As we watched her flicking away the soil with precision, working around the phalanges and metacarpals, I realised I was squeezing Tom’s fingers, feeling the dense matter beneath the skin, kneading his knuckle bones.
It was an interesting shape worn by the elements, but there was no cave, no treasure, and I sat in the hollowstaring down at the ant-like diggers in the olive grove below, kicking at the dust.
It was only five, or even six months later that I returned to Earth from my orbit and properly looked at him.
‘Lava,’ I said, pointing behind us towards a distant hazy spectre, its peak hidden beneath a bank of cloud. ‘Imagine the hiss when it first met the sea.’