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by Henry Slesar
Category: Science Fiction
Description: Jobo was picked upon and teased. Not like any other child in the deep woods of Tennessee. They called him a freak, but he was strong and could whoop anybody, if forced to do so. Unfortunately, he may be forced to do so. Meanwhile, John Tilletson was on an expedition of lifetime--to Easter Island! All to prove his unorthodox hypothesis that the giant head sculptures of Easter Island have an extraterrestrial origin. Soon Jobo and John Tilletson's worlds would collide.
eBook Publisher: Wonder Audiobooks, LLC/Wonder eBooks,
eBookwise Release Date: April 2010
2 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [64 KB]
Reading time: 39-54 min.
When they poke fun at me I keep shet. Grin and bear it my Ma says and there's nobody around these parts can champion me for grinning, I got the face for it. Sometimes the funning gets tiresome, all them little ones romping around me like a maypole and saying them words to set me hurting and them to laughing. Only now the big chilren already out know how peaceable I am and that don't make the grinning easy. The big chilren ain't content with hurting words, they get downright mean sometimes. You take that Micah Werneke, he started flinging rocks at me once and almost pushed the patience clean out of my head. I was fixing to hurt Micah Werneke that day, and lucky for him Ma came along and stopped me. She whomped me good on account of I tried to get my evens, and that whomping hurt me worse than the rocks Micah threw.
What I mean by "hurt" is this. Ma says I don't "hurt" like other folks. She says that's the way the good Lord made me, with a hide like a behemoth. When Ma whomps me it ain't the pain that hurts, it's all the crying Ma does. The tears roll down her face and I feel so bad inside that pretty soon I'm blubbering like a babe. I don't know what other folks mean by hurt, but that hurting inside me is a terrible sadness.
Well, I read the Bible dutiful like Ma wanted me to, and no offense, Lord, but I still can't figure the ways of folks. Every Sunday I hear Preacher Quilk and he says God put us all down here in the sweet hills of Tennessee to love each other, but I see a mighty disobedience all around. It appears to me that only Mas love their chilren, on account of Ma is the only one loves me. She says that Pa loved me, too, only Pa went and died the year I was born and Ma had to bury him under the scrub pine back of the cabin. Some days, after I come home troubled, I used to see Ma go out and kneel by Pa's grave, as if she was out there asking Pa what she ought to do about me.
Lord, if only you could have made me little. Even when I was a youngun in school I was four heads taller than the others, tall and skinny like a naked tree. Lord, you borned me with such a comical face you could hardly blame the chilren laughing and making fun. Lord, you made me so uncommon strong that folks was skeered I would do them hurt just by the touching of them. That's why I growed up so lonely, Lord, I hope you know what you were doing.
Once my Ma said to me, "Jobo, the Lord made you different from other folks because He had His reasons. He made you worse in some ways but He made you better in others, so you must be thankful. Your Pa and me knew you were going to be a troubled boy, and that's why we called you Job in the first place. You got to try and learn Job's patience, son, it's His will."
Well, I'm trying, Lord, ain't I.
Even as the trawler crept through the darkening blue waters surrounding the lava-strewn coast of Easter Island, even as he caught his first glimpse of the mysterious stone monoliths standing sentry in the interior, John Tilletson regretted the decision that had brought him there. Instead of excitement and anticipation, he felt gloom. The theory he had expounded with such enthusiasm in a wood-paneled study back in Crawford, Illinois, seemed weak and untenable when brought face to face with this lonely, petrified bit of land fixed in the vastness of the South Seas. He was strictly an armchair archeologist, he thought bitterly; his last excavation, just prior to the accident which had lamed him, had taken place almost twenty years ago. He was sixty-three; he dragged his left leg; he tired easily. What was he doing out here, in this remote part of the world, seeking an answer that had eluded explorers from the Dutchman Roggeveen in 1722 to Heyerdahl only a few years back?
The ship rocked in the quiet water, the rhythmic creaking of its lines making him feel sleepy. Beside him, leaning on the railing and puffing his briar, Dave Leyton regarded the island with an expression of interest that Tilletson envied. But Dave was young, strong-minded and strong-bodied, and even if Tilletson suspected that he was more amused than convinced by Tilletson's theory, he had been willing to plunge into the venture cheerfully. For a moment, Tilletson looked at Dave's handsome profile and almost hated it. That was an emotion he squelched quickly; there was a possibility that Dave would be his son-in-law one day.
"I wish you'd let Alma come," Dave said, as if reading his thoughts. "She'd have gotten a kick out of seeing this."
"I didn't tell her not to come. I just didn't feel like encouraging her. Besides, she had all that work to do on her thesis, she couldn't let that go much longer."
"Thesis!" Dave said. "Doesn't that all seem so trivial now? Look at those things. The Gods of Easter Island! Gives you the chills, doesn't it?"
Tilletson was chilled, but it was only by the coolness of the night air. He shivered, straightened up with a groan, and mumbled something about going below. He left Dave at the railing, still sucking on his pipe and musing romantically over the approaching island.
On his bunk, he lay awake and tried to stem the rush of thoughts that came between him and sleep.
Thoughts of Crawford, of the university town where he had made his home, where he had met and married and suffered the loss of his wife; thoughts of Alma, his daughter, that astonishing mixture of beauty and intelligence. He found himself longing to see her; why hadn't he encouraged her to come along?
It was Alma who first heard a full explanation of his theory, on the day that the package arrived from Professor Clurman. Clurman was an old friend, an oceanographer whose studies in the Galapagos had earned him a deal of scholastic fame. It had been ten years since Clurman had written him, and the arrival of the square, heavily-wrapped package excited their curiosity. The accompanying letter read:
A native on Easter Island sold me this artifact for an unreasonable sum, swearing on his ancestors that he had removed it from the belly of a large fish. I recalled, with some pleasure, the evening we spent discussing the mystery of the stone statues on Easter, and laughing over your theory concerning the visitors from outer space. Upon examination of the enclosed object, you will understand why I thought you should be the first to interpret its significance. I will quickly add that the gentleman who made the transaction was a bandit if I have ever seen one, but if nothing else, I hope this little gift will adorn your study, and remind you of the good conversations we used to enjoy.
The object that Tilletson removed from the box was a statue not more than twelve inches in height, of some heavy dull metal encrusted with green. The resemblance between the object and the stone idols of Rapa Nui was immediately apparent, as were the differences. Where the monoliths of Easter Island were crude in form, the details of the tiny statute were exquisitely fine. Despite its crusted surface, he could see that the sculptor had reproduced even the texture of the skin on the metal figure. And of course, there had never been any work in metals on Easter Island; the media of the ancient craftsmen were stone and wood. It was obviously some modern artisan who had made it, and the resemblance to the gods of Easter Island was probably deliberate.
"It's beautiful," Alma said. "I've never seen such a perfect miniature, Father, do you suppose it's valuable?"
"I wouldn't really know," he smiled. "Not as an archeological object. I doubt if it's very old."
"Couldn't we clean it up and see what it really looks like?"
Tilletson's statement about the statue's age seemed confirmed when they cleaned it. The green patina disappeared completely with soaking, and the statue took on a satiny gleam not unlike silver.
"I'll admit it's unusual," he said. "It's too hard to silver; perhaps it's some kind of alloy. And the carving is amazingly fine ... "
"What did Professor Clurman mean, about your theory?"
Her father laughed. "Everett has a good memory. That was a long time ago, and I'd almost forgotten it. Do you really want to hear about it?"
"By now, I suppose everyone has heard of the mystery of Easter Island. It's one of those archeological riddles that interest even the general public, that Sunday newspapers like to make a periodical splash about. It's the most desolate of the islands of Polynesia, and yet it seems to have supported one of the earliest civilizations. But of course, the most astonishing feature of Easter Island is its strange stone gods.
"Thirty to sixty feet high, these mammoth figures had been hacked out of a stone quarry with primitive hand tools, mysteriously transported and raised all over the island without the aid of mechanical equipment. They were all alike, long-eared, long-nosed, thin-bodied figures, with a topknot of red stone balanced on their heads. There were hundreds of them on the islands, their gigantic faces upturned to the sky, and no one has yet offered a completely satisfying explanation of how they were created, by whom and for what reason.
"The Dutch Admiral Roggeveen was the first European to see them, and to meet the descendants of the original builders. They were a strange people, these descendants, apparently sun-worshipers who also venerated birds. Many had artificially-lengthened ears, many were unusually tall, more than six and a half feet, and with bright red hair. The resemblance to the statues was obvious. On the other hand, the majority of the natives were of purely Polynesian descent--an odd mingling of races.
"The Spanish, the English, the French, all followed the Dutchman on explorations of the island, and after each visit, a little more was revealed about the place--for instance, the fact that the island contained dozens of secret caves, shelters created by the islanders as refuges against some unknown invader. To this day, we don't know what it was they feared.
"Modern explorations have told us more about the ancient culture of Easter Island. Heyerdahl's expedition helped explain the mystery of the statues' carving, their methods of transportation and erection of the grave sites they called ahus. Other statues and artifacts, linking the early settlers with the ancient Peruvians, have been uncovered. Nevertheless, the stone gods remained a purely local mystery, having no prototype anywhere else on Earth. Driven by some unknown compulsion, undoubtedly religious, the earliest inhabitants of Easter Island sweated and labored for years over this incredible project, surmounting enormous difficulties to raise their stone idols all over the island they called 'The Navel of the World' and 'The Eye Which Sees Heaven.'