Anna went back into the dig. She was sick of the lead archaeologist telling her what she did and didn’t know. She knew how to work a dig. She knew what had to happen and when. She knew that her eight years of experience wasn’t quite the same as his, but it was still enough to manage this dig. She also knew that this was his last straw with the University he worked at. He was being lent out for this dig. He’d spent most of the time on his phone trying to get back to the University.
Anna hated him almost as much as she enjoyed laughing at him. She tripped on the way back to the site, and refocused herself. They did have a rather unique problem. The sonar they had used to find where to dig had showed a few items of great interest. In some thick sediment there had been items showing up from too many different locations around the world. Now that they were well beyond the depth that the sonar read the items, there still wasn’t anything showing up.
She went down to the lead operator. He was walking all over the site again, at the new depth. He was scratching his head, and she thought it looked like he had actually torn some hair out.
“Anna, it’s all here. The sonar is reading it right below us. The Egyptian staff, the Syrian vases, the Chinese sword, and I swear that there’s something Iroquois down here too. The problem is, it’s reading at the same depth that we read before the dig started. Anna, I just don’t know what to do. I just don’t understand what’s going on.” He wandered off muttering more of the same and she went back to examine what they did pull out.
Mostly rocks. A few minor artifacts from the local area. Nothing of any real note. It seem that there was a skull that they dug up. It didn’t have a matching body anywhere on the site. She picked it up out of idle curiosity. It didn’t look like it was that old. Maybe only a thousand years, at most.
“Take it with you, you can examine it more on your own time.”
“Sure,” Anna responded without looking up. “Hey, when you go back to-” When she did look up she didn’t see anyone nearby. “That’s strange.” She murmured. She went back to her tent and looked over the skull some more.
“Anna!” Someone was running up t her tent. “Anna, we’re packing up.” It was one of the assistant’s to the man in charge.
“What do you mean?”
“New orders from the top. We’re heading out. Tickets will be waiting for us. If you want to spend a couple days, you’ve got ’til Friday.” The assistant poked his head in. “Whoa, you better put that back or hide it. Jack’s on a rampage about making sure every piece from the dig gets put back where it was found. He wants to take some pictures or something.”
Anna looked at the skull. She heard the assistant say,
“Oh, it’s just that. Nevermind, he’s not going to miss that.”
Anna looked up again and the man had gone. She shrugged and put the skull into her pack. When she got back out to the site the sonar operator was sitting by his machine, hitting it, pointing it at the sky, at trees, at people, just about anything that he walked by. He was also carrying a beer.
“What happened?” Anna asked him as he looked at her through the sonar monitor.
“Well, the images disappeared. It turns out this thing is useless. Sure its working now, but apparently it hasn’t been working for the past month.” He wandered off looking at the sonar monitor and downing the beer.
Anna walked over to the main area of the site. Jack had people putting the various objects into strange order. When she walked over to see it from his perspective she saw what he was doing. Everything was being put into an order that would show that the sonar had been tricked.
She walked away before she started laughing.
“Anna, wasn’t there a skull in the mix? I thought I saw a skull earlier.” Jack didn’t bother looking at her, he just spoke and expected her to listen. She was so pissed she just stormed back to her tent.
When she got there she screamed. She had had enough of that moron. She wasn’t even going to take the skull back. She thought about breaking it just to spite him and then throwing the pieces at him.
“Anna? I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you.” It was Jack outside her tent. “I got all the shots I need, it’s ok, I don’t need the skull. I just want you to have a relaxing rest of your day, and enjoy your stay here. I’m heading back ahead of everyone else, but I’m going to put in a good word for you. No need to thank me. I’ll see you back state-side.” Anna stood stunned. She walked up to the flap of her tent and stood there for a minute before looking out. He had already gone at that point. She went back in and sat down to think for a while. This was a side of him that she hadn’t seen before. She considered going to thank him. He was not usually the social type, though, so she decided to get him a card instead when she got back home.
She packed up her things ad got her tent in order. They may or may not be heading out that same day, but she was ready to go home and relax. She packed the skull deep in her pack along with a few other things she didn’t really want to explain, and then went out to find a place to have a drink.
It had been a long dig. It hadn’t been so long in terms of weeks, but it had been rather long in terms of nerves and stress. She sat down at a local pub and ordered something light and cold. She took the time to relax, then went back to her tent, which was already being taken down, and got her things together.
Jack walked past her without even looking at her. She thought that was odd, but figured he was trying to keep up appearances. She directed her things to be loaded onto the truck that was going to the airport and then got into a good seat for the ride there. It was rather uneventful. The trip was smooth. The flight home didn’t even run into any turbulence. She picked up her bags and managed to say goodbye to everyone that had taken the trip with her and then started to find a way to get everything home.
She tipped the driver of her cab and proceeded to get everything into her apt. It was a long walk up all the flights of stairs and she was tired from the long journey home. Just then one of her neighbors walked down the stairs.
“Looks likes a lot.” She heard him say.
“It is a lot, and only a few flights of stairs to get them up.” She was unsure whether he meant he was going to help, but she thought she’d throw out a line and see if he took it.
“Hmm? Oh yeah. You’re up on the third floor right? I’ve got a few minutes, let me take one of those.” He shouldered a bag and helped her up the steps.
“Thank you, it’s very kind of you. I just got back from another dig.” He was one of the guys on the fourth floor, if she remembered correctly. They had said ‘hi’ once or twice in passing, but never really spoken before.
“A dig? You’re an archaeologist?” He was walking just in front of her.
“An archaeologist is exactly what I am. Well, it will be when I finish my degree. I’ve only got a few months left.”
“That’s great.” He seemed to be changing his tone almost every sentence. ‘He might be cute, but this guy is a little weird.’ She thought.
They got to her door and he dropped the bag.
“Anything else?” He stopped and waited for her reply. He had an odd look on his face.
“Nope, nothing else thanks.” ‘What does he want?’ Anna waved as he went back down the stairs before she stopped pretending to look for her keys in her purse. When she got into her apartment she drew a warm bath and just relaxed before unpacking.
The next morning at the University, Anna went about her usual work. Cataloging all the things on the dig. She forgot the skull that had made its way into her pack. Not much happened that day. On her way out she ran into a few of the other people finishing up the degree for archeology.
“Anna, how did the dig go? We heard it was a failure, that the sonar picked up false readings. I’ve never heard of that before!” Rick walked sauntered up. He was older than Anna and had been working on the degree for a year longer than herself, though she was closer to finishing than he was.
“Hey Rick, yeah it was weird. The guy on the machine just gave up after a while. He started scanning everything around the site to see what it would pick up. We were sent home early, I have no idea what Jack did after coming back. I bet he has a lot of explaining to do.” She walked out of the building with Rick and the two others, Jessica and Randolph. They had just started the previous year and were still getting used to all the work.
“What do you think will happen?” Jessica was always asking the most innocent questions, but sometimes Anna thought she knew more than she let on.
“He’ll have to write up something that explains why the sonar turned up false readings, I suspect.” Anna kept on walking, Jessica was walking behind her and Rick.
“That’d be fun to read I bet.” Randolph was more confident than Jessica. He had gotten into the program though a family member. He knew a lot about the work, maybe even grew up near digs, but he got annoying sometimes.
Anna fished around in her bag to find her bus card. She had forgotten that the skull was still in there. She had meant to take another look at it that day with some better equipment, but it had slipped her mind.
“Well, I’ve got to head downtown for a while tonight, but we should get lunch tomorrow. I want to hear all about it.” Rick walked off and waved to everyone. Jessica and Randolph waved back and Anna said something agreeable and walked to the bus stop. Randolph had a car, so he went to the parking lot. Jessica went tot he bus stop with Anna.
“What do you think the head of the department will say about the sonar malfunctioning?” Jessica was still standing behind Anna.
“Oh, I didn’t see you. The department head won’t say much to Jack. Since he isn’t part of the University, they can’t do much more than complain about a wasted trip, he did pay for a lot of it out of his own pocket. He was going to credit the school with the discovery of the site, but now, I don’t know exactly what they’ll do.” Anna thought Jessica was acting a little strange. They rarely ever talked, and now she seemed to be opening up to her over a failed trip. She wasn’t sure how to take it.
“Oh,” Jessica just stared at the road, occasionally looking for her bus.
“I guess they won’t ask about what was found then.”
“Um, yeah, they’ll ask about the things we found, but there will be written inquiries mostly. Jack doesn’t have the reputation for standing and defending himself. He’ll send a list to them with a basic catalog I bet.” Anna didn’t want to talk too much about the dig. It had been strange to say the least. “You want to get something to eat? I’m starving.”
Jessica had put in her headphones and wasn’t listening anymore. ‘Well fine then.’ Thought Anna. ‘Just ask a couple questions and ignore me then.’
Anna’s bus arrived first and she waved goodbye to Jessica, who looked rather surprised and hesitated before waving back. She got home again and started to relax, had a cup of tea and just sat on the couch. She turned on the news and leaned her head back to listen.
“…in South America today there was a big outburst about a archaeological dig that took some rare and ancient artifacts…”
Anna jerked her head back up to see what they were talking about, but it had already changed to another topic. They were talking about some riot in Asia.
‘That was strange.’ She didn’t think that anything was taken from the country. Then she remembered the skull in her bag. She ran to get it and inspect it closer.
It was normal enough. It wasn’t all that old even. It did have some strange markings on the jaw. Most of the teeth were gone, that was normal, but those that were left had been worn down a lot more than they should have been. The person might have had a nervous tick that made them grind their teeth, or had really bad oral hygiene.
The news kept talking about whatever was going on in the world and the city. Nothing much but background noise. She set the skull down after a few minutes. It wasn’t really interesting in any way at all. She did think it weighed a little more than a normal skull did, though. She looked inside once more to see if there was something she missed. It was hollow. Nothing at all interesting about it. She made a note to herself to check it out under a microscope in the morning.
She finished her tea and went to bed. She was still tired form traveling and wanted to get a good nights rest. She started thinking about the dig again. It had been a strange dig. She never knew a sonar machine to malfunction like that before. The guy who was in charge of it had used that exact one for years. Her mind wandered over a variety of things as she dipped into slumber.
Anna woke up in a strange place. It was a temple of some sort. She went outside. It looked odd, and familiar at the same time. She couldn’t figure out why it was familiar, she had never seen it before. She wandered around the temple. She hoped she remembered the place when she woke up. It was an amazing temple. It was also very old. She examined some of the markings and runes on the walls. It was a sacrificial temple of some sort.
A breeze whipped through the temple. She shivered. She went to grab herself to stay warm, it was a very convincing breeze. Her arms touched skin. She wasn’t wearing much. There was a scant animal pelt that barely covered what it needed to, and there wasn’t anything over her torso at all.
She looked down the steps of the temple, she was on the top of it. There were five men walking up the steps. They were painted to look like skeletons. The image of them sent a new shiver down her spine. They were looking intently at her. She moved to the other side of the doorway she was standing in. Their eyes followed her. There was intent in their steps. Each one was determined and careful. Anna backed up into the hallway, barely lit by one torch. It was a small hall, that opened up into a small room. The walls danced in the fire light. Then she saw it.
In the middle of the room was a broad stone table. It wasn’t like the ones she had seen before. This one looked like it had been used in the recent past. Now she could smell dried blood and the remains of what she was determined to believe were animal carcasses.
One of the men grabbed her arm and then another grabbed her other arm. She tried to struggle, to no avail, these men were strong, and very set on their task. She looked over her shoulder. The last man was carrying an interestingly shaped dagger about a foot long.
She was taken to the head of the stone table. The man with the knife, who she now saw was not painted like a skeleton, but he was all black. She couldn’t even tell what color his skin was. He wore animal pelts over whatever wasn’t covered with black paint. He slowly raised the dagger to the ceiling and started an incantation. She knew what he was saying, but had no idea what language it was. It was a dialect of some sort that she probably knew, but couldn’t place it. He finished speaking and looked at her with wild eyes.
The last two men who had been standing next to him came up and grabbed her legs. She realized what was going on now. She struggled, screamed, fought, bit kicked and did everything she could to get free. These men were too strong. She couldn’t get away. She was held to the stone table as the man with the dagger walked, with dagger still over his head, around to the side. He looked down at her, his eyes still wild, but with some sort of knowledge as well. It was a malicious, evil look. He was crazy, and knew it, and knew what he was doing as well. Her blood went ice cold. When she looked into his eyes she knew she wasn’t going to get away. She felt the blood run away from her face. She tried to scream again, but her voice was gone. She wanted to get up and run away, but she couldn’t move. The man’s eyes locked her in place.
The dagger slowly came down toward her chest. It wasn’t over her heart, but it was close, and she knew it would hurt. She thinking and hoping to wake up. She knew it was a dream, but it was also so real. She closed her eyes and tried to remember her own apartment. She opened her eyes and only saw the stone ceiling of the sacrificial chamber. Then the she felt the knife.
Two policemen broke down Anna’s door and rushed into the bedroom. It was four in the morning. She was still screaming. They shook her, yelled at her, got some water, even tried slapping her. Nothing worked. She kept screaming.
About the time they had gotten her out of bed and to the door she came to, eyes wild and frantic.
“Where am I?!” Anna demanded.
“You’re in your apartment. You’ve been screaming for hours. Are you alright?” The policeman who held her up seemed to look like one of the men who had held her down in the dream.
“LET GO OF ME!” Anna pushed away and fell to the floor. She scrambled away from him and tried to hide under her coffee table.
“I’ve seen addicts this bad before.” The other policeman chimed in.
“I’ve never known her to be anything but the best tenant.” It was her landlord. She was looking on in fright and amazement.
“We’ll have to take her downtown, the hospital can take care of her.” The policemen started to get her off the ground, she started screaming again.
“Take her bag too, let me get some of her things, just in case.” The landlord grabbed her bag and went into her bedroom.
“Come on, Anna, it’ll be alright, just come with us.” Her eyes weren’t focusing anymore, they were staring off into some other place that she was remembering. She was damp with cold sweat and trembling.
“I hate when they get this bad.”
“I know what you mean, it’s so sad.” The two policemen waited until they saw the landlord and went down to their car.
Anna was taken to the hospital where they said there wasn’t anything in her system, it wasn’t drugs, she had snapped.
She was taken to a psychiatric ward where they tied her down and gave her some sedatives to make her go to sleep. They had no idea what was wrong with her, but it was the middle of the night and they could deal with her in the morning just as easily.
Anna felt the world disappear. She felt herself going back into dreaming. She was terrified. She didn’t want to have another dream like… like… she didn’t want to dream ever again.
This time she was at home. She was sitting at her table, the skull laying there in front of her. This time she knew there was something wrong with it. It was evil, as far as she could tell, it was emitting cold. Simply cold, nothing else was emitting from the skull.
She reached out to touch it. Her fingers shook.
“Hello,” It was an old, deep, ethereal voice. Anna froze. It had a tone that made her think of the man who had held the dagger. She went cold.
“You are now mine.”
Her eyes went wide and she started to scream again.
This time she woke up in the hospital. The screaming didn’t last too long this time, but she did get greeted by a middle-aged nurse who was unaffected by her condition.
“What time did I get here?” Anna barely whispered.
“You’re yourself again? About four this morning by your chart. What do you remember last?”
Anna didn’t want to talk about her dream.
“I went to sleep after having some tea, some chamomile tea.”
“I see,” the nurse didn’t look at her too much, just tried to get her to keep talking really. Anna knew they would try to figure out what had happened to her. She wasn’t sure herself, then she saw her bag. Ice went down her spine.
“Can… can you… check on something for me.” She was looking directly at her bag.
“Your bag? It was brought with you, some affects I should think, some clothing and such. You want me to check to see what they brought you? Men rarely ever bring the right things!” She gave a chuckle and went over to the bag. “Looks like they did alright this time, though. There is this skull however…” She brought it out of the bag and Anna stifled a scream. She could feel it looking at her. The nurse put it back into the bag. “Is that alrigh-” She saw Anna’s expression. “Oh dear.” She pushed a button and a doctor showed up a few minutes later. Anna was still looking at her bag, horrified. The doctor examined her pupils, took her pulse, and asked her a few questions. Anna didn’t hear them.
There was another voice she was listening to.
It was old, deep, and ethereal.
It was telling her about itself.
It told her that it had been speaking to her since the dig.
It was telling her that it owned her now.
“She should be fine. I want a CAT scan asap, but I don’t see why she shouldn’t be fine. She’s terrified, that’s for sure, but other than that nothing seems to be wrong with her.” It was the evening of the same day. Anna had been subjected to numerous tests and examinations. No one found anything wrong. The next morning they were going to do an MRI.
She was put back in the same room she had woken up in. A nurse looked in on her periodically through the night.
This time she didn’t dream. She woke up comfortably and somewhat refreshed. She tried to stretch and realized her arms were tied down. She had a moment of terror while her surroundings and the recent past caught up with her. Her heart raced, but she was able to calm herself down a bit.
Then she looked at the table in the room. The skull was on it. It was staring at her. Ice was all over her again in an instant.
“Leave me alone.” She barely whispered it.
“I don’t think that would be a good idea, dear.” A nurse walked up to her and took her pulse. “Well, you seem a bit better this morning, that’s for sure, you had some color in your face for a while there, though you’re starting to look pale again.”
“Why is that skull on the table?” Anna’s voice was weak, but direct.
“Why, you asked me to put it there last night when you woke up.”
“I don’t remember waking up.” Anna gave her a quizzical look.
“Oh, about two this morning I came in to check on you, I fluffed your pillow a little. As I was walking out you mumbled something about your bag, I ask what you said, and you said you wanted you ‘lucky charm’ on the table so you could see it in the morning. I didn’t find anything else in your bag other than clothing, so I figured it was the skull. Strange thing, that. It’s an odd lucky charm.
Anna stared at the nurse until she left the room. When she was alone she started asking the skull questions, which it was determined not to answer. What she didn’t know was that she was being watched. Her questions were being recorded by a psychiatrist. He was analyzing her while she started getting irate at a skull on a table.
After about half an hour he realized it wasn’t going to end any time soon. He went to talk with her. When he walked in she stopped talking and looked at him.
“Hello Anna,” He had a warm smile. He pulled up a chair next to the table and sat down and waited for her to respond.
“Hello,” she dropped.
“How are you today?” his eyes told Anna that he thought of her as someone who was sick.
“Fine,” She fidgeted like a young girl. She didn’t want to feel foolish and immature, but his gentle stare made her feel foolish.
“Who were you talking to just now?” He kept smiling.
“No one.” She wasn’t lying. The skull wasn’t a person.
“Really,” He pulled out a pad of paper and made a note.
“What was that you wrote down?”
“I merely noted that you didn’t want to admit that you were talking to a skull on a table.” His honesty unnerved her.
“Is that so.” She didn’t like him.
“That’s it, nothing else.” he looked back at her. They stared at each other for a while. Eventually she glanced back at the skull, like a nervous twitch.
“Does it bother you?” His smile was persistent.
“What.” She really wasn’t asking, they both knew what he meant.
“The skull.” He crossed his legs. “It was in your bag, and the nurse says that you asked to have it put there.” He watched her reaction. Her face twitched into a twisted half grimace for only a moment.
“I didn’t ask for it.” She knew that. She hadn’t wanted to see it again after the nightmare from the temple.
“Is that so.” He made another note. “I also called your landlady, she said you had whispered that you wanted to make sure it went with you. That’s why she took it from your desk.” He was calm, controlled.
“I didn’t say that either.” She wasn’t looking at the doctor anymore. She was looking at the skull. “It did.” She barely whispered.
“What was that?” The doctor unfolded his legs and leaned forward.
“Nothing,” She said and looked down. She knew she sounded crazy, but she knew what she had felt and seen. The temple had been so real, the breeze had given her goose-bumps. The dagger…
“I didn’t say anything.” She hoped he would stop asking her about the skull. She wanted to be free of it and leave the hospital and the inquisitive doctor. “I want to go home.” What she meant was back home to her parents house. The doctor seemed to know what she meant.
After a moments pause the doctor spoke again.
“My name is Thomas.” Anna chuckled. “What’s so funny.”
“I’m well read.” She didn’t look at him.
The doctor frowned. “If you ask for a person’s name you shouldn’t laugh at him for acquiescing.”
Anna shot a look at him. She then also realized her hair had been covering most of her face.
“Can I have my hair tied back?” She spoke the words more in the sense of a general preparing a tactical move. “With my arms tied down I can’t do it myself.”
The doctor noticed a hair tie hanging out of her bag, picked it up and checked that it was alright, then tied her back.
“Is that alright?” His voice was still calm, and a bit gentle.
“Yes, thank you.”
“Why did you want me to do that?” He sat back down and watched her.
“It was bothering me.” She still was being careful about her words, but it was hard to explain her real reason. She didn’t want the skull to speak for her again.
“Did you not ask me my name?”
“I did, sorry, I didn’t mean to laugh.” She was more aware now. She felt that she had to be on her guard. The one thing she was worried about was when he left, he wouldn’t be able to see her mouth.
“I realize that being named Thomas can work against me, especially to those who might be religious. Are you religious?” At this point Anna started a careful series of comments that were meant to bring the conversation away from the skull, back to her work, she career, she would rather talk about why was still single, how her mother asked her about it regularly, and why she didn’t own a dog.
They covered many topics, the doctor never shied away from a question. She found out that his practice was near by where she lived, though he spent many hours not only at the hospital, but more often at the asylum outside of town. She asked if he had been called specifically to see to her. He said yes. They talked about many other things and after a few hours he got up to leave. This was the moment she was waiting for. She watched him intently, she glanced at the skull, but knew it wouldn’t move. As he walked to the door he paused for a moment, chuckled, and turned back to her.
“Of course. I’ll have it arranged. I can’t let you go yet, without an escort, but you will be taken back to your apartment, then you can be brought out. It’s not a problem at all.” He faltered for a moment when he looked at her, but recovered quickly and smiled once more before going out.
‘So,’ Anna thought. ‘It has gotten me committed.’ She glared at the skull. This time she didn’t open her mouth. ‘What do you want.’ She waited, glanced away, and thought she saw a strange shadow with a dagger.
She shot her gaze back to the skull. It looked like it was smiling. She knew skulls didn’t smile, well, didn’t mean to, but this skull had the feeling of a malicious smile pointed directly at her.
The next day she was allowed to eat, dress herself, and walked out of the hospital into a cab. She wasn’t alone, a very large man walked with her. He carried her bag, with the skull back in it.
When they got back to her apartment she knew it would be futile to try and leave the skull there. Even if she was able to leave it there, she would still have to come back to it eventually. When they got to her apartment the large man let her go into her bedroom on her own, and then go to the bathroom to get a few things, then she followed him back down to the cab. He kept his eyes on her almost the whole time. She wasn’t sure if there was anything that the skull had said in her voice, but she didn’t want to know. In the cab she looked out the window and watched everything pass by. Once she glanced over at the orderly, she decided he had to be an orderly, and saw a strange wisp of a smile play on his lips. It had said something, she didn’t know what, but it had said something.
When they got to the asylum, it was about an hour outside of town, she was relaxed, calmed down and ready to take a nap. When they walked into the doctor’s office to check in the orderly was questioned about the trip.
“Well, she talked a lot in the cab on the way out here, but in her apartment and in the hospital she didn’t say much. And she never made any move to get away or take her bag.” Anna stared at him. She didn’t think she had given the skull enough time to say anything, but apparently it had had a lot of opportunity to talk for her.
“What did she talk about?” The doctor asked.
The large man chuckled. “Well, there was some talk about sex, and then there was a question about getting some drugs while here, but mostly it was strange inane stuff about a temple, murders from time past, and a little about how she hated the nurse at the hospital.”
The doctor nodded and sent the man away. He looked troubled.
“You seemed very competent in the hospital, Anna, this talk with Jonathan worries me. I have to be honest.”
Her eyes were wide. She hadn’t said a word the entire trip. She knew it. She didn’t speak now either.
“Are you going to tell me that you didn’t say anything? Jonathan is noted for his honesty, it would be hard to prove he lied to me.” The doctor looked at her intently, expecting her to try to make Jonathan out to be a liar.
“He probably heard all those things.” She wasn’t sure what to say now. She was tired from the trip and the past few days. Her nerves were unraveling. She didn’t know what to say anymore.
“You mean, he heard those things, but you didn’t say them.” He didn’t ask.
“Yes,” She had no reason to lie, she was already in an asylum.
“Then who said them?” the doctor wasn’t making any attempt to hide the fact that his question was a trap.
She didn’t make any attempt to not walk into it.
“The skull.” Before he could reply she kept talking. “I am a very intelligent woman, Thomas. I have studies at three Universities, have two degrees, and would have had a third in another few months. I have read many of the great works of fiction, philosophy, histories, and much more. I read the newspaper whenever I can, watch the news only on television, and have a number of friends. There is nothing you will find in my history that suggests that I have any reason to lie either.”
The doctor considered this. The speech did have an effect on him, which was good, but she wasn’t sure if was the right effect.
“I see. I can tell you are well educated. I looked you up. I called your University, they basically said you were the most promising candidate they’ve had for a long time. I checked into your records with the state as well. There’s almost nothing there, no history of anything.” he stopped for a moment. “I wonder if you didn’t run into something in South America on your last trip. May I ask you a few questions?” He waited for her reply. He seemed a slightly different person in his own office.
They talked for a while. She didn’t resist any of his questions, and he answered her as well. After some time they got around to the last two days. She told him about the dreams. He was most interested in them.
“It’s rare that someone can, or their subconscious is willing enough, to let a dream get so real when it is also so visceral.”
“I didn’t want to dream it. I don’t know where it came from, unless it was the skull.” She was blunt about her answer. He had at first waved off her referring to the skull as a thinking thing, but now he was starting to wonder in different ways.
“If all you say is true, and I can’t say I think it is yet, then it would be amazing that you are even talking to me right now.” He sat and watched her.
“You keep the skull then. See what happens.” She threw it up without thinking. She wasn’t sure if it had even been her own thought. She wanted to say, ‘Let’s destroy the skull and see how I am in a week.’ but that hadn’t come out of her mouth.
“It’s an interesting prospect. If, for no other reason, you are better without it around you. We can meet in another office and I’ll keep it here.” He thought for a little while longer before deciding that it would be best for her to get some sleep.
She was led to a rather nice room, not all white like she thought it was going to be. The bed was nice, she was allowed her clothing, but nothing else. She got ready for bed and lay there. It took her a long to go to sleep, every time she got close she she would try to think of what she was about to start dreaming of, but eventually she was too tired to pay attention and went to sleep. She slept soundly and comfortably.
In the morning she was brought to another office in another part of the building where Thomas was waiting for her.
“I did what you suggested. The skull has been on my desk all day, I haven’t heard it say anything, but then your story says it won’t for a few days. How are you this morning, did you sleep well.”
The mix of topics touched on Anna’s nerves, but she was much much better.
“I slept wonderfully. I wish this was all just a bad dream and I would wake up in my own room in a moment.” She sat down and looked out the window, unconsciously moving her hair away from her face.
“It would be nice, I can understand that desire. We have some new things to talk about though. What do you want to do while you are here? How long do you think you should be here? I can tell you are quite intelligent, and most likely have a good idea of what should happen. I want to hear what you have to think about your situation.” He watched her carefully, listened to every word, and just let her talk until she was done.
She said she didn’t know how long she would be there, or what would happen now. She couldn’t quite tell the difference right now from dream and reality. There was too much that could be another dream. She had told him about the second dream as well. She had held off telling that one until now. It had unnerved her even more than the first one. Now everything could be a living dream and she’d never know. She knew she couldn’t live in the same apartment anymore, she would most likely change her career as well. She couldn’t do anything like this again. They agreed to meet the following day, he would tell her if the skull had done anything, and she would tell him how she was doing.
A week later they met and Anna was much better. There hadn’t been anything to speak of for the entire week. The strange dreams, the skull, whatever it was had gone and she was getting back to her old self. Thomas had helped her immensely and she knew it. She thanked him and asked if, when she left, she could send him something, like a certificate to a nice restaurant or something. He thought that was a great idea.
“Great, I really want to thank you for this. I must have broken down from stress or something. I feel great now, this time out here is so peaceful. It’s such a beautiful view.” She stared wistfully out the window at the grounds. Sh had walked a lot out there.
“It is nice.” Thomas paused. “Anna, I don’t think I should do this, but,” He paused again. “It’s been a strange joy getting to know you. I can’t now think you ever were, well, not yourself.” She shot a look at him, but he had actually said it. He was blushing slightly.
“Wouldn’t you lose your practice if you did something like that?” She wasn’t sure she could believe what she was hearing, but Thomas was a very nice man, she had gotten to know him too. He was in fact the kindest man she had ever met. She didn’t want to like him, and knew there was a certain about of hero worship coming from her, but she went on ahead anyway.
“I might, but there are ways that I wouldn’t.” He went on to tell her how they could go out to dinner with friends, and after some time maybe even go out on a date. It would have to be a long time, but if they did actually work out then it wouldn’t be against his credibility.
“I don’t think…” She began, but wasn’t sure if she wanted to say no to him.
He blushed again, and ended the conversation. It was wrong of him to bring it up then, he knew it and expressed that to her. She went out into the yard and thought a long time about what her had said.
She left the premises about a day later.
She felt much better.
A week alter she got a letter at her new place. She had left a forwarding address with Thomas, on clinical grounds that if anything happened she could go back there without too much trouble.
It was a letter from him. She read it ice went through her veins.
He had taken the skull home and had put it on his shelf. He had forgotten a out it, but strange things were starting to happen around him. He wanted to tell her, but didn’t want to think them if the skull was listening.
He sounded in the letter like how she had felt when she had fist met him.
There was a phone number on the bottom of the letter. She called him.
An hour later she was arriving at his place. She didn’t say much, just ‘Where is it?’ he pointed to a shelf and she saw it again. Ice crawled across her skin. She took deliberate steps toward it. She could feel it. It was pushing at her. She kept walking toward it. Each step was harder than the last.
At last she was facing its empty eye sockets. There was more depth there than she remembered. It was fighting her. It knew what she intended to do. With all her strength she reached up and grabbed it. It was so cold it burned her hands. She could see her breath now.
She slowly put it on the ground.
She stood back up.
There was a flash in front of her. The image of the man with the dagger burned in her mind. He was glaring at her. The wild eyes were still fierce and fiery. He was trembling with fury. He held the dagger in front of him and screamed in her head.
She lifted her foot and crushed the skull.
At that instant the noise was gone. The image was gone. She felt at peace. The room was no longer cold. The fragments of the skull lay on the floor. She was free. She knew it. Without being able to stop herself she let out a near hysterical laugh. The kind of laugh that a slave might have uttered when they had killed their master who had beaten them into submission over a long time.
Anna turned to see where Thomas was. He had left the room. He must have disappeared as soon as she went for the skull. She wanted to tell him it was all over. She found him in the kitchen.
“Thomas!” Was the only thing she got out. As she walked up to him, he turned. His eyes were different. They were wild. They were greedy. They weren’t his eyes. They were the eyes of the man with the dagger. Anna couldn’t move. She couldn’t breath. All she could do was watch as he picked up a knife and walked toward her. Fear rose in her once again. His voice wasn’t his voice either.
“I told you. You are mine! You have freed me! Now I am back!” He plunged the knife into her chest, not into the heart, but close enough. She fell to the ground. He stood over her laughing. Cackling a horrid laughter echoed in her mind. The room went dark.
She woke up at some point later. She was in the temple. It was better lit, though. There were many people there. This time, though the table was the same, there were two doorways. She looked out them. It was a strange sight and she didn’t quite grasp what she was seeing at first.
An old woman came up to her arm.
‘We have all been here.’
‘What do you mean?’ Anna was talking, but not talking. She knew that the woman was speaking a different language, but she could understand her all the same.
‘We are all his victims. I have been here the longest. I was the first. He keeps us all.’ The woman didn’t look at Anna so much as considered her.
‘How long do we have to stay here?’ Anna looked at her, and then back out one of the doorways.
‘Until someone finds a way to kill him.’ The woman looked out the doorway again. ‘We will stay here until then.’
Anna looked out the doorway again.