Mac had never been one for the bright lights of the capital city. That’s why when his company had sent him from Rural Brandlelon to Moreau for a marketing conference, he had chosen to stay in the old city. There was nowhere older to stay than the Colonial Hotel. According to the brochure, this building had been constructed by the early settlers of Xinju three hundred years ago. It had once served as sleeping quarters for the newly awakened, coming down from the Ark, until they built houses for themselves. Mac wasn’t particularly a history buff, but he did like tranquility. Life must have been tranquil in the colonial days – at least that’s the way that Mac imagined it. Since arriving in his room he had paced from one side to the other, examining the ancient wood grain, feeling the floor boards under his feet and trying to imagine that he lived back then. He wondered what stories the walls of this place could tell him.
There was going to be a special dinner tonight. He was expected to attend. He really didn’t feel like it, but unfortunately duty called. Reluctantly, he pulled out a fresh suit from his travel bag and took a quick shower. Having dressed and shaved, he still had about half an hour up his sleeve before he had to catch the transport to the dinner venue in the CBD. He noticed a heavy old metal cooking pot, which was serving as a flower vase. He’d been told that most of the furnishings in the rooms of this hotel were historical. Mac removed the flowers and held the pot up to the light. Its surface was scratched with the dents of much use.
On the underside of the pot he noticed a small inscription. It was a number – 2636. This was probably a year in the old calendar. He did a little mental arithmetic. That year equated to 2 NE. This pot was made back at the very beginning.
Mac was holding the pot in an awkward way, as he’d wanted to look at the underside without spilling the water in it. He moved his foot, caught the leg of the table and began to tumble. The pot flew out of his hands and crashed down onto the floor. Water went everywhere. along with the metallic clang, there was the crack of breaking wood. Mac looked down in horror as he realised that the heavy pot had broken a floorboard in the corner of the room. He knelt down in the water, forgetting that he was wearing his good suit, and felt around the hole. The wood was quite rotten in this corner. He pulled at the hole and the wood around it crumbled. This wasn’t good – but they could hardly blame him for floor rot.
He was about to stand up until he noticed something strange. There was another wooden floor underneath this one. It went down about 30 centimetres, but only for a small section. As he looked more closely, he saw that the section of floor around the whole was completely separate from the rest of the floor – almost as it that square was removable. There was a false floor with a hiding place underneath.
His pulse racing at the discovery, Mac carefully lifted the false floor up to see what was inside. There wasn’t enough room for a person to hide, but some small items could be hidden there. He noticed several sacks, and a small wooden box. The box took Mac’s interest. He lifted it out and opened it.
Inside, he saw a necklace. It was old – very old. The chain was gold – a very rare metal that was not found anywhere on Xinju. Hanging at the front from the chain was a large stone. It was a rounded rectangle. The rock was blue with streaks of white. It was polished very smooth. Shiny silver metal wire twisted around the stone, making patterns. In the centre of the stone was a purple jewel. It almost appeared to emit light on its own.
At the dinner, Mac caught up with Melanie – an old friend from his days working at the bank in Kovaton. The two of them had had a small fling together, but it had been over a long time ago. Still, seeing her here tonight brought back a lot of old feelings. The truth was he had been pretty lonely since his wife had died two years ago.
“Hey Mac I wasn’t expecting to see you here. How are you coping with things?”
“Well, what can I say. There are good days and bad days, but seeing you here tonight I think I’m going to remember this one as a good day.”
“Well it’s good to see a smile on your face. I’ve been worried about you since I heard what happened to Yari.”
The two took a table together, waiting for the formalities to begin.
“Hey, I want to show you something Mel.”
“Huh? Show me what?”
Mac put his hand in his pocket and drew out the necklace.
“I found this in my hotel room.”
“You found it? Mac are you insane? You can’t just keep something like that, you’ve got to hand it in.”
“Relax, it’s not like it was just left on the carpet by a previous guest.” He lowered the volume of his voice. “I found it in a secret compartment in the floor. I think it’s a historical artifact, from colonial days.”
The look on Melanie’s face made it clear she was skeptical.
“I’m not kidding Mel. Look I will turn it in, I just wanted to keep it on me for a while. It’s like I’m holding a piece of history.”
Mel reached out. “Can I take a look?”
He let her hold it.
Mel raised it toward her neck. “I wonder what it feels like.”
Mac helped her secure it, and she let it go, allowing the cool stone to rest against her chest.
At that moment, Melanie’s world vanished – replaced by another.