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My great grandfather died a century and a half ago. I remember my father always telling me his story, about how he joined the army and how he perished on the battlefield along with the general commanding his group. It was a very long time before we immigrated here. He was born in Strasbourg, but I don’t really know more. I didn’t even know his name, and all I remembered him for were good bedtime stories on a stormy night.

My dad, about two decade ago had also enlisted in the army. I remember the night, more than 17 years ago. I’d just been a young kid, barely reaching his 8th year. It was March of 2003, and my dad was about to depart. I hadn’t seen or heard of him since, and he’d never told me about the departure, simply saying he’d be at work and back not too long after. Admittedly I still miss him, but it’s really not part of the story.

I didn’t have a mother figure unfortunately, I wasn’t to close with mum as she’d suffered an aneurysm whilst she was was having me. She was brain-dead and after a month I was born. They turned off life support a few days later. Dad never talked about her much, probably as I’d always catch him overwhelmed if I ever asked about her. I had an older brother, who was 11 when this all began, though he wasn’t as fascinated with the story of my great-grandpa as I was.

On our last day, dad walked out of his room with a heavy backpack and a small box. He’d known he wouldn’t see me for ages. In his hand was a thick cardboard box, black in colour. I was obviously interested, and asked him what it was for.

“Don’t ever take it out of the box. You may look at it, admire it, but don’t ever take it out of the box in which it lays. This belonged to your great-grandpa. The army he fought against found it in his pocket, giving it to his family and returning the body to be buried.”

I felt uneasy asking more questions, seeing how blunt he was and how he insisted on keeping it in the container. He hugged me and my brother, and bid us a heartfelt farewell, telling us his childhood friend would take care of us. I put the mysterious box in my drawer and forgot about it for about a year. Just a day later, Robert moved in. He was the childhood friend dad talked about. He was 24 years old, which wasn’t too young. Dad was only 30 at the time. Life went on as usual, until that day came

Robert and my brother went on a long hunting trip. They considered me too young to attend and I assumed responsibility of the home for the time being. I sifted through my drawer in pursuit of entertainment, until I felt it. It had been dug deep among the cloths, objects, and tools that had been stuffed in the drawer. With immediate recognition, I noticed it was the gift dad gave me before he left.

I hopped onto my bed, and with an irresistible curiosity that mounted me like a cavalry horse, my interests galloped to the prospect of revealing what hibernated in that container. It had slept for ages, and today was the day it would awaken. I admired the pattern on the lid of the box. It was a leather black background, and it displayed an Eagle outline in gold. The eagle’s talons clutched a platform radiating thunderbolts. Under it was a paragraph a language I did not recognise. It looked similar to the English script, with a few accents on the letter. The only detail I could recognise were numbers at the bottom of the paragraph. It read:

“1852-1870”

I was excited and inquisitive. I had to hold myself back as I stared at the intricate golden embroidery that was knitted into the lid. I ran my thumb down the box, analysing its texture. I placed my fingers onto the lid, and I just couldn’t retain the one question in my head:

“What was under that lid?”

I took it off. Inside lay the same black leather that made the outside of the box, and a distinct velvet pad. Dark red and incredibly soft, my fingers ran across it, with an texture similar to the brushy, light fur of a mole. But it wasn’t the dark colour of the box, and neither the unbelievably soft pad that decorated it. What acted like the magnet to my curious eyes was the object that rested on the velvet pad.

It was a coin, and a very large one at that. It was about the size of a milk-bottle cap. It was composed of silver and all the text was worn out. I could make the features of a bust. It was a man facing left, wearing an olive crown with a very thick moustache and a beard.

“That’s quite the facial hair,” I though to myself as a smirk crept on my face. I took the coin out, and it sat heavy in my palms. I flipped it to the side, and again the text was worn out. It showed the pattern of an eagle similar to that on the lid, with a medal around it, inside of a robe. On top was a large and unique crown. I could make out three words. “5” and “F” on either side of the pattern, and “1870” on the bottom. There was some sort of defacing, a large scar that ran diagonally across the diameter of the reverse.

I was purely mesmerised, and in my reverie, the instructions about returning the artefact to its resting place crawled out of my brain. I saw the moonlight shine on its silver, casting a blue reflection. I could see my face in its mirror-like surface. I fell asleep soon, and left the coin on my dresser, exposed to the elements for the first time. Call me crazy, but I felt I’d “disappointed” it. Sure it may be an inanimate object, or so I think, but this all started after I violated the return to its container. I went to sleep, and made a little prayer for my brother, Robert, and dad.

On the first night, it manifested itself in my dreams. I saw my great grandpa in the same war that I’d be told the story of. I was a spectator in the midst of a battle. Despite not knowing anything further than the camouflaged clothing, my brain somehow visually constructed a different military uniform, one that was surprisingly…exact.

He was dressed in a blue, long-sleeved shirt, with a unique hat. White straps ran across his chest tied to a backpack. He wore dark red baggy pants and black boots, and on his shoulders were light red shoulder pads with fringes. He held a long rifle with a bayonet, and at that time, I had not known the latter existed. I watched the battle play out for about a few minutes, and suddenly, it changed to a normal dream. Just the typical dreams I’d have. I woke up confused but rather unscathed and just passed it off as something of the imagination.

So was the case for a long time. The coin never did anything like it, at least not when Robert and my brother were at home. I’d sometimes catch the damage on the coin radiating a light yellow brilliance, but the second I’d turn my head to observe it, the light would fade and revert to its dark, damaged sheen. My brother and Robert went to another hunting trip. This time, something very different happened.

I marched back to my room and through the hallway I saw it. It was a human. That’s what it looked like at least. It stood, rested in the shade of the hallway, the blanket of darkness just covering its features. All I saw was its outline. It appeared like a human, however its hands and feet weren’t there, as if the arms and legs just faded at the wrists and knees. I side-stepped, with my jaw dropping in confusion. I didn’t know what to think, my lizard brain had activated and my entire body began to function on instinct. I forced my feet into the ground as they shook, trying to induce an escape. I stood my ground and yelled.

“Who are you?” I asked, with aggression and fear. I felt my body get overwhelmed with exhaustion and within seconds I was on my hands and knees as my vision blurred. I felt as if chains bound me to the ground, as if all the strength was drained from my body. It lasted for what was about ten seconds, and after that I began to regain my vision and my strength. I helped myself onto my feet and suddenly felt an urge to go to the dresser. My feet, almost on their own commands, took me to the desired location. On it was the coin, and next to it was a strip paper that looked like it was hastily torn from a notebook. On it, two dates were scribbled.

“19 AVRIL 1851 - 4 AOÛT 1870”

“1870…” I muttered to myself, I kept repeating the same date. What was with it? I saw it with everything related to my great grandpa and my 9-year old brain couldn’t understand the significance of this date. I could hear the front door unlocked, followed by a muffled conversation between my brother and Robert. For about a year, Robert had been our “father figure.” He did all what he could to care for both of us, and his efforts are respected even to this day. I however, started to get this feeling of unease whenever I was alone in the home. I would be “punished” in such an absurd way by something I cannot point to.

Again, a few days later, nothing had been done to me. However, I felt more things happening in a way I’d consider…different. Call me insane, but I felt my actions weren’t really being done because I chose to. Sometimes, I’d feel an overwhelming urge to do something. I got into trouble with Robert a week later after I shattered a plate, an urge I couldn’t control. I tried explaining to him that I don’t want to perform such actions, but he looked at me as if I’d been crazy. I explained what happened with the apparition, but he understandably didn’t take me seriously.

“You should eat, or perhaps sleep more,” he advised, trying to see things on my level. I sighed and went to my bedroom. The next day, Robert had gone out early for work. It was just me and my brother in the home, and the coin didn’t mind to work its story again. I was able to catch the scar on the coin shine brighter on multiple occasions and sometimes it’d let me see its light before dying down.

This morning, it did its thing to me again. Robert kindly had made us breakfast, and I sat with my brother after brushing our teeth. This time, the ordeal was one of agony. I felt a sort of desire, one that wanted me to not swallow the single morsel. As I brought it closer to my mouth, the urge got stronger. I felt my throat spasm, I felt a fire run down my œsophages and ignite my stomach. My entire body shot up in anguish and I began to yell in pain. My brother looked at me with horror, confused as to what happened. I fell of my chair unable to move and began to cough incessantly. I felt my eyelids become unimaginably heavy and soon it was all black. I could’ve sworn I saw that coin the second my eyes shut.

I woke up in bed, tended by my brother and Robert. They’d tried to nurse me back to health, wrapped in a blanket. They told me I’d been out for an hour. I asked where I was, and I could hear Robert sigh in relief.

“Your brother told me what happened. I don’t know what’s wrong man. Do you want me to call a doctor?”

I began to refuse, insisting that I will be alright. The last thing I’d want is a doctor to hear my pleas and think of me as insane. I spent the rest of the day in bed. My eyes were glued to the coin, which hadn’t bothered to hide its glow anymore. The second I was alone again, my legs raised me from the bed. The whole coin had turned into a wad of light, it’s rays piercing my eyes. My legs walked me around the room, and began to play scenes from the war after it put me in a daydreaming state.

My mind effectively created its own world, as I watched the houses disintegrate and the roads flourish and turn into a grassy field. The only thing that remained was my room. I felt I was in a trance, a different world. In fear and anger I tried to break free from the puppet I’d been stuck in. The coin was now upright and rotating. It began to manifest the scenes of battle into my head, the loudness of explosions, the rounds firing. My brain began to quake, I felt the ground become unstable. My legs struggled to keep my weight up, and my exhaustion maximised. Soon, the walls of the house itself began to fade, and I was exposed to the rounds that soared across the field.

I began to walk towards the coin in a march that would be the hardest distance crossed of my life. I didn’t do it because I chose to. It was an overwhelming urge, like my brain telling me I had to do it. I pushed on, and I could feel the air around be becoming exponentially hot. The ground under me had began to feel like hot coals that ignited the bare soles of my fear. I began to near the coin, reaching out my arms. I felt the fluid in my joints experience overheat, and my bones rattled as the pain spread to them. I threw myself, and grabbed the coin.

Everything was over, I fell to the ground of my bedroom, and I looked at the coin clutched in my small hands. All the pain had subsided, all the scenes dispelled. It was all over, I felt like I won. I cried out in victory, I had overpowered all this pain, and finally ended my torture.

We moved a few days later, and I left the coin behind not wishing to be in its presence. The experiences stopped altogether, and I completely forgot about all what happened, dismissing it as some dream or the likes. Unfortunately I’d never seen dad since then. Fast forward 16 years later, and I’m on my bed in the morning thinking of what my dad told me:

“Don’t ever take it out of the box. You may look at it, admire it, but don’t ever take it out of the box in which it lays. This belonged to your great-grandpa. The army he fought against found it in his pocket, giving it to his family and returning the body to be buried.”

*”Don’t ever take it out of the box”* I muttered. All these memories flooded in, and I put two and two together. I shot up, immediately sprinting out of my new home. I had known where my childhood home was for years.

Getting in my car I drove to the destination, and looked at what remained from the home. The entire compound was abandoned, and I felt a shiver form in the back of my head, sprinting down my spine. I pushed past the unlocked gate, and stared into the rubble that was once my home. Not a single decoration or object, with the exception of the uncountable pile of bricks. I felt something pull me, as if it was calling to be helped. Even more than a decade later, its powers remain strong. It was just the two of us, in this entire town. Strengthening as I got closer, I saw the rock, with a mark of gold paint.

I knew what was buried under these ruins, and I knew my responsibility. I tossed the bricks until I saw it. As if it was specially prepared that way, I saw the coin, right in between the lid and box. It had looked very beaten up, and had celebrated its 150th anniversary. Stained with black smudges, it had been under these bricks for an unimaginable length of time. I raised the coin from the rubble, wiping to clean with the base of my shirt. I took the box, and placed it with its heads side up. The velvet pad had not been damaged in any way, and the coin fit perfectly. I wiped the dust off the lid, and placed it onto the box, sealing it all away before placing it in my left pocket. Almost immediately, I felt a feeling of warmth and pleasure form at my fingertips touching the box before it spread to the rest of my body. I smiled almost instinctively.

“I miss you dad,” I said to myself

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