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It's the cold that wakes him up, the penetrating freeze piercing his skin. Most of his body is already numb to the sensation, but the rustling wind has opened his coat and his torso is suddenly exposed. With a groan that breaks the chafed skin of his lips, Todd does his best to sit up. He's surrounded by the softness of the color white, recently fallen snow only interrupted by black and brown dots dispersed on the ground.

He cursed under his breath and looks around, trying to find anything recognizable. The top of a rocky formation is behind his back, and to its side, the dying light of a flare can be seen. His thick pants are so cold that standing up in them is a feat of both balance and might, but Todd manages in the end, and he takes a couple of weak steps that morph into a steady pace. His mind fights to keep any other thought beyond the rhythm of his breathing and his walking away, fearful of confusing and unwanted thoughts. Todd can't afford to let dangerous ideas drift in while his survival was at risk.

The formation grows in front of his eyes as he approaches, revealing the borders of a dark cave barely illuminated by the last embers of the flare. On the bright side, a series of emergency lights had been drilled into the rock walls, and he can see the silhouettes of the bulbs and their plastic coverings. On they not so bright side, Todd muses over as he loudly curses once more, the lights are out. The man pats his coat, and then his pants, to find that he's carrying nothing of value in regards to the situation. The key card with his name and position as the lead archaeologist still hangs from his neck, but with no electricity it wouldn't be able to open any door for him.

Something draws his attention after he lets the key card fall from his gloved hand, a dark substance covers the tip of his fingers and both of his palms. Hadn't he seen it so many times in all of his years, he wouldn't have been able to identify it for what it is: blood. Before the light fades completely, Todd crouches and searches for any oozing wound in his body. He finds nothing, the blood is not his.

Todd enters the cave, any shelter is better than no shelter, and walks into it keeping a hand on the wall at all times. He's been there enough to know his way around by mere feel, but the dark feeds his anxiousness and the memories come rushing in. He hadn't been alone the first time he entered this cave, when his team installed the lights on the walls, when his wife lovingly berated him for almost forgetting to eat his meals because he was too distracted following the trails of…

Of course.

Todd's team at the university had located an ancient burial site mostly unexplored, according to the latest reports about it, a series of interconnected caves with an entrance close enough to send an expedition to the north without investing as many funds as the teams overseas required to function. From a practical standpoint, it was a ludicrous opportunity if anything was found.

The caves still aren't anything special to brag about, some examples of parietal art cover the walls the deeper Todd went it, but all of the drawings they had found had already been registered. He can't see them now, his limited vision barely allows him to see the tip of his boots, but a couple of steps further leads him to stand in front of a metal door, the main entrance of their makeshift base of operations.

The door is ajar, and a dim, green light is coming our of it, its brightness getting more a more intense as Todd approaches. When he enters the room, a short hallway with boxes thrown all over the ground, he finds the source of the strange light in the form of small, irregular rocks with rough carvings on them. The crevices of the carvings, which form spirals all over the surface of the rocks, shine in that fluorescent way that can be compared to fish of the deep level of the seas and subterranean fungi. Todd remembers that all of the studies had been inconclusive and that whatever is on the rocks is neither plant or animal based, and that the mineral causing such reaction isn't known to man, yet.

Todd follows the trail of rocks into the main room where they had their meals and discussions. He screams and covers his mouth with a hand, tasting the metallic tang of dry blood. What mere days ago was the stage for heated discussion and warm moments is now a crime scene. Bodies sit at the table, their limbs stiff and winter coats covered in blood still oozing from all orifices of their faces.

"Oh, God, no", Todd says as he runs to his wife's body, sitting at the head of the table and hands firmly grasping the wood. Her eyes are dull and gray. "Oh, no, dear, please". Todd turns her head to the side and finds her mouth not only opened but also containing one of the luminous rocks with spirals on it. Todd pushes a thumb into his wife's left cheek, moving the rock until it jumps out of the orifice onto the floor.

Todd hugs his wife's body, cradling her head against his chest, and cries. He doesn't dare to look at the rest of the team, knowing he'll find them in the same state. "What have I done?", he asks, no one answers him, and no one needs to, because he knows.

He should have canceled the expedition at the first sign of things starting to go wrong, when stuff they left somewhere appeared at another, or when the shared nightmares began. Images of a civilization long gone, one we as a species don't know anything of, sending messages that humankind has largely ignored. Then, the disappearances of minor members of the team, and their reappearances days after with horrified expressions on their faces. Those who left and came back did so as if they were different people altogether, calling each other by new, unpronounceable names between themselves and to others.

They had called Todd something he now knows means 'activator'. But for what he doesn't have a clue. He's got an idea, though. With tears running down his freezing face, Todd lets go of his wife's body and turns around in the direction of the second hallway that leads down into the serpentine cave system.

I have to fix this, he thinks. His sad attempt at fleeing from his destiny had doomed the people he cared about, and would doom the rest of the world if he tried again. For you, my dear, this is for you.

The fluorescent rocks give out enough light for Todd to avoid tripping over any of the nameless bodies he finds on his way down, down down. He walks for what feel like hours to him, but time is nothing more than a construct, relative to our perception of it, so when Todd thinks, he can only remember the minutes passing by. He carries the weight of his sins, of his greed and pride over his tired shoulders, and regrets not leaving untouched what wasn't mean to be known by our kind.

Mad scribbles take the place of the drawings on the walls, words of longing and desperation in a language that took Todd mere days to decipher and a lot of his sanity. He sometimes catches himself thinking in that language, fearing the reason he knows the correct pronunciation of their prayers.

He's standing right before a tall, wide stone arch with the same cravings shining with the fluorescent light that the rocks had. Beyond that point lies only resolution of he chooses to close the threshold. He's a fool for completing the incantation behind everyone's back, but they were not ready and now they'd never be. No one is, Todd finally understands, and the knowledge he possesses can't reach the outside world. The mere idea of humankind not being the first race of intelligent beings was laughable to most, but the reality of us not being from this planet, our planet, much less this solar system, would break more than one mind.

So Todd will close the threshold, as he should have done, and then, if he survives the ordeal of connecting his mind to the remnants of the hive left behind, he will take out the dynamite and close the caves hopefully forever and go out praying that no one dares to follow their steps. But he knows who we are, it's only a matter of time before someone tries again and find themselves in the same place.

I'm sorry, he thinks as his mind fractures in a myriad of pieces to be never joined again.