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Length: Short Story (4489 words)
Genre: Sci-fi Fantasy
Publisher: Phos Press
Publication Date: December 3, 2022
For fans of Greek mythology and world ending stakes, Pandora’s tale retold from the perspective of someone who celebrates curiosity rather than demonizes it!
“A cry of rebellion, one that she recognized as her own, rose inside her head, cutting through the ghostly whispers. A desperate cry that urged her to open whatever it was that they did not want her to open.”
Amelia unearths a thrilling artifact at an archaeological dig. Alas, it plagues her mind and she is compelled to open it to preserve her sanity. But the voices in her head warn her not to, lest she release the worst evils upon the world!
Will she dare to open Pandora’s box to save herself? Would you?
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.
A gust of wind prickled her neck. A tree silhouette stood still against the full moon, leaves unmoving.
Do not open it…
The words were whispered in a myriad of raspy voices overlapping each other. She froze, the hairs on her nape standing up and her heart pounding.
Maybe one of her colleagues had remained behind to play a prank on her, she thought. She wished.
Amelia heard the voices in her head. She felt a strange attraction towards the source of the voices. Inhaling deeply, she hesitantly stepped forward, 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 she had been digging for the past few days.
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, nevertheless 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 that reverberated in her head. She clutched her temples in an attempt to stop it. A cry of rebellion, one that she recognized as her own, rose inside her head, cutting through the ghostly whispers. A desperate cry that urged her to open whatever it was that they did not want her to open.
Her brows drew into a tight frown and she gasped at what followed next. It was a solemn voice that cut through the mocking voices.
It’s a trap. Mind games, using your rebellion against you. They want you to open it, please do not.
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 it and plowed with her hands. She clawed into the hole as hard as she could, the mound of dirt beside her growing. The tip of an artifact peeked out of the ground, feeding her impatience further.
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. She recognized them as ancient Greek.
After hours of painstakingly moving dirt with a minuscule brush, she was exhausted. But she persisted until she held in her palm a small metallic chest. It was not 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? Did she believe it herself? Would they hear the warnings too? Or open it right away? She could not 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. She could find no traces of radioactive signatures or chemical residues that could identify the contents of the chest.
Ameliaaaaa… to open or not to open?
The ghostly murmurs taunted her again, but she carried on inspecting the chest. She figured that the lid must be jammed shut with rust and corrosion. Curious, she lifted the latch, expecting it not to budge, but it flew up without resistance. When she gave the lip of the chest the gentlest push upward with her thumb, it creaked. She halted and pressed down until the lid clicked back into place.
She had not expected it to operate as smoothly as if it was new. The rest of the night she tried to ignore the ghostly murmurs and performed a series of analytical tests on it, careful not to open it accidentally.
As twilight awakened her, she realized the whispers had eventually tormented her to sleep, circling the lab as if carried on currents of its air conditioning.
She slipped the chest into a leather satchel bag ever so carefully, cleared off her work bench and rushed out of the lab before her colleagues returned on site. She had met a dead end.
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