Boneland by Alan Garner

Book: Boneland by Alan Garner Read Free Book Online
Authors: Alan Garner
conglomerate, without stratification but full of derived quartz pebbles, indicating high-energy flow, a torrential fluvial deposit.’
    ‘It’s the colours that get me,’ said Meg. ‘They’re psychedelic almost.’
    ‘Come this way.’ He led her around a corner to the further side. ‘Look at this.’ A streak of green showed under lichen. ‘Malachite. Hydrated copper carbonate. The Edge is full of it, in a manner of speaking. But here is its furthest exposure in this direction. Now look across to the left and up a bit. Can you see anything?’
    ‘Try again.’
    ‘Well, I’ll go to Leek and Ludchurch!’
    ‘What do you see?’
    ‘It’s a carving.’
    ‘Of what?’
    ‘I don’t know. It’s so weathered. Concentric squares? It’s not a face. Is it? Or is it? Not squares? More trapezoidal? A labyrinth? Maybe.’
    ‘Must it be “either or”?’ said Colin.
    ‘You mean a doodle?’ said Meg.
    ‘A doodle is meaningless, random. This isn’t random, whatever else it is. And it’s taken skill and effort and time. There’s no way that that can be a doodle; and I don’t think it was done with metal, either.’
    ‘So what is it? What’s it for?’
    ‘I’ve no idea. A territorial marker? Perhaps a claim. A warning. An indication of a special place? Whatever it is it signifies something important about here, or even another dimensional boundary. Or all. Or more.’
    ‘If I were playing hard to get,’ said Meg, ‘I’d say that you were claiming it’s whatever you want to see. It’s a Rorschach blot.’
    ‘That’s your modern thought,’ said Colin. ‘We have to make the imaginative leap into the ancient mind and the likelihood of a different world view. I agree that you could argue that for a thing to have a multitude of possible meanings is tantamount to its having no meaning at all. But perhaps the opposite could once have applied. Perhaps a thing that could be thought to have a multitude of meaning, then, gained strength and importance from the ambiguities. We simply don’t know. Nor is there any way of our knowing, at the present, whatever “the present” may be; but we must keep our minds open; though, yes, not so open that our brains drop out.’
    ‘OK,’ said Meg. ‘It’s old. But how old is old?’
    ‘It looks Neolithic or Bronze Age,’ said Colin, ‘but I’d say possibly Mesolithic, if Mesolithic is possible; which it may not be.’
    ‘Why Mesolithic?’
    ‘I’m best-guessing. Look there. That overhang further along is perfect for a rock shelter.’
    ‘But we’ve seen plenty like that.’
    ‘But not like this one.’
    A path with steps came between Castle Rock and the overhang. Colin went to it and bent down, scanning the ground.
    ‘Here we are.’ He picked something up and went on looking. ‘And another. And another. That last lot of rain we had was useful. And another. Another.’
    He held out his palm. On it lay five splinters of pale stone.
    ‘And?’ said Meg.
    ‘Microliths. Flint. Flint doesn’t occur here naturally; it has to have been imported. Someone brought it, and sat by Castle Rock and knapped it. These are diagnostic Mesolithic, eight to ten thousand years ago. They’ve been waiting for us to handle them and recognise what they are for the first time since the end of the last Ice Age. We may even share DNA with the person that made them.’ He threw the flints back to the land.
    ‘Why don’t you keep them?’
    ‘That would compromise the site. Shall we see how the lamb’s doing? It’ll be about right by now, I should think, wouldn’t you?’
    ‘You’re a strange one,’ said Meg. ‘Sometimes you are very strange. “Compromise”.’
    They climbed round and to the top of Castle Rock.
    The ancient river bed had been quarried into planes and low benches of ledge, and the prow of the rock smooth, drawing up to the point where it stood over air.
    ‘This is terrific,’ said Meg.
    ‘Careful,’ said Colin. ‘You need a head for heights

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