CaveWomen, Inc. was doing pretty well in the nearly two years since its inception. The blog had grown by another half a million readers and attracted a fourth sponsor, a small hemp clothing company. The retail portion of the web site featured many articles of stylish clothes like T shirts and pullovers sporting the CaveWomen logo along with accessories such as backpacks. The first book had been published,
Glyphs: Songs in the Key of Stone was a collection of Pet’s whimsical stories
inspired by the glyphs. It was more of a
coffee table book than serious academic tome and monthly sales were steady.
There was even enough money to pay a small salary to the owners and retain a freelance research assistant, but in Pet’s view, it was still a failure. The expedition in their first summer had yielded absolutely nothing of interest, no new glyphs or circles, just the same old caves. And yet, it was the search itself that seemed to capture the attention of so many people.
Pet and Tass had never promised results, they had not proclaimed that they would solve the mystery of the
Their job was to explore, they were on a quest to find more runes and
suss out their meanings if possible. The
appealing thing about them, in Tass’ view, was that they were just two girls
with no real education or training bounding into the realm of traditional
science without invitation.
They did not seek approval from the academic community, they were mavericks and the public responded to the purity of their goals. Pet was hoping they would respond today as Tass sent out a tweet for strong backs in their area. It was July and they were canvassing the area around the
Sonoma cave; the previous summer was
spent searching Marin, Napa and Sonoma counties.
This year they were focusing on the northeast, but found nothing so far except for one very high quality carving of the Starfleet insignia. Pet could only wonder at what conclusions future scientists would draw upon finding that insignia, perhaps that her culture worshiped aliens like gods or something else equally idiotic. The fall of boulders that Tass was stubbornly refusing to move from did not seem very promising to Pet either, however she trusted her partner enough to play along.
Tass was a social media virtuoso and her tweet yielded a group of nearby hikers who treated Pet and Tass like celebrities almost. After some consultations and testing the stability of the boulders, Tass and three of the helpers set about dislodging one from the top of the pile. Pet and the other two scurried around collecting the small rock falls while watching for snakes, wobbling footholds and any other lurking dangers. While she collected rocks into a small pile, Pet noticed another cairn farther on that had a familiar shape somehow. Her mind went back to that day in
Sonoma, it had been a
pile of rocks that started this whole venture and perhaps she had been
overlooking some vital clues, although piles of rocks were ambiguous at best.
But it was one of those thoughts, the pernicious ones that wouldn't go away once it was conceived, and Pet went to get her camera. Tass’ obnoxious exclamation stopped her though.
“Ha! I clucking knew it!!” Tass made sure to catch Pet’s eye down below with a smug raise of the eyebrows and said happily, “Cave!”
Pet’s heart began to thud, it was racing even though she could not see inside and she had to take a deep breath before climbing up. Most of the hikers were trying to peer into the darkness behind the boulders; they only got a good view of Tass’ rear end because her front end was stuffed into the opening with a flashlight. The muffled exclamation from the cave was easy to hear and Tass’ next exuberant utterance echoed off the rocks.
Pet grabbed on to Tass’ leg like a vise, trying to simultaneously pull her friend out and push herself in, but there was another exuberant utterance. This one came from down below, from the one hiker who was still collecting rocks.
“This one isn’t a rune!!” A girl named Courtney said as they all looked down and six jaws found the basement. What she had was a jigsaw puzzle of sorts, a puzzle made of rocks with many pieces missing and it was most definitely not a rune, nor was it a circle.
The group was quiet for several long moments before on of the male hikers asked quietly, “Is that a…bear?”