Sunday, January 06, 2008

Short Fiction: The Relic Hunter

In last few months, I read the Sigma Force novels by James Rollins, among other such novels. Yesterday, I read a review of "Uncharted", where a line stuck in my head. The result was this short story:

He stood watching, surrounded by the ruins.

Behind him lay the path he had covered, tortuous and half covered by the jungle, almost invisible to the eye. In his mind, the path was indicative of the year of research, false leads and real and false hopes. An year spent in the dusty libraries and shops, ancient manors and the unknown corners of the world. Following a life after another, all connected by a single thread. Hoping against hope to find just one single clue, one more elusive piece of the puzzle. Frustrating as it was at times, the exhilarating path had finally taken him to the place he was standing in.

Walls and statues surrounded him, full of stone carvings and depictions. A tableau of history, depicting the scenes he recognized from the countless hours spent reading, pictured in numerous books, and told in many tongues across the ages. Dramatised and embellished by the believers and the devout, scorned by the cynics. Frozen moments in the history he had pieced together carefully. A life-changing moment here, a sad realisation there. Just the way his quest had been.

Before him lay the relic. The goal he had been chasing for such a long time. The single discovery which would mark the crowning achievement of his successful life. The object which would fulfil his life and make his dreams come true, as it had done to the select few throughout its almost-mythical life.

Anybody who was less determined than him would have given up the quest. Anybody less resourceful would have met too many dead ends to continue. But he stood there, staring victory in the eye. Yet again proving that he was the best of the lot.

His goal lay in front of him, and he just had to stretch his hand to claim it. Yet his mind was troubled by the complete lack of anything designed to discourage people like him. This complete absence of any defensive measures was so disquieting, that he stopped a moment longer before claiming victory. Staring at the relic.

And that's when everything came together in his mind. The hours spent reading stories, woodcuts and the carvings. The sheer force of will which took him from one stop to another along the trail. The complex path his quest had taken through time and space. All had been pointing to a single fact. The quest which had taken over his life, had become something more. It had become his life, had shown him his life in a different light. The victory he was looking for wasn't over his rivals. The rival he was competing against wasn't anybody else, but his own self.

Touching the relic for the first and last time, he turned away. The last piece of the puzzle was finally in the place, and the completed picture was shining through in his mind.

He had realised why the relic never needed any booby-traps and trap doors for its safekeeping. Sometimes the journey itself is the goal...

- The Great Eagle Has Spoken

P.S. Read my other attempts at fiction writing here, or click on the "Fiction" label in the sidebar.