Fiction Historical Fiction

Good Bones

“It’s a girl!” announces Dr. Jones. “Or rather, a woman.” 

The mottled remains, painstakingly arranged by his team, lay against fresh white paper; yellowish-brown cantles of humanity, poised to give up their secrets to the renowned forensic anthropologist.

“Some of the most critical bones are here. They will tell us a story!” Dr. Jones beams, rubbing his hands together. “Due to the burial method and environmental circumstances, they are in astonishingly good condition.” 

“Come closer,” he beckons. “You see this? Tony, zoom in just here… We can determine that the specimen is most likely female, because the pelvic bones are thinner and lighter. Observe the inlet; it’s wider and rounder than a male’s would be, to accommodate childbirth. Rachel, take a measurement, please.”

Rachel uses the calipers and reads the value aloud. Dr. Jones nods while continuing his assessment.

“The cranial sutures are closed… significant wear here… overdeveloped humerus, particularly on the left side. She was most likely above the age of twenty-five, possibly as old as forty at time of death.”

“Lacey, did you get that measurement? Read it back to me,” Rachel directs. She doesn’t quite trust the intern. Cute little airhead seems unfit for any sort of scientific endeavor. Rachel thinks back to the day they learned of Dr. Jones being summoned to the site.

“He’s going to need help. Are you up to it?”

“Where do we go?”


“Georgia? What part?” Lacey’s eyes widened.

“Batumi,” Rachel answered curtly. Any archeology student—even the rankest beginner—should know about the extraordinary find. 

Lacey wrinkled her snub nose, a puzzled crease drawing her perfect eyebrows together. “I’m from Savannah,” she drawled, “and I never heard of Batumi!” 

Rachel opened her mouth, took a deep breath—and changed what she’d been about to say. She reminded herself that Lacey had only just started the program. And that geography wasn’t being taught much anymore. As a postgraduate student, Rachel had been given a position of responsibility. She needed to exercise patience. 

“Georgia, the country.” 

Lacey looked blank.

“Caucasus. Black Sea. Eastern Europe…?” Rachel offered. 

“Oh. Oh. That Georgia. Yeah, OK.” Lacey gave a perky nod, setting her high ponytail aswing.  Clearly, she had no clue where it was. Rachel sighed. 

“Don’t worry about it. You’ll soon find out. We’re about to have an up-close and personal experience with Batumi.”

“So… this Professor Doo-valley? Who’s he?”

Rachel held her eye-rolling muscles under control. The italic speech was another matter.

Dvali,” she said, with clenched teeth and thinning patience. “She. Is an anthropologist. A very famous one. The ancient people of Georgia are her passion. A well-publicized, highly acclaimed documentary aired last year about her work, called ‘Good Bones’... You haven’t seen it?” 

Lacey shrugged. “Never heard of it.”

“Well, I suggest,” Rachel replied tightly, “that you make yourself familiar with it before the trip.”

Granted, Rachel herself may have been inordinately interested in the work of the iconic anthropologist. She had lost count of the number of times she’d seen ‘Good Bones’. But that didn’t give Lacey a pass. 

And now, here is Rachel, living her dream on a hillock along the Karolitskhali River. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, and will look really good on her CV.  But beyond that, it’s such a thrill to be present at this remarkable site, in collaboration with Professor Dvali—recording the most private details of an ancient woman. 

A peculiar feeling comes over her. She shivers a bit. Gran would have said, “Somebody’s walking on your grave.” How apt! Rachel thinks, briskly rubbing the goose pimples on her arms. Would she want someone in the future digging up her body, studying her bones?

Would this woman have wanted that? Who was she, really?


“A girl,” Bebia Sofiko announced, placing the newborn in Eteri’s outstretched arms.

“Aka,” whispered the new mother into her daughter’s ear. Innocent.

Zviad, she knew, had hoped for a boy—but he was instantly smitten by his baby girl. 

“She is as beautiful as her mother,” he told Eteri, smiling tenderly at the two of them.


“Rachel…?” Dr. Jones is looking expectantly at his top assistant.

She gives herself a mental shaking. Here I was, criticizing Lacey for not being aware—and I’m lost in a daydream. Imagining an entire family.

“Sorry! Repeat that, please?”

“Are you feeling unwell?” Dr. Jones looks at her with concern. “You seem bothered by something.”

“I’m fine. Just spaced out for a sec there. Sorry!” she repeats.

“Are you sure?” He peers over his glasses at her. She gives a quick, businesslike nod. “All right then. Prepare a specimen tube. We’re going to send these fragments for analysis.”

After a busy day, Rachel usually drops right off to sleep. But tonight her mind won’t settle down. She allows it to wander back to the woman whose bones she had touched today. Bones that could tell just part of her story. 


“I’m ready to go back to the fields with you,” Eteri decided. 

“Are you sure? It’s hard work, and you need to look after the baby.”

“Oh, I’ve woven this cozy basket from chestnut bark. Look! She can sit in it and watch us working the land. Never too early to learn!”

Three cycles of the moon came and went. One day, Eteri noticed Aka watching her with a steady gaze, over the rim of her basket. There’s something odd about her eyes, she realized uneasily.  The child was healthy, yes. An easy baby, content as long as one of her parents was in view. She could certainly see—but… 

Unable to put her impression into words, Eteri said nothing to Zviad and tried to forget the uncomfortable feeling. Perhaps whatever it was, would go away as the baby grew. She didn’t realize that Zviad was also keeping something from her—his own concern that there was something wrong with their firstborn. So they watched, and they worried, and they waited.


Professor Dvali has invited Dr. Jones and his team to spend some time at the dig site. Through watching the documentary, Rachel had felt as if she already knew the woman. But she finds that she wasn’t quite prepared for this larger-than-life character. 

“Absorb the atmosphere of the site!” the professor nearly bellows. “Get the feeling of the place where our khatuna lived her life. That’s the Georgian for lady, or woman. Oh—We haven’t named her yet. Anybody got a suggestion?”

Rachel raises a hand. “Aka.”

“Perfect!” Professor Dvali beams. “Aka she is. Innocent.”


Time passed. A cycle of seasons, and another half-cycle. When Bebia Sofiko came to assist in the birth of the second baby, Aka’s unwavering regard caught her attention.

“That child’s eyes!” the wise old midwife murmured. “I’ve never seen such a color. Like sage leaves.”

“Is that bad, or good? Do you think she’s—abnormal?”

“I don’t know.” Bebia Sofiko gave a side glance at Eteri, in time to see her shiver. “Somebody walked over your tomb?”

“I just—” Eteri rubbed her arms to take away the sudden chill. “Bebia, do you think she has a sickness in her eyes? I want my beautiful girl to be all right!”

The old woman paused, and then answered enigmatically,

“She looks to me as if—she holds great knowledge… But time will tell. Time will tell. Now, let’s get this little boy cleaned up.”


Now it’s Dr. Jones’ turn to extend an invitation. 

“The DNA results are in! Join us at the lab. We hope to confirm and expand on what we’ve already determined from my examination.”

“We’ll be there!” booms Professor Dvali. 

Dr. Jones pockets his phone, chuckles, and pulls at his ear.

“Wonderful woman,” he says. 

Professor Dvali arrives, shepherding her team like a kindergarten teacher with a group of five-year-olds. “Come on, let’s see what we can learn from Dr. Jones!”

Rachel is conflicted. It’s beyond exciting to participate in this experience, but she’s become attached to the idea of Aka as a person. In her mind, this collection of bones has become a woman again. A woman who must have been, once upon a time, a child—who played along the banks of the Karolitskhali River. Who, perhaps, grew up to have her own family. It feels intrusive, probing the secrets of her bones. Breaching the shroud of mystery that covers the past. But then, as Rachel listens to Dr. Jones explain the test results, she’s captivated by the idea of learning more. 

“These are indeed the skeletal remains of a woman. Aka, as Rachel has named her, seems to have done a lot of physical work, and would have likely had very strong arms. But the most interesting result tells us something about what she looked like. She probably had brown hair and green eyes.”

The picture is filling in. Aka’s story needs to be told, and Rachel feels compelled to tell it.


As Aka grew, her parents put aside the worry. They learned that the thoughts behind those green eyes were as deep as the river. 

“What did I tell you?” Bebia Sofiko declared, forgetting her former uncertainty. “There’s nothing wrong. We don’t understand why, but these differences happen in nature from time to time.” 

It was true. They had seen Potskhveri, the stealthy lynx, with her cubs. One had the usual golden coloring, and the other was white. 

Like the lynx cubs, their two children were very different. Mgeli, as loud as Aka was quiet, was always on the move. His eyes, colored like a sun-dappled lark’s wing, twinkled with mischief. The one thing that could hold his attention was a story from his sister. 

“Aka, my big girl, go with Mgeli to the river and tell him a story. I need a little quiet time to get the baby to sleep.” 

As they played at the edge of the river, they saw the shadowy forms of small fish flitting through the water. 

“Look, Mgeli! There’s Deda Tevzi. Mama Fish, with her children. Do you want to hear a story about them?”

“Yes! Yes! And K’u, too!” His small finger pointed to the bashful turtle who liked to sun himself on the flat rocks. K’u slipped off into the depths and disappeared.

Aka didn’t know where they came from, these tales she told. She just knew them in her bones—the stories of Deda Tevzi and K’u. Also Potskhveri the lynx. And Arts’ivi the swooping eagle, who sometimes got away with one of Deda Tevzi’s children. 

“Aka!” complained Mgeli. “You’re just thinking inside your head again! Tell me a story.”

“Hmmm…” Aka hesitated. “How do stories get inside my head? It’s as if someone puts them there. Mgeli… What if we’re not real? What if we are made up  people in someone else’s story?”

Mgeli giggled. “Tell me that story, Aka!”


Rachel sits up late, typing out the story as Aka tells it. 


July 29, 2023 01:39

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Amanda Lieser
13:27 Aug 25, 2023

Hi Cindy! What a brilliant use of POV for this story. I loved the way you reminded me of my time studying anthropology as a freshman in college. It was a truly fascinating course. The way you chose to bring life to both women for this tale was epic and you did a masterful job at transporting us back in time. Nice work!!


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09:09 Aug 15, 2023

I like this story so much. It's catchy and mysterious and infused with...charm, I guess? I don't know, there is something about it, stories with a double timeline have always interested me. I also like the cultural aspects your story explores, superstitions, traditions, a little bit of linguistic exploration too. And I love that it makes me think of a collective consciousness, maybe even reincarnation, who knows? It poses some nice questions about the writing process and how we get to where we're going with our drafts, I guess. I am not a f...


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Mary Bendickson
17:24 Jul 29, 2023

Charming story so far. Lots of intrique.


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