Written in response to the prompt on FRIDAY FICTION with RONOVAN WRITES: Prompt Challenge #19 – A Celebration
. . . . and re-introducing Dr Jay Genswood.
Two separate events, eighteen months apart, have set me on my current path. The cynical academic I had been, sipping the complimentary drinks in business class on the ‘plane flying to meet my old college buddy Doug Kitchen in the Negev, would simply not recognise the man who walked out of Ana’s office in an astounded daze one and a half years later . . .
The robust wooden door before me bore the nameplate ‘Dr Ana Krino’, and as I knocked it sounded a comfortingly solid low note. I was greeted by a woman with Mediterranean looks, seemingly about my own age. She glanced at my face and an expression of superficial recognition quickly formed into a welcoming smile.
“Dr Genswood – thank you for coming to see me. I am grateful for your time.”
She guided me in, and we spent a few minutes exchanging the usual pleasantries, as those whose only immediate common ground is a mutual acquaintance tend to do. The obligatory English offer of tea and biscuits accompanied our introductory conversation. Crisp spring air drifted in through the window, bringing with it the bustling hubbub of central London traffic. After a brief pause to sip from her teacup, Ana got to the point of our meeting.
“Douglas Kitchen mentioned that you were in London for a conference. I was hoping that you might apply your particular expertise and experience to casting your eye over some research data?” She leaned across her desk, and passed me a loose set of papers.
My particular ‘expertise and experience’, I mused. “These tests results look rather unremarkable”, I offered, wondering if this was another of Doug’s attempts to pair me off, or just a prank, but then again . . . . . Douglas . . .
“These are the spectrometric results of a liquid sample taken from a bronze age artefact recovered in Israel last year. The original find was made by locals – treasure hunters wanting to find their fortune. They wanted to cash in, so sent several objects to Jerusalem, no doubt to whet the appetite and open the cheque books of the Hebrew University. HU immediately dispatched a team to investigate further, and various items recovered as a result prompted them to consult with the British School of Archaeology out there, and subsequently my team here. Their initial investigation revealed a liquid substance to be contained within that jar . . .” She motioned towards a crusty old amphora-style jar, sitting in a glazed cabinet at the edge of the room, which bore an image of the Star of David.
“The vessel is very similar to the ones found at the Palace of Tel Kabri, near the coast of Upper Galilee, but Israel didn’t have the facilities to match those we have developed here, which would protect and preserve the contents, whatever they may have been, so . . .” Ana gestured to illustrate the jar finding its way to her office.
Galilee . . . ancient Judea. A memory of petrified heartwood bearing Hebrew lettering flashed back across my mind from as if eighteen months were eighteen seconds. The Negev . . . . . Douglas . . .
“The University of Haifa had been able to analyse residues from the jars discovered at the Tel Kabri site – they revealed that wine they had contained had been mixed with different flavourings – terebinth resin, cedar oil, honey, other plant extracts – dull, I admit, but an archaeological first. When HU realised that they could trump that discovery with analysis of the possibly preserved contents of this jar, they wanted to make sure that no mistakes were made in its preservation and forensic analysis. Forensic analysis, which showed this red liquid with an aromatic scent featuring hints of berries, and a suggestion of cinnamon, to be simple, unremarkable yet unmistakeable, water.” She waved a phial of red liquid in my direction before passing it briefly beneath her nose.
I hesitated. “There is nothing in these results to account for any discolouring, any change in viscosity, nor any aromatic evaporation.”
“No, nor the deeply satisfying flavour,” she replied.
I froze. This had to be a joke.
“You’ve . . .?!”
Galilee; ancient Galilee . . .
“Ana, where exactly was the jar found?”
“The dig is near Kafr Kanna, also known as Khirbet Cana.”
To my almost offended disbelief, she sipped at the phial.
“It is a cosmopolitan Galilean town, about five miles northeast of Nazareth. It is mostly . . . ‘unremarkable’? . . , but quite popular with tourists. You know, pilgrims.”
Realisation dawned in my dull mind. “Cana! This came from Cana?! As in . . .”
” . . . as in the wedding celebration at Cana. Where Jesus Christ is recorded to have performed his first miracle – turning water . . . into wine.”
“Ana, this is unbe- . . . how can you allow this to be drunk?! You must preserve the specimen, re-seal the jar – the wa- . . wi- . . the specimen will become contaminated! You have to protect it until it can be peer-reviewed! You have to . . !”
She smiled at me. “There are those in the world who will always reject the truth I believe we have discovered, regardless of how many universities, or government laboratories were to validate the findings. But Douglas told me about Kadneg; he told me what he found, and you witnessed . . . I trusted that you would have an open mind.”
“But Ana, the specimen . . . ”
” . . . the specimen never runs out; it has never . . . will never run out. No matter how much we remove . . . how often . . . It replenishes itself, each night; every night.”
For an insight into events in the Negev 18 months previously, see Rings . . .