Fred Peters ordered the metal-detector online yesterday and it had arrived today. He had been wanting to get into a new hobby for some time now, as the volunteer work he was doing at the church had been dulling his senses as of late. There were just too many volunteers that had amassed over the months, and Fred felt uncomfortable with the crowd of new faces; as good-intentioned as they were. And there was only so much trash a man could pick up for his community until he questioned his social status, Fred thought with some self-disdain.
He opened the box, ripping the needless miles of tape that did a fine job of mummifying the cardboard, instead of serving any real purpose. The unit came pre-assembled (he paid an extra ten dollars for that) and had a rechargeable battery that would last a full twelve hours, while Fred began his amateur backyard excavations.
That was where he intended to start anyway. A mostly open plot of just over two acres, it was as good a place as any before he would find a way to probe the areas around his property. He glanced over the instructions that came with the device, but really did not need to since he read them earlier this morning online. He then put his work-boots, coat and hat on and grabbed his new toy as he made his way out into the dreary, early-December day. It had begun to snow lightly. The only sounds were the occasional vehicle making its way past Fred’s house; most of them were neighbors that Fred gave a warm smile and wave to.
He turned the device on, adjusting the sensitivity according to what he read versus what he knew about the consistency of the soil on his property. An amateur he might be, but he was determined to start things off as accurately as an amateur excavator might.
He began making his way to the very edge of his property near the road, walking slowly toward the wooded area owned by Mr. Johnson. The light snow had coated Fred's yard so that the blades of grass looked like lost green and limbless souls swimming in a sea of ice. He silently thanked Mr. Johnson as he walked toward the corner of his yard. The old man gave his approval to Fred yesterday to search the woods in the event he discovered that his back yard in Montana was not, in fact, the final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant.
He continued his scanning for the next two hours, finding nothing but the remains of a blue thumb tack and a fish-hook that took almost ten minutes to uncover with his small garden shovel. An ancient fish-hook, Fred thought. The World Archaeological Bureau was bound to be pounding down his door down, Fred thought with a hint of frustration. Assuming that organization even existed. He’d have to Google that later, he thought as he ran his hand through his hair. He tossed the fish-hook aside in disdain; the small metal object burying itself in the snow that now accumulated above Fred's ankles.
He approached the back corner of the opposite side of the property. As he did so, the metal-detector made the tell-tale electronic belching sound that indicated something larger than a farmer’s lost fishing hook was below. He waved the device around, looking for the strongest signal, and began to dig. And dig he did, with that hand-held shovel. Almost a half hour passed and Fred uncovered nothing but dirt, rocks and some sort of wooden bead.
After about forty-five minutes, he had managed to dig a hole two feet in diameter and three and a half feet deep, with nothing to show for it, except sweat and self-deprecation. Throwing down his shovel with a curse, Fred fired his detector back up and scanned the small crater he had just made again. Nothing. Not a belch. Not a peep. Not a whisper.
Looking around while clearing his sweat-soaked temples, he decided he would fill the hole in later and continue his search into Mr. Johnson’s property. It was much more dense; some pathways were naturally formed by how the trees grew. Other paths were formed by youngsters over the years, who used them to play games that Fred's memory long forgot.
He made his way into the thicket, following the snow-dusted path that led from his property. The instructions stated that snow shouldn’t be a problem for the device, and Fred hoped this was true as he said a silent prayer to discover something. Anything. After all, no one else in the community was doing this particular hobby at the moment so that left Fred as the resident expert, he thought as he made his way deeper into the thicket.
Suddenly, a sound. It was similar to the one he heard about an hour before. Much more pronounced though. Fred wiped the layer of snow aside, and began digging more fervently than before.
“This damn thing better not be defective. Even with the warranty. Cheap, foreign made bullshit,” Fred said to himself, now using his hands to expedite the digging process.
Fred felt along the new snow and dirt piles he had just made, looking for signs of discovery as he studied the ground before him. He felt nothing particular. He gave the loose soil and snow a stab with the point of his shovel. At this, the metal detector began to squelch again, even though it was pointed at the path behind him and laying horizontally on the ground near the hole; the round part of the device in the air. Fred deduced that he must have hit some bedrock. 'Why would the detector go off here?', Fred thought.
He then decided that the squelching detector that lay near him must be defective after all. Why would it be making these sounds now? If the device was tuned to detect snow out of the air, he thought, the manufacturers must be rolling in hundred dollar bills now. He picked it up angrily, and as he did, it went silent with static. “Well now. I suppose the rest of my afternoon will be spent filling out the stupid warranty information after all. God-fucking damnit,” Fred murmured to himself, forsaking the sermons that the church's pastor preached against, using Jesus's name in vain. He picked up the device and decided that he would give up for the day.
He made his way back through the trees when he noticed the detector making faint sounds. Again.
He put his ear to the speaker and heard an almost human sound. Was this thing somehow picking up radio waves now? He tried to recognize the familiar sound of one of the local radio stations, but the voice… no voices told him that it had to be some amateur radio program. It had to be. Amateur radio for the amateur archaeologist. At least their equipment does what it’s supposed to fucking do though, Fred thought, shaking his head as he walked back onto his property.
The "voices" rose slightly at once, then the detector fell into its static-silence before making a large squelching sound again. By this time, Fred was standing in the middle of his yard; standing in the very faded. snow-covered footprints he had made just a few hours ago. The detector kept making the noise; this time Fred had it pointing to the ground at a spot he must have missed during his first stroll. 'What the hell, one more try,' Fred thought as the late afternoon sky began to slowly darken.
He knelt, then dug at the spot indicated by the device once again; a lone figure in a snow-covered yard filled with zig-zagging footsteps. A few minutes later, he was rewarded by a metallic, clinking sound. He dug up the cold and loose dirt around it, and between shovel thrusts, he swore he saw the thing rotate clockwise slightly. Dismissing the thought as a trick presented by the hard snow, he began to work further down along what looked to be a slightly concave piece of metal, about an inch wide that came to a point, facing him. He gave the new-found treasure (he could dream, couldn’t he?) a smile and gave it a few taps with his shovel for good luck.
Suddenly, the discovery pulled into the ground. Fred, dumbfounded, cocked his head, wondering if he could be standing on a sinkhole as he crouched.
As he did, the thing thrust back through in a blinding motion, impaling Fred squarely through the anus and out through the side of his spine, near the left scapula behind his heart. He shrieked; his body shot up and protracted well over ten feet in the cold and snowy air in the matter of a second. He hung there for a few seconds, body wracking with spasms; a shocked and teary-eyed look to the grey clouds above as his shriek dwindled to a gurgling sound.
Not unlike the gurgling sounds the detector made.
His shrieks dwindled to a familiar hissing sound Fred remembered hearing that afternoon before everything went black.
Not unlike the static sounds the detector made.
He was waved back and forth violently for a minute in the air before being pulled to the bloody patch of ground and snow, where he crouched merely seconds before. His body took on an impossible shape; leg and head through the small opening and the rest of his broken body positioned at odd angles in the air above the ground. He stayed that way for five seconds before disappearing entirely, with a final bone-crunching protest through the narrow hole in the yard.
The metal detector’s speaker was at a fevered pitch with many more "voices" than before, all joined in a dissonant crescendo. Some sepulchral and low. Others high and banshee-like. Others seemingly moaning or drooling the words. Still others...steely.
All voices were proclaiming the same thing however. Over and over. And not in unity.
“I found it! Look at thissss!” all voices in thousands of different languages and tones, but saying those same broken exclamations.
After a minute of rising cacophony, the voices abruptly ended with only the hissing of the metal detector breaking the silence of the now heavy snows that came from the lonely Montana sky. It was only an hour until all evidence of metal-detectors, holes, footprints and blood were buried by the snow.
Apparently, Mr. Peters was not the only one picking up archaeology that day.