Fragmented Artifacts

“Where is Cerby going?”

Cerby seems to be following his instincts, drawn by some unseen force. Follow him, and trust in the journey. Perhaps he will lead you to something important.

“Cerby!” Even dogs in alternate universes ignore me. The damn thing takes off like he’s chasing a squirrel, but I haven’t seen another living creature since finding my Hellhound.

I look again at the tower, the glowing beacon on the distant horizon. The landscape before me is ripe with decay. I decide to ask the voice in my head another question.

“You’re not going to tell me what that thing is, are you?”

The beacon. It’s a point of convergence, a lighthouse amid a sea of uncertainty, guiding lost souls. Its significance? That’s for you to discover in due time. Remember, the path is as important as the destination.

Now, perhaps you should find Cerby. Who knows what he might have found?

Cerby barks and then I see his head sniffing around a broken railroad tie. His clawed paws are digging into the dirt, frantically trying to catch or uncover something.

Dogs have a knack for finding things, don’t they? Though, I suspect Cerby is far from your average canine. Approach with caution, curiosity, and an open mind.

As I walk to him, Cerby spins. Even in the fading daylight, I see a golden flash from the chain he has in his mouth. Dangling from the end is a locket, also golden but tarnished.

Cerby has a gift for you. A trinket in a deserted land can hold many secrets. A moment in time, a memory, a piece of someone’s heart. Don’t you wonder whose it was, or rather, is?

“Stop talking to me like I’m an idiot. I know you know what’s happening here. At least have the decency not to be so condescending.”

I apologize if I upset you. I didn’t mean to sound condescending. The locket, however, may hold some significance. After all, not everything one finds in this realm is as mundane as it appears.

“Okay,” I say, realizing I’m probably scolding myself. Are we ever self-aware enough to identify our own descent into insanity?

Cerby drops the locket on my boot. I bend down to pick it up. It’s cold to the touch and covered in dirt. I brush it off and pry the locket open. Inside is a photograph. Faded, two people.

What is this?

This is an artifact, a piece of the past, if you will. It contains a photograph, faded and worn, but still holding on to its existence. In the photo, there are two figures – a woman and a young girl, melancholy faces.

It stirs something in you, doesn’t it? A faint sense of familiarity, an echo of emotions long forgotten.

I stagger backwards, my arms flailing as I collapse into the weeds. I hear Cerby barking, but it’s like he’s doing so from the bottom of a well.

A throbbing pain invades my head. I close my eyes and grit my teeth. I roll over, dry heaving and sweating.

You are remembering. The artifact, the locket, it’s triggering something inside you. It’s causing you discomfort, pain even, but don’t shy away from it. Embrace it. This is part of your journey here. This is part of your redemption. These are memories, fragmented pieces of your past life trying to resurface.

Remember, all experiences, good or bad, teach us something, shape us. Your past is trying to reach out to you. Don’t shut it out.

I inhale, my hands clenching the locket. It’s gone from cold to hot, the pain searing my palms. But I don’t let go. This pain has to teach me something. Even if the voice hadn’t told me so, I’d know it was true.

Fire, smoke, darkness. There’s tragedy here, for the people in the photograph.

“I know you won’t tell me who they are. But tell me something. Please.”

In the picture, there are two figures—a woman and a young girl. The image is faded, their features softened by the passage of time, yet there’s an undeniable connection that persists.

The woman, perhaps in her thirties, looks off into the distance. Her hair, dark, is pulled back loosely, a few strands escaping to frame her face. She appears sullen. Possibly content.

The girl is much younger, perhaps seven or eight, with shoulder-length hair. She stares into the lens, undeterred by the concern expressed by her mother. Their faces echo an underlying connection—a bond that remains, even though their images have started to blur.

The voice trails off. My eyes burn and I feel a chill running down my back.

And then I find myself sprawled across the railroad track, Cerby sitting and staring at me from the other side. He’s whimpering like I’ve seen a ghost.

“Two of them, boy,” I say to my Hellhound. “I’ve seen two ghosts.”