The Artifact

(Trigger warning: this story mentions suicide)

My dearest Elaine,

This letter may be short, as I am unsure of my remaining hours. Even now, my desire for death is so great that it seems inevitable. I’ve locked myself in my quarters in hopes of staving off these impulses, but I know that these may be the last words I ever write.

My only regret in life is leaving you behind. I was young and foolish and believed that joining this crew was an opportunity I could not miss. I planned to earn enough money, maybe even a captaincy, before returning to you. I wanted you to be proud of my accomplishments, and I wanted us to have a strong foundation for our future.

Sadly, neither of those things shall be. Not since we found the Artifact.

We were in the doldrums just outside the Bermuda waters, and some of the crew threw over a fishing net in hopes of catching fish and alleviating the boredom. When they pulled it up, among the writhing snapper sat a smooth box of medium size, made of an unknown metal that had faint carvings along every surface. The crew passed it around, but no one could decipher the markings. Captain Meyers decided to take it to port once the wind picked up.

Meyers handed it to the boatswain to stow it away, and we thought nothing more of it.

That night, the boatswain began acting strangely. We had lined up for dinner, and he kept twitching and swatting at something we couldn’t see. I went up to him.
“Are you alright?”
His eyes were wild as he gazed through me.
“They want my eyes. They want to see. I’ll not let them use my eyes.”

He grabbed a knife from the fish tray and jammed it into his eye before we could stop him. The first Mate pronounced him dead, and we buried him at sea. Only I carry his last words.

That was just the beginning. The following day, Captain Meyers brought the Artifact from his cabin and set it atop the helm. He seemed to be talking to it as I quietly approached. He turned to me.

“Do you hear their whispers, Edward? They’re always whispering to us, and we must obey.”
“Who’s whispering? Why must we obey?”
Meyers smiled. “Listen to the whispers. They’ll tell you what they need.”

He cradled the Artifact in his arms like a babe and walked back into his cabin, where he spent the remainder of the day. When the cook rang for supper, the First Mate knocked on the cabin door. After receiving no answer, he entered and found Captain Meyers hanging from the rafters. The Artifact lay at the captain’s feet, and the First Mate moved it aside as he released Meyers from his noose. We buried him at sea. Only I carry his last words.

One by one, my crewmates succumbed to the whispers. I tried to reason with them; tried to break them from their trances, but to no avail. When asked why they harmed themselves, all the answers were the same.

“They command it.”

I don’t know who “they” are, nor what they want with the blood and lives of these men, but I know the Artifact has something to do with it. The only reason “they” didn’t control me was because I refused to touch it. But, once I was the last man alive on this ship, I knew I had to examine it.

Elaine, this artifact does not come from the Earth. The markings are different now- they pulse with a dim glow that puts me in mind of the jellyfish we watched from the pier last summer. Do you remember those jellyfish, Elaine? I do.
While pulsing, the markings swirled and twisted in unnatural ways. I could feel myself falling under the same trance as my shipmates, and I quickly covered the artifact with a cloth. While that kept the trance at bay, I had given “them” a gateway into my mind.

They’re talking to me, Elaine. Telling me to give my life for them as an act of worship, but I dare not. I see their faces when I close my eyes- terrible masses of eyes and teeth all writhing within a dark void. I’ll not give my life in worship of those creatures.

I’ll hold out for as long as I can.

Forgive me, Elaine. I never meant to abandon you like this, but I dare not risk coming home while “they” are in my head. I’ve taken the artifact and locked it away, and I’ll remain in my cabin until my time is over. Please do not wait for me; I give you my blessing to find another to call your own.

For now, know that I am faithfully yours until my dying breath.

Sincerely,
Edward

2 thoughts on “The Artifact

  1. This was quite exciting but the ending felt a bit anti-climatic. Most stories are too long; this one felt too short (note: I mean this as a compliment!). Agree with Ramona, would like to read what happens next.

    Like

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