By Jeff Baker
“How much further?” I asked.
“Not much. This way, just watch your step,” Eric said.
I was watching. There were rocks all over these foothills and it was getting dark fast. I had my flashlight but I could hear Eric’s voice ahead of me, I followed it.
“There was a Native encampment here, way back about ten thousand years ago. But they left around, well ten thousand years ago.”
“Ten thousand of their years or ours?” I asked.
“Theirs,” Eric said.
I could hear Eric’s smile in his voice. Also, the term Native had nothing to do with North American natives back on Earth. I glanced up; I knew I couldn’t see it from here but I knew I was looking in the direction of Earth’s sun. This world had lakes and hills and this rocky desert. And people, thanks to we immigrants.
“Okay, watch your step,” Eric said. “Here, give me your hand and whisper if you talk at all.”
Holding hands with him made me smile. Eric was an expert on the ancient cultures of several worlds. He’d documented what looked like a huge pictograph that actually was a landing strip, unused in millennia. My eyes were getting so used to the dark that I almost didn’t notice the soft, yellow glow ahead.
“The Natives left behind some of their technology,” Eric said, his voice a near-whisper. “Most of it is stuff we’ve had for hundreds of years. Some of it we can’t begin to understand. Like this.”
We stepped over a small rise, which led to a long, flat plain. And for a seemingly infinite area in front of us were what looked like small, square lanterns, glowing with that same yellowish glow. The edges of the squares shimmered and wavered. These were not solids but pure light.
“Beautiful!” I breathed. “What are they?”
“We don’t know,” Eric said. “They may be some kind of projection, but we don’t know the source. The fact that they appear at regular intervals seems to work against their being landing lights. Maybe it’s some signal that never stopped sending.”
“Luminarias.” I said.
“That’s what they reminded me of too,” Eric said. “That’s why I wanted to show these to you this evening.” He grinned again and squeezed my hand. “You know what night it is back on Earth, don’t you?”
We moved in closer to the glow of a thousand otherworldly luminarias.
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