The History of Dirt
"I know what this is," Scy said matter-of-factly. "I know exactly what we're digging up."
The Shoyru was sitting atop a mound of freshly dug dirt, on her fifth or sixth mandatory break of the day. Pausing a moment in his own digging, Arkri could see the handle of her shovel sticking out near the bottom of the mound, but otherwise the little hill was covered with dozens of dirty books.
"Oh yeah?" Arkri responded with a shrug and turned back to the hole he was creating. "And what's that?"
Scy did not immediately answer, but he didn't expect her to. Either she just enjoyed being a terrible tease or she was just absent minded enough that she could acknowledge his reply then immediately forget that she was supposed to respond in turn, the Lupe still wasn't sure. But he didn't think too much about it, instead deciding to just refocus on his digging.
Everyone had been surprised to find that he would be joining his sister in volunteering at the excavation. They considered that "playing around in the dirt" in Tyrannia of all places was beneath him somehow, as he normally spent his days in the various libraries of Neovia researching or attending high class functions and lectures. Arkri didn't quite understand why it was so difficult to see that looking at artifacts in books could not hold a candle to digging for them yourself. Certainly the excavation site was not a place to which he'd wear his best suit, but it was hardly "beneath him," or whatever it was that others thought.
His watch beeped and the Lupe climb out of his hole obediently. Time for another break. His sister was still sitting on her mound, apparently pouring over one of the many books she'd dug up that morning.
"Scy," Arkri said, leaning against his shovel with an amused smile. "What are we digging up then?"
"Eh?" The Shoyru looked at him. "Oh. Oh!" She made a face. "We're digging up the gravesite of the worst author in the history of history," she said.
Arkri laughed. "Is it really that bad?"
"Bro," she said. "It's called The History of DIRT." She held up the book, as if he wouldn't believe her. "And there are like a GAZILLION copies of it!"
"That's exaggerating a--"
"A GAZILLION, Arkri!" Scy insisted, standing up now. The dirt slid around her and books shifted. "And also a gazillion copies of Not-So-Disgusting Dung Uses, which is by the same author. Like, are you serious? No! Gross! Dung is always gross! Why in the world would anyone read this ever?"
Arkri started to reply, but Scy interrupted again.
"The answer is obviously NO ONE and no one did! Which is why there are two gazillion copies that no one wants, buried with the fool author who must have been filthy rich to have been able to not only print two gazillion copies of this garbage, but to get buried with a giant towering tomb, too, like he's going to rub in everyone's face that dung--"
"Scy," Arkri said. "Scy, Scy. Stop."
His sister gave him an annoyed look, but obliged. "What?"
The Lupe considered this for the briefest moment. Of course he didn't believe any part of Scy's theory, but he wasn't entirely sure how seriously she was taking herself either. She wasn't an especially sensitive Shoyru, but she was definitely an argumentative one, and he wasn't really interested in getting into an argument about the author of a gazillion copies of The History of Dirt.
"Your break's over," he said.
She stuck her tongue out at him. "I'm a volunteer, man. I can take as many breaks as I want! They're gonna yell at us that we've overstayed our dig for the day in a coupla hours anyway."
"Well, regardless, your theory is ludicrous," Arkri said decidedly, sitting down at the base of his own dirt mound and picking up a copy of The History of Dirt. "I'm sure it's a terribly dull book, but I'm also sure there's another reason we've found so many."
"Like what?" Scy grumbled, fluttering from her mound to pick up her shovel.
"Probably Tyrannians used this area as a dump at some point."
"And the monolith?"
"Different point in history," Arkri said with a shrug. "Probably way before all these books showed up here."
"Well, what do you think it is?"
The Lupe shrugged again. "That's what I'm here to find out, isn't it?"
Scy rolled her eyes and stuck the tip of her shovel into the dirt again, preparing to dig. "Academics," she muttered. "Not a shred of imagination."
Arkri started to protest, but hesitated. He had plenty of theories of his own, of course, but if he was perfectly honest, many were as far-fetched and silly as his sister's, and he didn't really want that fact pointed out for him. Many of his ideas he felt had perfectly sound logic, but that logic would not be obvious to someone like his sister, who, while very smart, had never been book smart.
Not a minute after she began digging, the ground began to rumble and shake. Arkri perked his ears and widened his eyes, "Aftershocks?"
Scy let go of her shovel and took to the air. Her dirt mound fell on itself and buried all the books she'd found. Nearby, other volunteers were crying out in surprise as they tripped mid-step, their tents collapsed, and small cracks formed in the ground. The reactions were clear all across the dig site, so the shaking was happening to everyone in the area, though she doubted that it was reaching the rest of Neopia as the initial quake had.
After a few minutes, the Shoyru descended from the sky and landed next to her brother. "Yeah, aftershock," she said. "Probably just the immediate area..." She tilted her head at Arkri, who looked rather shaken up. "You okay? Was it that bad?"
The Lupe sighed, then lifted a paw to massage his own shoulder. "Yeah, fine," he said. "It's weird not having anything to steady yourself against. I--"
"Hey! Look at this! Wow!"
Scy and Arkri turned their heads towards a small group of Bori a short distance away. The siblings gave each other a look, then shrugged and wandered over to them.
"What--" Scy started to ask, fluttering a few inches off the ground to look over the nearest Bori's shoulder. "Oh, are you kidding me?"
A long narrow crevice had split into the ground and the Bori were gathered around the widest section. The opening went down quite a ways, but with the mid-afternoon sun above them, Scy could see easily enough what lay inside the crack.
"What is it?" Arkri asked, looking over a different Bori's shoulders. His vision was weaker than hers in general, and the bright sun didn't help in his case, as his eyes were used to dim, candle-lit libraries.
A few of the Bori laughed and made space for him on the edge of the crack. Peering down, the Lupe saw probably several hundred copies of The History of Dirt, intermingled with another several hundred copies of Not-So-Disgusting Dung Uses. Here and there, there appeared to be books with other covers, along with the occasional broken bottle and dirty plush, but for the most part, it was books. A gazillion or two gazillion books.