Sunday, October 17, 2010

Postage Due, Pandora - Part 4 - Conclusion

With Halloween coming up, and a bunch of little stories on the burner (including a few rejects I need to clean the "sad" off of and resubmit) I didn't want to let this series drop into the forgotten pile.  Once October is out, I'll be trying to sharpen up the old work-ethic during NaNoWriMo, and, hopefully, finishing the prep work I'm doing on the big work.

If you haven't read the previous three chapters - start here. 
If you just need  a refresher, Part 3 is here.

So, with no further blathering, here is the final chapter of "Postage Due, Pandora." Comments are welcome and appreciated.

Postage Due, Pandora - Conclusion 

“There is nothing in the box.”

Everything had begun with the box.

Thump.  Katie could hear the creature now, scraping along the hallway.  It was slowed by the width of the hallway, but it would be on her soon.  She realized something had finally gone her way. 

“There is nothing in the box.”  Repeating this over and over, Katie felt that if she could only prove this to herself all this would be over. 

Picking up the robin’s egg blue box, she lifted the lid once more.  This time it fought.  Though she had wedged her fingers under and was pulling with all her strength, there was a brief moment when she feared it would simply snap shut and sever the joints at the knuckle.  There’d be something in the box then, she thought with a shudder and kept pulling.  Finally, it popped open without warning.  It just seemed to give up.  The inside of the box had changed as well. Gone was the deep black velvet.  The inside of the box now seemed to be made up of darkness itself. “Nothing. That’s what I’m looking at.  There is nothing in the box.” 

Still, her plan was all she had, and from the sound of destruction now coming from downstairs, the thing was forcing its way around to resume the chase.  Underneath that, a smaller, sharper sound.  The click, click, click of something small bouncing on hardwood. Glancing to her left, the eye was staring back at her. 
Oh, right.  That thing, she thought, and on the tails of that came motivation, Alright Katie, quit thinking about it and just do it.
Katie jammed her hand down into the box, and it immediately felt all wrong.  The black insides of the box enveloped her hand, sucking it in, like a muscular throat, swallowing her down.  No. Her inner-voice broke in fiercely, like a slap in the face.  It’s playing its games again.  If you let it, it’ll kill you.  Just break through it.  You have to take control, or it’s over.  The blackness felt moist, and it was moving now, gulping.  Katie gritted her teeth and spread her fingers open wide.  Her nails, long, and coated with black polish raked against the insides of the box.  The shape of the box was just barely discernible beyond the membrane.  The blackness reacted immediately, spasming against her.  Katie felt something sharp, like teeth. Splinters, it’s just splinters.  Go on.  The darkness bit.  She felt the flesh on the back of her hand give way and blood start to flow.  With a small grunt of pain, Katie raked her hands down the sides, feeling all the while for the shape of the wood.  Under the circumstances, she wasn’t surprised to find that she was now up to her elbow in a box that had fit in her palm when she’d first opened the package.    The blackness pulsed again.  More splinter teeth dug in, clawing their way through her palm now. 

Nightmare images flooded Katie's mind and became real all around her room.  Dead animals twitched in the corner.  A shadowy figure was doing something horrific to another form bound against the wall.  They insisted themselves upon her, demanding she look.

Katie pushed down harder into the box, and dug deeper with her fingers, scoring the wood now. The pressure threatening to bend her fingernails back, or rip them off completely.  The blackness was up to her shoulder now, and she had to get her head closer to the box to reach further in.  The box was breathing.  It gave short quick gasps, like the shallow panting of a wounded animal.  It was hurt.  With renewed strength, Katie thrust deeper, clawing the insides of the box, and finally, she was  rewarded, finding the outline of something hard and round, a ring - it seemed - just under the flesh.  Seizing it with all her strength, Katie pulled.  The membrane jerked and pulled at her hands, the splinters dug deeper.  The door crashed in and remained intact, releasing the invisible shambler to make its short final trip to ravage her.
She wrenched with her hand again, and felt the membrane tear slightly.  Emboldened, she pulled harder.  A sharp CLACK made her jerk her head up.  The eye was balanced on the lid of the box, and stared at her with impotent rage. Something in her bicep strained and popped.  She let out a single cry of pain and tugged again.  With a final jerk, the ring came free of the box.   Immediately the shambler’s thumping footsteps stopped.  In front of her the eye evaporated in a puff of robin’s egg blue smoke.  She looked at the ring.  It was small thing made of tarnished copper. Attached was a metal and plastic luggage tag.  Inside the tag was stuffed a small, folded slip of paper:

Katie, I hope you’re reading this.
If you are - I’m so sorry.   
Once you open the box, it doesn’t stop until you give it away.  I tried once to warn you not to open it, but then it came back to me. I tried again with just a small hint, and obviously, it worked.
Be well, and for god’s sake don’t start buying top 40 just because I’m not around. 
Love you Kates, and I’m proud of you for winning.

Katie read the note again, and then a third time, hating Stephen one moment, and missing him terribly the next. She lamented that this had come to her, and despaired that she would be passing misery onto someone else.
When she lifted her eyes from the paper, she wasn’t surprised to see her room had returned, and that she could hear her Mom, still singing downstairs.

One week later, Katie sat down at her desk. She had Shannon’s yearbook message to her open on the desk, the one which proclaimed them “BFF’s.”  The school year after she’d signed this missive, Stephen had been gone for six months, and Shannon had thrown herself at Mark Norman, the very day after Katie had confessed her secret crush.
Taking the pretty red and yellow gift tag, Katie signed it, 

Dear Shannon,
Thinking of you.
Love, Katie.

P.S. There is nothing in the box.


  1. I just went thruogh and raed these. Holy Eyeball, Chrisman! Just pure awesomeness. I saw ths play as a movie in my haed. The splnters and teeth jst made my skin crawl. A mdern pandora's box with rings and eyballs adn teeth. And truly an evil endnig. Had to snd to someone. I fuond myself wishing there was more.

  2. Thanks for reading (all of) it, Jodi!

    This started out as my attempt to write a "classic" style story in the theme of something by Poe - i.e. the gift, having to give it away etc.

    Pretty sure I didn't hit that high mark, but glad it made a decent "mind movie."