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Black Hole

Short Story by Les Furnanz  October 1, 2009

Page 4 - Pech Merle

The two horses seemed to float from the yellow-calcite wall of the cave. They were white, life-sized, outlined in thick black strokes with long manes. Large four-inch black dots filled their torsos. The head of the rightmost horse was small in relation to its torso, for the artist had fitted it to the natural cut of the rock. The guide explained that the reddish form on the horse's back was a fish, probably a pike. David repeated to himself, "25,000 years ago..."

The Pech Merle tour had started in the adjoining museum with a film and viewing of artifacts. David's ideas for working with Raphael and his son stirred when he learned two teenaged boys found the cave's paintings in 1922. They had worked to catalog their findings with the local priest, Amédée Lemozi, a locally recognized prehistoric expert. The priest was so motivated that he was able to open the cave to the public within four years. Lemozi successfully negotiated with the village to support the site. David realized that his father had visited Pech Merle and probably planned to reveal his discovery to curator Lemozi. The landslide, then the war, had changed all that.

David mounted the stairway from the cave to welcomed afternoon warmth and mounted the courage to search out the curator. Finding the office down a museum hallway, David knocked hopefully and pronounced to himself the name at the door, "Mr. Racine."

Racine seemed very focused. His narrow nose, intense eyes, and shock of white hair enhanced his intelligent aura. He listened to the explanation of David's situation and then asked several questions concerning events prior to his father's departure. David admitted he'd never seen the cave and artwork himself. When he felt that the curator's understanding matched his own he asked the big question, "If I were able to uncover the cave and explore to the point where major findings could be verified, would you be able and willing to adopt it?" He paused, "Support its public opening? I would of course donate the undeveloped site."

Racine looked down for a few seconds, tapped his index finger on the desk, and then looked up. "Over the years I've been approached with the same type of question on several occasions. I've responded affirmatively in most cases. However spelunkers or cavers have ruined the sites and relics in each such circumstance. I am not any more optimistic in your case. However, we have sufficient cash flow and success with Pech Merle. We know we would receive many visitors to an additional site within just 20 kilometers from here. So, I can say 'yes... if'."

"That was as much of a positive response as I hoped to obtain. I will get busy."

The curator nodded. He scratched his chin for a second, reflecting, then asked, "Your property wouldn't abut that of Jules Renard, would it?"

"In fact, it does. Why do you ask?"

"He was in to see me earlier this afternoon. He talked of a grotto running under his land near Marcilhac, so he may have been inquiring about the same one that you will be searching. There have certainly been cases where a cave spans two properties. He however was asking if I would be interested in purchasing artifacts. I honestly answered 'No.' This is in contrast to my genuine interest if you donate a full prehistoric site for opening to the public. I certainly have no way of determining the real owners, but once the cave is explored, it can be mapped relative to its upper terrain. You may have a real battle ahead."

David stared at Racine, shook his head, and then said, "It's like a bad dream. This man has haunted me since I arrived. My estimate of the cave entrance location makes me feel confident the entire cave runs under my property, but I admit there is a question. Even if I'm right, Jules seems determined to bring trouble." He stood to shake the curator's hand. "Thank you for the warning... And thanks again for the opportunity."




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