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Cronos Part One

A young woman finds a space helmet that leads her on to adventure and love.

They were on a small treeless plateau about 1700 feet above sea level, on what were the lower slopes of the Eastern side of the Andes range of mountains. The Colorado River was only a mile away in this far corner of La Pampa, Argentina.

The campsite was in the form of an upside down horseshoe. On the lower left side were the two latrines, suitably screened but open to the skies, with proper toilet seats fitted to the planks across the dug trench. A short distance up was the open air washbasins set up next to the two shower cubicles that were also screened. Behind these was a small tower with a hundred gallon plastic water tank on top to provide the head for the showers. A jointed plastic pipe had been laid down to the river where a small petrol pump could be started to fill this tank.

On the turn of the horseshoe were two four-men tents set up for the labourers to sleep. Next, dominating the top was the mess tent with the kitchen on the left hand side to which another pipe had been run for cooking and washing purposes. The canvas sides were always down except for the front. This was left open as they were at a high enough altitude not to be bothered by mosquitoes or midges. The flies would get in whether they had screens up or not, but they were lucky in not having many of them around. In front of this, a good ten yards away, a pit had been dug for the purpose of a camp fire.

Turning from the mess tent and placed down the right hand side of this horseshoe arrangement, were four large single tents for the use of the senior members. Between this last tent and the latrines and below the campfire, four large trestle tables had been set up ready. One was for maps and the others for the cleaning and labelling of the finds.

Down at the open end of the tented area was a large pegged out rectangle, approximately ten yards by forty; in the middle of which lay the exposed bones of a Brontosaurus, for this was a palaeontology dig for the prehistoric animal.

One of the joint leaders was Professor Martinez de la Rosa from the University of Buenos Aires and also curator of the Museum of Antiquities in the same city. An elderly man of medium height, his hair was beginning to thin and showing signs of grey. Being of Spanish descent, he was quite swarthy with his craggy face and dark brown eyes below his bushy eyebrows. Though fit, he was beginning to put on weight around the midriff area. His English was limited, but he spoke enough to be understood, though he did tend to get his tenses and adjectives wrong. He had the tent that was closest to where they all dined.

The tent next to him was occupied by his assistant, Manuel da Silva, who didn’t speak any English, a young eighteen year old student from the same university. He did his own notes and those of Professor Martinez.

Next to him, moving down a tent was Doctor Audrey Summers. Her main function was to photograph the site as well as each stage of the exposure of the prehistoric beast, and then each bone as it was retrieved. When it had been cleaned at one of the tables, she then labelled it and marked where it had been found on their large detailed map. She meticulously recorded each piece in her note book, and then in the evening would type up her notes for both of the professors to read and check each evening after dinner. Her Spanish was limited to a few basic words and had to make known her requirements through the occupant of the last tent. That was Professor Brendan Fowler, joint leader of the expedition.

He hailed from Boston and at the age of thirty two, was considered, in spite of his age, to being one of the world’s leading authorities on the Brontosaurus. He deemed it polite and politic to make it a joint leadership even though he and his university were funding the dig. After all, it was Professor Martinez’s find after all. He was only invited to the dig because neither the Museum nor the University of Buenos Aires could afford to finance it.

The rest of the crew were made up of Argentineans. Six from the nearest town which was La Copelina and two from Buenos Aires. Bahia Blanca was the nearest city that boasted an airport. It was about three hundred and sixty miles as the crow flies, or nearly six hundred over rutted and unmarked roads, and even worse tracks cut through a small jungle before reaching the plateau. As the truck had been hired from B.B., as the city was referred to, two men had been hired to drive it, one of them being a mechanic. These two were constantly employed to drive it back and forth between the camp and the city for supplies, mail, and any other odds and ends that the people at the camp requested. This left six men to clean and help around the camp and site as required, one of them being the cook.

Being close to the river was a godsend to them all. It meant plenty of fresh water that came from the snow capped mountains of the Andes was therefore clean and unpolluted for drinking, cooking and more importantly, washing, so that they could stay clean and fresh. This pleased Audrey more than the others knew, because at her last dig, she finished up smelling like the latrine pits because of the lack of water for the purpose of washing.

The water and the tank had been the first major problem. They’d run the hose down to the river where the pump was situated for the first filling of the tank. This went off okay and it was more by luck than judgement that it was turned off when it was nearly full. This water level would be checked daily, and when getting low, the man would walk the mile to the river and switch on the pump. This done, he sat down and promptly fell asleep. It was only when the water started pouring over the edge of the tank did a minor panic set in. One man had to run the mile and switch off the pump and kick the other man awake.

Audrey then had the tank emptied, slowly, so as not to flood the workings and then get a man to mark the insides of the now empty tank. Then setting up a system of men every three hundred yards to say when to switch off the pump. Standing up on the ladder, she watched the rising water and timed the rising water up to each mark. When near the top, the signal was passed down the line for the pump to be stopped. Then on a daily basis, when the level was checked and found that it needed refilling, she would calculate the time the pump needed to run. The man was then given an alarm clock that was pressed to start it when the pump went on. When the alarm sounded, the pump was turned off, so that became the procedure and they didn’t have any more mishaps from then on with the water.

The routine of the camp was well established as they had been there for four weeks out of the estimated sixteen it would take to clear the site. It would be a fine specimen for the museum that would be lucky enough to get it, because it looked as though they would be able to retrieve at least ninety five percent of it if not more.

Dinner was over and a fire had been lit in the pit, and the four of them sat in comfortable chairs around the warmth of the fire talking. The labourers tended to sit in the mess tent and play cards of an evening, leaving the bosses to themselves.

‘I was pleased very much that you accepted our offer to dig here,’ Martinez said, puffing on his post dinner cigarillo, talking to Brendan. ‘Your work in this field is well known, but I know nothing of you.’

‘There’s not much to tell really,’ he began modestly. ‘I was raised on a ranch that my parents owned and could ride a horse before I could even walk. It wasn’t a working ranch, but more of a holiday place for them.’ He left out the fact that it was covered in oil wells and made enough money for them all to be indulged. ‘It was such a great place that they couldn’t drag me away from it, so they got a tutor in for me as we were a long way from any schools. Well he got me enthusiastic over geology and the wild life that lived all around us. Enough so, that I went to college and then university where I majored in Geology, Biology and various other minors, including Archaeology.’

Audrey had leaned back in her chair, coffee cup in hand and watched this man, leaning back in his chair smoking his pipe. His tall rangy body completely relaxed, the solid muscles of his forearms gleaming in the firelight. She could imagine him in the saddle of a horse, his heavy thighs urging the beast on as he rode the plains, the wind whipping his hair about his dark blue eyes.

‘I graduated Sigma Cum Laude and stayed on as a tutor,’ he continued. Audrey bringing her mind back to him speaking. ‘Then I was offered a chair and became a professor, and I specialised in palaeontology.’ Again he didn’t mention that his family had endowed enough money to the university that there was not much more they could do for him, though in time he would have gained the chair, such was his knowledge of his subject. The money had helped him to get it sooner rather than later.

‘This is my second dig here in South America, and it looks far better than the last one. Especially the company,’ and he winked at Audrey as he said this. She felt shivers run down her spine at his recognition of her, and wondered if he ever considered her as a woman instead of as a colleague. She took special care each evening by putting on a dress and taking care of her face with just the lightest of make-up. She had fallen in love with him from the first meeting at the airport in Boston. She had been tired from the flight from London and felt somewhat dishevelled as she came out from immigration and customs. Then this tall dark handsome well dressed man had enquired after her name, and then presented her with a small bouquet of flowers and wished her happy landings in America.

She loved the way he moved and dealt with everybody in an authoritative way in the handling of her luggage out to the waiting car. It whisked them off to a hotel that he had booked for her and waited whilst she showered and changed before taking her out to dinner. Try as she might, she couldn’t remember what it was that she had eaten or drank at that meal. She sat and listened to his voice throughout the meal, glad that she had taken up the offer to work under him. Then she had blushed at the double entendre, and he, seeing the red flush on her face, mistook it for her being tired and overheated. He apologised and the meal was soon finished and he saw her back to her hotel. Lying in bed, her tiredness gone for the moment as she hugged her pillow and thought back as to how it all began.

She had been raised in a middle class family, and with just the trace of a London counties accent, had gone to a state school in her early years. Here she became a straight ‘A’ student, getting four A levels enabling her to get easily into Oxford where she read English, Biology and Anthropology. There she gained a first class degree allowing her to embark on her first love which was Palaeontology, where she earned her doctorate following a brilliant thesis on the subject.

She had just finished a three month field trip in North Africa and was back home when she’d received a call from her old university professor. He’d heard on the grapevine of an intended trip in South America being headed up by Professor Fowler of Boston. He had written to him and by return of post had instructed him to ask if she would care to join. She jumped at the chance knowing of Fowler’s expertise in the field. With many thanks to her professor, he arranged the details for her, and here she now was, in love with her boss. She fell asleep still hugging the pillow.

They stayed in Boston for two more days, where he showed her around the city and also checked out her wardrobe for the trip. He was satisfied with what she planned to wear while on the dig, only getting a couple of small extra items which he refused to let her pay for. Soon, packed, they were on a flight down to Buenos Aires. Here they were met by Professor Martinez and soon introduced to his assistant, Manuel.

Audrey was surprised that there was to be only the four of them, but Brendan told her that they would recruit local labour as they were easier to train, rather than have some know it all students who could make a mess of things. A truck had been purchased on Brendan’s behalf, and he personally interviewed men to act as the drivers. With that settled, it came the turn of getting all the equipment together. Martinez had already been apprised of what Brendan wanted, so it was ready in various shops for him to inspect before it was purchased and loaded aboard the truck. This was then sent off for the run down to Bahia Blanca, a trip of three days, Manuel going off with the two drivers.

Audrey and Brendan were then the guests of Martinez for the next three days, showing them the city and of course his museum. Audrey and Brendan stayed in an hotel as Martinez only had a bachelor flat. Then the three of them flew down to Bahia Blanca and met the truck.

Here they completed the loading with fresh and tinned food purchased locally. They had given the two drivers the day off to rest before resuming the journey to the site where the bones of the Brontosaurus lay. Another truck had been hired to carry the three of them and the surplus supplies onward, and also to pick up the extra manpower in La Copelina. It took them four days to reach the town, and they soon recruited the six men they required and two days later, reached the site.

Though this was Audrey’s second dig, she hadn’t witnessed the erection and preparation of a camp before. She was amazed at how quickly it was set out and erected. The trucks had been cleverly loaded so that every piece came off in the order of where it was going to be placed. Brendan and Martinez supervising the placement of tents with two men being detailed off to dig the latrine tent. Another two built the water tower before unrolling the pipe down to the river and fixing up the pump. There was nothing for Audrey to do until the tents had been erected and she could then help by erecting the cots and laying out the sleeping bags and see to the smaller details, such as the lamps etc.

It was late afternoon before the water was flowing into the tank that had taken four men to place on the top of the tower. The cook had been impatiently waiting for this water so that he could start preparing the evening meal which everybody looked forward to after a tiring day. The driver of the hired truck stayed overnight before leaving, wishing them luck out there on the plateau.

All hands were up early next morning, and as soon as breakfast was over, inspected the place where the first bone had been found. A marker had been set there by Martinez when he first visited the place with the peon who had found it. He’d told them the story on their trip South of how that had come about.

The large rib bone had passed through several hands before it found its way to the museum. He had been quite excited when he saw it, and immediately began tracing back till he found the man who had first handled it. They then visited the site and he saw straight away that this would be a tremendous find, so he marked the spot and began to speak to various universities around the world. He pinned his hopes on Brendan and was pleased that he and his university agreed to finance the dig. It had taken three months of negotiation to finally bring it all together, and now they were here, ready to begin.

Audrey took many photographs as the men measured out the area, posts being driven into the four corners before the secondary posts were put in and the plot subdivided into areas of approximately a square yard each.

Within a week, all the top soil had been removed to reveal the almost complete looking skeleton of the now extinct Brontosaurus. They had all been excited over this and were soon removing the bones, piece by piece for Audrey to catalogue in her notes. Every evening, the days finds after being labelled, were boxed up ready to be taken to the warehouse in B.B. by the truck on its weekly run.

The animal had fallen onto its left side, so over the millions of years that it had laid there, the right hand side of the rib cage had collapsed down and were the first to be cleared. Then the area was swept clean so that they could then see clearly the full length of the creature now ready to be taken up from its death bed.

Now, Audrey reflected as she listened to the men talking before the fire, that they were so far ahead of schedule, that they would finish well within the sixteen weeks planned. What did she have to do for him to recognise that she was totally in love with the man sitting in the next chair she wondered? With a heavy sigh, she stood up and stretched, yawning as she did so.

Then bent down to put her empty coffee cup on the ground, letting Brendan see the cleavage of her breasts before straightening up.

‘I’m off to bed. Goodnight gentlemen,’ she said, turning away from them and the fire as she walked off towards her tent. The men had said their replies and watched her walk off out of the fire’s glow in silence.

‘That’s a fine young woman there,’ Martinez observed. ‘I wish I were twenty years younger.’ His eyes had a twinkle as he looked at Brendan.

‘I agree,’ Brendan said, having seen the full breasts before him and had watched her pert bottom gently sway as she had walked away. Basically a shy man, he desired Audrey but didn’t know how to set about wooing her in the close confines of the camp.

She was very good at her work, very meticulous and tidy, and was doing well in the overseeing of the fossils from the cleaning through labelling to packing. He didn’t want to rock the boat by making a clumsy pass at her and thereby ruin the camaraderie of the four of them. He too then sighed as he puffed on his pipe, knowing that he was going to have to take a cold shower before going to bed.

The next day was bright, hot and sunny and Audrey was dressed in her working clothes. Today was a short sleeved light brown shirt tucked into her khaki shorts. These had been shortened in the leg so that when she was squatting down, they didn’t stick to her thighs. She didn’t wear a bra when working in the heat because the straps chaffed her skin and also constricted her breathing and movements.

Her blond hair was tied up into a pony tail which in turn, was covered in a wide brimmed bush hat. She wore sunglasses when working at the tables but if with brush and trowel, she then placed them in her pocket. White short socks and lightweight boots on her feet finished off her daily working attire.

A large bone had just been removed from her square of earth and one of the boys’ was cleaning it for her to label afterwards. In the depression left by the bone, she gently brushed away at the earth to see if any fragments were still there to be collected.

In the deepest part of the hole, her brush seemed to be uncovering a large smooth stone. The colour intrigued her, it being a shade of grey with a touch of blue to it, lighter than gunmetal but with the same dull sheen. It was also rounded as her brush and trowel revealed more, and because it didn’t feel like a stone, she was determined to dig it out completely to see exactly what it was.

Slowly an edge to it was uncovered, and following this line, cleared away more earth to find what appeared to be a strap of some sort. Then she suddenly realised that this was some form of helmet she was uncovering.

Moving faster now, she quickly cleared enough dirt for her to grasp it and pull it free from the ground. She put it in her basket and covered it with the towel she had been using to wipe the sweat from her face. Was there anything further down, she asked herself? Audrey dug deeper and around, but didn’t find any bones or anything that could be linked to the helmet.

The lunch bell was rung in the mess tent, satisfied that there wasn’t any more to be found there, picked up her basket and went and placed it in her tent. She wanted to examine this herself before she showed it to the others, so she left it there and went and washed her hands before going to eat. Eating her meal quickly, she pleaded a slight headache and said that she was going to lie down for a little while and would they please not disturb her. Brendan offered to get her some Aspirins, but she said that she had some already in her tent and left them to finish their meal.

Back in the tent, she dropped the flap before taking the helmet out of the basket and placing it on her little table. Then with a fine probe and brush, she cleaned off the mud and dirt adhering to it before using the small portable air compressor to blow away the last dust particles.

Well it definitely was a helmet she mused, as she turned it first one way and then the other. Not that much different from what any well dressed motorcyclist wore, the only real difference being that of the face visor. On a normal helmet, she recollected, the visor was hinged on the outside and slid up over the front. This had its hinge on the inside and that it went up between the outer skin and the inside lining.

Examining it more closely, she could see that there were many differences between this and that of a motorcyclist’s headgear. She’d only ever handled one before and this was by far much lighter and yet she couldn’t determine what it was made of. The weight told her that it wasn’t metal and yet it didn’t feel like plastic either, and she ruled out fibreglass as not very practicable. Picking up her probe, she tried to scratch it but bent the point of the probe when she used too much pressure and didn’t make any impression at all to the surface.

The inside material also baffled her as it was like some kind of chamois leather, but thicker and even softer. It even seemed to mould itself to her fingertips when she pressed them into it. Probing the lining, she could feel that were things beneath and at a guess, thought there was at least two centimetres difference between the interior and exterior of the helmet.

Audrey put it back down on the table and pensively looked at it again, this helmet giving off its grey-blue sheen like a well oiled pistol. Then she fingered the supple strap that could possibly be made of the same material but was as soft as the casing was hard. Nor could she see how it was attached, there being no sign of a join. There wasn’t a dent in the damn thing, even after a twenty odd ton Brontosaurus had fallen….on….

‘Oh my God,’ she whispered to herself. ‘It was there before that bloody great green eater fell over. It was under the damn thing and that makes it over a hundred million years old! I can’t believe it!’

She picked it up again, gently this time, almost reverently even, turning it around and around in her hands. Then lifting it up, settled it down on her head. As she nestled it comfortably, she thought she heard a faint hum, but definitely felt a tiny tickle run down her body. Like a feather it was, just barely touching her flesh, but moving down much faster. She lifted the chin strap up and it seemed to glue itself to the other side of the helmet, making a nice firm attachment.

There was a sudden rapping against the tent pole and Brendan’s voice called out.

‘Are you still feeling bad Audrey?’ he enquired. Audrey whirled round, trying to take the helmet off when the flap of the tent opened and Brendan stuck his head inside. His eyes traversed the whole tent and with a sigh, shook his head and withdrew, letting the flap fall back against the entrance. She was standing stock still in the middle of the tent with the helmet on, and clearly saw him as his eyes had swept round the tent, but he didn’t appear to see her.

She quickly took the helmet off and placed it back into her basket under the table, and covered it up before running outside. Brendan was walking toward the mess tent, so she quickly scuttled across the site towards the latrines and then turned as though that was where she was coming from.

‘Are you looking for me?’ Audrey called out as he entered the mess tent.

‘Why yes,’ he said, turning round and walked down to meet her. ‘I went to your tent to see if you were any better, but you weren’t there.’

‘I…I…was in the toilet, sorry. What was it you wanted?’

‘Nothing really. I just wanted to know if you wanted anything. Cold compress or something like that for your headache.’

‘It’s nearly gone, but I’d rather stay out of the sun for the rest of the afternoon.’

‘Fine. See you at dinner then.’

‘Yes, see you at dinner,’ Audrey replied, watching him walk away towards the excavations. ‘He didn’t see me,’ she whispered fiercely to herself as she walked back to her tent. ‘He didn’t see me!’ She wanted to run to her tent, but made herself walk slowly until she was safely inside with the flap down.

Quickly, she retrieved the helmet from the basket and looked it over very carefully, but still couldn’t see anything to give her a clue as to what it contained up in the lining. Audrey put the helmet on for the second time, catching the short hum and feeling that shivery tingle run down her body again.

‘Now let’s try it out again,’ she said to herself as she went and tried to lift the tent flap. She could feel it, but couldn’t move it.

It was like a solid wall to her. Tears of frustration sprang to her eyes as she struggled to move the flap, but to no avail. Giving a sob, she gave up the struggle and went and sat down and took the helmet off. She shook her head to free her hair and wondered what prevented her from leaving the tent. She got up and went and as easily as anything, lifted the flap and looked outside.

Letting it drop back, she went and sat down again to ponder the problem. It didn’t take her long to understand that if she wore the helmet, she was invisible. Therefore, if she was invisible, she had no physical properties to either be seen or to be felt. That would mean that she could see but not touch. Well she could touch, but not physically move anything.

‘Let’s try again madam,’ she said, getting up from the table and going over and lifting the flap back, making sure that it stayed open. Then she put the helmet back on, thrilling at the tingle it gave her before approaching the entrance of the tent and going outside. She stood still for a moment, surveying where everybody was and what they were doing before moving off herself.

Two of the boys were cleaning some bones and Manuel was poring over the maps, making his own notes. Audrey approached the tables and walked right round them and the three men, and not one of them noticed her. Brendan came out from the latrine, and after washing his hands, walked over and went right past her to stop and speak with Manuel.

‘I’m bloody invisible,’ Audrey shouted to herself. ‘It’s the helmet! I can see and hear them quite clearly, but they can’t see me!’ Her thoughts went wildly racing off with the countless things you could do when you were not visible.

Audrey then approached Brendan to give him the surprise of his life and reached up to pat him on the shoulder. It was she who got the shock, for her hand passed clean through him.

She watched as her hand disappeared into his shoulder up to her wrist as if there wasn’t a solid thing there to stop the movement. Then it reappeared as her arm swung down, coming out from his lower back

Audrey gave out a loud cry as this happened, but nobody turned round at the noise she had made. She looked down at her hand in disbelief and then had another shock when she raised her head, for Manuel had turned and was walking straight into her. She recoiled back, but only out of instinct, because she never felt a thing as he passed straight through her.

Her legs trembled and she went weak at the knees as she stumbled to the nearest chair and sat down. It took a couple of minutes for it to sink in that she was actually sitting in the chair and not sprawled on the ground. She ran her fingers along the arms, feeling their solidness, and reaching out, touched the table. Again solid.

She picked up the pencil there, or rather tried to pick it up. Her fingers could close round it, but could not move it from the table, no matter how hard she tried to lift it. Audrey let go of the pencil and grasped the arms of the chair and lifted herself to pull the chair closer to the table, but that too would not move.

The truth was starting to filter through to her now. She got up from the chair and went to the two boys at the cleaning table. They showed no signs of noticing her presence and did not even feel her hand when she pressed it into their bodies. She then tried to pick some grass that was growing by the table. Her fingers passed straight through, though she could touch a small stone, she couldn’t pick it up.

Audrey wandered round the site knowing now that living tissue was untouchable, whereas dead or inanimate matter was immovable. But, she realised, if the dead or inanimate substance was in contact or worn by living tissue, then it became untouchable. This had been proven by her hand going through Brendan’s shoulder through his shirt, and the same with the boys and even Manuel.

So therefore the value of the helmet was only for the wearer to be a voyeur, an observer or a spy. She couldn’t think of anything else as she made her way back to her tent. She tried to walk through the tent wall, but couldn’t, so she had to use the open flap to gain entry. This also meant that if she was wearing the helmet to be invisible and then to spy, watch or listen to somebody in a closed room would be impossible. She’d have to take the helmet off and be visible to open the door to either get in or get out. It didn’t seem to make much sense to go to all that trouble to make this helmet which only did half of what it should.

Now if you could go through walls with it, well….! She blushed at the thought of being able to see Brendan naked in the shower without him knowing she was there. I’d better go take a cold shower myself, she thought as she started to take off the helmet, trying to dispel the images she had conjured up. As she lifted her hands up to take it off, her fingertips touched the visor that was slid up into the top part. Not having tried the visor, she pulled it down.

As it snapped down with a click, the walls of the tent disappeared, as did the chair she had been sitting on. The suddenness of more light because of the lack of canvas as well as the chair’s removal, startled her as she sprawled on her back on the ground.

‘What the heck happened?’ Audrey exclaimed to herself as she sat up, dusting her hands. ‘Where’s the tent gone?’

She looked around and the sunlight seemed as if it was being slightly filtered by the visor, giving a very light blue tinge to everything. Without the canvas walls of the tent to impede her view, she should have being looking at the other tents opposite, but they weren’t there either.

Also, she should have had a good view across the plateau to the plains in the distance. Instead, there was a forested jungle scarcely a hundred yards away.

Audrey got up off the ground and automatically brushed her hands down the seat of her shorts and had a good look round. She was in a small clearing in what appeared to be a jungle, but what caught her eye and made her step back, was where the ground had been pegged out.

The pegs were no longer there, or the partially exposed bones of a prehistoric animal. Instead, there was the whole carcass of a dead Brontosaurus!

She was suddenly frightened. What had happened? Where was everybody else? Why had they disappeared? Why was she now in a jungle?

Sweat broke out on her forehead and she started to panic. Her hands went up to her head and pulling at the chin strap, pushed the helmet off her head to let it fall to the floor. As soon as the contact was broken between her and the helmet, she found she was back inside her tent. Audrey’s heart was pounding and she could feel the sweat now running down her spine as the helmet bounced on the ground and rolled to a stop by the leg of the table.

She groped for the chair and found that it had been tipped over. Setting it upright, she sat down, shaking, her hands tightly clenched in her lap as she looked down at the helmet on the ground before her.

She had been amused at the being invisible part, but what she had just seen, frightened her. Did she really see the animal that had been dead for millions years lying there just outside her tent? Did the helmet cause hallucinations? Or….?

The visor! It happened after she had pulled the visor down. Was that what caused it? The scientist in Audrey couldn’t just sit there trying to think up reasons. Questions and experiments went together. The questions weren’t answered without the experiments.

She picked the helmet up and pushed the visor back inside. It slid back in with a little click. She did this a couple of times, building up her courage to try the helmet on again. This time she stood up first, and with the visor up, put the helmet on her head.

She felt the now familiar flutter down her body and the brief hum in her ears. Then taking a deep breath, walked outside and went over and stood next to Brendan and Martinez who were discussing something on the table. Standing next to them, she was sure they couldn’t see her, but was about to find out if they could hear her.

‘Hello you two,’ she said as loud as she could, and nothing happened. They carried on talking, ignoring her completely as if she wasn’t there. She giggled at this because she was and she wasn’t there. Her own voice had sounded very clearly, but it was now apparent that they could neither see or hear her whilst she wore the helmet. So with a determined effort, she walked in between them. There wasn’t enough space for her to do this without bumping them aside as she moved forward, her arms easily passing through their sides as she went between them.

Audrey turned round, the back of her thighs touching the table and looked at the two men talking to each other, their faces only a few inches away from hers. She clapped her hands and reached up and stroked their faces, but they showed no reaction whatsoever. It still amazed her that they could neither see, hear or feel her.

‘There’s only one real way of knowing if they can see me,’ she said, a daring notion running through her mind. ‘Even a dead man would wake up to this.’ She went round the table and stood before them and lifted up the front of her T shirt, exposing her breasts to their gaze. ‘That is definite proof,’ she said aloud as the men continued to appear to ignore her, dropping the shirt to cover herself, blushing at her daring act to prove the point.

They and the table were now between her and the pegged out ground where the bones lay exposed. So with one more look around the treeless plateau, Audrey took a deep breath and pulled the visor down.

The visor came down with a click and in the faint blue light, somewhat akin to weak sunglasses, both men, tables and tents disappeared. What she saw before her was again, the whole carcass of the dead behemoth.

A quick look round to see that the forest was still there, not far from where she was standing. There was a faint ping as her head swung round but she didn’t give it any notice as she stared at the beast lying not many yards in front of her.

Audrey lifted the visor, and as it clicked up, the two men were suddenly there again in front of her, the forest disappearing. Now she was confident that she had the answer to the enigma of the helmet. It was some sort of time machine that could take her back over hundreds of millions of years, showing her what it was like at that time. But was it true? Was there any truth in the saying that seeing is believing? Could it be some form of hologram or picture transmitted into the helmet?

‘Of course not you silly girl,’ she said to herself. ‘Well there’s only one way to find out.’ She snapped the visor down, but now the jungle look more menacing as she was about to move a little closer to it. It was definitely a clearing she was standing in with this jungle or forest, she wasn’t quite sure which yet, all about her. It was roughly the size of a football field and she was about a quarter of the way down one side.

Now was the moment of truth. She had to move forward and investigate or forever wonder what might have been. So without further ado, she moved off towards the felled Brontosaurus, getting a great tingle up and down her spine as she walked round the mammoth hulk of a creature she had been studying for years.

Even in death, it looked a magnificent creature. The long graceful neck was fully outstretched, the eye fully open, glazed, but seemed to hold a surprised expression as if saying, why me?

She reached out to run her hand down the long neck, expecting her hand to disappear inside the animal if it was still alive, but it wasn’t. It was dead, because she could feel the rough texture of its skin, rougher than she had expected it to be. More like the hide of an elephant but not as tough and scaly as that of a rhinoceros.

Audrey walked round the animal, marvelling at her good fortune to actually be able to see it, albeit a dead one, but a whole, complete animal of this size. Why, how, or what killed it, she couldn’t even begin to surmise. It was enough for the moment just being able to look at what no other living person had ever seen.

She had walked around the animal at least four times before she really became aware of this odd bleep she got through the helmet with every circuit. It was now becoming intrusive as she looked around, trying to see what this small noise was, or what was causing it. So with a propriety air, she laid her hand on the dead animal and slowly looked round the small clearing.

There it was again! A small ping came through to her ears, but for the first time she saw a little flash of light on the inside of her visor. The flash appeared as a faint white line that quickly faded in time with the ping. Audrey stood still, waiting. Waiting for it to come again, waiting, keeping her head still as her eyes scanned the tree line.

Ping!

There it was again! The sound lasted about two seconds accompanied by a faint thin line that lasted for the same amount of time. A quick glance up at the sun told her that the line was pointing almost due East from where she was standing. Audrey stood there for several pings, counting the intervals between them and estimating that it came about every forty five seconds.

Having left her watch behind in her tent, she resorted to the trick she had learnt in school of how to measure time. By counting from one hundred and one through to one hundred and ten, took ten seconds. So by doing this form of counting four and a half times, it gave her forty five seconds between the pings.

‘Of course,’ Audrey exclaimed, thinking of the sonar used in submarines, ‘it’s a homing signal, and the white line is the direction!’ But how far, she wondered, how far? ‘Only one way to find out,’ she said at the next ping, and started forward in the direction of the fading white line in her visor.

She kept a count of her paces using her method of counting time achieving exactly forty five paces before the next ping, and reached the trees by the second one. At first, she walked round the trees that she encountered until she tripped over a dead branch and instead of cracking her head on a tree, she fell through it. Laughing, slightly hysterical, she sat up and called herself all kinds of silly names for forgetting about being able to pass through any living matter.

But the fall brought Audrey to her senses. She didn’t know how far away she was from the source of the noise, and as she had been away from the camp for at least an hour, the others would be wondering where she had got to. That could lead to problems in the way of trying to make up plausible excuses for her absence. Besides, it couldn’t be that long to dinner time, and she would definitely be posted missing then.

So she picked herself up and waited for the signal so that she could reverse her direction and get back to the camp. With the ping, she turned about face and started back through the forest of trees.

Walking through the underbrush which she couldn’t feel, she was struck by a thought. If I’m back in the prehistoric times because of the helmet, can I be seen and touched by any living creature? This made her shudder and she stopped and knelt down to try to find some form of small living thing to prove one way or the other.

It took her several minutes before she saw some small type of beetles that she had never seen before and tried to pick one up. She couldn’t. The thing just passed straight through her hand as though it wasn’t there. Satisfied that she was safe with the helmet on, she stood up and carried on walking back towards the camp.

*

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