Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words? Entry #34

September 27th, 2009 by Wordsman


“I should have known this would happen,” Matthew grumbled.

Matthew had lost his friend.  The moment the possibility of pirate treasure came up, Jack had, as expected, gone a bit berserk.  The search for a shovel, metal detector, wheelbarrow, and all the other tools of the amateur treasure hunter immediately became paramount.  Unfortunately for Jack, since Ostia Antica was primarily a sleepy archaeological dig site, they did not have any of the items he was looking for, at least not in a place where an ordinary tourist could get his hands on them.  Thus the radius of the search expanded rapidly, to the point where Matthew was no longer able to keep up.

He was not, however, overly concerned about Jack’s disappearance.  Sure, Jack still had the only key to their hotel room, but Matthew was confident that he would be able to find him at the end of the day when he needed to.  His friend had never been good at keeping himself hidden.  In addition, despite Jack’s frantic desire to find a shovel no matter how long it took, Matthew was confident that his friend would not get far.  For an amateur treasure hunter, Jack had an astonishingly poor grasp of maps, and since his skill with the local language was juvenile at best, Matthew could not see him managing to figure out a train or anything else that would take him out of the area.  There was always the risk that Jack would attempt to do something foolish, but as he himself had said, there was no one around, so what could he do?

Matthew had other things to worry about, anyway: he was searching for the person in gray.  Although he grumbled out of habit, for once Matthew was actually pleased that his friend had managed to disappear.  It made hunting for the gray-clad figure much easier when he did not have to explain to Jack what he was doing or make up a semi-plausible excuse to avoid the question.  He was free of distractions.  Ostia Antica was deserted.  It was just Matthew and the person in gray . . .

. . . except that it wasn’t.  Unlike Jack, Matthew could not feel that the site was empty, because he kept drifting back into the past, when it was not “Ostia Antica” but just plain old “Ostia.”  To him the port was still alive.  The buildings were whole, the streets were teeming with activities both legal and otherwise.  On the one hand, this meant that for Matthew the site was interesting enough to not require inventing a phony hunt for pirate treasure.  On the other hand, it wasn’t at all helpful if you were trying to find something.

Matthew groaned.  He supposed that he should not really have been surprised.  Earlier, when he was attempting to forget about the figure in gray and focus on the past, the modern world had constantly intruded on his thoughts.  Now, naturally, the opposite was true.  It figured.  Every time he tried to peer around the corner to catch the person that had been pursuing him, he ran into a shady merchant sailor trying to sell him a special salve that could only be found in the distant reaches of the forests of Germany, presumably because in any other location it would have been considered poisonous.

Even when Matthew was able to clear his head and return to the present, a different sort of distraction was there to plague him: doubt.  Part of him believed that he had no reason to think that he could catch the person in gray even if he could devote his full attention to the problem.  The kind of person who behaves like that, said a voice in the back of his mind, is the kind of person that is very good at not being found.  Matthew tried to argue that he had spotted the figure a couple of times already, but he countered that seeing someone for a moment through a crowd is very different from being close enough to actually communicate with him.

Matthew was forced to admit that this was true, but a few moments later he rallied, saying that he was giving way too much credit to this mysterious figure in gray.  He had no reason to believe that this was some sort of James Bond-like super spy.  Why would a person like that be following him?  Again, the counterargument came right back: You have no reason to believe that any sort of person would be following you, by all normal logic.  And yet here you are.

Eventually, Matthew was forced to concede that he was right: his chances of finding the figure in gray were next to nil.  Even if this person wasn’t expecting Matthew to be looking for him, that slim advantage had been eliminated, since Matthew had spent the last few hours snooping around the area in an obvious manner.  Even if he had managed to track him down, Matthew still had not been able to answer the question, “Then what do I do?”  So he called off the pointless search and switched to a more meaningful one: finding Jack.  Rather than glancing around corners in what he thought was a stealthy manner, he kept his eyes to the ground, looking for places where someone had been frantically digging with a rock, his hands, or whatever he could find.

It was because he was staring at the ground that he spotted the woman first.  She was lying on the ground in an awkward position, as if she had been struck and suddenly fell into unconsciousness.  The woman was probably a few years older than Matthew and Jack, and she appeared to be Italian.  After a quick glance, Matthew almost certainly would have next looked up to see his friend, who was carrying a shovel and looking much more bewildered than usual, except for one other thing that caught his eye.

She was wearing a gray hooded cloak.

Posted in Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words? | 1 Comment »

One Response

  1. Gramma F Says:

    I am missing Matthew and Jack! Any hope of their return? And a solution to the gray person mystery?

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