Eden, by W.C. Markarian

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Eden, by wcmarkarian


  

In the beginning was the word ... let there be white.

  

Thwack.

Ava hit herself in the head again, but this time she slipped as a result. She had to stop her fall by bracing herself against the niter encrusted wall of the chamber. When she slammed against the hard stone, a slight plume of white dust shot into the air.

Ava shook her head at her annoying behavior. She took a deep breath to try to calm herself. It helped a little, but something about the dark cave surrounding her remained unnerving. All the scans their computer had taken of this alien cavern had come back negative for life. The cave was unquestionably empty. Yet the back of her neck tingled like a centipede was scurrying up her spine or like she was being watched. Despite what their technology had said, she didn't feel alone.

She was also uncomfortably warm. But every time she tried to wipe the sweat from her brow, her hand clanged against the glass faceplate of her spacesuit. She had hit herself in the head at least ten times now, and her clumsiness frustrated her. Ava had never been so awkward on any of her previous expeditions.

But all the other expeditions were government sanctioned, she thought. For the sake of science. Not for money. Not in the gray area between legal and illegal.

Ava shook her head, dismissing the thought. This trip was no different. Same skills, same tools, same goals. Find alien artifacts. Bring them home. Sell them. The only real difference was that private collectors paid a lot more than museums. A lot more. And she had debts to pay. So, she had made her peace with choosing money over museums. It was either that or admit she'd been wrong and beg her parents for help.

There was no way she would ever do that.

No, she thought, it wasn't a guilty conscience that had her agitated. It had to be her latest discovery that had set her on edge. The alien script she had found in this cave had thrilled but also annoyed her. And her mixed emotions were showing up in her unusual lack of basic coordination. And it was irritating her like a burr inside her spacesuit. Why couldn't she relax and adjust to her situation?

Ava squinted through the foggy glass of her helmet at the source of her excitement and vexation--the alien hieroglyphics on the wall next to her. Inches to the right of where her hand was braced against the wall. Unfortunately, even though she had discovered the strange lines of symbols thirty minutes ago, she had yet to translate them. Something about this chamber was disrupting the electronics of her suit, of all their equipment. Her inability to finish her work agitated her to the point of wanting to scream.

Instead, she pounded her gloved fist against the wall, which caused another cloud of white dust to puff off the stone. Once the dust cleared, the alien markings stared back at her, just a few feet from her head. She could almost hear the undecipherable symbols taunting her and laughing. Or was the laughter real? She shook her head, and the sounds faded back into her imagination.

She had tried ten times to scan the alien words that were etched into the rock. But the supposedly high-resolution photographs she had taken were grainy and distorted, which was very odd. She doubted the computer could even decode the blurred images.

Her faulty scans were her first clue that there was something strange about the chamber. How much could a simple camera be affected by whatever forces were in this place? Not that it mattered. Each attempt to transmit an image of the hieroglyphs back to their ship for deep analysis had failed part way through. She couldn't connect with her computer from here. For some reason, all her technology was malfunctioning.

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