Excerpt from Tit for Tat
On the way back to the camp, he picked up
a couple of twigs he felt would fit within the diameter of the bottle’s neck.
Since he’d discovered he couldn’t dig out the plug, he figured he
might as well try to shove the remainder down inside the bottle.
Let’s just hope the entire bottle
isn’t filled with the stuff.
His mind automatically shot that thought
to pieces. If the bottle was filled
with wax, it would weigh a whole lot more than it did, despite the fact that it
was made of clay and embedded with jewels.
No, he was certain the bottle had something else inside.
Something lighter. Maybe
paper? Or a message written on a
scrap of tanned leather.
Maybe I should have been filming this
from the get-go. If there’s
something inside historically important, it could be the boost to my career that
I’ve been needing!
He hurried back to camp with renewed
energy. After replenishing his
fire, Tate wedged the bottle between his feet to keep it steady, and tried the
The second twig, though, fit into the
small depression he’d cleared. Licking
his lips, he hefted the rock he’d used to smash the crab shell and brought it
down hard on the end of the twig.
The stick moved a fraction of an inch.
Encouraged, Tate smacked the twig again
with the rock. And again. On his
fourth try, the twig suddenly disappeared inside the bottle.
Tate gave a yelp of pain as the rock hit his fingers.
Son of a bitch! Ow, ow,
ow, ow, ow.”
The bottle didn’t seem to be damaged,
but the plug was gone. And so was
the twig. Tate tried to look inside
the bottle, but there wasn’t enough light to see anything.
He sighed and sat the bottle in the sand as he checked his fingers.
Although they stung, they were fine and unbloodied.
Knowing he’d left the stick inside the
bottle, he reached for it to see if he could shake it out, when the bottle
tilted on its own. For a couple of
seconds the bottle seemed to defy gravity as it did its Leaning Tower of Pisa
imitation. Then, as if someone cut
the invisible string, the bottle fell sideways.
Tate stared at it.
What had made it move like that? He
started to reach for it again, then hesitated when something seemed to emerge
from the neck. Slowly, steadily, it
began to show itself.
The stick was coming out of the bottle a few millimeters at a time.
His eyes remained glued to the
impossible. He wasn’t imagining
it. The stick was sliding out of
the bottle bit by bit. If he
didn’t know any better, it looked as if it was being pushed out.
There had to be an animal or something
inside. Or maybe some sort of sea
creature, like a hermit crab. “But
there can’t be. How the fuck
could it survive in there with no air? The
bottle was sealed tight.”
The stick slowly emerged until it reached
the end. Tate watched the twig fall
onto the sand, but he resisted the urge to pick up the bottle again and peer
inside. Whatever was in it either
wanted out, or didn’t want the twig in there with it.
His next thought was wiped completely from his mind when a tiny hand grasped the rim, followed by a second. And a miniature head with long black locks poked out. The head turned, until a face of exquisite beauty looked up at him.
astonished and silent, as the figure continued to crawl out of the bottle. She
wore what looked like a white diaphanous robe. She was barefoot, but a miniscule
band of gold circled her upper arm.