Continued from The Frozen Arena (Part II).
Our exploration continued for a week before the unknown change in two frozen figures at the center of the arena began to wear at me. Each day, it seemed the two were different than the day before. I began to photograph them extensively, and always from the same locations. Comparing photos yielded no results, but the nagging feeling of something different kept me going back for several photos each day.
My colleagues began to worry, especially Nancy, who noticed that even when everyone else began to become affected by the cold after a few hours, I seemed always ready to explore more. When she mentioned it, her tone sounded very accusatory, and I tried to avoid becoming defensive. I did snap at her, but I quickly gave an apology, and although the gaze she directed at me was doubtful.
More and more often, I stayed behind while the others went up top for a warm-up break. I only needed a brief warm-up by the heater before I was ready to explore again. Often, I went off without Nancy, or forgot she was present when we did go together, and she became increasingly irate with me.
I was inspecting a strange structure in one of the alcoves of the stadium on the tenth day, at approximately one in the afternoon, when I began to feel a strange prickling along my upper back. When I looked back, I saw nothing of note besides some swirling flecks of ice that caught the light of my spelunking helmet. Dismissing the event, I returned to my photos, my sketches, and my notes.
The galleries by my colleagues had nothing about this strange sculpture.
It was far more round than any of the other sculptures, which were made of rounded shapes with straight sides. This was made of circular parts. At the base, a short, squat cylinder formed the base. Shallow, rounded groves ran in rings around it– three in all, clustered close together. Atop that, an orb rested. It was uncarved, and a bright blue that was both vibrant and very even, with no cloudiness or streaks. Resting on that, two flattened hemispheres with bright dots and stripes of red, yellow, and orange dominated the sculpture. This part was two feet in diameter, by my estimate.
Finally, at the top, resting on the flattened “UFO” shape, was a grey crown with twenty-five points. Five were tall, ten were medium, and the rest were short. Within that, there appeared to be a socket with a protruding button. Was the top grey and plain because it was incomplete, or was it missing some part? Why did it have a button?
My curiosity got the better of me, and I reached forward to press the button. I paused. No, I shouldn’t. At least, not without some gloves, to prevent harm to the artifact. Hurriedly, I pulled on a rubber glove, and then used my latex-clad fingers to press the button. Nothing happened at all as I held it down, but I did hear a faint click. With a sigh, I pulled my fingers away. Click. Nothing.
The call for dinner sounded from the main ring, and I shook my head. I hadn’t taken that long to investigate it, had I?
With a shrug, and turned to walk away, and for a moment, I thought I saw a figure in my path. I blinked in the bright light from outside the alcove, and it was gone. I was certain it was just my old eyes playing tricks on me again as I walked out into the light.
Several shadows seemed to move as my eyes adjusted, but when I got a good look, nothing was unusual.
Dinner was uneventful and boring, and I barely tasted the food.
The rest of the group turned in, and I went to my cot, as well. I dreamed of the arena below.
I was disembodied this time, and watched as drama unfolded. The audience screamed over the two fighters in the center. They saw no intense eyes, nor the subtle play of emotion across their faces. A few babbled about how attractive the fighters were, but none could make out the details of either combatant’s face.
The powerful man who oversaw the competition leaned forward in his seat to watch. In a shocking flight of fantasy, the pale man threw a weapon at the ruler, and it drove deep into his chest. Two guards hurried him off– one resembled the fallen man strongly, and the other did not.
A third guard blocked the way, and the drama did not end there. The dark gladiator snarled. The pale man stood tall and glared into the eyes of the savage who dared to fight him. His hand rested on the hilt of his sword, and he waited.
A powerful pulse shook the arena, and none moved.
The drama stopped right there, and never continued.
The pale man suddenly turned and looked at me with his blue eyes. His sandy hair blew in the breeze that came from the empty sky above, and his intense stare rattled my soul.
He spoke. “The curious one has come. He should know that nothing should be taken from this place, even so small as a drop of blood.” His eyes became distant. “My own trap.” He turned and resumed his position, and I woke in a sweat to the sound of voices.
“I want to get a blood sample from someone down there.” It was Nancy. “His strange behavior started when he was in a very small space, with one of the bodies that was absolutely covered in blood.”
“Are you sure that’s wise?” Doctor Melinde sighed. “Frozen, the blood is no threat. Melted, it might contain viruses and bacteria that could be thawed and brought back to life. I don’t support this.”
I rubbed my eyes and stepped out of my room. “Leave everything as it is.” I said. “This is not a treasure-hunting expedition– we seek knowledge.” I scratched myself, still feeling tired– no, exhausted. “That includes blood. We leave everything as it is, as much as possible.” My head felt more clear now, as though there had been a fog.
Nancy stared at me. “You look exhausted. Go rest. We’ll take the day off.”
I was shocked when I nodded, and Nancy’s expression of surprise made me laugh. “Come now, Nancy. I’m not some robot. The excitement of coming back must have finally worn off, that’s all. Let’s all take today off, and not go below. We can resume tomorrow.”