The April Featured Writer is Frank Schury
Please feel free to email Frank at email@example.com
It was a small box, but the elaborate flower engravings and patina relayed the passage of time and fueled his hopes that the contents were valuable.
It wasn’t heavy, and when he shook it, there was no movement that could help him to figure out what might be inside. There was no visible keyhole or spring-loaded mechanism, and the lid remained firmly closed. He studied the box, initially intrigued and then annoyed. It was the size of the average shoebox and other than the floral design was devoid of characteristics.
Typical. Grandmother had been a burden in life and continued to be in death, he thought. She’d hung on longer than expected. The Alzheimer’s ravaged her mind and body, but her heart had continued pumping blood into her ever shrinking frame.
As the only living relative of the hag, he’d appointed himself Power of Attorney at the first sign of incoherence and eagerly awaited the payout of her hefty life insurance policy that went along with the estate. He “cared” for her those last few months, feigning sorrow to friends and neighbors.
Remarkably, she lasted another week after he cut off her food and water. In-between waves of babbling, she’d asked for the box. Her last breath, following a brief rattling, was music to his ears. She was waked and buried within twenty-four hours.
And now, after the estate auction, he stumbled upon the box under a stack of tablecloths in the cellar. Suspecting that it was what his grandmother had referred to on her deathbed, he was eager to learn of its contents.
It could be a treasure! He smashed the box with a brick but that failed to even dent the bronze surface. He then tried to pry the lid open with a rusty crowbar found in the cellar, but succeeded in only opening the knuckles of his left hand.
Finally he gave up, tossing the box onto a shelf in the cellar with disgust; he figured he’d hire a locksmith the next day. He was exhausted and went up to bed.
In a dream, he heard the box creeping up the stairs, its metallic skin scraping along the wood steps that led to the second floor of the mansion. He heard a voice, deep but soft and it whispered through the mahogany door of the master bedroom, the very room his grandmother had died in weeks earlier.
Come to me. There is much to teach you.
He awoke in a panic and was blinded by the morning sun as it broke through the window blinds. He stumbled out of bed and lurched toward the door. Was it a dream, or was there something out there, crouched on the other side of the bedroom door?
His heart pounded in his chest as he grasped the doorknob and turned. The door swung inward with the protesting squeal of misaligned hinges. He gasped in shock when he saw the box.
Finally, he laughed, attributing the event to insomnia. The frustrations of yesterday had obviously caused fitful sleep with a bout of sleepwalking.
He carried the box to the cellar as he had done the night before, but this time locked it in a steel cabinet that stood alone in the rear of the room.
He called a locksmith but the man told him he couldn’t come out until the next day, so he decided to spend his time doing bank transfers and engaging in lengthy phone conversations with aggressive financial advisors. He tried not to think about the box sitting in its dark prison in the cellar.
Was it waiting for him? Planning its escape?
He felt ashamed of his foolishness, and proclaimed to the empty home that objects were incapable of thought. He repeated this mantra throughout the day, until he was convinced. By ten o’clock, his head played a drum sequence and his eyes felt like sandpaper, and he knew he needed to sleep.
He felt afraid of sleeping. He didn’t want to dream. He wondered if he was becoming obsessed with that box. He told himself the mystery would be solved once and for all when the locksmith arrived.
He lay down in his bed and told himself to relax as he drifted off to sleep.
This time, it sat on the edge of his bed, its shape illuminated by moonlight. The light gave it a faint glow. It was a glowing eye peering into his soul, judging him. The voice was still a whisper, but its tone was more commanding this time.
I won’t be ignored.
In the dream, he was not lying on the bed but floating above it. The box also levitated with him. It had grown wings that vibrated.
He woke up under a tangle of sweat-soaked sheets and pinched himself like a child to confirm that he was no longer trapped in the dream.
Suddenly he screamed. He knew he was awake, yet the box sat at the end of the bed.
Panicked, he grabbed it, ran downstairs, and out the front door and into the retreating night. He paced back and forth on the lawn until dawn arrived and with it the familiar grind of gears approaching the front gate.
He personally fed the box into the gaping mouth of the sanitation truck and he then watched the steel teeth clamp down on it before swallowing it. It was over now. Thank God it was over. Whatever treasure was in that box, he no longer wanted it.
For the rest of the day, he walked through the mostly empty rooms of the mansion. He couldn’t concentrate and when attempting the simplest of tasks, the box invaded his thoughts and sent him into a tailspin of panic.
When someone knocked at the door, he froze in fright. Could the box be on the front porch?
He peeked out the window, and realized it was the locksmith. He opened the door and said, “I’m sorry…I meant to call you to cancel. I figured it out myself.”
The locksmith said, “You owe me an hour’s pay just for showing up.”
He fumbled in his pocket and threw fifty dollars out the door and then slammed it in the locksmith’s face. What was fifty dollars when he had so much inheritance coming his way?
Before settling down that night, he checked the cellar cabinet and reassured himself that it was empty. He told himself once again that it was all over. After all, his newly acquired wealth would be useless if he wound up in an asylum. As he ascended the stairs, he made a note to call Dr. Wilson for a prescription of Valium later in the week.
Lying in bed, he stared at the chandelier and focused on controlling his breathing. The mansion, down to the last nail, had value. This meant liquid assets. Images of cash and coin flashed before him. He closed his eyes although he couldn’t sleep.
An unpleasant odor filled his nostrils. His eyes opened to see that the box was inches from his face, its square shape obstructing his view of all else. It sat on his chest and with each passing second, seemed to grow heavier, until his rib cage and the lungs behind it felt that they would collapse. The voice was no longer soft but now was somewhat familiar.
I’ve come. See what I have.
He couldn’t draw breath into his compressed lungs. He heard the sounds of ribs cracking. The silhouette of the box was backlit by the light from the chandelier.
Within the blanket of agonizing pain, he realized that he’d escaped the dream into an even more terrifying realty. The box somehow held him down.
The box’s lid slowly opened. A mirror reflected his terrified image with words forming across the top.
This is my will. You receive nothing—I’m giving it all to charity.
The box squeezed his chest. Blood spilled from his mouth, darkening the clean sheets as his lungs burst from the pressure.
Frank A. Schury resides in Suffolk County, New York. He has been published in: Tales to Terrify, The Cynic, Byzarium, Nocturnal Ooze, Burial Day Books, Tales From the Moonlit Path, Fantastic Horror, Bleeding Ink, Silver Moon Magazine, Suffer Eternal/Tales of the Undead, and Forever Underground Magazine.