Martin Fisman grew up unaware of life beyond the farm in Wiltshire. His life followed the seasons. One summer afternoon, in 1912, he was ploughing the high field when the ground gave way and he found himself in a dark dank chamber. Unbeknownst to Martin he had fallen into an undiscovered ancient barrow. For two days he felt his way around eventually finding a spot near a large stone, where he dug the soft earth. His rescue was treated as a miracle, toasted in the Swan on his birthday, but he never described the details, the strange skull he had felt, the deep sense of dread.
When war fever swept the nearby town, he found himself part of the enthusiastic group signing up for service in France. One cold bright morning, fifteen months after he landed, he pulled himself over the parapet and advanced into no man’s land, when a crack brought him to a halt. In seconds a fissure opened in the mangled earth and Martin slipped below, memories of that moment three years before overwhelming him as the soil filled his mouth.
In the hot summer of 1947, Michel Founmann turned his tractor for the final run. The parched crusted ground grumbled as the thick tyres bit into the surface before giving way, tipping the machine and throwing Michel into the newly revealed hole. Michel waited for the soil to swallow him yet, somehow the sides of the hole held long enough to allow Michel enough time to scramble free.
He sat on the ground, gathering his thoughts and wondering if he had imagined, poking from the earth, a man’s skeletal hands holding a skull out to him as if offering him a lucky charm.