Author : B. Zedan

The woman on watch stood barefoot, a coil of rope slung ’round her waist. The belt at her hips carried a sheathed hunting knife, the handle carved by her mother. Below the knife, as if in magnification, swung a scarred and keen machete. In perfect balance opposite was a rotary tool, the different bits and attachments in a leather and plastic pouch beside.

Sighing, but quietly, the woman traced the outline of her mobile in its thigh holster, but didn’t remove it. The rules of watch were firm, no distractions, even if you were going crazy with curiosity about the latest translation.

She curled her toes on the crumbling concrete lip of the watchtower and pondered. Bamboo and pines dappled the sun on her hair, shaded the portable monitor screen so the live feeds played out their acts in crisp reality. The archae-translators were probably done running their finds past the council. No reason to get the village excited about what was in the crates if it turned out to be fully useless, like the cameras that didn’t use film. The ancient alchemy of developers and negatives they could make from translated literature. The cameras from just before the Fall sent the images on their own through the air to village consoles. But those earlier relics needed some sort of—thing to be both film and developer, one more incomprehensible lost piece of the ivy and blackberry enshrined broken places the villages had built their foundations on.

Maybe this crate would hold something wonderful, like the atomic batteries that powered their machines and tools. Finds like that didn’t happen often, but—

Movement in the ferns below broke her reverie. The woman brought up her spyglass in an oiled movement, searching for the source. A flicker of tails and ears caught her eye, then two deer stepped into view. Their edges blurred in the hand-ground lenses as they moved velvet jaws, grazing.

She relaxed. It wasn’t the season for bears, but the creatures seemed to like the villages and they were a growing threat.

Soft footsteps rang up the tower’s stairs. Without a word the woman handed the spyglass to her relief and started down, almost skipping with excitement. A voice echoed after her,

“You won’t believe what they found!”

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