• Vol. 08
  • Chapter 08

The Fossil Path

Under sheer cliffs, picking our way, we looked for the shape of them, the curve of the whorls. I had advised different clothing, something anonymising. Surely, I said, we did not want to be seen. She disagreed, reminded me that pink suited me. I could not argue. I could never argue with Nemesia.

We looked every day for six days, and on the seventh we rested. I could still hear the sound of the sea, out of sight but beating, beating on the shore; I could not settle, roamed the fenced garden like a caged animal. Nemesia said nothing until I forced her, made her look into my eyes, see as I was seeing. And then she said only that I should be patient, that the rocks had been there for thousands of years, why should I expect that everything would be revealed to me, to us both, in a single week?

I cast down my eyes and steeled myself. And then: on the morning of the first day of the second week we found an ammonite, perfectly preserved, facing out from the cliff at eye level. We saw it at the same moment, had no dispute, only rejoicing. And we thought – oh, vanity! – that where there was one we would find another.

But we found nothing more.

And then we lost what we had found. How? I cannot say, only that I put it down for a moment. There was no-one else there, but when I turned every rock was as another, all plain, smooth, unremarkable. I cannot blame Nemesia; she had trusted me on that morning and I let her down. I walked the path for the rest of the day, for the rest of the week, for the rest of the month. My dress became torn and dulled. It was, as Nemesia said, a waste and a shame. As little and as much as that. And though, afterwards, we found other traces of the creatures of our past, nothing was ever as perfect, and nothing satisfied us.