.  Now maybe I can get some work done.” 

            Chad stared at its former perch to make sure that it was suitably vacated.  Satisfied, he tightened his grip on the trowel just enough to have more control over it, and resumed shaving the barren soil.  Scraping away, minutely, like a careful dentist, he scuffed against something.  He stopped, and his fingers trembled in anticipation.  Quickly, he got out a brush from his toolkit and fine-tuned his excavation.  Finally, there was something out of the ordinary.  Swishing the dirt away from the object, Chad slowly saw the artifact come into view.  The thing was emerging from the ground, and what surprised him was how familiar it was.  Right there before his eyes was what he had only read about and listened to his mentor lecture about --- the emerald green stone tool was a classic Clovis point.  He took off his work gloves and reached down to touch it with his bare hand.  His hand recoiled for an instant, and he swore to himself that the thing had an indescribable aura to it, as if it had been blessed by someone or something so many millennia ago.  Then, to reassure himself, he attributed this feeling to the fact that he was the first human being to touch this thing in at least twelve thousand years.  A galloping ecstasy seemed to spiral from the core of his inner being as he examined it more closely --- the thing was huge.  Chad fumbled with his gear, but managed to get out his tape measure.  Recording its dimensions, he could see that the point was just shy of nine inches in length.  Obviously, the green thing had been designed to bring down a creature of gargantuan proportions.            

            He stood up and called out to his mentor: “Professor, I’ve found it.  I’ve bumped into buried treasure!”  All at once, the rest of the crew put down their trowels and rushed to Chad’s pit to see the discovery.  Breathlessly, he stood up from the pit and pointed to the precious artifact.  “I’m pretty sure it’s a Clovis projectile.  The thing looks exactly like the pictures I’ve seen in Professor Prescott’s lecture notes.”       

            Doctor Chirac rushed over and peered at the point with a rigorous archaeological eye before turning to the group.  “Yes, my friends, Chad is correct.  It is a Clovis point.  Not only that, it is the largest I have ever seen.  One can clearly see the earlike bases and the fluted grooves along both sides.  We archaeologists are fond of debating the significance of these scalloped features.  Some, like your Professor Prescott, say that their purpose was akin to what we have on a modern hunting or fishing knife.  If that is true, then the reason for the groove was for the impaled animal to bleed faster and hence to die more quickly.  Well alright, I suppose that is plausible.  But other scholars say the groove along the base is some sort of shock absorber, which strengthened the point on impact, so that it wouldn’t break.  It was a very clever strategy.  However, I would maintain that the purpose for the grooves had more to do with aerodynamics.  It was a way for the point to glide through the air more efficiently.”

            Professor Prescott interjected, “Yes, and perhaps all three theories have some merit, but Chad, allow me to congratulate you.  Yours is indeed one of the best discoveries we have had so far.  And even though the point is a work of art and technology, it tells us an important bit of information about the nomadic hunters.”

            “And what is that?” Chad inquired.

            “I call your attention to the origin of the stone itself.  It is not from here.  No, its nearest source would be Colorado or Utah, possibly as far west as the Pacific Northwest or as far north as Alaska.  So you see --- these people certainly got around.  Mobility, Chad.  It’s what made the American family great.  And don’t you forget it.”

            The diggers gave a collective sigh, and then there was a bit of silence as they tried to process the professor’s observation.  Then the animated conversation drifted off into whether this artifact meant that the Paleo hunters had used the immediate area as a temporary campsite or whether it was a more permanent settlement.  As always, Chirac and Prescott naturally seemed to take opposite points of view.  The discussion droned on for the remainder of the afternoon and into the early evening until someone said that they really had to think about getting back to the dorm to prepare for the evening meal. 

            As they were packing the tools and soil samples into the two vans, Prescott addressed the assembled team.  “OK everybody.  I have something to tell you.  With this new discovery, there is a renewed need for security.  As a few of you may know already, the reason we were able to get the grant to do this dig was that amateur archaeologists operating nearby have made tantalizing discoveries.  Subsequently, some of those finds have wound up on the black market and go for very high prices.  We face this age-old problem --- frequently, the looters find the sites, which helps us to get grants to do the excavations in a professional way.  I suppose that’s very useful of them.  However, when we begin to excavate, they do not deign to cease and desist.  In fact, they’re decidedly unsportsmanlike about the whole business.  It becomes very hard to keep the looters from pilfering the place.  So what does all of this mean?  The upshot is we have to keep the site secure.  What I’m getting at here is that I want two volunteers to guard the site tonight.  No, it doesn’t mean that you will have to stay awake for the whole time.  All you have to do is to camp out and sleep in the tent over there.  If you hear any noises, you only need to wake up and see what the damned commotion is about.  However, you can be rest assured because, most likely, no dicey situation is likely to happen, but in the rare event that it does, your very presence here would be more than enough to scare off the looters.  So, do I hear two volunteers?  Does anyone want to sign up?  It’s really a pretty easy job.  And besides, you’ll get to camp out and that means you’ll have the chance to commune with Mother Nature.” 

            Chad looked around to see if anyone was jumping at the chance.  He was frankly surprised that there were no takers.  Then, as he thought about his wondrous discovery of that afternoon, he figured he might as well go a step further and protect his valuable artifact, knowing full well that this was all a big illusion since there was really no great danger to protect the artifact from.  So, he raised his hand.

            “Chad,” his professor replied, “I’m so happy you are in a voluntary mood.  Perhaps there is someone else who would like to keep him company?”  He pointed to someone in the back.  “Yes, you over there.  Lisa, is it?  Do you want to be the second sentinel?” 

            Chad heard a spritely girlish voice say, “Yes, I will do my service as a sentry.  I think it would be fun.  Besides, testing soil for phosphates is not exactly my idea of having fun.  And I’m almost willin’ to bet that’s probably what you have in mind for this evening, right Professor Prescott?”

            “You are so correct.  That’s what we have on tap.”

            “Okay, I’ll pass on that, so I can stand guard.”   

            “That’s great, Lisa.  I think you’ll find this job will be as easy as fallin’ off a log.”

            With that pronouncement, Prescott and Chirac said goodnight to Chad and Lisa before leading the team of archaeologists back down the meandering trail where they would get into the vans and return to the dorms.  Lisa and Chad went into the tent and started a campfire.  They chowed down on sandwiches and stir-fried vegetables.  Afterwards, they laid back and gazed into the fire.  After an hour of watching the hypnotic flames, Lisa went to the bag that contained what few artifacts the team had gleaned from the earth.  She removed the point and presented it to him.  

            Chad felt the urgent need to caution her: “Be extra careful with that, Lisa.  It’s super sharp.  Prescott told me it’s probably sharper than a modern razor blade.  He’s shown me pictures of other points and told me the electron microscope readings are frequently off the charts on that score.  I guess the ancient people were well aware of its power.  Most likely, they worshipped these objects because they were capable of cutting anything, even at the slightest touch.  That was a good gauge to work from and to set a standard.  Also, the workmanship is pretty darned exquisite, don’t you think?

            “Yeah, I can only imagine how difficult it must have been.  All the talented nomad had to do was make one wrong move with the chiseling instrument, and the whole thing would have been shattered.  The day before yesterday, Chirac gave us a big demonstration of how to make a projectile point.  He was so thorough; he even told us that he could tell by the flaking pattern along the ground whether the maker was a righty or a southpaw.  Talk about detail!  It was freakin’ awesome.  After the toolmaking demonstration, Chirac put his new point into action by throwing it with an atlatl.  That’s one of those spear-thrower thingies.  I was bowled over by how much further a person can throw the projectile if you have one of those.  The accuracy was dead-on mind-blowin’ if you wanna know the truth.”

            “No doubt that was why they must have worshipped the power of the point.  And Chad, take a long look at this thing for a second.  Isn’t that brilliant green an eye-catcher?  Check it out --- it shines in the light.  Pretty spooky stuff.  Maybe that was their way of scarin’ the hell out of the big wooly beast.”

            “Sweet Jesus, I do say so.  If nothing else, it sure as hell tells us that the nomads had some sort of fashion sense.”

            “They were the original glitter freaks.”

            “I’m actually surprised that neither Prescott nor Chirac saw fit to point that out.”

            Holding the projectile out at arm’s length, Lisa paused to touch the grooved flutings along the side.  She was especially intrigued by the play of light from the campfire that refracted through the stone.  At first, she was extra careful not to cut herself.  Then, as Chad looked on, she gave him an impish grin and lightly touched the edge with her index finger, drawing a speck of blood to her flesh.    

            “What did you do that for?  Are you crazy?”

            Her smile widened, and she licked the tiny wound.  “Oh hush!  Don’t get bent out of shape.  It’s no big deal.  It’ll heal in a day and a half ’cause I barely broke the skin.  I just wanted to test it out.  Aren’t you curious?  Don’t you want to see its power?”

            “Sure I’m curious.  But I don’t want to have to drive you to the damned emergency ward to stitch you up.”

            “Don’t sweat it.  The cut is nothing.  It’s barely a scratch.  But it tells us that the person who made this thing really was an artist.”

            “Yes, that hunter-gatherer certainly knew the craft of carving.  And you and I get to appreciate it.”

            “Here, let’s pour out two shots of whiskey, so we can give the old nomad a salute.”  Lisa walked over to the far edge of the tent and reached for her satchel.  For a moment, she searched the contents of the bag before producing two shot glasses and a fifth of bourbon.  She flashed another wide grin and gave him a deep stare.  “And this,” she added with a delicate laugh, “is the second great discovery of the day.” 

            “That’s a wonderful idea.  Will you do the honors and pour it out?”

            “I certainly will.”

            Lisa unscrewed the cap and poured out the liquor.  Then she proposed a toast.  “Here, here!  This is a great big salute, a touch of magic, to the ancient toolmaker.  Hear us now O Ancient One.  We’re talking to you across the gigantic waves of time.  We hope your family is doing well.  Please forgive us if we may be a bit tardy in our kudos.  My best guess is that we’re tardy to you by about twelve thousand years.  But better late than never.”

            In the distance of the night air, they could hear an owl hooting.  This provoked a momentary bit of laughter. 

            “Chad, what in the hell was that?”

            “I think the toolmaker is registering some sort of opinion.” 

            “Ha ha ha.  I don’t think so.”

            “Enough of that.  Let’s drink up.”

            “Here’s to magic.  May its mojo last forever!” 

            They both chugged the contents of their glasses and slurped away.  Lisa finished first.  “Wow that hit the spot.  But we definitely deserved it after working so long today under the hot sun.”

            “And it’s also good to know that our toolmaker finally got the praise he deserved.”    

            “Hey, wait a second!  That’s not fair.  What makes you think it was a he?”

            “Well, don’t be ridiculous.  I mean, it’s pretty obvious.  We all know that it was a division of labor back then.  The girls gathered the fruits, nuts, and berries while the boys went off to kill the big bad animals.  And the boys were more experienced in throwing projectiles, so they must have learned more than a few things ’cause they damn well got plenty of practice.  And they knew what worked and they knew what didn’t, so of course they made the points.  It only makes perfect sense.  Don’t you think?”

            “Yeah, but what if it was a girl who made the point?  What would have happened then?”

            “Then she would have gotten to hunt.  She would have been worthy of worship.”

            Lisa set down her glass near to the fire, and they watched the flames in silence.  At length, she said, “Well Chad, I think if I lived back in that time, I could have been a huntress.  Then would you worship me?  If you did, I could rescue you.”  She giggled as she said this.    

            He found himself enjoying her flirtatious banter, and since he knew that it wouldn’t lead anywhere, he figured it was safe to play along.  “Of course I worship you.  You are very worshipable.” 

            “I’m not yet convinced that’s an actual word.  Still, I get the drift.”

            “You seem to have that ability.”

            “So when does the worshipping begin?”  

            She giggled again and led him onward.

 

            After the amorous adventures had concluded, a deep sleep enveloped their spooning bodies.  Lisa was the first to wade into reverie, and she assumed Chad would be following a bit later.  The unknown driver of the dream was telling them to hurry up, but Lisa knew this was only a dream, so she told herself it didn’t really count.  She rebuked the unknown driver, saying that she, Lisa, was the one who was truly in the driver’s seat, so she would sit back and savor.  The unknown driver responded by quickly melting into her head.  Lisa was amazed that she could become another person.  With an echoing voice, the unknown driver let her know that this would be a dream like no other.  She told Lisa that her name was Agni, and her lover was Nosken.  They were part of the band of fifteen people, an extended family of sorts, who were hot on the trail of a herd of mastodon.  A few days earlier, the leader Jeskro had spotted the herd, but a sudden blizzard interrupted their assault on the massive creatures, and the beasts had escaped by running past the arroyo where the nomads had laid in wait with their spears and atlatls.  They had hoped to gain a ready supply of meat that would last them throughout the winter months, but with this failed attack, the magic of the hunt had dispersed and diluted into the cold spires of the jagged glaciers that loomed just to the north.  They had to get the magic back.  Lives depended on it.  Therefore, Jeskro had decreed that Agni, the best toolmaker of the group, should make another finely sharpened point, so that the magic would return.  And this one must be extraordinary, a point imbued with more magic than any of its predecessors.  So, as the sun began to rise, Agni commenced work on a new projectile.  For this project, she selected an extra special material, a stone that would hold as much light as possible because it was of vital importance that the gods of the hunt be duly impressed and on her side.  Accordingly, for this point, she chose to work with a large chunk of green obsidian, which was a rock that the group had been carrying around for quite some time.  Agni figured that now was a good moment to put this splendid rock to good use. 

            All day she sculpted the point, using every nuance of the intricate technique that had been handed down to her from her teacher, an old shaman from her previous tribe.  Listening to each smack and clink her striker provoked, she felt both the delicacy and strength of the stone.  These sounds nearly took on the quality of sorcery music as they spoke to her about what parts were strong and which were weak, so she could follow the natural striations of the stone.  “Talk to the rock; talk to the light.”  She repeated these words until they became a sort of prayer that would lull her into another state of mind.  It was only in this way that the magic would be brought out.  And the light reflecting through the stone whispered to her, telling her this was true, thus affirming that she was headed in the right direction.  In a gesture of complete reciprocation, she nodded to the luminescence of the dazzling green.   

 

            In the dream, Lisa took note and nodded in appreciation.  She rather liked this dream driver and wished she could be just like her.  Then she remembered that Agni and the being she inhabited named Lisa were one and the same.  This revelation bolstered the dream like a shot of adrenalin.  She smiled to herself as she fell further into the depths of her Rapid Eye Movement portion.  Also, she wondered where in the hell Chad was.  Why couldn’t he hurry up and join her?     

  

            While Agni fashioned the point and honed its edges, she thought back to the time two seasons ago when the wandering band of her birth had given her away as an ostentatious gift to this new group of hunters.  That gathering had been quite an auspicious conclave, a rite loaded with all manner of crazy speeches and farfetched story telling.  At the time, she remarked that the problem with people was that they could be so preposterous.  To reassure herself and calm her agitated mind, she said someday, far into the future, people would be so much better, provided of course, that they could master the magic.  She wished she could find something to help humanity onto that beautiful glowing path.  Meanwhile, in the hard reality of that moment, she wondered, “How can they make a gift of a girl?  What am I supposed to be?  Some mound of mammoth meat that needs to be bartered for something else?  How preposterous can they get?” 

           Despite her reservations, she played along with the ritual and acted the role better than any of the other girls.  The men in her new group were especially thrilled by her facial expressions and the way she tugged at the thin strips of mammoth skin that tightly trussed her hands and feet, and she felt glad when, after her suitable display of feigned desperation, they found it in themselves to undo the knots.  Afterwards, they praised her acting skills and proclaimed her to be the best gift of the day.  Apparently, their happiness had grown by leaps and bounds.  However, Agni didn’t care how convincingly she played the part: she still had mixed feelings about being a gift.  She really wanted to have more say in the matter.  Despite this vexing problem, she understood such extravagant exchanges had to be done because the nomads were well aware that the collective good health of any wandering band depended on forging new alliances.  Ostentatious offerings had to be given.  Without them, no survival was possible.  Indeed, Jeskro, the leader of her new wandering band, never seemed to get tired of saying, “What good is having plenty if you can’t be ostentatious?”  And Agni had to grudgingly admit he certainly had a bit of a point there.

            Looking on the bright side, she counted her blessings from the gods of the hunt and said to herself that if she had to be an offering, it could have been far worse --- she could have been sacrificed.  The long and the short of it was that gifts were great.  In spite of all these offerings to gods and to people, her extended family was keenly aware that they had to be extra careful about making zealous overtures of harmony with other wandering bands since there were some groups out there in the icy land who made no pretense of friendship.  Those duplicitous nomads might turn on them and attack if they caught her tribe unawares.  She and the rest of her group had to be on constant lookout for them because they were treacherous beyond belief.  But she reassured herself that Jeskro, the strongest man in the band, was on watch right that very moment as she was liberating the point from the stone.  In this frame of certainty, Agni chiseled throughout the morning and deep into the remainder of the day.  

 

            In the dream, Lisa looked on again and reassured herself that this was only a dream, so she could savor Agni’s triumph as well.  She turned over in her sleep and spooned closer to Chad.     

 

            Finally, as the sunlight began to fade, Agni could clearly see that this was the best point she had ever created.  Certainly, it was the largest, bigger by far than any that her teacher had ever made.  The strange green color dazzled her eyes.  Surely, this point of a lifetime was worthy of bringing the magic back?  She paused to think about the object --- she knew her former shaman would have beamed with pride if he could have seen her creation.  She recalled how the old man explained the meaning of the world to her and how she had listened with eagerness to his every word.  Oh, how she missed him and hoped that now, in this difficult period, which was fraught with so much uncertainty about basic subsistence, she could capture every shred of his wisdom and maybe more than a bit of his magic.  

            Many was the time when she would sit back and listen to the old man’s wild songs about the earlier people who had travelled through the breaks in the ice when there were periodic thaws.  He revisited those heady days as he accompanied himself on bone flutes and twangy stringed instruments made of mammoth sinews and hollowed gourds.  Frequently, his acolyte would join in the revelry by thumping away on a crudely fashioned drum.  The old man told him he needed to learn how to play fast, and she watched as the acolyte struggled to keep up with the careening tempo.  The old man delivered these long sagas with such desperate urgency that the whole group was drawn into the shuddering allure of his frenzy.  Agni was no exception ---   reaching a fever pitch, the gods of the hunt fully embraced her, and she would run out of the tent and dance to a state of complete exhaustion, pivoting and twirling to every curve of the ecstatic sounds that the old man produced.  These performances gripped her in a spellbound sway, causing the gods to transport her to such enchanting places.  Over the far horizon of the glacier, the pallid sun seemed to throb and pound the very land itself.  She sought to enter this beckoning aura and to melt into it.  In the throes of a brilliant rapture, she repeated over and over in a breathless chant, “I am a gift; I am a gift; I am a gift.”  And the land changed color, going from white to green, and the world seemed to become a very perfect place.    

            However, not all was sweetness and light.  There was a downside, which she slowly came to learn --- the old man told her that tradition commanded him to impart his knowledge of point-making to his son.  The only problem was the son had turned out bad.  Despite all of the old man’s efforts, his flesh and blood had no talent or inclination for the art and craft that meant so much to him.  He told her his son was such a huge disappointment and openly lamented the boy’s lack of interest in all of the things near and dear to his heart and soul.  He confided to Agni, letting her in on a dark secret --- the old shaman told her that he often had scary thoughts, in which he contemplated talking the band of nomads into abandoning his son on some dreary ice floe to fend for himself.  He said he found these thoughts hard to resist and seriously pondered how to act on them, so they would become true. 

            When she heard this, Agni begged him not to do that, and quite unexpectedly, the old man had heeded her advice.  He said this was the first time he had listened to a woman.  Still, the darkness of his thoughts would not go away entirely because later, Agni had been there and watched the shaman when he angrily rebuffed the young man. 

            The old shaman grabbed him by the hand, and held it out for all the other members to see, saying, “Son, what is this?  I do believe it’s hard to tell.  My eyes have a rough time tryin’ to figure it out.  What is it?  Oh yes, now I see what it is.  Why it’s the hand of a girl.  Your worthlessness seems to know no bounds.  Go down to the stream and pick fruits and berries with the womenfolk!  Perhaps then, you will be of some use to the family!” 

            His strident words hurt her ears, and she found herself in the strange position of scolding him.  However, she was pleasantly surprised when her words actually had a deep and positive effect.  To strengthen his resolve, she touched him lightly on the nose, and the ominous thoughts emptied from his head and floated high over the crystalline walls of the glacier.  The old man claimed he could see them misting over the ice.  Right then and there, he decided the only thing he could do was to pass on his knowledge to her. 

            Now, as Agni looked at her newly finished point, a feeling of happiness welled up within her.

 

            In the dream, Lisa felt happy for her too.  She was also happy that Chad had finally come along to join her because she wondered what had been taking him so long.  He snuggled closer to her neck and shoulders.                                                                                                

 

            Then Agni recalled how she had promised the old man that she would be a good huntress if she were only given half a chance.  She said, “If I am to do my duty and be a good gift, I might as well earn my keep.  I want to be a gift that lasts forever.” 

            Not long thereafter, he gave her this opportunity.  Subsequently, she had studied long and hard under his tutelage and learned how to master the magic of the stone.  She participated in the hunts and learned how to put her beautiful creations to use.  She rose to become the best hunter of her band of wanderers.  Finally, when she was about to be given as that splendid prize to the other group of nomads, the old man offered some cryptic words, telling her, “Since you are now blessed with all the talents and abilities and have fully mastered the art of the stone, you need to understand that you will one day rescue your new family.  After you have done that, you will become a true goddess and will travel across time.” 

            She did not know exactly what he was saying --- he was such an enigmatic old fellow, but she thanked him and reluctantly said goodbye.  Now, after she had completed the best point of her life, she knew the old man would be especially proud if he could have seen her new and beautiful creation.  More importantly, this was a point which ensured that the magic would return.  The only thing left to do was to perform the sacred rite with her lover Nosken.  She knew that only the uniting of their bodies would give the point its power.  With this act of worship, the final step in the process would guide the point into the body of the massive frightening mastodon that lurked in the shadow of the glacier.  Without this blessing, the giant creature would escape and the desperate family would go hungry.  She knelt below Nosken and initiated the action.  Soon they were caught up in the gathering ecstasy and the stories in their heads danced in a trembling momentum and trajectory.  At the optimum moment, the magical aura of the hunt was instilled in the stone, and they both knew that it would last forever.  Agni kissed the green point and laid back to ponder the beauty of her creation.  Nosken fell to her side, and they basked in the languid aftermath.  They closed their eyes in anticipation of sleep, only to experience a massive pandemonium.  They heard shrieks and calls to flee.  Agni and Nosken looked to the periphery of the camp and could see the faces of their comrades outlined by the fading fire as intruders raided their supplies. 

            Agni grabbed her lover, saying, “Run Nosken, we must get out of here fast!”

            She hurriedly gathered up the point and a few belongings to make their escape.  Agni and Nosken put up a ferocious fight with the intruders, but they were vastly outnumbered.  Although they put up a valiant struggle, Jeskro and Agni were killed --- only Nosken and a couple others managed to get away from the marauders.  As her life drained out of her, Agni knew her lover and the other two members of the group would meet up with another band of wanderers and the remnants of her extended family would ultimately survive.  She was happy to have rescued them just as the old shaman had predicted.  At this moment, she remembered what the old shaman had said about time travel.  His words were so clear to her now --- she would be a goddess who would conquer time itself.  She rose into the sky and watched as the invaders quickly rummaged through a deerskin sack containing a cache of points and the remaining food of Agni’s small band.  Having plundered everything they could find, the raiders retreated northward across the icy tundra in search of mastodon and mammoth, but in their haste, Agni’s newly minted point, loaded heavily with a dose of potent magic, somehow was overlooked because it had fallen by the wayside in the lonely waste of the ruined campsite.    

 

            Lisa was the first to awaken to the sound of an intruder, and Chad rose into consciousness a moment later.  A tall man with a gun was standing over them. 

            As they rubbed the sleep from their eyes, they became aware that this creepy man was yelling at them in a strident and demanding voice: “Where are your latest artifacts?  Show them to me now!”

            Chad answered in a fearful, stuttering voice, “All that we have are over there in the bag.”

            The intruder nervously paced back and forth before going to the other side of the tent and picking up the satchel.  With a greedy tug, he opened it. 

            “Hmm, I can see that you’ve been quite busy.  Yes, this is a wonderful collection.  The workmanship is nothing short of amazing.  No doubt they will fetch a pretty penny on the black market.  Some wealthy patrons of mine would pay me a lot to have these hanging on the walls of their living rooms and dens.  They like to keep the beauty of these objects all to themselves.  And who can blame them?”

            “Go ahead and take it all.  Just leave us alone.  We’re nomads who go from dig to dig to eke out an archaeological living.”

            “I’m afraid that I too am equally eking out a living.  And I don’t want to leave any witnesses, so I have some very bad news for you.  I’m afraid you’re going to have to die because you’ve seen too much.”

            The intruder started to level the gun at Chad.

            “Wait a minute, Mister.  Don’t kill him!  I can show you a better prize than any of the artifacts in that bag.  It’s the biggest and best point that was ever made.  We measured it, and it’s almost nine inches in length.  And the color is a beautiful shade of green.  It shines and glows gorgeously like a giant diamond in the rough.  Very, very rare.”

            “OK, so show it to me right now,” the intruder demanded.  He allowed her to go to the opposite side of the tent to retrieve the point from its hiding place. 

            “Hey Mister, ple-ase do-n’t hu-rt us.  Please let-et us go.  We’ll pre-pre-tend that none of this ever hap-hap-pened.”

            The intruder found Chad’s stuttering to be a huge distraction.  “Don’t stammer like that!  I can’t stand it.  It hurts my ears.  Stop the stuttering.  Do you hear me?”

            Then, from outside the tent, the three of them could hear an owl screeching in a frenzied pitch --- “EEEOOW!  EEEOOW!” 

            “What is that?” the intruder asked. 

            The screeching continued, getting louder and louder to a frantic fever pitch.  “YOOOW!  YOOOW!”

            Lisa saw the opportunity, and she went with it.  Quickly, with fingers quivering, she retrieved the point from its hiding place and flung it across to the other side of the tent where it flipped end over end, burrowing through the air into the heart of the intruder.   The man looked at his chest just as his eyes seemed to want to pop out of his head.  Then his left hand fluttered to his gaping wound.  Staggering beside the fire, he felt the life flow out of himself.  Reeling from leg to leg, he crashed to the ground.  Lisa’s screams and the screeches of the crazed owl were the last of his earthly recollections.     

 

            The local sheriff and his deputy were more than a little surprised that the weapon Chad and Lisa had used to save themselves from the armed intruder was a twelve thousand year old Clovis point.  The deputy stared into the vacant eyes of the dead man who rigidly clutched his rifle in full death grip. 

            “Yep, he sure is dead.  Ain’t no doubt about it!  He’s about as passed away as a corpse can get.  Not only that, I could swear he actually looks a bit surprised.” 

            He put an arm around the young woman who was still shuddering in fits and starts.  She kept breathlessly muttering some weird stuff about a family who lived somewhere in a faraway time, but the sheriff and his deputy couldn’t for the life of them figure out what in the hell she was yammering about.  Both of the shovel bums claimed that their lives had been saved by magic and that a dream watcher had stood watch over them in the same way that they had tried to stand watch over the site.  The detective wrote this down and surveilled the scene with a cold forensic eye as he asked for greater detail and systematically scribbled additional notes for his report.  The sheriff said to himself that it wasn’t every day that he got to see such a magnificent weapon as this finely carved green obsidian point.  He listened to the kids’ story for a second and third time just to be sure that he had the fact pattern down the right way.  The tale had a mysterious lilt to it.  He remarked to the deputy that it wasn’t every day that he got to hear such strange and beautiful magic. 

            Then the officers of the law stepped outside the tent and happened to look over to a nearby tree branch --- a bird was staring at them and performing a triangulating dance. 

            “Hey, look at that, will ya?” exclaimed the deputy.  “It’s a Snowy Owl, and a female at that.  I can tell ’cause she’s bigger than the males.  She must be far afield.  Usually, they don’t venture this far south.”

            “Yeah, that may be true.  But sometimes they’ve been known to go off the beaten track if they have good reason.”   

            “They mate for life.  Maybe that’s a good reason.”

            “EEEOOW!  EEEOOW!  YOOOW!  YOOOW!”

            The owl triangulated for a while longer before flying high up into the early morning sky.  It hovered for a bit and then darted off in a northerly direction.  The officers of the law watched for as long as they could until it disappeared behind a wispy cloud.              

I am a longtime rock and jazz musician currently working on my second novel entitled The Intricacies of Dog Shows.  My fiction is largely drawn from my experiences as an archaeologist, world traveler, and tango dancer as well as from my childhood.  I also would like to credit my friend and colleague Jessica Guerra for her wonderful illustration for "The Gift of Forever."