Shawn Montgomery was born in upstate New York, graduating from Binghamton University in 1999. Captivated by a steady (and age-inappropriate) melange of horror films and ghost stories, he found himself gravitating to all things ghastly and horrific, like a moth to a flame. He began writing scary stories when he was eleven years old and hasn’t stopped.

Shawn has had his stories featured in Disturbed Digest, Death Head Grin, Deadman’s Tome, and others. Shawn also self-published his first novel, The Buchman, and is hard at work on subsequent novels.

He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and two daughters.


by Shawn Montgomery


“Look over there,” Max said, pointing across the parking lot. “That looks promising.”

“What do you want to do with a piece of crap like that?”

It was mid-afternoon, mid-summer, and the heat was oppressive. We were in a deserted part of town and the parking lot was surrounded by weeds. It was obvious that no one used it because it was next to an abandoned building. But I was tired. I just wanted to go somewhere with air conditioning and watch a Mariners game over a pitcher of cold beer.

“It’s an old Honda,” Max replied. “I think could get lucky with it, because it has one of those push-up lock buttons that can be manipulated with a clothes hanger. You don’t have that anymore on newer models.”

The car itself was unremarkable—just a beat-up red box on wheels. I was surprised that all of the tires were mounted and still inflated, the windows unexpectedly intact and rolled up (apart for the driver’s side, which was cracked open a couple of inches.) Judging from where it was parked and the amount of garbage strewn around it, I figured the thing had been abandoned for awhile.

After circling the car several times, Max stopped and peered into the driver’s side window. “I can’t tell if there’s anything valuable inside,” he mumbled. “I bet we can get something for parts though. Do these things even have catalytic converters?”

I shook my head. “How should I know? Besides, this car’s been here a while. It doesn’t run.”

“I say we still try,” he said. “You never know. Let’s see if this old baby will start. Why should we walk in this heat if we can drive?”

Even though I had seen people break into vehicles on TV, I didn’t know if it was actually possible. I secretly hoped Max would just give up and move on, but during the brief time that I knew him, I discovered arguing with the guy was pointless. So I watched as he orbited the vehicle several more times before stopping abruptly. “Holy shit, Nick,” he cried, “it’s our lucky day!”

Kneeling next to the rear tire, he reached underneath and pulled out a wire clothes hanger, already stretched out and hooked at one end. It seemed too good to be true. Too convenient. But there it was—the exact tool he was looking for.

“Don’t you think somebody’s already tried that?” I asked dubiously. “I mean, that’s why the coat hanger is here, after all.”

Ignoring me, Max hurried over to the driver’s side window and slid it down along the inside of the glass. As he continued tinkering with the lock, I glanced at the sidewalk and thought, Leave now! Get the hell out of here!

The suddenness of the thought startled me, but wasn’t unreasonable. If the police happened to spot us, I could have just hopped on the sidewalk and left. Technically, I wasn’t doing anything wrong. So, I wondered, why was I feeling not only anxious but strangely frightened?

Gritting my teeth, I dismissed my nerves on the heat and nagging hunger, and kept my mouth shut. After a few more minutes, Max managed to secure the end of the hanger over the knob, gently lifted it and unlocked the door.

“We’re in business!” he shouted, flinging the door open.

Mounds of garbage were piled along the seats and floor, and as I leaned in, I was assaulted by a putrid wave of stale heat and rot. Max appeared undeterred by the odor, however, and gleefully slid inside.

“Are you ready?” he asked, unlocking the passenger side door.

I didn’t move. “How do you know if it’ll even start?”

“I don’t but we’re gonna try. After all this trouble, we’re gonna make it do something.”

After clearing away a scattering of withered french fries and cigarette butts, I reluctantly eased in beside him.

“Oh man, would you look at that,” Max said.

On the floor and beside the gas pedal lay a single key. Max picked up the key, slid it into the ignition and turned. The car growled to life, shaking violently beneath us as a plume of black smoke blasted from the exhaust.

Max turned to me and grinned. “Ready to roll, my man?”

“Where are we gonna take it?” I asked, noting the gas gauge wavering just above empty.

Max shrugged. “Let’s see how it handles first.”

The car chugged, almost stalled, then blatted three loud backfires before rumbling out of the parking lot. Instead of hitting the freeway, Max turned onto 6th Street, where we were greeted by an expanse of strip malls, fast food restaurants and quick-service auto garages.

Coasting down the wide and rutted street, I had a chance to look around and take in our surroundings. Two crusty air fresheners shaped like pine trees swayed from the rear view mirror, but still couldn’t mask the torrid, skunky smell. Heat blasted from the air vents, but when I reached for the temperature controls, I discovered the knobs regulating both heat and air conditioning had been inexplicably removed. The crank handles for the windows were also missing.

I immediately began squirming. “Dude, I’m burning up in here! Let’s just pull over before we pass out!”

At first, Max didn’t respond, but as we idled at a red light, he finally suggested a nearby wooded area. “Let’s park behind those trees. It’d be cooler there and nobody will bother us.”

A few minutes later, we slowly veered onto a narrow gravel road surrounded by trees. It was an odd oasis in the middle of the city. From what I could see, it was just an unassuming tract of land that the city had not gotten to taming yet.

And then we heard it.

“What the hell was that?” Max snapped, braking to an abrupt stop. “Did we run over something?”

“Sounded like it came from the trunk,” I said, glancing back.

The notion of somebody being inside the trunk….somebody alive…hadn’t crossed my mind, but after hearing those very deliberate thuds, I began to panic.

My first thought was, Oh my god!  We just stole a vehicle with somebody trapped in the trunk!

My second thought was, This is a bad situation. I need to get out of here.

After Max killed the engine, we both flung open the doors and leaped out almost simultaneously. We then stood there for a minute, eyeing the thing like it was a restless beast.

Finally he said, “I bet it was just the exhaust backfiring. Nobody’s driven this thing in long time.”


Standing outside and without the air blasting, it distinctly sounded like the pounding was coming from inside the trunk.

“Holy shit,” I whispered.

Running his fingers through his sweaty hair, Max said, “Nothing could live in a trunk in this heat!”

We both stood there for a moment, unsure of what to do next. After hawking out a glob of spit beside his tattered Converse sneaker, Max finally drawled, “Let’s just dump this car.”

I frowned. “What if there’s an animal trapped inside?”

“Nick, I told you. The car was obviously left there for a while, man. Nothing could have survived that long.”

“But there’s definitely something thumping in there, Max! And it didn’t sound like a couple of garbage bags jostling around.”

Max glared at me, a sour expression on his face. Finally he said, “If something’s somehow alive in there, then let’s just let it die.”

“I don’t want to kill a dog.”

“What are you, a fucking bleeding heart? Okay, whatever…lemme check it out.”

We walked cautiously around the car before standing in front of the trunk. It had a standard key lock, and when Max attempted to lift, it was secured shut.

Suddenlymy inner-voice screamed again, Something’s not right here. It’s not too late to leave!

But again, I didn’t budge.

Although common sense begged me to walk away, and common sense was very strong, curiosity demanded that I stay and see what happened next. And the curiosity was stronger.

I recommended we try prying the trunk open.

We looked around the gravel road for a few minutes, but couldn’t find anything useful. Max then suggested we look inside the car for a release lever. Crawling head-first into the front seat, he poked around the floor until he found a small black lever near the door.

“Hell yeah!” he shouted as I heard something click in back.

After Max slid back out, he scurried to the trunk, slid his fingers underneath the lid and lifted. I didn’t know what to expect. Despite the mysterious thumping, I felt that Max was probably right—it wasn’t realistic that a live animal could really be pent up in there. But I was expecting to see the usual contents: a set of jumper cables, perhaps. A spare tire. More stinky garbage.

But when we peered into the trunk, I was admittedly caught off guard.

Sitting in the middle of the otherwise empty space was a large black box.

It was dark and plain. There were no ribbons attached to it, no strings or labels. Nothing to identify what it was, or why it was in there. It didn’t look like cardboard, but something more substantial.

“What the hell is this?” Max said. “This thing must have been bouncing around. See, told you there’s nothing alive in this trunk.”

“I think it’s made of metal,” I said.

“Let’s see what’s inside,” Max said as he worked the top open.

Max bent down closer, blocking my view. But after he gasped and stumbled backward, I was able to lean in and get a better look. My first thought was that I was staring into a magician’s trick box or a prop for a movie. Although nothing of what I was seeing looked fabricated, it didn’t look entirely real either.

An actual hole appeared to be inside the box. There wasn’t any bottom, flaps or hidden lining to speak of—nothing but an impenetrable blackness that seemed to stretch inward to infinity. As my eyes adjusted, however, I began to decipher more colors that blended seamlessly with the darker shades—a swirling jumble of deep blues, purples and reds that were near hypnotizing. In the center of this void was a pinprick of greenish light that seemed to be pulsating steadily.

The air around us suddenly became electric, and I could feel static run in the hairs on the back of my neck and arms. “Dude,” I whispered. “What the hell is this thing?”

“Well shit, I dunno, Nick,” Max said. “What do you think it is?”

Just then, a musty, damp breeze wafted out of the box and brushed uncomfortably across my face. I shook my head. “Looks like a wormhole of some sort.”

“For crissakes, just how many sci-fi movies do you watch?”

Without warning, Max pushed me aside, took a deep breath and stuck his hand into the box. I waited for him to either punch into a hidden bottom or yank the entire thing out of the trunk. Instead, I watched in shock as his entire arm continued to sink inside, right up to his shoulder.

“How are you doing that?” I gasped.

“I don’t know, man, but I can’t feel anything!”

“I don’t like this, Max. Get your hand out before something bad happens.”

He ignored me and leaned further into the box. “Damn, it’s really cold in there,” he announced, seemingly astonished. “I mean it’s freezing!”

Suddenly he drew his arm out and began shaking it back and forth. Along his forearm and down to his fingertips, the skin was shaded a purplish-red, as if it was frostbitten, and his fingers were visibly swelling. Large, pillowy blisters were already forming on his fingertips.

“Oh man, it really fucking hurts!” Max cried.

Without thinking, I pressed myself against the car’s rear bumper, leaned down into the trunk, and wrapped my arms around the box. I was expecting the thing to buckle or even collapse from my grip, but when I squeezed, it was rigid and unyielding. I then tried lifting it, but it wouldn’t budge an inch. When I finally gave up and stepped back, an oily, cold sheath of slime coated my fingers.

Max began screaming. He fell into a sitting position on the gravel road, his eyes huge with shock. I then caught a dark blur in my peripheral, and when I turned to look at the trunk of the car, an astounded yelp escaped from my mouth.

A monstrously large insect leg had sprung out of the box and began to writhe wildly in the air. Black and glistening, the leg was as long as a broomstick and twice as thick. Uneven, jagged scales lined the segmented limb. At the tip was a sharpened barb that extended several inches. As the appendage blindly scraped along the top of the trunk, it made a horrible screeching noise.

“Shut the damn trunk, Nick!” Max screamed.

Although I heard him, I stood frozen as my mind scrambled to process what I was seeing. Finally, I watched my legs shuffle toward the car, even though I felt oddly detached from them. As I lifted my arms, the insect leg suddenly stopped thrashing, turned to me as if it had sensed my presence and lunged.

I didn’t know what happened at first. Almost instantly, I felt a stinging sensation around my stomach, like I had just received an injection, but it wasn’t until I had stumbled back when I realized I was bleeding. Hastily inspecting myself, I noticed a puncture wound right above my bellybutton, a perfectly round hole rimmed with a flaring, black smudge. It was followed by a searing flash of pain, as if somebody had just stabbed me with a red-hot poker.

Reeling, I tore off my t-shirt and pressed it tight against my stomach. I could feel something foreign festering in the wound and sliding through my veins like some hyper-aggressive virus. I then felt an odd motion in my lower belly, as though some jittering thing had suddenly twitched in there.

After striking me, the massive limb quivered and swayed seductively around the still-open trunk before deftly lowering itself back inside the box. Within a few seconds, it was gone.

“What in the hell was that thing?” Max gasped.

I didn’t have any logical answers for him. Instead, I slowly peeled the shirt away from my stomach. The bleeding had mostly stopped and the sizzling wave was beginning to ebb to a vague throbbing. However, the area around my bellybutton was lobster-red and little white blisters began to dot my chest.

“Maybe it was an octopus or something,” I said, feeling dazed.

Max shook his head emphatically. “No way that was an octopus! It looked like a giant cricket’s leg or maybe a scorpion’s tail. But how could something like that even exist?”

“I don’t know and honestly don’t care,” I said warily. “I was attacked by something large and it hurts and something’s wrong with me.”

Max walked over and gently laid his hand on my shoulder. “Do you need to go to the hospital?”

“You know we can’t go anywhere they might ask questions. I got a warrant, man.”

“Yeah, yeah…of course,” he replied in a soft, dreamy voice. But he didn’t make any effort to leave. Instead, his hand dropped from my shoulder and fell limply to his side as he glanced past me. Then, with an odd, faraway look on his face, he began to stumble toward the car.

I hadn’t noticed the sudden shift with him initially; I was too preoccupied with myself and the pain. And when I finally saw him standing over the trunk, it was too late.

“What are you doing, Max!” I shouted. “Get away from there!”

Pressing himself against the car’s bumper, he leaned forward until his face was inches from the box. “I have to see it again, Nick,” he murmured. “I have to see what’s inside.”

Even if I wasn’t in so much pain, I couldn’t have stopped him. Without saying anything else, he lifted his discolored and swollen arm and sunk it back into the box. His eyes were glossy and blank, his face slack as if he was hypnotized with shock.

His arm was in the box for only a few seconds before it was propelled back out with sudden and violent force. Before he had any time to react, two oily tentacles shot out of the box and wound themselves around his wrists. Max’s body instantly stiffened and the features of his face hardened into agonized rigidity. Strands of his hair shot from his head in uneven wisps. As he pitched further into the trunk, his arms began flailing spastically and his legs jerked in furious counter movement, even as the muscles in his face froze.

Despite the scorching pain, I managed to stumble over to the car and began yanking on his arms, but it was like his body was secured in a vice. Cinched tightly around both of his forearms, the tentacles made a horrible noise, like stretching leather, as they gouged deeper into his flesh.

Max began vibrating then; a uniform shiver that passed through his form yet didn’t bring life to any part of his body. His arms and legs stopped jerking and froze at oddly cocked angles, even as the wide-eyed agony on his face remained unchanged.

Wrapping my arms around his waist, I began pulling until his knees twisted violently beneath him with a sickening pop.

Exhausted and terrified, I finally had to let him go.

The eel-like tentacles slithered up Max’s arms, his bones snapping like twigs. In one swift motion, both his hands wrenched back until his knuckles were pressed flush against his wrists. A tangle of bones and cartilage protruded from the gaping wounds. With amazing ease, the tentacles lifted Max in the air and began shaking his stiffened body like a plaything, his head banging against the trunk lid with a series of repulsive thuds.

It was inhuman and shouldn’t have been physically possible, but in a matter of seconds, Max’s face and head first disappeared into the box, followed by his neck, his shoulders, his upper legs, torso, and midsection. Both of his shoulder blades collapsed with a sickening crack before squeezing themselves tight against the sides of his head like a pair of blood soaked bookends.

At that moment, I remember cupping my ears and screaming. Rising all around me were screeches and cracks and whistles; the scuttling of claws and the quiet cracklings of madness. I then felt an unfamiliar tingling in my chest, followed by a rush of burning heat.

I ran. Coward or not, I ran.

As I stumbled across the gravel road, a spray of vomit spewed from my mouth and trickled down my chest, mixing with our blood. I kept pumping my legs, running in a drunken, stumbling gait, but then I felt my knees beginning to buckle and had to stop and gulp in air until the dizziness passed. Then I staggered up the gravel road and out of the copse of trees into the street.

I didn’t know where I was headed; I just wanted to gain as much distance from the car as I could. So I stumbled until my lungs felt like they were going to explode. Eventually, I hobbled down an embankment to the highway and continued running until nightfall.

Somehow I found my way back home.

When I clawed at the front door, my mother shrieked, “What happened to you this time? Why is there blood on your shirt? You’re in trouble again, aren’t you? That’s what you are, trouble!”

I couldn’t explain anything to her. It was easier to let her think that I was in trouble with the law once again. She would never turn me in.

So I reassured her that I was going to be fine, but needed sleep. A festering headache, beginning in the nape of my neck, had spread rapidly over my skull, and I could barely keep my eyes opened. As soon as I entered my bedroom, I crumpled on my bed and slept hard.

The following morning, my headache subsided and I regained some of my strength. Feeling ravenous, I was about to leave my bedroom, but something drew me to the window instead. Peeling back the curtains, I saw my mother ambling down the driveway, toward the mailbox.

And sitting beside it, the black box.

After noticing the box, my mother slowed and tentatively tapped it with the end of her slippered foot. Then, with pained effort, she bent down and lifted the lid.

I should have warned her to turn and flee as fast as her old, arthritic legs could carry her. But it was too late. As soon as the lid slid off, my mother achingly straightened herself and was about to open the mailbox when she glanced down at the box again. The wrinkles in her face briefly smoothed as her mouth grew into a gaping hole of disbelief.

Before she knew what was happening, a long, green tendril shot out of the box and wrapped itself around her slight waist. The poor woman could barely release a scream before her waist was crushed. Blood sprayed from her mouth and coated the mailbox. Her lifeless body convulsed for several seconds before becoming limp. Then, with surprising efficiency, the tendril lifted her in the air before towing her limp body into the box. Nothing remained but her fuzzy pink slippers, lying neatly beside the blood spattered mailbox.

Shocked, I could only shake my head and release a series of sobbing hiccups. How did this thing find me? Did Max’s mangled body crawl out of the void and dragged itself to my house for one final joyride? Or, in the throes of delirium, had I brought the box to my home and inexplicably forgotten about it?

I made up my mind to get out of the house immediately. Maybe I would even leave the state. I will go somewhere far away so the box can no longer follow me. Right? It can’t follow me if I’m faster than it. Right?