Dichotomy Sam had finally made it! He was off on his great adventure, the one he’d been searching and studying for all of his life thus far.
Sam was only 26, but 26 felt late compared to the plans he had given himself when he graduated 3 years ago. He was not the top of his class. In fact, many advisors and professors advised and professed against his obtaining a degree in the school of Science at Hildecrest. One time, they introduced him to English professors, always scrounging, I mean searching, for enough candidates to keep the program afloat.
Hildecrest was not a school well known for it’s alumni or prestige, except for a few localized programs, mostly meant for non-traditional students. It had a good reputation a couple decades ago, marred by scandals involving Presidents, adjuncts, and even rumored a few students were involved as well. A rich foundation head saved it with a hefty donation and the commission of what would now be a couple decades long revitalization process. The rich foundation hoped to one day take over all of the city surrounding the school, now that it, practically, owned the school in a sense. This man, like Sam, was a graduate by 23, and unlike Sam, a self-made millionaire by way of investments by 25. Business degree. Stocks. Real estate. A Geology BA with a minor in Sociology would not get Sam there in 2 years, 3 years, probably not even 15 or 20. Unless Sam stumbled upon some mysterious ancient artifact that set off years worth of highly lucrative archaeology expeditions. That, thought Sam, was highly unlikely, possible, but unlikely.
Sam’s train of thought was broken by the dinging of the seat belt on light coming to an out one final time aboard this flight. A quick commotion of people standing, plunging over each other into the tiny aisleway, collecting bags, belongings from the back of seats, lifting tray tables, and lining up. Sam checked his watch. It was 6:52am. The flight was 37 minutes late. It took approximately 27 minutes to board and boarding was started on time, or close enough at least for Sam. Sam let everyone off the plane until there were only passengers left behind him to offboard. He thanked each flight attendant and pilot, making sure he looked each in the eye. He had made it safe in a floating tin can spewing fire out of it’s ass, he very much appreciated them getting him to the tiny island off of Greenland’s coast comfortably. The idea of flying never sat well with Sam, but he had made it to Janus.
Sam didn’t check any luggage, too much of a chance of it getting lost. He didn’t need much outside of what could fit in a backpack, anyways. He made his way through the airport and down levels of stairs to the ground floor of the cell lot where a driver was waiting for him with his name on a sign in hand. “Sam A. Eunistus” it read in big, bold, permanent marker strokes. Sam hated his last name. He wished to one day go by Sam Ayub (his Mother’s maiden name, his middle name) - or Dr. Sam, if, one day, he would get his PhD after years of research, collecting stories, and making incredible finds!
“You are Sam, sir?” the voice in front of him asked.
“Uh, yes. Sorry. I got…distracted. I can’t believe I’m here.” Sam replied apologetically.
“Well believe it. Bag, sir?” The driver, who’s name badge read A.T., took Sam’s bookbag and hoisted it into the trunk of an old Buick.
Sam got himself situated in the backseat of the car. He opened his email on his phone to fill himself in on his itinerary.
9pm Dinner Service
12am Last Call
6am Wake up Call
7am Breakfast (Buffet style - Hostel across the way - don’t be late!)
Sam vigorously checked old emails in the mail chain. He tentatively refreshed “All Inboxes” every 10 minutes or so. A.T. sensed his panic as the unsuredness set in. He made his eyes connect to Sam through his rearview mirror.
“I wouldn’t be so worried. The Doctor always makes sure his friends are well taken care of.”
“I just don’t even know what I’m here to do yet,” Sam said.
“Ah, I suspect something you won’t soon forget or regret.” A.T. hinted.
“I don’t even know what’s supposed to be here. Who was supposed to be here. I didn’t know where I was going until I checked in at the airport last evening.” Sam was wracking his brain for anything to prepare himself for what he was approaching. Excpt, he truly didn’t know what to expect. A.T. chuckles. Sam’s face does not find anything funny.
“Oh, laugh a bit, Sam! A great happening is on the wake in your life!” Sam felt no more reassured.
“The Doctor does not tell anyone what they are here or there for. The finds are better that way. No expectations.” A.T. smiles softly at Sam in the rearview mirror and pulls to a stop.
“Do you know, uh, the Doctor?” Sam asked before fully pulling open the inside handle of the door.
“I have. For a very long time. In fact, I once sat on a seat in a plane, unaware of where I was headed, too. The Doctor was not the Doctor, yet. She was in the window seat next to me. She had convinced me of the escapade only days earlier.”
“Was it as good as it was promised?” Sam asked A.T. peering his body down, staring back into the car, in A.T.’s real face and eyes, not through the mirror.
A.T.’s face, Sam noticed, was softly wrinkled, a little puffy, but jolly with life. Sam trusted him as he said, “Best yes of my life.”
A.T. pulled the squealing Buick away. Sam looked back, but quickly turned to face forward. He knew he shouldn’t look back. A weathered woman, with long, gray bundles of thick hair, wearing bootcut jeans and a paperboy button down shirt tucked into the waist of her pants walked briskly towards him. Her arms opened wide.
“You made it!” the Doctor exclaimed in Sam’s direction.
Sam opened his arms wide in response and clapped them down on his sides, “I’m here.”
“Great, let’s get started. Something I want to show you.”
“Already?” Sam asked, surprised and not all at once.
“Of course! I’ve been here for damn near 24 hours already. I wouldn’t be in such a damn good mood if I hadn’t yet. Just a couple crumbs of old pottery, but the clay colors all right, the weather is nothing more to ask for, and I’m damn near certain we’re in the right area. Sam, you stand,” she stops and turns to face the way Sam faces. The whole time she had been walking backwards excitedly filling in Sam on what he had missed in less than a day of the 18 week expedition. “Where Ancient Greeks once stood - well, conquered - and we are here to find the artifacts to prove it.” The Doctor finished. Sam blinked. And breathed. Breathed it all in, and out. The Doctor filled in the space. “Well? What do you think?!”
“I think…” Sam said, shaking his head a bit. “You think Ancient Greeks made it this far? I mean, trading via ships and other countries, sure, but I don’t think-”
The Doctor cut him off. “I don’t think, either. I do. Before I do, I research. I know they were here.”
“How will you show for sure? How will you keep this funded for 18 weeks? I’m sorry. I…that was bold. I don’t mean. Shit.” Sam said.
“I expect a little good questioning from a man of science like yourself, Sam. Plus, I’ve told you nothing besides the breakfast buffet is damn good and the protein and pastries go quick, so I wouldn’t sleep in. Anyways, point is, I haven’t told you anything to make you believe me yet, but I haven’t said anything that should make you doubt me yet either. The pottery crumbs I found are being sent back to carbon date as early as tomorrow. They’re also going to see what remnants of food or bacteria still remain in it. But really, what I’m interested in, is the vessel whose style and design only resemble the Greco-Roman styles, not Janusian, but it’s shape…it’s shape is only known how to craft with such precision by the native Janusian’s. If I can find just one, just one sliver of the vessel neck, it could prove the connection between the Greek empire and Janus as far back as, well, some of the pyramids, potentially!”
“Yes, the shape was meant to both preserve and insulate. It’s craft is very hard to replicate because of the delicateness of the materials used, and the structure of which a skilled craftsmen must know the techniques passed down in order to make it usable, and make it last,” the Doctor states.
“What is this shape?” Sam asked.
“It isn’t much referred to outside of the native language. It doesn’t have a direct translation. The closest thing I could come up with is along the lines of The Dichotomy shape. In fact, it much looks like the profile of two faces from all around. And, given it’s dual purpose, and fickle nature, it was also seen as a powerful spiritual tool, craftsmen gifted with their craft and artistry straight from the Gods.”
“So, we’re looking for an ancient, limited edition, wine decanter?” Sam said, a smile peering from the sides of his lips.
“Very funny.” The Doctor smiles back. “But, the little bacterias I’m looking for on the inside of the clay? Those, if my hunch is correct, should belong to bacterias commonly found in the remains of humans.”
“Great. So we’re gravedigging.” Sam said.
“Gravedigging? Heavens no!” The Doctor continues, “Bacteria causes fermentation. Fermentation, yogurt, kombucha, medicinal spirits. Human bacteria could’ve been one of the ancient secrets lost to time and history. That is what we are here to look for. That is what we are here to find.” The Doctor finished, looking somewhat in the distance as if she was trying to keep herself bought in with the hope, the distant thought, that her prime had not passed in the world of archaeology.
“The headlines will read out,‘The Doctor and Dichotomy Sam Confirm Ritualistic Vampiring by the Ancient Greeks.’” Sam says.
The greatest yes he’ll ever say without saying.
“That’s the spirit! Come along!” The Doctor took Sam’s arm and looped it around hers. She patted his hand and continued filling him in on the wonders of Ancient Greenland and Greece he’d need to be privy to. He silently wished she’d sent this as a voice memo or an email before he got on the plane to review. But, like any great adventure, it was the not knowing that kept it going. Sam leaned in.
* * *
By now, sweet August turned late and became September. The site was, actually, not a complete bust. Sam and the Doctor, and the rest of the team of course, had filled up quite a few long tables underneath tents. Sam had felt as if he had recently also been turning into part of “the rest of the team.” He had been making incredible identifications, his artifact handling and packaging record was unblemished. However, he’d been lacking the instinct for where to dig. He’d felt promising, the Doctor continued her liking and interest in him, early on. He had found a couple bits of pottery and remnants of foods. It was all so hopeful. Sam began thinking about his future in a more serious tone. He thought about what a great mentor she’d be to him, another great set of eyes to peer review his studies. He imagined being offered a stint as a lead on expeditions for her teams. Or, he thought, she’d at the very least be an interesting reference to speak with.
The truth is, when the results came back in, these were great finds. But, they were great finds for years of research already been done. It was the clerical work that the museums they’d pass these off to wouldn’t have to do. It just wasn’t…Greek…or bits of bloody human particles…or anything really. Sam’s mid-trip point was approaching. He’d asked the Doctor to arrange for a ride back into the city so that he could get away for a few days, clear his mind, and call back home, talk to his family or friends for more than 10 choppy minutes. Sam needed connection to home. Sam needed it to make himself stay.
“You aren’t bailing on your efforts now, are you? It’d be a damn shame to see, Sam.” The Doctor was suspicious, picking out an old burner phone from the thin, locked drawer of her desk. The silver chunk opened up. The Doctor lifted it to her face. She lifted her glasses. She then squinted. Then, she moved her arm with phone still in hand down, looking down, clunking into big, bright green buttons. Sam didn’t know the purpose of all the readjustment, but the more he thought about it, waiting for her to find, or maybe dial?, A.T.’s number, he came to the conclusion that, as old as this device was to her, it was also relatively new and uncomfortable. The Doctor squirmed, focused and refocused her eyes, pressed and checked, like a toddler learning to use their knees for the very first time on their own. It was how Sam felt holding the sifter in the fields. It was how he felt using the labelers, the daters, the brushes, even the field documentation cameras (older than the Nikon his father gave him to learn on). Sam, unlike the Doctor, in the face of newness, needed an adjustment period. He needed to decompress. He needed a break and a clear head, before he got into his own and messed things up.
“A.T. can be here tomorrow or you’ll have to wait 3 weeks - a little after your mid-trip point, but we’ll keep you fed don’t worry.” Sam’s face couldn’t hide. “I knew you were thinking about running. Look, kid, you’re really unhappy, go pack up. See how you feel when A.T. can return you here in three weeks. Or…let yourself live a little. Stay here. You can be sick, you know.” The Doctor walked out of her little tent office. She zipped Sam in behind her for what little privacy a tent could provide him.
Go, give yourself a breather, Sam thought to himself. He unzipped the tent and began walking back to the barracks. He was mumbling to himself. I think I know what I need, I need a break, I need out, I need away. I live. I’m living. I need a break from all this is the point.
Sam’s fists balled and clenched and then opened stretched out with tense release, again and again. He’d walked behind the barrack. He got half way down the path and did a pivot back, his hands and mind still on clench and release.
When Sam got in and back to his bed, he couldn’t even think about separating his dirties from his cleans. He didn’t wrap his shoes in plastic baggie bits. He shoved his toiletries in the middle when he’d thought about them, not thinking about his need for them in the next 12 hours on a train, a bus, or in a hotel room with laundry and turndown service - air conditioning!
He felt the rest of the team gathering on each other’s beds. He felt them staring and asking - “Is he alright?”
Sam felt like answering “I’M ALRIGHT!” but could only muster up a harsh look from the side of his eye, his jaw clenching closed and swallowing any words he might accidentally scream.
Sam did one final walk around camp with his bag in his hand. He forgot nothings. His bag slid underneath his mattress which he plunked his body onto, pulling the blanket tightly around his face. The rest of the team quietly went about the rest of their nights, sliding off of beds, going to dinner, or the showers, reading.
Sam went to sleep.
He woke at 2:13 and sat up in the middle of his mattress. He’d never experienced this kind of dark. He felt his way brushing his hand across the ground, brushing, counting bed frame after bed frame. There was a long gap of just his hand sweeping until it hit the corner. Sam traced his finger along the edge until he felt the in ground lock, cold and gently bulging out. He felt his way up the door, unlocking it as he went. He pushed and the darkness spilled out before him. He blinked and couldn’t tell you how long. It all looked the same. Sam walked out a little further and pushed his head up. Speckles of stars began to appear and he knew he was out from the barracks overhang.
Sam planned to just walk. The night was tranquil. The air moved smoothly like breaths of it’s own, a natural spring filling into Sam’s lungs at a steady pace. He finally felt no overstimulation. No stimulation. This was nice. Sam’s path felt straight to him. But, like walking through a forest, walking at night can turn you around very quickly.
Sam must have veered off left. There was a lantern and a small tent. Someone was out…digging?
Sam sped up a bit. Sam felt his fists ball and clench again. He got closer. He waited until they could hear.
“Hey!” Sam exclaimed a whispering scream. “HEY! These artifacts are for science and research! Put back whatever you’re looting..or I’ll! I’ll-” Well, Sam knew he couldn’t do much. He hoped whoever was out there didn’t and would just run as they got up.
Their hands wiped and brushed together. It was as if, as if they wanted to clean their hands of the dirt they’d been digging through before they ran?
Would they run?
They didn’t seem scared.
“I’d scram if I were you!” Sam tried one more attempt. Scram? Sam thought to himself.
“Sam!” The Doctor laughed. “It’s only me, Sam.”
Embarrassed, Sam couldn’t find words. He grazed the back of his neck with his hand.
“Well I hope you at least brought a knife with you.” The Doctor continued to try and make light.
“Why..uh, what, are you doing out here so late, Doctor?” Sam asked. He felt out of pocket to even ask such a thing. If anyone, it should be her asking him.
“Shouldn’t I be asking you the same thing, Sam?”
“Right,” he said. “Good night.” Sam began to turn around.
“Live a little, Sam!” The Doctor threw her head back. “Break the rules. Let passion be your guide!”
“I’m all out.” Sam offered and turned around. The Doctor felt his openness. He was all out, but it didn’t mean he didn’t want more. He simply didn’t know where to look. He needed a little push.
Sam and the Doctor went under the tent. She replaced the lantern on its hook. Sam knelt down, hugging in on one knee, looking deeply into the dirt hole recently dug. The Doctor grabbed his hand from his knee and dropped a hand brush and shovel into it. “Dig.” she said.
“Where?” Sam asked.
“Dig.” she said.
“Here?” Sam asked.
She did not answer.
He began there. He got angry. He scooped his pile of dirt back in. He expected a response. The Doctor just sat. He shoved the shovel into the earth. He pulled it out like a knife and shoved again. Again. Again. Again. Aga-
Sam looked up at the Doctor. The Doctor met eyes with Sam.
“Dig!” she said, excitedly, her hands did a little dance. She dropped her arms in front of her kneeled knees. She watched as Sam scraped clay and dirt and rock away. She saw a swirling handle, a beautiful red clay lip. Sam lifted the end of the shovel from the dirt and flipped it in his hand. He placed the handle through the object’s handle. Gently, Sam and the Doctor wiggled and pulled. They dug little bits at a time, followed by a gentle tug. Finally, the object popped out.
Sans one handle, the most beautiful dichotomy vase released from the soil after hundreds of years of breathing dirt. The Doctor inspected her closely. She flipped it over to run years of dirt out of its mouth.
On top, shining under the yellow flicker of lantern flame, rusty brown-red flecks laid in the dirt.
The Doctor squealed and grabbed Sam by the shoulders. She looked him in his face, small and still full of hope, and maybe even some wonder. She hugged him close.
Sam would need to unpack. He’d need to find his most undirty clothes. It wouldn’t be A.T. arriving tomorrow. Cameras, newsman, grant people! The Doctor was already fingering large green buttons.
“Hello, Bill! Yes - Janet. What time is it there? Right. Well. You’ll never believe what I found!”