On the way back to the camp, he picked up a couple of twigs he felt would fit within the diameter of the bottle’s neck. Since he’d discovered he couldn’t dig out the plug, he figured he might as well try to shove the remainder down inside the bottle.
Let’s just hope the entire bottle isn’t filled with the stuff.
His mind automatically shot that thought to pieces. If the bottle was filled with wax, it would weigh a whole lot more than it did, despite the fact that it was made of clay and embedded with jewels. No, he was certain the bottle had something else inside. Something lighter. Maybe paper? Or a message written on a scrap of tanned leather.
Maybe I should have been filming this from the get-go. If there’s something inside historically important, it could be the boost to my career that I’ve been needing!
He hurried back to camp with renewed energy. After replenishing his fire, Tate wedged the bottle between his feet to keep it steady, and tried the first twig.
The second twig, though, fit into the small depression he’d cleared. Licking his lips, he hefted the rock he’d used to smash the crab shell and brought it down hard on the end of the twig.
The stick moved a fraction of an inch.
Encouraged, Tate smacked the twig again with the rock. And again. On his fourth try, the twig suddenly disappeared inside the bottle. Tate gave a yelp of pain as the rock hit his fingers.
“Ow! Son of a bitch! Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow.”
The bottle didn’t seem to be damaged, but the plug was gone. And so was the twig. Tate tried to look inside the bottle, but there wasn’t enough light to see anything. He sighed and sat the bottle in the sand as he checked his fingers. Although they stung, they were fine and unbloodied.
Knowing he’d left the stick inside the bottle, he reached for it to see if he could shake it out, when the bottle tilted on its own. For a couple of seconds the bottle seemed to defy gravity as it did its Leaning Tower of Pisa imitation. Then, as if someone cut the invisible string, the bottle fell sideways.
Tate stared at it. What had made it move like that? He started to reach for it again, then hesitated when something seemed to emerge from the neck. Slowly, steadily, it began to show itself.
The stick. The stick was coming out of the bottle a few millimeters at a time.
His eyes remained glued to the impossible. He wasn’t imagining it. The stick was sliding out of the bottle bit by bit. If he didn’t know any better, it looked as if it was being pushed out. From behind.
There had to be an animal or something inside. Or maybe some sort of sea creature, like a hermit crab. “But there can’t be. How the fuck could it survive in there with no air? The bottle was sealed tight.”
The stick slowly emerged until it reached the end. Tate watched the twig fall onto the sand, but he resisted the urge to pick up the bottle again and peer inside. Whatever was in it either wanted out, or didn’t want the twig in there with it.
His next thought was wiped completely from his mind when a tiny hand grasped the rim, followed by a second. And a miniature head with long black locks poked out. The head turned, until a face of exquisite beauty looked up at him.
Tate watched, astonished and silent, as the figure continued to crawl out of the bottle. She wore what looked like a white diaphanous robe. She was barefoot, but a miniscule band of gold circled her upper arm.
The woman landed face-down on the sand. Lying there pale and unmoving, it was difficult to tell if she was breathing. Tate started to reach for her, maybe turn her over onto her side or back with his finger, when she moved. He could tell she was either weak or in great pain as she struggled to get to her knees. She made it as far as sitting up, although she needed her arms to brace herself.
She couldn’t have been more than five or six inches high, but she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
“Who are you?” he whispered, hoping not to frighten her. The woman looked up at him with a dazed expression on her face. “Where did you come from? How long have you been inside that bottle?”
She answered him in a voice as small as she was. Tate had to lean over to hear her, but it was futile. She spoke in a language that sounded like pure gibberish.
“Okay. Maybe we need to start in simpler terms. Tate.” He pointed to himself. “Tate.”
“Yeah. Tate. Who are you?” He pointed to her.
“Zara.” He smiled. “It suits you. Exotic. And short.”
She smiled back, but she still looked very weak. There was no telling how long she’d been in that bottle. Where could she have come from? Was there a land somewhere he didn’t know about, or that the government had been keeping secret, where the inhabitants were the size of chess pieces?
Or what if she’s an experiment? What if some scientists somewhere have been dicking around with DNA and managed to create a race of mini midgets?
“Tayt?” She spoke more gibberish, but she mimicked drinking. He quickly brought around the small seashell he used to drink water out of. Tate watched in fascination as she crawled over to the edge of the shell and bent down to drink. When she was finished, she fell off the edge of the shell, onto the sand, and lay there with her eyes closed.
“Hey, hey, hey! Don’t die on me!” This time he scooped her up in his hand and brought her closer to his face. She opened her eyes at the movement, but instead of being alarmed, she murmured something in her language, curled up in his palm, and fell asleep.
For nearly half an hour, Tate stared at the tiny woman sleeping in his hand. She was breathing regularly, and she didn’t seem to be in any sort of physical distress. Not that he could see, anyway.
There was no doubt about it, though. She was beautiful. From what he could see through the simple, semi-sheer robe, she had long, tapered legs and perfectly formed feet. There was the barest hint of darkness between her legs, and her breasts had dark tips.