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Mystery of Chedworth's 1,year-old Roman glass shard solved | Science | The Guardian

Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays. One of greatest tests of self-control is the ability to keep your eyes closed even after you wake up. When I came to I knew he was watching and listening to me, checking to see if I had awoken yet. The gag taped in my mouth forced me to breathe through my nose, which I did steadily. When he started making little sounds, I peeked out: My abductor, a geeky kid in his late teens, was wearing a poncho, a shower cap, and surgical gloves, prepped for my kill.

The chloroform he had gagged me with still lingered on my face. Only when I delicately pulled on my right wrist did I find I was shackled to the metal frame of my bed. I figured it was with my own handcuffs. With persistent turning—as he was preoccupied with something—I was slowly able to twist the plastic guard around the loose skin of my upper wrist. When I faintly opened my eyes, I realized he was reading the directions for smelling salt—he was just about to revive me. As motionless as death, I waited until he finally leaned in with the capsule of smelling salt. Then I grabbed him by his throat with my free hand and yanked him forward, slamming the top of my skull against his thin teenage forehead.

He fell backward, out cold. On the end table were his cell and a glass. I got knocked out in my own apartment and this guy is about to slice me up! Almost upon hanging up I heard the sirens. With my left hand still cuffed to the fucking mattress frame, I reviewed the facts: He had jumped me in my own apartment, clamping that chloroform-soaked rag over my mouth. Then he made the sophomore mistake every TV villain makes and instead of just offing me, he tried to exact some intricate revenge.

On the end table, I saw his half-empty water glass. I reached over and gulped the water down. I would tell him I had slammed this glass against his jaw and though it had cut up my hand, one slim shard had unfortunately darted into his jugular. Suddenly I heard the kid groaning, slowly coming to.

On our way back we bought the first catch from the fishermen and then hauled it all back to the inn on a rickety wheelbarrow. My mom didn't speak more than she had to, but I had been starved for conversation for months and my Japanese soon became fluent. The Satos had two boys, one six and the other about my age. On weekends, their father would take us out on his small rowboat and we would sit for hours, catching fish.

The boys had been afraid of me at first, but after a few weeks it seemed that they had forgotten I was a foreigner, let alone an American. Koichi and I would run around the island together, with Yuki tagging along behind when we let him. We found all of the island's secrets—the grottos with the best crabs, the beach with the deepest water, the cliff where you could sometimes see the humps of huge whales arcing above the waves at sunset and dawn. And then, one day, Koichi and I found the island's greatest secret of all.

It was sunset. Koichi and I scrambled in bare feet over the top of an unfamiliar cliff on the western side of the island. What's she going to say if you don't know any new words? So I taught him a few more: stone, cliff, beach, crab, adventure. He repeated them good-naturedly, and I tried to correct some of his pronunciation as we walked along the rock. I clapped my hands and laughed. She saves all of those for Yuki, the spoiled brat. I have to do your math homework, remember?

Koichi nodded, but he didn't move.

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His broad face had a curious look to it, as though he were staring at me through a tank of water. I shifted uncomfortably. He kissed me. Out of sheer surprise, I staggered backwards. Instead of hitting the rock, however, I fell through a hole.


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Koichi tumbled down on top of me. We untangled ourselves and looked around.

The cave was fairly large, considering its small, hidden opening. For a few moments the descending sun shone directly into the crevice, illuminating the back wall of the cave. It looked as though these people—whoever they were—had not been disturbed since they died. In one corner I saw a heap of pathetically tiny bones nestled near the ribcage of someone I could only assume had been its mother. My breath began sticking in my throat. Koichi looked at me. That strange fish-aquarium look had left his eyes. Now, inexplicably, I only saw anger.

Before I could even ask him what he meant, he picked up a jawbone and tossed it at my head. I caught the grisly token and watched him rush out of the cave. I should have followed him—I knew how dangerous it was to be stuck on the rocks after the sun had gone down—but I was angry and confused. I brooded for nearly an hour, until the sun had disappeared and the moon had come up to replace it.

I could smell the encroaching storm clouds, but still I didn't move. Who were these dead people that surrounded me? And then, when I heard the first distant rumble of thunder, I finally remembered how I could find out. For a long moment, nothing happened. Then, with an almost physical lurch, I was in a different world. A tall man stood in the mouth of the cave, carrying a paper lantern in one hand and a knife in the other. Three others huddled inside: a woman clutching a baby to her chest, and a little boy just about Yuki's age.


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The man looked out of the crevice, as though he was searching for something, and then turned back, shaking his head. We can't. She looked dazed with terror. They could miss us, couldn't they?

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We could just hide up here until they're gone, no one will find us—". The baby began to cry and the little boy held onto his mother's skirts, quietly snuffling.

A Thousand Shards of Glass

The man walked closer to the woman. What do you think the Americans will do to us when they get here? It's better for us to end it now, with dignity. Slowly, she nodded. He bent down to kiss her, and as he did so I saw him move the knife just above her heart. She leaned forward. It felt as though I were moving through a mountain of sand, but desperation and terror pushed me through. As the blood blossomed around the hilt of the blade and ran down the front of her kimono, she turned her head and met my eyes.

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Her voice was sad, but so calm it was incongruent with the blood and her screaming children. Why wake this up? The high-pitched screams of her children seemed to have receded—I could only hear the woman.