Cavete extraneos dona portantes
In arca fatum tuum est
It was a sunny day and I saw the drone coming a mile away.
I thought it was just another of those lost toys, or some idiot playing around, trying to be a peeping tom or whatever people did to entertain themselves these days, where everything always managed to end up on social media or in the public eye...
Invent a ridiculous trial and make the public pay for it and they just wanted more. The cult of celebrities that was driving the world down to yet unnattained depths of stupidity.
Much to my surprise and annoyance, the drone veered towards me. Could it be a government spy machine?
So I had grown cannabis a few years ago, but only for medicinal use, and everyone knew that plant had wonderful properties to help deal with pain.
Was this a reason to antagonize me and treat me like a criminal?
I was getting ready to grab my shotgun ( hoping it didn't have some sort of tracking GPS and face recognition system) when it seemed to lose power and fell down in front of my old porch.
Still I was pissed off. Hadn't they ever heard of civil rights?I went to get my shotgun to inspect this piece of garbage now on my property.
According to my constitutional rights, I could do whatever the heck I wanted to that drone, including blowing its brains out. Assuming it had any in its shiny metal casings.
As much as I wanted to feel incensed, as I walked closer to the drone, I began to feel my heart fluttering. There was no reason for it, just a bad vibe, like when you don't feel like driving and you come close to an accident.
My instinct was telling me to run from this... but I had faced the war in Afghanistan, bears, cougars, New York City...How could one drone give me the jitters?
As I came nearer I saw that it was carrying a package, a small wooden box, nothing fancy or impressive.
The box was marked with a seal that seemed to still be dripping wet, reddish in color. It looked like the kind of thing you saw in supernatural, horror and devil movies.
This angered me more and that kept the fear I was feeling at bay.
Some university brat had decided to have fun with the locals, scaring them witless, making them think there was a devil's cult in town?
Well, I would not be their first victim.
With the shotgun barrel, I prodded the box out of the drone's embrace. It fell to the side and I half-expected a severed head to fall out of it.
Nothing of the sort happened, it just fell on its side, and there it stayed while I tried to work up my courage to actually grab it
Good thing Cooper wasn't around, what a blast he would have had, seeing me teetering like this, like I was a scared little girl.
"Just a damn box, " I muttered under my breath, hunkering down to take a closer look.
How to explain going against every sane fiber of your mind telling you not to touch something, and doing the opposite because it made you feel like a wimp?
I should have just pushed it, grabbed a shovel and buried the whole shebang, as if I'd found a dead animal.
How was it different, because it was shiny and metallic?
It was just dead, useless, unimportant, nothing to make a fuss over.
But I finally grabbed the box and brought it to me, breaking the 'seal' to see what was inside.
Curiosity killed the cat. That's the way the saying goes.
Inside the box, nothing. But the moment it opened, I felt this chill, goosebumps covering my body from head to toe in an instant.
A drone carrying a box of nothing.
I almost laughed but somehow, I could not go through with it.
Too much of a chill in the air, and suddenly, no birds singing, no insects making their constant ruckus in the background, everything was still. Like death.
I got up to dispel that ill feeling, and noticed something I had not seen before on the inside of the box's cover.
Words of some kind, Latin I thought. Semper fi, and my old army days... but I could not understand them.
' In arca fatum tuum est '
No doubt a Google search would have revealed that mysterious phrase in a matter of instants but I was fresh out of Google.
No perverse telecommunication signal reached my humble adobe in the woods .
But I needed to know what those words meant, those goosebumps would not leave me. I had the strange and unpleasant premonition that it was vital for my future, not that I could explain any of it, even to myself.
I took the box with me and went inside.
I riffled through my library, trying to find the old useless books I knew were there, the ones your intellectual cousins give you to make you feel stupid, because they can quote every word of every phrase.
I was sure I had a damn Latin/English dictionary in there.After throwing everything away and then looking at what was on the ground, I caught a glimpse of a half torn book on the side of the worndown shelf. The pages looked moldy as though I'd spilled water... or something more potent on it some years ago.
It made the words harder to make out but , setting the box on the small table next to the bookshelf and shining the light directly at the pages, I was able to decipher the meaning slowly.
" Fatum " meant "Fate".
" Arca" meant "Box".
After 20 minutes of efforts, I thought I knew the box's message... but it only confused me more.
" Your Fate is in the Box "
I didn't know what to make of it. If only the goosebumps would leave me... maybe I could have thought about it clearly and rationally.
But maybe I was coming down with something?
I felt a little feverish, and very tired, all of a sudden. So much effort to figure out a silly prank. Why had I let them (dumbass college students with too much time on their hands) get into my head?
I pushed the box off the table rageously: somehow it felt good to see it crash on the floor. But my hand was now covered in the red paint they had used to paint their ridiculous 'seal'.
Why hadn't it dried yet? Why was it still as fresh as when I had first brought it in?
I got up from the chair and nearly collapsed as the room was spinning around me. I went to splash some water on my face but it didn't seem to help.
I didn't like the way I looked, like I had aged 5 years in an instant. So gray, so tired, like after Annie's death... A ghost staring back at me from that mirror.
I needed some sleep.
Even as I got under the covers I thought it would be a restless night. I could recognize the signs of a bad flu, and this seemed to be one of them. I should have brewed some herbal tea but I already had no energy. A few hours of shut-eye ought to give me enough juice to get up and about again.
I fell asleep quickly; I felt like a rock crashing on my pillow and my eyes were already closed. But sleep was shallow and filled with images that seemed to freeze the blood in my veins.
The box, always the box, and the dripping seal... opening the box, and inside, nothing.
Your Fate Is in The Box
I woke up forcibly and started coughing as though I'd just had pneumonia. The weakness was even more present than before, I couldn't get a breath in. What was going on?
I flicked the lights on and jumpstarted. No one was in the house, but the box was next to me, right next to my light. I could have sworn I had thrown it on the floor in the living room, why was it there.
Gingerly, I touched the smeared top cover again,; it was just as wet as it had been in the afternoon.
The substance on my hands gave me goosebumps again but I knew I was feverish already, I kept having chills.
With a supreme effort of will, I managed to get up from my bed and go to the bathroom, teetering all the while, as my weakness left me near fainting.
This time the man in the mirror knocked the breath right out of me.
There was no denying it, I wasn't the same anymore, I was afflicted by something beyond comprehension.
I looked wasted away, not just 20 years older, but parts of my skin had a blackish hue, as though...
I didn't want to touch my face but some creepy part of me made me do it. That brownish shade on my cheek, that looked like rot, rotting flesh, and as I tried hard to stifle a gasp of horror, my finger scratched through the skin and muscles of my face and ended up tapping my teeth.
It was too much to take. I would have dropped in a faint if I hadn't felt so bad already, making me fear that fainting would be the end of me.
What was going on?
I wasn't a fine connoisseur of virulent diseases but I was pretty sure none could eat away the body like this in a matter of hours, turn the flesh to flakes and dust. That was simply impossible.
And still my mind was screaming in hysteria, I couldn't get a rational thought in, but was anything about this rational?
I was rotting away at accelerated speed, I was dying, every second brining me closer to nothingness.
Call for help, get ambulance, someone to look at me, someone to save me!
I used up what little was left of my failing body to crawl back to my bed and get the phone, but what fell into my hand was the box.
I screamed, it seemed to weigh nothing, but it seemed to be linked directly to me. To seek me out, to...
My eyes were probably rotting in their sockets but I could see the red shining on the cover again, wet in the light of my lamp. Glistening.
I don't know what pushed me, I felt mesmerized, but with one of my trembling fingers, fingernail blackened and ready to fall off, I brushed some of the substance off.
And tasted it. ( At the same time feeling my teeth coming loose).
Exactly what I feared and expected. Blood.
Your Fate is in the Box
The box was empty.
My fate is emptiness.
My fate is death, because of the box.
I was trying to wrap my brain around this, was I living through a nightmare? Dying through a nightmare? If only I could have blinked and gotten back to reality, where things made some kind of sense, where I could rant about the world being crazy, but stay away from it all.
The drone! Who owned it, who had sent that box to me? Why to me, what had I ever done to anyone?I had left the drone outside and I knew I would never have the strength to drag it back into my house.
I took the phone and the box with me, although the last thing I wanted was to touch it again.
I could feel it sucking the life right out of me, and I was sure I was not overreacting. This was literally happening.
It was a drizzling night, as dark as hell, my breath pluming out as though I was on fire. Which wasn't so far from the truth.
As I wobbled forward, I tried to punch in the number of one of my friends from my army days. He was interested in relics and artifacts and ran a side business of art-collecting and counterfeiting. He knew his way around government sites and police records and the DMV... and he owed me and I had never collected before.
No surprise that although it was 2 am for him, he answered almost right away. The guy had never known when to quit and relax.
" I need your help, no time for pleasantries, " I outtalked him to get this show on the move. My voice was hoarse and raspy, I barely recognized it myself.
" Hello, Bryce, what's up? " he answered, his voice cool and composed, as though he wasn't surprised by the call at all.
" Can you track a drone owner if I give you a serial number? "
" Can I hit everything but the toilet bowl when I take a piss? "
His way of saying: Give me some kind of challenge, here!
I collapsed near the drone; I was astonished I had made it so far with how rubbery my legs felt.
But I dragged the drone to me and managed to put it on its side and check the serial number.
The numbers danced in my field of vision, there were growing dark spots everywhere.
I coughed out the numbers twice, to be sure he had understood correctly.
But I was feeling even worse than before.
" You don't sound so good, Bryce, " he said matter-of-factly.
" Just tell me who this belongs to, will you? While we're still young, " I retorted, feeling like biting my tongue to stop from screaming in hysteria. But I was afraid I would bite it off... or maybe my teeth would fall out of my jaw.
" Give me three minutes and nineteen seconds, " he said with that self-assurance all nerds had faced with computer tasks.
I wasn't sure I could wait one minute more, my vision was fading, my strength was waning, all I could do was look at the box...
It was still empty, just like my future and fate.
" What did you step into, Bryce? " he asked me after two minutes and thirty-two seconds ( focusing on the ticking seconds of my watch face seemed to help keep the overwhelming dizziness at bay).
" What do you got? " I asked eagerly, but it came out more slurry and cough-filled and incomprehensible than I had hoped for.
" This drone belongs to a man who was admitted in a hospital of the Santa Fe region three months ago. Upon admittal, doctors were sure he had but a few minutes left to live. His flesh was charred and rotting. He was in indescribable pain. "
" What happened?" I asked breathlessly.
" He got better, at an accelerated pace, actually. He was discharged two weeks later, and went back to his native Australia. He is an archaeologist, he was working on a dig in Italy and was conferencing in Santa Fe.... "
I wish I could have told him, " Go on " but I barely had enough breath to say anything, let alone rasp words.
" He was hysterical most of the time his flesh healed... In Australia, he checked into a mental asylum. He kept speaking Latin... "
" In arca fatum tuum est, " I wheezed out, uncaring of proper pronunciation.
" Hmm, Your Fate is in the Box.... He said this yes, and also... " Cavete extraneos dona portantes , " my friend said, sounding vaguely intrigued by my knowledge in this matter.
" That means? " I put to him. I really could not get my brain into gear.
" Beware strangers bearing gifts, " he said. " Wise words... What is happening to you? "
" No one gave me a gift, " I retorted.
My friend was a sharp as ever. " What did you get? The archaeologist kept warning about a box, about... passing it on... does this mean anything to you? "
" There's a box and it's empty, and on its cover it has blood I think, and since that drone brought it, I feel... I'm dying. "
No point denying the obvious, I didn't have very long to live, not with the way my heart was shrinking in my chest.
" A cursed box, delightful! "
" I'd give it to you anyday. Come get it, " I rasped sarcastically.
" And perhaps that is what the gentleman meant, " my friend said after ten seconds of silence.
" What? "
" Curses can be dodged, some rare times... by... paying them forward, to the next unwary soul... Not that I believe in curses, but this is what I've heard... "
" How? " I asked eagerly.
I had never believed in that crap but I was ready to believe anything right now, if it got me out of this nightmare.
" Blood usually does it, but it's not my area of expertise... "
Blood... that never dried, carrying the curse with it.
This was all kinds of insane but I cut my hand on the drone, finding a sharp part that broke through my parchment skin easily. My blood looked black and smelled like death, but the moment a few drops fell on the cover, it seemed to shine... devilishly.
I put it back in the drone's midst and as though alive, it started whirring, carrying its ' gift' to the next unfortunate victim.
I didn't know if it would work, I still felt weak as a rolled over kitten.
With the last of my strength, I dialed 911.
Beware strangers bearing poisoned gifts... in whatever form.
If I survived, I intended to follow those wise words...
About the Creator
I am a hobby writer who adores science fiction and intelligent characters and storylines!
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