Folded Stone

The tablet felt so small in Quikhe's hands. The strange pale-purple stone softly glimmered in the dull evening light, etching invisible patterns across its surface as it moved slightly in her grasp. She could not read the runes carved upon its face— nor would she be able to understand them, if she could. To her it was no more than a curiosity— a small token found by chance. Who owned it, who made it, or where it came from she did not know— only that now it was now here. To the tablet this was a miracle. It had been constructed carefully with a single purpose— but its creators had vanished before this could be fulfilled, leaving it to collect dust through the intervening thousands of years. One day a small burrowing creature had gotten close enough for the tablet to command it— and it would die soon after burrowing to the surface, tablet in its jaws. Years passed, and the creature had long since decomposed by the time Quikhe had arrived.   She had merely stumbled upon it, straying from her path to take it into her hands without warning— as if her body was commanded to do so, and obeyed. She told herself that she had decided this herself, that she had spotted the sun's light bouncing from its reflective surface and was simply curious. The alternative was simply preposterous. She would hold onto this belief as tightly as a beast's jaws hold a fresh kill. After all, this balanced precariously upon the edge of breaking her well-honed comfort and composure, should she believe otherwise. Thankfully, she did not experience the odd sensation for quite some time after the initial experience— allowing her to further settle into the comfort of doubt.   Yet it had other plans. Later that night, a neighbor came by to ask for some food— as he had none for himself. Being kind, Quikhe invited him in for a meal. The tablet caught his eye, and rather than sit and eat, he stood and stared at the object with his mouth agape.   "Take me home." He said absent-mindedly. Quikhe, not yet noticing his fixation, assumed this to be a genuine request— or at least, not unusual. Confused, yet still kind, she turned to reply.   "I could, but— are you feeling alright?" Now concerned, she approached the fixated man. He kept his stare on the tablet before him. "Take me home." He repeated. Quikhe saw him take a step forward— or that's what she wanted to believe she had seen— in reality he was pulled towards the tablet by an unseen string the same distance a single step would have taken him. No sooner had she began to move towards her guest, hand outstretched like a light in the dark, than he had been moved once more. Like a sheet of paper, he was folded, first along his vertical center, then each limb pulled inwards to create a perfect rectangle sullied only by the protrusion of his head. This would not last, however, and his head would fold over his chest— Quikhe shuddered as she saw the man's elated grin fold beneath his body as it continued to crease itself in halves. With each fold, he grew smaller, the sickening sound of snapping bone and crushing tissue emanating with each movement before he disappeared entirely. As if he was never there, a twisted magic trick.   The space where the hungering man once stood momentarily distorted before her— bending and folding like paper caught by a breeze. She dared not reach out to touch it, and waited, breathless, for it to finally pass. Once it did she still did not move for several moments, attempting to process what she had just seen. Before long she began to stare at the tablet, as if her eyes were gently directed towards the pale stone object.   Then she took an involuntary step forward.

Cover image: by Garrett Lewis (Timepool)


Author's Notes

Very short one, I know. It simply wanted to end where it did, who am I to deny that?

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