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His ribs became deep, earthen fissures.

They find him mid-crouch. Clutching something, now lost.

His throat constricted and became a great oak.

This one is unlike the others in the dig, from just two kilometres down the old, dried canal. Well, what's left of him. Anterior dig supervisors make only superficial examination, but enough to make certain.

His ichor became corrosive seepage. His fingers became hundred-meter-long vines, wrapped about. His teeth became shards.

After six days of excavation, they breach the skin on his chest. It takes a fortnight to slice into the first rib.

His bone marrow was missing.

The marrow is missing. Scraps dot the sides, rotten, hardened. Something's been to it first. But the rib structure is circuitous, twisting at mind-numbing angles that diverge into smaller, and smaller spaces. It's too familiar. It's wrong.

The large dig equipment, 1,300 tons, can't fit inside; the warden orders the labourers to dig fifteen metres down and to the left, from near the pelvis.

His ilium cowered, and receded; now, bleached bone, though carved by willowed claws.

Funds dwindle, but no matter — sixty thirsty and desperate men run the machinery without cease, eighteen hours in, with sores on their palms and pores caked chemical-thick in mud and sharp mineral.

The warden wrenches off his sweat-soaked cap, tossing it in the pit. He curses. The hire-ups hold the shirts on each man's back and all the equipment under the hot noon sun under lien, tied to their lives.

His toenails became dead black roots wrenching under the water table, deep into solid rock.

The dig continues.

Thirty-six hours now. The pit burrows a hundred meters deep. LIDAR systems splutter and shoot back confusing data. All useless. Crowded workers, the thirsty ones, the ones piloting endless machinery from topside — they trust their guts. They don't trust the ones in the pit. A murmuring insurrection breaches surface tension. They cast dark, askew brows at the men below, and finally, the men atop turn. They dig, into the side of the pit.

Upturned dirt buries one man, and crushes him, and muffles his screams, and then, he's no longer there.

His head crushed.

The dig must continue — and it does, and soon, they reach the heart. And after seventy-two hours, ancient subterranean fumes alone spur them on.

The warden should be proud, but he looks away. He's gaunt. He looks a hundred years older than when they started. He hadn't stepped a foot into the worksite, not an inch away from his spot since the first daybreak, but he looks more weathered now than the men in the pit. Even the veterans, tied to the company for decades.

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