Rigorous
Volume Five, Issue 4



Way Down Deep

Linda Hughes


I, Gwen Lewis, an archaeologist, went all the way to Rome, Italy for a dig I partially funded in hopes of retrieving data for my book. I took a hiatus from my archaeology professorial appointment with the university, and received a grant funding part of the excavation, all which required the completion of my book within a year. Thame Adams, an archaeologist, deemed the area an ancient site for excavation outside the city limits. I met Thame a year ago at an archaeological conference in San Francisco. We reframed from getting romantically involved because we worked together, getting involved meant hostilities between us, but insisted only partaking in platonic play. So, onward we went fulfilling a relationship without sex.

Thame put the R in romance while in Rome. Thame turned me into a love addict just as if he used a coveted junkie’s needle making me high off of his enchantment. Women spoiled a man like Thame, because of his profession, and the women competed for him. He wanted everything I possessed, and I just wanted him.

My particular site proved that way down deep lay more than appeared to the eye. Once the dig got underway; an elation spread over our group of four. Just when the sun set, something odd shifted in the ground.

Thame turned to me and said, “tell everyone I will co-author your book getting over half of the royalties. And I’ll speak Wednesday instead of you. Is that clear?” he shouted.

My limbs trembled like a slight earthquake beneath the ground, as Thame smiled and kept digging. I realized my womanhood measured up to a severe beating for sisterhood. My idol, Zora Neal Hurston, with her eagle eye virtue of the study of human culture, certainly allowed for no female limitations, inspiring a deeper core of balance.

“Look Gwen, look what it is. What is it?” Thame asked.

“I believe it’s an ancient curse tablet.”

“Yes, it’s full of curses, right?”

Thame knew nothing about the history of the tablet, so I knew just how I could get back at him after all I couldn’t get this far without wit.

“That’s right. And since you found it you will be cursed by it.”

“That’s not so.”

“It looks as if it is a punishment curse, and you’re the victim.”

“I can’t be. Here, you take it and keep it with you, and you can be the victim.”

“It punishes wrong-doers.”

“I haven’t done anything wrong.”

“Haven’t you.”

Myself, Thame, Carol and Brent finished our terrible meals and before saying good night, I said to Thame, “I figured out what the curse is about. You don’t have to worry, it’s just a binding spell. It causes inhibition. We know you’ll always be free from that.”

“Gwen, you always see the bright side of things. Of course, I’m free to do anything I please,” Thame replied.

Carol and I went to our tent, and the men to theirs. The Archaeological Society gathered in Rome tomorrow, and the society asked me for a presentation giving a synopsis of my book. I agreed on giving Thame my speech on my book. Oh, how he looted my spirit for the last time. I identified how he interpreted his self-esteem and insecurities by the game he ran on me, a bait and switch technique, gaining all that he desired.

A little after midnight I put on heavy eye liner and mascara, and tied my natural hair up replicating an Antonine elaborate Roman hair style, with a touch of black lipstick. Carol got into her white sleeper and doused herself with baby powder from head to toe so she appeared ghost like. Brent, who always carried his red condiment for flavoring his food, poured it on his chest. But before staging this ruse, Brent’s job entailed tying Thame to his cot with rope while he slept. At suppertime, I put valerian root in Thame’s chili with hopes of him sleeping soundly.

I banged Thame awake using a wooden spoon striking a small metal pot.

“Thwack, thwack, thwack,” the pot sounded.

“Thame,” I roared.

His eyes fluttered until he stared. His face turned toward the lantern I held in my hand. Once Thame saw my face, he tried moving upward, but his upper body held steadfast to the cot.

“What’s happening? Who are you?”

“‘Something wicked this way comes,’” Carol said in an unearthly tone, stepping into the light at the end of the cot. I turned in a circle like a looped cat, advancing and retreating,

I said, “Brent is dead. He’s beneath you.”

Thame moved his head looking below, “what the shit is going on?”

“We’re here to warn you. Tomorrow you’ll be inhibited from speaking, because your tongue and thoughts will be bound,” I said in a slow eerie flavored voice, jerking the lantern away as all three of us split from the tent.

Thame stayed tied to his cot as still as an object. While he accepted his predicament, he drifted back into a sound sleep. I knew his dreams consisted of a collage of scary women who hounded him for his serial behavior of looting their spirits.

In the morning Thame awakened without the ropes affixed. He walked out of the tent, the others and I packed up headed for the hotel room at 5:10 a.m.

“Good morning,” I said.

“What happened last night?”

“Nothing,” Brent replied.

“Start packing your stuff up to go to the hotel,” Carol said.

Thame’s mind remained as far away as America.

The Archaeological Society waited for my presentation after the speaker sat down. I relied heavily on last night’s contrivance, and the power of suggestion. Carol and Brent and I crossed our fingers as Thame spoke.

“Today, I’m here, ah … oh … eek. I’m here …”

Thame abruptly hustled out the room, then I gracefully glided to the podium, and began my presentation on the ancient artifact recovered at my site, and a synopsis of my book.



Linda Hughes: “I am an emerging black writer living in Las Vegas, Nevada where I work on honing my craft.”




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