Northwords Now Issue 40

The FREE literary magazine of the North

The Box is Only Temporary

by Anne Elizabeth Edwards

The news announcer, Val Auden, looked straight at the camera. The corners of her mouth twitched as she fought to control the seventeen muscles it takes to smile.

‘And finally…archaeologists in Iceland report their latest find, revealed when an ice cliff collapsed due to Global Warming on Kirkjufell…also known as Arrowhead Mountain, this was used as a location for television series Game of Thrones.’

Val paused; mention of the popular TV show relaxed her mouth. A crinkly twinkle reached her eyes. Today’s headlines might have been all warfare and rampant disease but this was frivolity; send the populace off to bed with a happy thought.

‘Trapped in the ice were the bodies of eleven individuals. Male and female. Complete with clothes and their possessions, including tools and weaponry… Professor Eric Magnusson of Reykjavik University joins us to discuss the finding. Professor, this can’t be an ordinary day for you and your team?’

The heavily bearded professor stood at the door of a brutalist - architecture building. He was dressed as a caricature of Scandinavian academia: woolly jumper, tweed jacket and massive duvet coat. He paused mid foot stamp to speak to camera.

‘Yes, it’s an extra-ordinary day! It’s very exciting. We have eleven individuals, male and female, women and men.’ He nodded his head as his breath came in big misty puffs. ‘They have been trapped in the ice, for many years, many hundred years.’

Val nodded in turn. ‘Can you confirm any more details professor?’

‘Yes, sure. They have their clothes on, so we can see what they wore on their bodies. And they have their tools that they used for the crops and the animals and they have their weapons too. Knives and the bow and arrows.’ His voice modulated up and down in unexpected places.

Val smiled widely now, displaying her pristine dentistry. ‘I hear you have reason to believe they were on a journey?’

The Professor took his mittens out of his pockets to perform jazz hands. ‘They were carrying many personal items and a portable shelter made of weaving. So, we think that they were travelling from one place to another, staying in the temporary blanket-house.’

‘A tent?’ Val offered.

The professor didn’t acknowledge the suggestion. Maybe the word “tent” wasn’t part of his archaeological lexicon.
‘They have come from Hofstadir in Northern Iceland and travelled to Kirkjufell on their way to Eyrabakki ‘

Val’s smile disappeared; she wasn’t about to repeat any of that. ‘That’s very interesting professor, quite precise about their starting point and destination.’

The professor looked behind him to the closed door of the bunker, it seemed he could hear something that the TV sound recording couldn’t. ‘It’s the information they are giving to the translator. Names have changed over the centuries, but it is a puzzle we can solve.’

Val adopted a quizzical look. ‘Lost in translation I think, you mean there is information about their journey you can draw from the preserved artefacts they were found with?’

The door behind the professor opened a crack, wide enough for a grey hand to slip round and flail blindly for the catch. Erik Magnusson continued speaking, changing his position to obscure the hand.‘We are calling these individuals, The Pilgrims. They were on a pilgrimage, a spiritual journey from their home in Hofstadir to Eyarbakki, when they were overcome by the ice here at Kirkjufell. They have been frozen for many hundred years.’ He responded instinctively to rapid knocking on the door, glancing round, then back to camera. ‘Now they are thawed out, the ice is melted, so they can continue on their travelling.’ There was a loud shout, “Help” in any language sounds the same.

Val’s smile was back, as if she was in on the joke. ‘Sounds like someone is impatient to get out and get on with it! Ha Ha. Well, that was archaeologist Professor Eric Magnusson of Reykjavik University with a fascinating find. We look forward to hearing more about this. Thank you, Professor.’

The screen returned to Iceland, where there was an undignified tug of war going on with the bunker’s door. Before the swift return to the London studio everyone could clearly hear the professor’s last words, shouted above the clamour: ‘The box is only temporary!’