Writing Prompt Wednesday is a concept kindly borrowed from Honestly Austen.
“So…” I nudged it, very gently, with my toe. “That’s creepy.”
“Little bit, yeah.” Ben paused. “Maybe Emily left it.”
We waited, staring at the package on the porch: perfectly square, wrapped in blue paper, with a white bow on top. No tag. And we lived in the country–way out. It took seven minutes just to make it up our driveway, and that was if you had a pickup truck or something. My Honda took it slow, about nine or ten if it was raining.
So call us paranoid, but it seemed weird that somebody’d come all the way out here just to leave a gift, without a message, and without telling us.
“I think it’s for you,” Ben said while I waited on Emily to text me back. “Blue’s your color.”
“It’s not like I own it,” I said. “I don’t go around tagging my stuff with blue paint.” I nudged it again–which was the other creepy part, because it didn’t budge, at all. I’d tried to lift it but it was rock-solid heavy. If we wanted to open it, we’d have to get the hand truck or we’d have to open it here, where it was, out on the porch–which didn’t seem like such a bad idea, at this point.
“Let’s just open it,” he said.
“What if it’s poison?”
“What, like a box of poison?” he grinned. “Come on.” Then: “…we could open it with a stick.”
“F*ck it,” I said. “I’m opening it.” Reception was pretty dicey out here, so Em might not even get my text. And I wasn’t waiting around all day.
Carefully, I knelt beside the package, and picked at the tape–at least that was normal, that frosty-clear Scotch tape that was supposed to be easy to remove.
“Oh my god, are you serious.” Ben groaned. “Just tear it off.”
“No.” This was how I opened all presents, even weird ones, and I wasn’t about to change the habit of a lifetime here.
Over the course of several minutes, I peeled the tape off and unraveled the bow–an actual, honest to god fabric bow, like linen or something. And the paper was thick, a little rough and yellowed on the inside.
I pulled the paper back.
It was a box–not a cardboard box, but a red lacquered box with a little inset lid and a hole to hook your finger into so you could pull the top off.
I was not about to stick my finger in that hole.
“You do it.”
“I’ll get a fork.”
Ben re-entered the house and the screen door slammed shut behind him. I should fix that spring sometime. Couldn’t be good for the door, slamming shut like that.
He came back with a spoon, knelt on the other side of the box, and slipped the handle into the hole. We both leaned back a little as he lifted it out.
I don’t mean there were no things inside. I mean the inside was black, empty, void. There was just…nothing. Light didn’t touch it.
Ben glanced at me, eyes wide, then dropped the spoon in.
There was no sound. The spoon was gone.
“Hell with this,” I said, trying to sound harder than I felt. I grabbed the lid and slammed it back on, or tried to.
But the lid, which had set in snugly just a moment ago, didn’t seem to fit anymore. It wouldn’t quite line up, or it was too big, or…I couldn’t figure it out. All I knew was, it wouldn’t go back on.
And that’s when we heard the voice.
“Ben,” it said, sounding like a head was sitting right inside the box. “Jamie. Boy, am I glad to see–well, I can’t really see you. But it’s relieving all the same.”
“Um…sorry?” Ben’s voice was quavering, but mine was gone.
“Oh right.” We heard something distant, like the snap of fingers. “You can’t see me either. Sorry. This is gonna take some getting used to.” A sound of someone drawing in a deep breath.
“So…you know how people say the world is going to end?”
We looked at each other and shrugged. “Do they?”
“Yes.” The voice sounded irritated. “And thanks for ruining my dramatic moment. You were supposed to say, ‘Yes?’ and I was supposed to say…dramatic pause–”
“Did you just say ‘dramatic pause’?”
“OH MY GOD!” The voice snapped. “Fine. Have it your way. The world is going to end unless you take this box exactly where I tell you. Happy now?”