by L. Salt
The enormous stained-glass windows were illuminated with the last lights of summer. The rays created multicolored patterns on the mosaic floor and the elegant slender pillars. Golden yellow, scarlet red, lapis lazuli blue, deep purple and cold violet—colors were everywhere.
The air felt cool and damp. The church was closed to the public due to renovation works in its crypts.
Bella enjoyed the tranquil splendor of the place. She took her seat on one of the benches, opened her laptop, and started to look through the scans of the documents and photos.
The crypts were in complete disrepair. In fact, 85 percent of the church’s underground space had been flooded for decades, causing not only the spread of damp and mold, but also erosion of the basement’s structure.
This project promised to be troublesome. Bella had already known it, familiarizing herself with the conditions of her employment contract. But she couldn’t miss the chance to prove the theories she had been working on for the last few years.
The working day was over. The team of builders, engineers, and divers had finished their work and left the site.
“You’re still here. I brought you a meal.”
She jumped, caught unawares, when a hand touched her shoulder.
“God! Julian, you scared me to death,” she sighed, shuffling up the bench and giving her colleague a space.
“You’re obsessed with this project,” Julian continued, unwrapping his takeaway.
She smiled warmly.
“You know how much it means to me.”
They’d always been not only colleagues, but also good friends. Well…sometimes it seemed to her that Julian would like to become more than just a good friend, but she didn’t want to question his friendship. He had never shown his feelings towards her either.
She was an adventurer; she traveled all over the world on expeditions, research, and excavations. Julian preferred the silence of libraries and archives. Bella was very surprised to hear that her colleague was going to join her.
“You’re a dreamer,” Julian only waved his hand, making a sip of his coffee.
“Look at these photos.”
“Ah, I’ve seen them hundreds of times. A few photos of very bad quality that have been taken of a manuscript that never existed can’t prove any of your crazy ideas. They have the same value as the photos of, let’s say, the Loch Ness Monster. What evidence, apart from these pictures, do you have? Just your speculations. You’re an archaeologist, not Lara Croft the Tomb Raider.’
“The Imp’s Chronicles existed,” Bella nodded stubbornly. “I’m going to prove it. That’s why I came here.”
“Even if the manuscript existed and had been destroyed in flames,” Julian chuckled, “nobody would have believed in your theory of aliens who came here and taught medieval architects how to build the church.”
“According to The Chronicles, this church replaced the old Roman basilica around the end of the eight century century. Why?”
“Because it was struck by lightning and caught fire. This information can be found in every document that belongs to the building,” Julian shrugged.
“The manuscript clearly shows that the old basilica had been destroyed by highly intelligent extraterrestrial beings.” Bella turned the screen of her laptop toward her colleague. “Look at this photo. This image here at the top. It looks like…”
“This is the image of a stormy cloud with lightning and angels above. I can’t see anything else.”
“It’s not a cloud. It’s the spaceship that destroyed the church, when she had landed.”
“…And they came here to test biological weapon of mass destruction on humans,” Julian continued mockingly, turning away from the screen. “That’s what you’re going tell me about the plague that killed 80 percent of the town’s citizens.”
“Damn! It wasn’t the plague!” Bella lost her patience.
Julian was the only person she could trust with her theory, but he didn’t even try to listen.
“The first plague came to this country in 1348; you know that better than me. The symptoms of the disease were described in The Chronicles in all detail, and they had nothing in common with the plague. In fact, they don’t look like any other disease known today. “
A creaking noise distracted them from their conversation. The large metal door that led to the crypts opened. Bronson, their civil engineer, dressed in a safety jacket and a helmet, appeared on the doorstep.
“I thought I was the last one left in the building,” he greeted the archaeologists.
“We thought we were,” Julian smiled, shaking the engineer’s hand. “What are you doing here on a Friday night?”
“I’d rather leave and have a pint with the guys in the pub, but this damn pump…we’ve spent ages waiting for it to be fixed. And now we need to wait until the water is completely gone. Somebody has to stay here to look after the bloody thing. But…I’m glad I’ve met you,” he nodded to Bella. “I thought you’d like to have a look at it.”
“To have a look at what?” Bella frowned.
“Follow me,” Bronson gestured to the crypts.
They went down the narrow spiral staircase and stopped at the fist platform. They put on safety boots and high visibility vests, and Bronson handed them gloves and masks.
“God knows what kind of germs we could catch in this stale, damp air.”
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