Wyatt appeared next to me with a grin on his face and a bottle of beer in his hand.
“Here, you’ve earned it.”
“Me?” I asked, taking the beer. “You guys are doing all the work. I just sit here and-”
“Spout prophecies and ancient wisdom,” he said with a touch of sass. He popped open a second bottle and sat down next to me. “But it’s thirsty work just the same.”
I lifted my beer in a toast and took a grateful sip. A soggy Irish field wouldn’t be my first choice for a vacation spot, but for a dig, it was more interesting than most. The past few weeks of excavation had turned up evidence of a Celtic settlement dating to at least 5,000 years ago. A shiver went down my neck at the thought of so many moonrises and sunsets, of so much joy and suffering. Although I didn’t have to imagine it. I’d been alive for most of those years.
No one on the team knew, and I would keep it from them, just as I had kept it from the excavators at Pompeii, or from Bingham on that long, dizzy hike through the Andes, or from Carnarvon and Carter when I helped them find Tut. I’ll never forget Carter’s face when we – or he, as the history books tell it – peered through that first hole in the wall, the candlelight guttering, and in his eyes was the reflection of ancient, forgotten gold.
But I wanted to tell Wyatt at least a fraction of my age, so he would understand. So he could share in the vivid thrill I felt every time I discovered the ruins of another structure, or another grave with no name. Of course, he did get his own thrill when we found something – he was an archaeologist after all.
Yet I saw something in his eyes that made me want to tell him. I hadn’t felt that in centuries, not since – No, it couldn’t be.
I was being silly. It was this dig site, it was making me shifty. I hadn’t had déjà vu this powerful since the 50s maybe, at that site in France, when I thought I had found where I’d come from. After so many millennia, my memory wasn’t as sharp as it used to be, and I couldn’t remember where it was that I awoke. But I was wrong then – it was just another dig site.
I focused my attention back to Wyatt, drinking beer under the weak Irish sun. A brief shower had just passed through, leaving drops of water sprinkled in his hair. I watched a droplet roll down his temple, then his neck, and then-
Yep, I thought, taking another swig, definitely reminds me of my ex. Not that Wyatt would have to worry, since my ex has been dead for a few millenia…
Wyatt cleared his throat. “Lost in thought again, I see.”
“You could say that,” I said, picking at the label on my bottle.
I preferred to keep to my own thoughts, my own company lately. At my age, it was hard to connect with people. Life moved too quickly, and death even quicker. But with Wyatt? I felt my guard come down a bit. Maybe it was his easy American charm, but I sensed something else in him, just below the surface.
I felt his eyes on me now, and another prickle crept along my skin. The clouds overhead gathered and thickened, growing heavy with more rain. The valley below us, carpeted in a thousand shades of green, was turning a few shades darker.
With a glance over at the rest of the team, who were all engaged in various dig-related activities, I made a decision.
I’m going to tell him.
I took a breath. So did Wyatt. Then we spoke at the same time.
“Would you like to-”
“I need to-”
He smiled, and the curve of his lips tugged at my heart. Another wave of déjà vu hit me, but I forced it back. Now was not the time. I needed to tell him just how ancient I was – but I also wanted to know what he was going to ask me.
“Would I like to what?”
He ran a hand over his face, leaving a faint trail of mud across his forehead. “It’s just, you get in the van with us each morning and trek out here, and help us uncover these amazing finds. Then we get back to town and you go off on your own, and I can see you like being on your own, but…you also seem so sad. And, if I can, I’d like to try and make you happy.”
He trailed off and I wasn’t sure what to say, but I knew what was coming. I let him continue.
“So I wanted to ask if you’d like to go for dinner tonight. At the pub?”
I wrinkled my nose.
“Tired of pub food?” he asked. He was putting on a brave face, but I could see the vulnerability in his eyes.
“Nothing says romance like a dingy pub where all they serve is potatoes with a side of potatoes,” I said. He almost looked hurt, until I flashed one of my infamous smiles. “But yes, I’d love to. Yes.”
He gave a weak laugh. I heard the relief in it, and my chest tightened.
“We can go somewhere else, anywhere you like,” he said. “You haven’t failed us yet out here, so I would trust your judgement when it comes to fine dining establishments.”
The déjà vu nudged me again, and I felt the same urgent desire to reveal my secret. Wyatt leaned closer, as if he sensed this. I could almost smell him now, a mix of soap and grass and Irish rain.
Thank goodness for bathing, I thought absently. One more modern invention to truly be grateful for…
“What were you going to say?” he asked, his voice low.
“Hey you two, come and see!” called the professor, waving from the dig site. “Brighid, you were right. It’s a grave, but…it looks empty.”
“We’ll be right there,” Wyatt answered. He turned back to me and his face fell. “Brig – are you all right?”
I gripped the nearly empty bottle with both hands, hoping to stop them from shaking. Déjà vu overcame me and – like waves breaking on the shore – I was powerless to stop it. Thoughts of my first husband filled my senses, of his fingers entwined with mine, of his laughter, of the sound of his horse bringing him home, blessedly home, from war.
Then sorrow filled me, crushing the breath from my lungs and sucking away the light of his eyes, the warmth of his arms. I felt nothing but cold emptiness – like the night he never came home.
He was the last person to whom I had revealed my secret. He had borne it gladly, thinking it a miracle, and though I’d spent centuries cursing my immortality, he loved me all the more for it.
Since his death, I vowed never to tell another soul. I had gone from lover to lover, man to woman, dig site to dig site and not told anyone, ever. But now, staring into Wyatt’s bold eyes, I saw my husband again. I saw his kindness and strength. I saw his heart – and it was pure.
I reached towards Wyatt and caressed his face. “It’s you.”
The beer bottle clanked to the ground and spilled as I fell forward. My vision closed in around me, and a montage of my fondest memories in reverse order played in my mind. The first time I met Wyatt last year. That excavation in the Yucatan in the 90s. The first time I used a computer in the 80s. The moon landing. The end of the war. Finding Tut. The end of the other war. The birth of my daughter. I named her Rose. I had no choice but to put her up for adoption, and I’ve wondered every day since if she inherited my gift, my curse.
Listening to the Gettysburg Address. Helping the French translate the Rosetta stone. Washington’s inauguration. Peter the Great asking me for a dance.
On and on the decades flashed backwards and distantly I heard Wyatt calling my name. But that’s not my name. Not my real name, anyway.
Mahmoud almost guessed it in – what was the year? 1186? Septima came close in 412. But beyond her, my memories grow hazy. They are only flashes now. A storm in the Far East, with cracking thunder and endless rain. Snow falling in the deeps of the Arctic, where all is quiet. The blazing sun and golden dust of the desert.
Then I am amongst rolling fields of green, and I know I am home. Here, my mind says, it’s here, and somehow, I knew all along. My bones ache and long for the earth, and I feel myself being pulled into the ground and reduced to dust. My soul yearns to be lost amongst the rich soil, to be at peace once and for all.
But my heart – my heart yearns for something else. For someone else.
Before the earth can take me, I resist.
Not yet, I say to it. Not yet. I have found him.
I’d spent all my years wandering and searching, trying to find an explanation for why I was immortal. Why be brought back and burdened with the gift of life if not for some purpose? I wondered if others had been reincarnated, perhaps in different forms, but with the same soul? Now here, in this sodden Irish field, it seems I found my answers.
The professor is yelling at us, something about the grave site opening up. I hear the panicked voices of the crew. The wind strengthens and tears at me, threatening to dispel my flesh and carry my soul away, leaving only my bones behind. I turn to Wyatt, but my sight is shrouded, as if a veil has come between us. I grab his hand and find my voice.
“We should not dig here.”
Wyatt’s face is wrought with fear as he leans over me. “What? I – I don’t understand.”
“The grave – it’s mine. Tell them to stop, to leave. Please…”
“Stop,” he cries out to the crew. “Leave it be. Get back!”
They heed his words, and the earth releases me with a sigh. My vision returns, as clear as the sky above. The clouds are gone, swept east by the wind. Wyatt’s eyes, my husband’s eyes – as green as the Irish Sea – find mine, and I see the recognition dawning in them. He reaches out to caress my face, and I press his hand to my cheek.
He smiles. “It’s you.”