Statue short story by Iris Carden
It was a strange find.
A mining company was expanding their mine in western Queensland, and the area included a particular cave.
When the company was doing its environmental and cultural studies, they found that local indigenous people were absolutely against the destruction of the cave. They said there was something bad there, something they didn’t want to escape.
That was, of course, written off as superstition. If the mining execs had seen some of the things I’ve seen, maybe they wouldn’t have done what they did next.
They sent someone in to explore the cave. What was found inside, in the deepest part was a two-metre tall stone head. It wouldn’t have been out place at Easter Island, but it was definitely out of place in the Queensland outback.
Over thousands of years, Aboriginal have people produced lots of art, and they did work stone to make tools and weapons, but they didn’t carve statues, not that anyone had found before now.
The statue was sent to the museum, so the cave could be blown up anyway. So much for respecting local culture.
We ended up with a huge stone head in the entrance hall of the museum. While not as tall as the muttaburrasaurus skeleton, but it was still impressive.
The problem with this being in the main entrance was that everyone walked past it.
Those mine workers who first found it died. One drove a piece of heavy equipment down a mine shaft. The others were below it.
The driver of the crane which lifted it on to a truck got caught in to workings of his crane and was torn apart.
The truck driver who brought the thing here drove his truck into a low bridge and died as a result.
Here, people were walking past it all the time. Even with “do not touch” signs, there was zero chance it would never be touched by anyone.
I called one of the people who were consulted for the cultural consultation. Her name was Ruby, known as Auntie Ruby in her community.
I asked, “Is there anyone who can undo the curse or whatever it is, who can make this thing safe? Any people who do cultural magic or whatever?”
She actually laughed. Then she said, “You know whitefellas have been trying to destroy our culture for two hundred and fifty years right? You think I’m going to find someone who can do magic? Maybe someone who can point the bone? Things like that?”
“I don’t know. I knew there was only a slim chance, but I don’t know what else to do. People walk past that thing every day. Someone has to know what to do with it.”
“Someone did. They put that thing in a big hole in the ground and told everyone to stay away. That worked for sixty thousand years. Then some stupid rich white guy found out there was copper and lead in that same big hole in the ground.”
“Thanks for your time. I’m sorry I bothered you.”
I hung up. There was clearly no help coming from there.
I recommended physical barriers, rather than just warning signs. Perhaps we could put a huge glass case over the statue.
Then I got the message. Archaeologists, in fact, archaeology lecturers with a whole class of students were coming to study the statue.
I started to think of what would happen when thirty people suffered violent deaths after studying a weird artefact at the museum.
I put velvet ropes around the thing, not a great barrier, but what I was able to access without large amounts of money being approved, and waited for the horror about to unfold.
I was standing, staring at the thing, when a man seemed to just appear beside me. He was old, as evidenced by flowing grey hair and beard, and more wrinkles than I’ve ever seen on any human being. He was wearing worn out jeans, cowboy boots, western shirt and an Akubra hat. Skin tone and facial features suggested he was aboriginal.
“Aunty Ruby sent me,” he said. “She said, ‘Help the idiot white woman’.”
“Thank you,” I said. “How can you help?”
“You ever see magic?”
“Actually, I have. It’s always turned out bad.”
“It will turn out good this time. I need the people gone. Just you and me.”
“Can you come after hours? When the museum is closed?”
He came. He brought a big metal bucket with branches in it, a small branch from a gum tree with fresh leaves on it, and barbecue firelighters.
As he started to put the firelighters among the branches in the bucket, I could see a big problem ahead.
“Fire. You’re making a fire. There’s alarms and sprinklers. Even if I knew how to turn off the alarm, the heat would set off the sprinkler and that can’t be stopped.”
“It’s OK. There won’t be a problem with the sprinkler, or the alarm. Just trust the magic.”
He pulled a pack of matches from his pocket, and lit the fire lighters, they quickly caught the branches in the bucket. Eucalypt, of course, that stuff burns quickly. He threw some of the fresh leaves on to the fire and caused lots of smoke.
He began to use the fresh branch to blow the smoke towards the statue.
“A smoking ceremony?” I asked. “That’s it?”
“Not just a smoking ceremony.”
He took a small bundle of what looked like hair and bones out of his pocket and threw it in the fire, and then began chanting. It was in one of the aboriginal languages, or I supposed it was.
He chanted, and waved the branch and smoke swirled around the room and around the stone head.
It seemed to lift off the floor, then dropped back down, gently.
“It is over. There is no more bad magic,” the man said.
The smoke swirled and slowly cleared. I turned to thank him, but he wasn’t there. The bucket and the fire, everything was gone. I was just in the museum in front of the giant stone head that should not have existed.
The archaeologists came and went. None of them died. They had no explanations as to why the head had been in a cave in western Queensland.
I sent Ruby a large “consultation fee.”
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Everything on this site is the product of human, not artificial, intelligence.
Bad things happen when we ignore the wisdom of the elders. Thank goodness Aunty Ruby took pity on the idiot white woman.
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