They arrived at the venue with moments to spare. It had been hurriedly arranged, almost at the last moment. Weeks ago Babu had offered Woolie a pair of tickets to a public presentation by the National Archaeology Unit. The event had been billed as “A show that will blow your mind.”
Woolie had wanted so much to take Rubina to this thing, whatever it turned out to be. This would be quite different. He felt unsure about asking her. He hardly saw her at all these days and when he called her on the phone she was always busy. It just rang and rang. She never returned his calls, which displeased him. He considered, with some irritation, how this new guy at the office opposite had just breezed in and had now managed to take Rubina to the cinema one weekend and then to play tennis, yes Tennis! On the following one. The new boy was clearly a mercenary! Would Rubina really be interested in going to some stuffy lecture about bones and stuff, he wondered. He waited almost two weeks, putting off asking her, like it was some ordeal.
When he finally asked her, just two days before the event, she said it was a lovely idea and she’d love to go. “Yay!” Woolie thought, totally delighted.
So here they were now at the National Museum. They run up the stairs and entered through the big doors to join the others in the beautiful Louis Leakey Auditorium. Once everyone was seated the Director, Professor Aden welcomed them all. She went on to introduce the Curator, Mr Shu Kabatt who drew up to the stage in his electric wheelchair. At his signal the lights were dimmed. The curtain went up and everyone looked at the huge cinema screen expectantly. The curator introduced the show in a deep, steady and sombre voice.
“laaadiees and geeeentle meeeen, it gives me great pleasure toniiiiight to welcome you all as you join us in our first showing of what is a truuuuuuly amazing story.”
The music playing in the background was an instrumental version of Michael Jackson’s Earth Song.
“As you all know, “ The curator continued, “The SafariGone Railway Coorporation won the contract to build and operate a South to North train service between Namanga and Juba in the Republic of South Sudan. Construction work in the Rift Valley was progressing steadily until about six months ago when the contractors reported that they had stumbled upon something quite unexpected.”
On the screen the audience now looked at what seemed like footage taken by the construction crews. The advance party had come to a halt before a dry and rocky plain upon which stood a hillock which was right in the path the proposed railway line. The engineers decided to tunnel through the hill. They had enough explosive to blow up the whole hill if it was necessary. They prepared their dynamite charges, cleared the area and blew open a big hole at the front of the hill. The loud explosion echoed across the plain sending flocks of huge birds flying in all directions. The dust soon settled and the contractors came back to survey the results.
The film footage showed clearly how the dynamite had smashed the large rocks at the front of the hill into small pieces. It soon became clear that the hillock was quite hollow inside. They had blasted open an entrance into a huge cavernous space. The ground sloped gently into the earth as the men ventured cautiously further into the cave. The men wore helmets with powerful torches attached which lit up the cold, damp space inside. The inside was huge, like a large cathedral. The audience were watching open mouthed when the leading men stumbled upon the first human remains. There were audible gasps as the camera panned the cave to reveal more human and animal remains, There were skeletons belonging to humans, goats and camels. Woolie glanced across to see Rubina completely engrossed in the unfolding drama.
Meanwhile back in the cave, the Chief Engineer suddenly blew his shrill emergency whistle and called out. “Stop! Stop where you are. We cannot carry on like this. You, turn off that camera. This is probably an ancient burial ground. We do not want to desecrate it. Don’t touch anything. Let us turn round, right now and walk back the way we came.” The men muttered to themselves but they did not argue. They turned around and walked out of the cave to the bright sunshine outside.
“And this is where we come in.” Said curator Kabatt, importantly. SafariGone were astute enough to realise the gravity of the situation. They reported the discovery immediately to the National Museums and we are able to secure the site. As you know we have executive authority over all areas of Natural, Scientific or Historical interest in the country and our powers can only be revoked by Executive order and Only in matters concerning National Security.”
The next piece of film on the screen looked more professionally done. As Kabatt continued to narrate the story the audience saw a team of archaeologists arrive and take control of the entire hill. They went into the cave again, photographing and documenting all their findings. They retrieved the remains of about 900 men, women and children inside the hill. There were also hundreds of farm animals – goats and sheep, chickens, pigs and cattle, It now looked as if the people had gone into the cave to seek shelter from some natural calamity. Radio Carbon dating put the remains at 1000 years old meaning that the tragic events leading to the deaths of an entire community took place in the year of Our Lord 1015.
The film continued to explain how further investigations by archaeologists showed that around AD 1015 there had been a series of huge earthquakes in this region. The land all around was flattened and some mountains had been swallowed back into the earth. The scientists bagged and tagged the stuff that they found amongst the human remains. One day they came to a depression in the ground. It looked almost like a shallow pit. In the darkness they struggled to see what was inside. The film crew then shone their powerful halogen lamps into the pit. The audience was silent as they beheld the breathtaking view. A deep pit nearly 10 metres wide by 10 metres long and 10 metres deep and full of gold bars. They had found the King’s treasure.
“Take me home, Woolie. I’m tired and hungry.” Rubina said. In the darkness of the auditorium, Woolie took a moment to process this. He had forgotten where he was. The story of the caves and everything had arrested his imagination.
“ Yes, yes of course.” He said. “Let’s go at once.”
They stood up and made their way carefully through the darkened auditorium. In the car Woolie asked, “what do you fancy for supper?”
“ Haha, can you make me something?” I don’t really fancy take away, Rubina said.
“You don’t mean cook right now, surely, Rubina. It’s so late.”
“ Late shmate Woolie, you’re not even working tomorrow you can stay up as long as you like. Unless you don’t want to cook for me.”
Woolie put his foot down hard on the accelerator and said “I’ll make you anything you like, Rubina. Just name it.”
“Anything? Anything at all?” Rubina was not sure if Woolie was being serious. He was driving quite fast now down the highway towards South B, where he lived.
Woolie said, Ok then I’ll make you a surprise dish.
The arrived soon after and by force of habit, Woolie went round the house, drawing curtains and checking that windows were locked. Rubina hung her coat on the hook by the door and came back into the living room.
“I want to help.” said Rubina, “What can I do?”
Woolie opened the glass cupboard and brought out two glasses. There was a bottle of Blue Nun in the fridge and he filled their glasses, rolled up his shirt-sleeves and washed his hands. He found a block of mild cheddar cheese which he asked Rubina to grate.
Woolie found a pan with a heavy base and placed it on the hob on medium heat to melt 80g of butter. He then took 80g of plain white flour and stirred it into the melted butter as Rubina watched. She fished out a whisk from the drawer and passed it to him and he added milk whisking the mixture quickly to produce a smooth thick pasta sauce. Rubina added salt and pepper when the heat was turned down.
“Now pass me the big pan in the fridge, please, Rubina.” In the pan was the Bolognese sauce which Woolie had made earlier like they did in the cookery shows. He brought a large glass pasta dish and started by placing a layer of Bolognese sauce at the bottom.
He placed dried pasta sheets to cover the sauce and then poured white sauce over the pasta sheets. He then put another layer of meat sauce and repeated the process another couple of times. He placed a final layer of pasta sheets on the top and covered that with white sauce. He then sprinkled a generous amonut of the cheese that Rubina had grated.
With that done they placed it in the middle shelf of the oven at 180 degrees to cook for 25-30 minutes.
“ Now while we wait for your lovely lasagne, perhaps you can tell me why you don’t call me any more, Woolie.” Rubina was smiling as she said this. Woolie looked puzzled. He said, “I call you nearly every day. You never return my calls. I’ve been wondering about that.”
It was Rubina’s turn to look puzzled. She said, “I haven’t seen any missed calls from you, sir and It is you who doesn’t answer or return my calls.”
“Wait…” Woolie thought a moment and said, “ Do you have your phone nearby?” Rubina nodded. “Call me right now then”, continued Woolie. “I know we can get to the bottom of this.”
Rubina got her phone, looked up Woolie in her phone-book and pressed ‘call’. It indicated that it was dialling and shortly after there was a sound to suggest that the dialled number was ringing, Woolie’s own phone, meanwhile, lay quietly on the table quite oblivious to these proceedings.
Rubina asked Woolie to call her number, which he did and as before the phone made a ringing sound to say the dialled number was ringing but Rubina’s own phone remained silent.
Curiouser and curiouser, they both thought. How does this happen on a Friday evening in the month of May?
Shortly after, Woolie said, “ I must turn off the oven. Look up the number you have under my contact details and write it here. I’ll do the same.”
And just as they thought. They both had wrong contact numbers for each other. The digits were all correct except for one What made this mystery even more puzzling: It was the same editing. The last number had been altered to a zero
Woolie had growing suspicions. He refused to accept that it was just coincidence that his calls to Rubina had been sabotaged soon after the new guy had arrived in the office. How easy was it to edit someone’s contacts via an email application on the work computer, he wondered. They were always walking away from their desks and leaving everything logged on.
Woolie did not want to spoil the evening. They agreed to revisit the problem the next morning.
The lasagne was gorgeous. After they had had two helpings each Woolie brought ice-cream. They retired to the sofa where they settled to watch the late film.
Rubina had been right. They could stay up as late as they liked.