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Andrew Gudgel

Catalog For A Dead Planet

by Andrew Gudgel

Notice of an Auction of the Estate of Evelyn Chen-Ortiz

Auction Date: May 23, 3985, 1600-2100 hours. Preview May 21 and 22, 1200-1700 each day.

Location: Hillis Auctions, 567 Main Street, Suites 16a-c, Milwaukee, Republic of Wisconsin.  Map.  Directions.  Contact.

All items obtained off-world warranted to have passed through certified biological and/or radiological decontamination. All sales subject to a 15% buyer’s premium plus applicable taxes.

The highlight of this Auction is a collection of artifacts discovered on January (Beta Aquarii V) by John Barron Chen as part of his initial, privately-funded exploration of the planet (3880-3882). The following objects were part of Chen’s personal collection until his death in 3919 and have remained in the family until now. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own one or more of the only items from January still in private hands, and provenance documents signed by the Chen-Ortiz family will be provided for any item upon request. Please note that export of these items to countries not signatories of the UN Convention on Interstellar Artifacts is prohibited, documentation notwithstanding.

Lot No. 44 — Description: Chinese-style Beitie stone rubbing of a frieze in the “Temple of Two Monsters.” Framed, 1.0 meters wide by 2.0 meters long. Produced by Chen himself using Terran paper and Chinese calligraphy ink. Scene depicts rows of Januarians, first two pairs of forelimbs upraised, flanking an altar (?) upon which is heaped a possible food offering. Incised lines reach down from a sphere, perhaps indicating fire or divine power appearing above the offering. Estimate: 10000-12500 Standard Units.

Lot No. 72 — Description: Caftan 2.4435 meters long, 0.613 meters wide including sleeves, made of a blue synthetic polymer similar to nylon with quilted-in patches of unknown gray animal skin. Believed to be a ceremonial robe for clan gatherings or possibly clerical garb, as this artifact was removed from a single individual found facing a “congregation” of other individuals in a small building near the center of the city, believed to be a social hall or small temple. (Nomura’s theory that the garment is a cooking apron is unlikely, due to the low melting point and flammability of the synthetic cloth used in this item’s manufacture.) Other examples contain quilted-in material, but the use of animal skin in this caftan is unique. Estimate: 25000-35000 Standard Units.

Lot No. 93 — Description: Pair of Tannoak seeds. Identification of the plant that produced these seeds is tentatively accepted from iconography in multiple temple friezes. Found together, the wear patterns on the surface of each seed and the purposeful treatment with multiple coats of lipids indicate they may have been rolled against one another as the Januarian equivalent of stress balls or worry beads. Biochemical examination reveals that neither seed is viable. This is likely due to the sterilizing effects of gamma-ray pulsar PSR Q2132-0535 which passed through the Beta Aquarii system approximately 500 years ago. Estimate: 5000-10000 Standard Units.

Lot No. 98 – A “Singing Crystal.” Description: A single 1.629cm x 1.629cm x 1.629cm, slightly cloudy, off-white crystal composed of over 21 discrete chemical elements. Scanning the crystal with blue laser light between 4250 and 4500 angstroms produces exitons and polaritons which, as they collapse, produce an acoustic phenomenon described by Lauren Wilkerson, expedition xenotechnologist, as sounding like “a combination of chimes and a gently babbling stream.” Evidence of atomic-level manufacture indicates the object had some other primary/secondary purpose, perhaps data storage. Estimate: 35000-50000 Standard Units.

Lot No. 102 – “The First Skull.” Description: Skull of a Januarian in sapphire-glass case with rosewood base and brass mounts. This is the original object collected by Chen himself in the Necropolis. Sealed in shatterproof sapphire-glass and stored in a Carbon Dioxide/Nitrogen mixture that simulates the atmosphere of January to prevent degradation of the bone through oxidation. Prominent “Chief Ridges” located between the central and lateral eye sockets and the oral grinding plates indicate what is believed to be the status/mating hierarchy of the individual within the social collective. The rosewood base and brass mounts were added by Chen the year after his return to Earth. Estimate: 100000-150000 Standard Units.

Lot No. 204 — Description: Two Codices written in an undeciphered Januarian script. Both items roughly 22.5cm by 30cm. The first codex is hand-written on 162 folded and linked panels of a thick paper made of organic material and bound in wooden boards. Carbon dating adjusted for Januarian historical CO2 uptake rates and conducted after the item’s return to Earth indicates a manufacture date of approximately 650 years before the exploration of January. Rubrication of initial letters in each “chapter” and the general quality of both materials and workmanship further suggest the codex was a religious text, possibly either a family heirloom or a collector’s item. Codex includes a later, tipped-in illustration of two suns—one violet-black, one yellow—rising over a mountain range, possibly a representation of PSR Q2123-0535’s passage through the stellar system. The second codex consists of nine folded and linked panels machine-printed on a thin paper of synthetic fibers. Illustrations inside suggest it may be a user’s manual for a piece of communications technology not yet discovered. Estimate: 20000-35000 Standard Units.

Lot No. 208 — Description: A doll. Made of a green and black organic cloth 0.4 meters long with three black glass beads for eyes. One bead “eye” unlike the others, likely a later replacement. The individual depicted appears to be an idealized, non-gendered Januarian as fore- and hind-limb pairs terminate only in rounded “hands” and “feet.” Fabric well-worn (well loved?) with some fading of the dyes and dirt stains on the soles of the hind limbs. Roughly two-centimeter repair on belly, possibly the owner’s handiwork, using black synthetic thread. Removed from a small, unmarked grave just outside the entrance to the Necropolis. Estimate: 2500-5000 Standard Units.

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Bio:

Andrew Gudgel is a freelance writer and translator. His fiction has appeared at Writers of the Future, Flash Fiction Online, Escape Pod, InterGalactic Medicine Show and other publications. He lives in Maryland, USA, in an apartment slowly being consumed by books. You can find him at www.andrewgudgel.com.