Beta: Kathy Rose, with thanks.

This story was written for an October mystical magical challenge. I hope you like it!

Disclaimer: I don't own it, I make no money from it. Not written for profit, simply for pleasure.

x-x

Trip sat on a bed in sickbay, his hands clenched around its cool metal edge. He couldn't remember how he got there, which was a pretty scary thought, so he tried not to think. Instead, he focused on keeping his eyes shut.

Maybe if he kept his eyes closed, he'd be all right. And maybe the others would be all right, too. Because what he was seeing right now certainly couldn't be real. And if that wasn't real, then what he'd seen earlier wasn't real, either.

If he just didn't look.

The sounds were still there, though. The voices, talking to him, whispered phrases swirling past his ears. Even now, when he was probably the closest to "normal" as he'd felt since he'd examined the artifact this morning, the voices were buzzing at the edges of his consciousness. He'd tried the old "hands over ears" trick from his childhood, but the volume wasn't affected at all. So he'd tried humming, then shouting, trying to drown out the voices. When that hadn't worked, either, it had seriously freaked him out. It meant that the voices were inside his head. Which would make him - what? Nuts? Crazy?

Other than the voices and the visions, he felt pretty normal right now. Then he spat a sharp laugh. Normal. That was a laugh.

He heard someone moving nearby, and he jumped. It was probably Phlox, it was fine, everything would be fine. He just needed to relax. He took a breath, then rolled his shoulders. Lastly, he unclenched his hands, splaying them flat against the mattress below him.

There was a voice from in front of him. It didn't seem like the other voices. Cautiously, he opened his eyes.

It was Malcolm. Malcolm was there, standing there, watching him, talking to him, but that wasn't possible because Malcolm was dead. He'd been dead there on the floor in front of him and Hoshi too she was gone and Malcolm couldn't be there because he -

Trip slammed his eyes shut again.

x-x

Trip had been excited that morning; chomping at the bit, wanting to examine the alien artifact they'd found earlier that day. The darn thing had been drifting in an unpopulated area of space, and was unlike anything he'd seen before - their scans just rolled off it. He was fascinated. He had to know what it did.

Archer wouldn't let him start work until Malcolm's team had set up a containment area in one part of the launch bay. So, by the time he got to fiddling with the device, he was pretty eager.

Maybe this all was his fault. Maybe if he hadn't been so anxious, he'd have been more cautious, and Hoshi and Malcolm would still be alive.

But at the time, all he was was happy to get working on the thing. He remembered stepping through the opening in the barrier that Malcolm had placed around it, then sitting on the floor in front of it. Malcolm was at his side as they began their evaluations, Hoshi beside Malcolm, trying to translate the scrolling writings on its casing.

The artifact wasn't particularly big, Trip had thought. Maybe about a meter square, and oblong, its flat bottom cushioned in some padding that Malcolm's group had brought in. Trip had passed a careful hand over it, the grey substance cold under his palm. As his finger brushed over a joint in its otherwise smooth surface, he felt more than heard a "snick," then something pricked his skin.

"Damn," he said, bringing his finger up to his mouth.

Hoshi looked up and said, "Don't!", but he was already sucking on his injured finger. He removed it under her blistering gaze.

"Don't what?" Trip asked, staring down at the offending digit, then back at her.

She shook her head in exasperation. "We don't know what this thing is. Maybe you should see Phlox."

Trip smiled, holding up his finger. "For this little thing?"

A shadow passed across his vision, and that's when it started.

x-x

Phlox's voice came from just in front of him. "Can you tell me what is happening, Commander?"

Trip shook his head, his eyes closed, his hands again clenched around edge of the sickbay bed. He held on firmly, trying to anchor himself in the storm swirling around him. There were voices, whispers, sometimes shouts, but he couldn't understand them.

He felt like he should, but they were just beyond his reach. Maybe if he concentrated...

He heard Malcolm's voice from nearby. "...seemed to be seeing things. He started humming, then shouting."

That wasn't possible, Trip thought. Malcolm was dead. He'd seen him die back in the landing bay. Trip heard the voices swirl, louder now. He could almost make them out.

Phlox's voice came again. "What were you seeing, Commander?"

Trip didn't respond. He couldn't. He almost had it, what the voices were trying to tell him. Maybe if he simply kept very still.

Malcolm, closer now, asked, "Trip?"

Trip felt a hand on his arm and he flinched away. He couldn't - it wasn't possible - it was everything he could do not to jump off that table and run. He felt his breathing speed up and he froze in place. God, this was all..."Too much," he said aloud. He opened his eyes.

x-x

The shadow passed and there was a loud, clear "ping" from the device, and a flash of light filled the landing bay. Trip felt a whoosh and something heavy was thrown forward onto him.

He blinked his eyes open and lay there, stunned, unsure how much time had passed. There was something heavy across his chest. It was fine, though. It didn't hurt. And it was peaceful, staring up at ceiling, the room completely silent around him.

No, wait. His ears were ringing.

Slowly, he turned his head to the side. Malcolm was there on ground, eyes staring off at nothing. Oh, he thought. He pushed the heavy thing off his chest and sat, unsteadily, looking down. It was Hoshi. Her eyes were also open, and she lay there, so still. Dead, he thought numbly. They were both dead.

He felt hands on him and he struggled to push them away. There was a sharp voice, "Trip!" and he looked up from his place on the deck to see Malcolm standing there. Then he looked down and saw Malcolm there on the deck, dead, so obviously dead, Hoshi's body beside him. He looked up again and now saw Hoshi beside Malcolm, looking worried. As she reached a hand in his direction, he scrambled back, beyond her reach.

Hoshi said something about Sickbay, but he didn't catch the rest because suddenly there were loud voices all around him. He covered his head with his hands, trying to block out the noise.

x-x

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