Jerry drove the shovel into the ground. It was stopped by a solid object buried a few inches underground, with loud clanging sound. Jerry had struck something.
“What is this?” Jerry Gray, the amateur treasure hunter said.
He used his shovel to remove the dirt from directly on top of this solid object. He had struck some sort of rock. Rubbing his hand over it, he found it to be smooth with something engraved in it. This was no ordinary rock, it was some sort of artifact.
“Did you find something?” Charles, his assistant asked.
“Yeah,” Jerry said, “lend me a hand here, would you?”
The two of them continued digging around the object that Jerry had just struck. They were eventually able to remove a brownish-gray, cube-shaped stone chest from the ground, about a foot wide on each side. The inscription engraved on the lid was in some ancient language that neither of the treasure hunters knew. They wiped the dirt off the chest with their hands.
“Clearly this comes from an ancient civilization,” Charles said, “whatever’s inside must be worth a fortune.”
The two of them lifted, and removed the lid from the chest. Inside, there was a large blue gem that shined brilliantly when removed from the chest and placed in the sunlight. It was clearly sapphire. The gem was shaped like a human skull. It was an artifact like neither of them had ever seen.
“Wow,” was all that either of them could say after discovering the treasure.
They quickly put it back in the box, and lifted it into the back of their pickup truck. The chest was heavy, but Jerry was strong enough to lift it on his own.
“This is an incredible discovery,” Charles said, while they were taking it back to their truck, “who knows what humanity can learn from this!”
“And who knows how rich we’ll be when we sell it!” Jerry said.
“Sell it?” Charles said, “This is clearly a historical artifact! It belongs in the Charleston University Museum, not in the hands of some wealthy collector!”
At this point, Jerry turned to his partner, unhappy.
“Charleston University?” he asked, “they can’t afford to give us much for this!”
“But it’s the right thing to do,” Charles said, “something like this belongs in a museum, where the world can see it, where experienced archaeologists can study it and learn about the object and the people who originally carved it.”
“What do we care?” Jerry said, “we can be rich!”
“What’s money compared to the knowledge of mankind,” Charles said.
“It’s the past!” Jerry argued, “The past is already gone and never coming back. I don’t care about the past. I can be rich in the present, and the future!”
“We didn’t get in this to be rich,” Charles said, “we got in this for the excitement! Regardless, this skull is going to the museum if I have to take it there myself!”
Charles then walked over to the chest and pulled it out of the back of the truck.
“You’re not walking away with our fortune!” Jerry cried.
He grabbed the other side of the chest, and tried to tug it away from Charles, but Charles already had a good grip. They kept struggling to take the chest from the other, until eventually. They struggled hard for about a minute, but then Charles lost his grip on the chest and fell on his back.
Jerry smiled, as he was ready to take the treasure to be sold. Unfortunately, his grip on the chest had also weakened from the struggle. The chest slipped out of his hands, and fell towards the ground, and Charles. Charles tried to slide out of the way, but the chest was moving too fast, and it struck him in the head.
There was now a large wound on the right side of Charles’s face, and blood was rushing out. Charles tried to get up, but collapsed once again, dead.
Jerry looked at the body of his partner, and panicked at his death for a moment.
“What have I done?” he cried.
Then, he turned to the body. He knew if the body was found, he would be in trouble. The death may have been an accident, but he feared the police wouldn’t see it that way. He could be arrested for murder, and killed. He had to protect himself. He laid the body in the hole they had pulled the chest out of. He then filled the hole, leaving the body hidden in the ground. He looked at his partner’s grave and sighed as he mourned his fallen partner. However, despite his mourning, he couldn’t help but feel happy that the entire treasure was his.
The next day, Jerry went to see a man about the skull, a man he had worked with previously: Alejandro Ruiz. Mr. Ruiz used to be a professor of archaeology at Charleston University, but now, he runs a small shop, appraising antiques and other valuables. For many years, it was Mr. Ruiz who Jerry and Charles saw to get the treasures that they found appraised.
“Ah, Jerry,” Mr. Ruiz said, when Jerry entered his shop, “where is Charles?”
“He’s out of town,” Jerry quickly lied.
“Okay,” Mr. Ruiz said, believing Jerry, “so, what can I do for you today?”
“I’d like you to tell me how much this is worth,” Jerry said.
He showed Mr. Ruiz a picture of the skull. He didn’t dare bring the real thing to Mr. Ruiz’s shop. He learned that the hard way.
“My word,” Mr. Ruiz said, “if I’m not mistaking, that’s the sapphire skull of Chief Running Fox.”
“Running Fox?” Jerry asked.
“Yes,” Mr. Ruiz said, “it’s a local legend about this place. Running Fox was the chief of a tribe of Native Americans who used to live here. It is said that he kept a skull made of solid sapphire as a precious treasure, though the skull itself came from a much older civilization. Regardless, the skull inspired envy in the eyes of his brother, who slew Running Fox in his sleep, just so he could have the skull.”
“You see,” Mr. Ruiz continued, “His brother did not know the curse of the sapphire skull. It is said that if one who desires the skull sheds any blood in the process of acquiring it, they will die a most grisly death.”
Jerry thought for a moment about his situation, and how he killed his partner to get the skull. But the thought of a curse like that was absolute nonsense to him. He couldn’t help but burst out into laughter.
“Curse?” he said, when he calmed down, “that’s crazy talk.”
“Yes,” Mr. Ruiz said, “the whole idea of a curse is preposterous, but nonetheless, I would not dismiss the entire story. Even the most insane of legends generally have some basis in fact.”
“So,” Jerry said, “if I was to sell this skull, how much would it go for?”
“Most people would pay three and a half million,” Mr. Ruiz said, “but I’m going to offer you five million right now.”
“I’ll think about it,” Jerry said, walking out of Mr. Ruiz’s shop.
That was a lie, though. He knew full well that Alejandro Ruiz was a cheapskate, purposely appraising objects for far less than their true value, just so he could make an offer that seems generous in comparison, but is really very low. Jerry thought he could get at least ten million for it, and he was certainly right.
After only about a day of searching for a buyer, he found an aristocrat with an interest in, and a vast collection of Native American artifacts. The man offered a generous twelve million dollars for the skull plus the case, and Jerry instantly accepted.
Now, Jerry was wealthy, and still nobody knew what happened to Charles. With his newfound wealth, Jerry purchased an opulent mansion on the edge of town. Though the mansion seemed extravagant and luxurious when he purchased it, things were not quite as they seemed. The moment he walked in after the purchase was finalized, everything was different.
Now, the mansion looked like a haunted house. The floors were wooden, and it looked as if one bad step could break them, as compared to the smooth marble floors he originally saw. The chandeliers were now old, and crumbly, and rather than light bulbs in theme, there were old wax candles, lit in an ethereal blue flame. The wallpaper was peeling everywhere, and there were cobwebs on all of them.
But most horrifying of all, at a coffee table in the center of the room, the sapphire skull sat, staring Jerry in the eyes. Jerry panicked and tried to run out the door, but it shut in front of him. He grabbed the door handles to try and open them, but it was fruitless; the doors were stuck and he was trapped.
He ran across the room, towards the back door. He figured he could escape through there, but the back door was locked and sealed just like the front. In a panic, he ran to a window. Though the windows in the mansion he bought were clear and freshly washed, these windows were so smoked up that you couldn’t even see the sunlight through it. He tried to open the window to get out, but the window was also sealed.
He proceeded to punch the window, hoping to break it open. His fist furiously struck the window, and he broke it, cutting his hand with the glass in the process. He looked out, ready to make his escape, but saw the outside to be every bit as horrifying as the inside. Every plant outside was dead. There were no people or animals in sight, though some bones could be seen slightly buried, sticking out through the dead grass. And most mysterious of all, though it was clearly mid-day when he entered, it was now the middle of the night. He panicked once again, and stepped back.
“It’s all a dream,” he told himself, “it’s all a dream!”
But he did not wake up. And what he saw next would be the most horrifying thing of all. Outside the window, he saw out of nowhere, a cloaked figure appeared. The cloaked figure approached the broken window, apparently by floating a few inches off of the ground. His face and body remained completely concealed by the cloak. The terrifying figure floated straight through the wall, as if it were not there.
Jerry was terrified. He continued to step back, away from this fiendish figure. The figure continued to approach him, and Jerry was up against the wall, incapable of moving any further back. When the figure got close, the cloak’s hood faded, as if it were never there, and underneath it, Jerry saw the sapphire skull.
He couldn’t help but scream. He ran towards the nearest door, and right through it. However, he was in such a panic that he didn’t take time to look behind the door. He walked straight off the edge of the floor and fell down a deep hole. He finally landed on a hard rocky surface. The fall broke almost every bone in his body, and he couldn’t move very much. Next to him, he saw two old skeletons, rotting. Then, he saw the cloaked figure slowly descend towards him.
With all the strength he had left, he said to the cloaked figure “What is this? Who are you? What’s going on? Where am I?”
The cloaked figure only answered the last question, in a cold, monotone voice: “Hell.”
Three days later, the local police’s patrol car 1962 was parked outside the mansion. Two officers stood beside it, discussing a case.
One of the officers said, “It looks like an accidental death to me. The homeowner just tripped and fell down the basement stairs, hit his head on the hard marble floor, and died.”
“It mostly looks like an accident to me,” the other officer said, “but there is the issue of that skull. It was resting perfectly straight up, on top of his body. How would something like that get there unless somebody put it there?”
“He could have just been carrying it when he fell,” the first officer said, “though it’s unlikely that it would land in the way it did, I suppose it’s not impossible. We should take the skull in as evidence, and try dusting it for prints down at the station just to see if anybody else might be involved.”
“You know,” the second officer said, “I thought I read an article in a magazine about a collector of Native American artifacts who recently acquired a skull very much like that…”
The two officers headed toward the house to take the skull.
Author’s Notes (may contain spoilers):
“The Sapphire Skull” was a rewrite of a short story called “The Sapphire” from back in 2004. Sadly, I misplaced the drafts of most of my short stories from that time, so I sincerely doubt that I will ever publish the original story. Plus, the only feedback I ever got on “The Sapphire” was that people just didn’t get it, so even if I do find it, it’s probably not getting posted regardless. Considering that, despite being a rewrite, “The Sapphire Skull” actually has very little in common with “The Sapphire”. The idea behind “The Sapphire” was quite simply that the sapphire in question caused the man who discovered it, and greedily kept it, very bad luck, ultimately driving him insane. The main confusion was in that the sapphire’s origin was never explained. Additionally, some of the unlucky things that happened to the man were a bit ridiculous.
It may also be worth noting that I very rarely do complete rewrites of any of my stories, as I feel it is a waste of the original work. This may be my only exception.
I ultimately got rid of the bad luck aspect, and added the backstory of the curse to make the story more understandable. I also tried to make it more interesting by adding the question as to whether Jerry actually did go insane, or if the events in the house actually happened. I always liked writing endings where certain pieces are a bit unclear, to leave a slight mystery in the mind of the readers, and keep them thinking about the story.