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Chills zapped down Amelia’s spine. She snapped her head around, expecting someone to be standing right behind her, peering over her shoulder and whispering in her ear. No one was there. Her colleagues had deserted the excavation site several hours ago.
She had felt a whoosh of wind on her neck, but not one leaf moved on the tree silhouetted against the full moon.
Do not open it, Ameliaa…
The words were whispered in a myriad of alien, raspy voices overlapping each other. They stopped her in her tracks, making the hairs on her nape stand and her heart pound. Maybe one of her colleagues had remained behind to play a prank on her, she thought. She wished.
But the whispers came from beneath the ground, beyond the square trench she herself had dug. Amelia heard the voices in her head, but she was drawn to their origin. She knew they came from underneath. She felt them pulling her towards the trench.
She froze on the spot, unable to calm her pounding heart. After a few moments of deep breathing, she hesitantly stepped towards the trench, a trowel and brush grasped tightly in her dainty hand.
She admonished herself — she was a scientist and needed to pull herself together. Gulping down her uncertainty, she kneeled and continued digging in the same spot where the ground radar had found an object.
The voices were more intense this time, a warning but simultaneously a lure, compelling her to know more, to solve the mystery. Amelia brushed a lock of curly black hair off her face with the back of her hand, leaving a trail of dust smudged on her high cheeks.
Do not open it, Ameliaaa… The ghostly, drawling whispers trailed off with a raspy chortle.
Amelia’s brows snapped into a frown. A gasp escaped her lips at what followed next — a solemn voice that cut through the mocking whispers.
It’s a trap. Mind games to lure the rebel. Do not give in to their taunt. Do not open it.
Chilly taunts of ghosts she was getting used to, but the dead serious yet pleading voice of a woman she was not.
Her trowel clanged on a metallic object. She ditched the trowel and plowed with her hands. She clawed into the hole as hard as she could, the mound of dirt beside her growing.
When she glimpsed the top of the artifact, her impatience grew. She wanted to continue digging furiously with her bare hands, but she picked up her miniature brush instead.
As she conscientiously brushed grit and dust off the surface of the artifact, intricate glyphs surfaced, which she recognized as ancient Greek.
After hours of painstakingly moving dirt with a minuscule brush, she was exhausted. But she persisted until she held in her gloved palm a small metallic chest. It wasn’t rusted and beaten down as she had expected, but fully intact. It was decorated with engravings of symbols on all the sides as if it held great treasures inside.
She ignored the taunting voices. The artifact now lay on her workbench, in the temporary lab they had erected adjacent to the excavation site. It waited to be cataloged, her fingers hovering above the keyboard. She contemplated the implications of getting the other archaeologists involved.
Would they believe she heard voices in her head, which she believed came from the artifact? Did she believe it herself? Would they hear the warnings too? Or open it right away? She couldn’t risk it being opened just yet. Whatever it was, she needed to examine it further, to collect more data before deciding what to do with it.
Moonlight shone through the slit in the tent as she worked. The more she probed and prodded, the less sure she became about its contents. No radioactive signatures and no chemical residues on the chest that identified the contents.
Ameliaaaaa… to open or not to open?
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