More Than Dreamt Of

There are more things in heaven and earth, . . . than are dreamt of in your philosophy

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Vintage

Written in response to the prompt on FRIDAY FICTION with RONOVAN WRITES: Prompt Challenge #19 – A Celebration

Ronovan Writes Friday Fiction

. . . . and re-introducing Dr Jay Genswood.

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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 . . .

Jewish wine vessel
“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 . . .

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Rings

The following was written for Christian Flash Weekly Event #22 – please click through to see the winning submission, judge’s comments and this week’s challenge.

On the contrary, we speak God’s hidden wisdom in a mystery, a wisdom God predestined before the ages for our glory.
– 1 Corinthians 2:7

Rings

“Thank you for coming at such short notice Jay . . . It’s good to see you too, Eli.”

“You knew your message would intrigue me Douglas, but to be honest I didn’t need much of an excuse to get away from the university and come – you also know full well that this place has been on my bucket list for a long time.”

Douglas’s message had been short:

KADNEG. PET TREE. COME ASAP, BRING E. – D –

Douglas always had a talent for easily grabbing my attention, ever since we were freshmen. A petrified tree turning up at his Kadesh dig deep in the Negev desert? He also knew better than to waste my time, so asking me to bring along my research assistant Elijah proved that what he wanted me to see was worth paying for two airfares.

“I won’t waste time with the usual pleasantries,” he began. “We unearthed this lone petrified tree trunk amid the ruins of the city – it seemed to occupy a position at the centre of what we assume to be a market square fronting the temple.” He looked agitated, anxious even.

“Okay,” I said, “So this is big, but what made you send such a cryptic message? No denying it’s a great and unusual find, but . . .”

Douglas cut right across me mid-sentence, “Yeah, ok – ‘unusual’ . . . Jay, this is way beyond my team, and the paeleo-biology specialist used by BGU. The tree doesn’t look native. When we began to take samples from the trunk, there was no obvious evidence of insect damage, and it appeared to have no rings whatsoever in the cross-section. None . . .”

Hence Douglas’s need for a palaeo-botanist he knew and trusted: me.

“Even the heaviest degradation would leave some internal structure intact . . .”, I began to muse. Another thing Douglas knew about me from old was my irrepressibly impatient need to begin processing problems immediately.

“That’s what the BGU guys said, so, I sent a section back home for analysis.”

“Why not direct to me to begin with?” I asked, with mild indignation.

“I had to try my own staff first – it’s university policy to keep one institution’s name on the press release if it can be helped. My guys thought it was a fake which I had sent them as a practical joke. But, either because they thought it was such a very good fake that they had to be sure, or because I insisted so vehemently that it was genuine . . . they decided to break policy and send it on to the STEHM microscopy team at the University of Victoria in Canada, to get a more detailed image. They got very excited when the Canadians produced this.” He opened a file sleeve and handed over a photo.

“What resolution is this?” I asked, my pulse beginning to race.

“They refused to confirm – claimed commercial privilege, so you know it’s got to be higher than they officially admit to in their blurb.”

I was astounded. “The rings are so tightly packed that they are barely distinguishable – this tree must have grown incredibly slowly, and lived for – I don’t know – tens of thousands of years! This is incredible! This is Nobel prize stuff!”

Douglas smiled a nervous smile. “No, Jay. This is what is incredible, and I need to know how on Earth it can be possible before we share it. This is from the base of the trunk, and we took this image with a regular digital camera. Only my most trusted core team members here have seen this.”

He handed over another photo, and to my surprise, this time gave it direct to Elijah.

Eli’s jaw dropped, and so did the sheet. As it glided to rest on Douglas’s desk, I saw what were unmistakably words, but in a language I did not recognise; burned, engraved (I still don’t know how to properly describe it):

אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה

“Ehyeh ašer ehyeh.” Eli read.

“This is why I asked you to bring Eli – because I trust you, you trust him, and because he can read ancient Hebrew.”

“What does it mean Eli?”

“Literally, it means, ‘I will be what I will be’ . . . but your Bible translates it as ‘I Am who I Am’.” It’s what God said to Moses at the burning bush.

Below the first phase was a second, longer one:

בטרם היות אברהם אני הייתי

“Beterm heyot avraham ani hayiti”, Eli slowly continued, “It means, ‘Before Abraham, I was’ . . . That isn’t in the Torah.”

“Indeed.” a voice behind us calmly agreed, “It is not.”

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