THE ANTIQUE COLLECTOR

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: October 08, 2016

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Submitted: October 08, 2016

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Douglas D. Beatenhead Horror Short Story

9514 Timber Ridge Dr. 13,703 Words

Grand Blanc, MI 48439 First Serial Rights-North America

Ph: (810) 655-0129 Copyright 2003, Douglas D. Beatenhead

E-Mail: dbeatenhead@comcast.net

 

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THE ANTIQUE COLLECTOR

By:

Douglas D. Beatenhead

 

I love dealing in expensive antiques. The business has provided me financial freedom. This job allows me time to do other things I enjoy; for instance my continued pursuit of my antique car collection. I also love to collect antique books for my own private library. However, my big-ticket antiques are where I really make the big money. These are the expensive antiques, which I buy and sell. They're always exquisite, rare and old. Many of my antiques include: clothes, hand-woven textiles, glassware, ceramics, sculptures, paintings, jewelry, lamps, furniture, and even homes. Sometimes it's just an article that simply happens to be extremely unique. I've been doing this for over twenty years now, and so I'd have to say that perseverance, hard work and experience has taught me that it takes time to develop a healthy cash flow and steady income.

 

 

Perhaps the changes began when I bought a new home in a picturesque country setting. I've always adored the luxury of seclusion and privacy, and now I've got it. It was an old stone and brick house--it was a wonderful house--an old Victorian Castle home with five gables and windows. The house is built like a fortress. My front doors are constructed of tall, solid, thick wood fastened with cast iron attachments. On four sides of my home are concentric rings of tall stone walls bolstered by corner towers. The house has all kinds of complicated and elaborate facings and trim. It has courtly styled weather vanes on all five gables, which of course, are lightning rods. It was indeed the most ugly and the most beautiful home I had ever owned. It cost me only 9.8 million; it was a steal. Before I bought it, I had a professional real estate inspector investigate everything before I signed the deed. The inspector told me the house was sound and sturdy with no flaws in the foundations, walls, windows or roofing. His fee was not cheap; but the security of knowing I was buying a valuable, well built home was worth his pay.

 

There were three full stories in my home as well as an attic and basement. The day after I signed the purchase agreement, I started to have my possessions moved in. It took eight strong professional movers to move in all my belongings.

 

The interior of the house was breathtaking. The first floor was all black marble with small specks of gold and silver that twinkled like stars. The walls were polished stones of slightly varying color, and the windows were all clean and shiny. Two lofty elongated windows faced the east and west, with colored stained glass and embedded crystals. The first floor ceilings were vaulted and covered with beautiful patterns of gold trim. Indeed, this was the finest home I had ever lived in. It was the culmination of my life's work; I had just bought a 9.8 million dollar antique.

 

 

There was a wide curved wooden staircase that ascended to the second and third floors. It was carpeted with a plush, deep red, and bounded by railings that were stained and polished with intricate engravings. The craftsmanship was beyond modern times. This was very elegant and very old. On the south wall stood a mammoth fireplace, its mantel matching the floor. And on the north wall hung the tall, solid front doors; half a ton or more, or so I was told. The corner towers had winding brick steps leading all the way up to the attic. There were twelve small windows in the stone towers that ascended from floor to floor.

 

The second and third floor walls were framed panels of thick polished oak. And as I mentioned before, it was very Victorian. But the house had all the comforts of a new home: central heat, air, lights, intercoms and safety alarms. There were several rooms of various sizes on all three floors. And all the bathrooms were fit for royalty; laden tiles, heavy brass fixtures, marble counters and sinks. Everything about the house screamed a single word: massive. Throughout the moving I supervised the workmen; hanging my pictures, arranging furniture, moving in sculptures and lifting rooms full of items upstairs, while I personally moved my precious vases, glassware and textiles to the locations I desired. Near the end of moving day, Friday, I was ready to settle in.

 

Saving the attic for last, I surveyed the basement. Some of the stone foundation walls were at least ten feet thick, which was necessary to hold up the house. It had a dusty wine cellar, still containing old bottles of spirits hidden away and isolated from the catacombs of a dead world, seemingly inhabited only by arachnids and webs. It reminded me of a scene from an old Bela Lugosi movie; a dungeon--the floor was just dirt, covered with the musty smell of antiquity. I loved the stink, but not the dark.

 

 

I made my bedroom on the second floor; a room connected to a walk-in bathroom. I have two libraries--one for my antique books and manuscripts, which are also on the second floor, and another on the third. The library on the third floor contains recent and up-to-date books--mostly on antiques. I also made this room my office and study. I have the best and latest computer equipment and correspond with my agents and other businesses. Over the last five years, I've diversified my wealth by expending into retail stores, restaurants, commercial real estate and other buildings. Fortunately, I can oversee these businesses from the context of my home office via the wonders of computer technology; however, sometimes my businesses require travel, but very little.

 

Although my home was expensive, there are many others in the area that are worth millions too; so I'm not quite alone. The other homes are miles apart, separated by woods and lakes. This is one of the most indescribable areas of the country I've ever seen. On the corner of my house is a large foundation stone with the engraving: 1605. If taken care of, this house will live another four hundred years. I had finally found my perfect home.

 

Although I had seen and inspected the house before I moved in, I decided to go through it a little more thoroughly. For instance, I hadn't looked in the attic. When I did, all I found were some old clothes and other junk--nothing of any interest and no antiques. It was hard to see because the lighting was dim. And while searching around my bedroom, I found a hidden stairway in a fake wall. I also discovered some hidden panels on all the floors. I found this intriguing and wondered what other mysteries I might stumble upon in the future.

 

Starting on the next Monday and Friday, I had arranged to have three maids come over and do the household chores. I had promised to pay them good salaries for their work, including an advanced paycheck. However, I choose to do my own cooking. Later on in the evening, I built a nice big fire in the fireplace of my living room, poured myself some brandy, and read a book on antiques while listening to the fire crackle and pop. My old grandfather clock beside my chair chimed 10:30 p.m. The night was still early for me, because I usually don’t go to bed until twelve or one in the morning. Being 42 years old, and wealthy, I can now afford to sleep late in the mornings. At about 1:45 a.m., I finally decided to call it a night. I left the living room, walking slowly up the staircase, and into my bedroom. As far as I'm aware, I slept just as calmly and as still as an old dead tree on a silent and windless night.

 

The next morning, I woke up at nine. I went downstairs and made myself a pot of coffee and took a cup into the living room. To my delight and surprise, I realized why there were colored glass and crystals in the east and west wall windows. The marbled floor twinkled and sparkled in a soft light that passed through the east side window. The light was aesthetically pleasing and it put me into a good mood. Then it occurred to me that I would get to see another show later in the day when the sunlight passes through the west window.

 

I sat down in my old favorite chair, drank my coffee, and contemplated while gazing out the picture window. This was the time that I spent thinking about what I should do for the day. I spend about two hours on the weekdays making calls to my agents, CEO's and other assorted people. The last thing I like to do is check on my antique galleries, warehouse inventories, and study my income profit/loss statements. My investments showed a profit; they usually do. I enjoy my job now, more than ever: it's exciting, interesting, and lucrative and it doesn't consume all my time as it did in the earlier days.

 

After my calls and computer accounting work, I enjoy logging onto the web and searching the various antique stores and their stock. To my surprise, there was an antique store in a little town about ten miles away. From the information I read on the web page, it had an excellent rating in the worth your time category page of antique stores and galleries. This store was also rated five stars, implying that it was very expensive. I decided to drive to the little town and check it out. Incidentally, there was a city about fifty miles north. I had just hung up the phone, after calling the antique store for directions and store hours, when immediately, the phone rang. It startled me.

 

"Hello?" I asked.

 

A man with a polite voice on the other end said, "Hello, would Mr. Newson be available?"

 

"This is Newson," I replied.

 

"I hope I'm not disturbing you, Mr. Newson. My name is Ken Miller. I just recently discovered that you moved into the old Wickerson's home. I thought I'd extend an invitation for a visit; we could introduce ourselves and get acquainted. I'll send a car, of course; would you be interested?"

 

"Call me Ted; and Ken, it's not necessary to send a car. I'll drive myself."

 

"Very well, Ted, I'll take that as a yes."

 

"You got it, Ken. But can we make it tomorrow on Sunday? I have some business to do today."

 

"All right Ted, you can call me at 354..."

 

I interrupted, "I've got your number, Ken. I'll call you tomorrow."

 

A slight pause, then, "Okay, Ted, talk to you tomorrow."

 

I had to stop and think for a moment--how did he know my phone number? I let him think I had his. No matter, I have my sources.

 

I went up to my office and after about twenty minutes, I knew his full name, address, phone, social security number and what he did for a living. I made an inquiry on Ken, not to be diabolical or anything, but to simply know him before we met. I also researched Elizabeth. She owns the antique store. After my little investigation, I went upstairs to get cleaned up--I wanted to visit this antique store today. The store was named: Gramp's Unlocked Attic. After a quick bite, I went to my study, opened a safe behind a hidden wall panel and took out sixty thousand dollars. I put it in my briefcase and locked it.

 

I always prefer to use cash when dealing with big-ticket items because I never know what I'll find. I also grabbed my magnifying eyepiece. I went to the garage and decided to drive my 1963 Ford Marque GT40. I pulled out of the garage, down the driveway and to the gates. I stopped, pushed the remote and waited. When the gates opened, I sped away heading for the small town of Lucksonberg.

 

Although I had been through the town once, I really didn't notice how nice it was. There was a small food store, a bakery, restaurants, delis, a coffee haus, a dry cleaner, two gas stations, a hardware store, hotels, bed & breakfasts, gift stores, lake front properties, rental homes and more. The most striking thing about this little town was how well it was maintained. I didn't realize that it was a major resort attraction and people came from all over the U.S. to visit. It looked like something straight out of a Thomas Kinkade painting. Still driving and looking, I found it. On a corner was a rather large, dark blue building: Gramp's Unlocked Attic.

 

I walked into the store and my nostrils smelled that delightful odor of age. To me, it smelled like incense. I looked at an elderly lady wearing fancy dark sunglasses behind a counter and cash register. I politely said, "hello."

 

She spoke up and answered, "Well, hello sir--how are you today?"

 

"Very well, thank you."

 

"My name is Elizabeth. If you need any help, please don't hesitate to ask. You might find that our store is quite unique. We also buy and trade. Please feel free to look around and take all the time you need."

 

"Thank you, Elizabeth. Would you be so kind as to put my briefcase behind your counter?"

 

"I'd be happy to," she said.

 

I started strolling down the aisles slowly--looking left and right--just to get quick perspective. As always in antique stores, there is something that will catch your eye as you walk by. My mind took notes of different things as I passed. I always liked to survey the store first, before I examined anything more closely. There were a few things that did catch my eye, and my mind noted them. After going through the store, I returned to the things that interested me. First, there was a glass counter containing jewelry. There were two objects that drew my attention. The first one was a ring; the second was a chain and locket with an engraved inscription.

 

"Excuse me, Elizabeth, may I look at a couple of items under this glass counter?"

 

"Absolutely; just let me unlock this and…there you go. Now, what was it you wanted to see?"

 

"This ring, and that chain," I said. She took out the two items and laid them on top of the glass counter. "Thank you," I told her and started to examine the ring. First, I looked closely at it with my naked left eye. "Hummm..." I heard myself murmur. Then I took out my eyepiece and examined it more closely. "Interesting; this is delightful. A very nice ring." It was made of 24 karat gold, unmarred and highly polished. The diamonds were real and quite clear, with no discernible fractures; and the emerald on top was perfect. The only thing that confused me, and at the same time intrigued me, were a pair of skull and cross bones on each side of the ring. I estimated a date in the early 19th century.

 

"I like this ring, Elizabeth, would you consider $3,200?"

 

She replied, "$3,500."

 

"Okay, I can live with that," I told her; she really knows her antiques. I picked up the chain and said, "you have some quite remarkable jewelry here Elizabeth, and I've heard some very favorable comments about your store."

 

"We try to keep the junk away."

 

Again, I looked through the eyepiece and studied the chain and locket. It was 24 karat gold; the links were solid and not worn--very little abrasion. The locket was what really caught my attention. On the outside was an exquisite engraving of a Celtic cross. When I opened it, I saw a portrait of a very beautiful young woman. There was also a little lock of bound, soft brown hair. I estimated the year to be in the late 17th century.

 

"Elizabeth, how much are you asking for this piece?"

 

"That's one of my special pieces. I can sell you that beautiful chain and locket for $5,000."

 

I looked at it again. "You know, Elizabeth, I really do like this piece; would you take $4,200 for it?"

 

Elizabeth perked up, "Heavens no!" she insisted.

 

"How about $4,600?" I replied.

 

She looked me squarely in the eyes, through her eyeless sunglasses and said, "$5,000."

 

"Very well, $5,000," I said with a disappointed, fake expression.

 

I walked over to an armoire against a wall. My experience told me that I should especially be interested in this piece of furniture. It looked real to the naked eye. It was solid oak, very nicely polished with small square inlays of ivory. The doors had the original mirrors. This piece of furniture was not cheap. I inspected it more closely with my eyeglass. I checked the ivory inlays, the mirrors, and the costly, beautiful trim that enhanced it. I studied the craftsmanship in every way possible. I studied how it was constructed: the joints, the ivory inlays, the doors, the legs, and the decorative feet they rested on. I also inspected the hinges, the doorknobs and latches. I was satisfied that this piece of art was indeed real, with no restoration--and most likely--from the era of Henry the VIII of England; the middle half of the 16th century. My inclusive appraisal suggested that it was in excellent condition.

 

Elizabeth studied me as I studied the armoire. I glanced at her a couple of times as she was watching. I had an intuition that she knew I was a professional antique collector. I heard the money-hunger in her breathing. She probably knew my briefcase contained money, and her store had no price tags on any of the items she carried. Her store was very unique. As in the most exclusive stores, if you needed price tags, you couldn't afford to shop there.

 

"Elizabeth, how much are you asking for this armoire?" I inquired.

 

Elizabeth studied me carefully, and then exhaled slowly. "Obviously, you know that piece of furniture is authentic--and not easy to come by."

 

"Let's talk, Elizabeth; I know what I'm doing. I'm a professional and you too, are a professional in this business. I'm not going to try and hornswoggle you, but I have a good idea what this piece is worth. I want to give you a figure."

 

"I'm listening," Elizabeth said.

 

"Thirty-five thousand," I retorted.

 

"Not enough Mr....?"

 

"My apologies, Elizabeth, my name is Ted Newson."

 

"The Mr. Ted, 'Antique' Newson?" she asked.

 

"Yes, Elizabeth, you've got me on the hook."

 

"It's an honor to meet you, Mr. Newson," she said with a pleased expression.

 

"Well, thank you," I replied sincerely. "Okay, Elizabeth; back to business. May I offer another price?"

 

"Shoot," she said.

 

"Thirty-eight thousand."

 

"You're getting warmer, Ted."

 

"My last offer, Elizabeth. Forty-thousand."

 

"Sold!" she exclaimed.

 

"You drive a hard bargain, Ms. Elizabeth Grey."

 

"How did you know my last name?" she asked.

 

"You have an excellent store, Elizabeth, and it's my business to know with whom I'm dealing." I gave her a wink. We got up to walked to the cash register counter when another item caught my eye.

 

"Excuse me for just a moment, I want to look at something..."

 

"You just go right ahead," she said.

 

I walked over near the armoire and noticed an intriguing box. It was about a foot wide, two feet long, and about ten inches deep. It had little ivory inlays fashioned into little squares and circles. It was made of wood--but I couldn't tell what type.

 

"Is this a jewelry box?" I asked.

 

"I haven't the foggiest idea," she said.

 

"Interesting. How much do you want for it?"

 

"That box has been in this store for years, and I can't get rid of the damned thing. I've tried to open it, but it has no seams. If you pick it up and shake it, you can hear something like marbles in it--I think it's some kind of puzzle. Tell you what, Ted, I'll sell it to you for ten bucks."

 

"You've got a deal, Elizabeth."

 

I grabbed the box and walked back to the cash register counter, setting it down gently. Elizabeth had put the ring in a ring box, and the chain in another. She put the puzzle box into another box for protection.

 

"Let's see..."she said while making a receipt, "together with taxes, your purchase comes to $51,380. How would you like to pay for this, Ted?"

 

"Cash. Will you deliver the armoire, or shall I have it picked up?"

 

"We deliver, Ted. We also carry our own insurance. Here is your receipt and purchase agreement. I'm sure you'll want to read it--and if you agree, we'll sign it together."

 

Before I read the contract, Elizabeth asked for some I.D., then filled in some information, and handed it back to me. I've seen these types of documents many times before, but they always differ in little ways. After I double-checked the legalities of the document, I signed it. Then Elizabeth signed it and the transaction was over.

 

"You'll receive your armoire on Monday, no later then two."

 

"Elizabeth, would you please grab my briefcase for me?"

 

"Of course." She walked over behind the counter and came back setting my briefcase on top of the counter.

 

I unlocked it, and preceded to withdraw and count the money I owed her.

 

"Do you take pennies?" I asked, and then smiled. She looked at me and simply smiled back, saying nothing. I counted out $51,500 in front of her. She took the money, walked to the cash register counter, and bent down out of sight. After fifteen or twenty seconds, she stood up and handed me my change. As she did, I noticed she was wearing a brown wig, because I could see just a little bit of white hair sticking out the back. She was wearing a wig with dark fancy sunglasses--just an old lady trying to look young.

 

I extended my hand. "It certainly has been a delight meeting and doing business with you, Elizabeth. I'm sure we'll see each other again."

 

We shook hands and she said, "Oh, I think you'll see me again, Mr. Newson. Have a nice day."

 

I collected my items, and then said good-bye. She responded in kind, and I took my leave. I put the treasures in my Ford Marque and started for home. When I arrived, I went upstairs to my third floor office, and placed the items on top of a table. All of my books and software on antiques were in the office. And I have all of them referenced on my computer. I use the Dewey Decimal System, and at last count, I had over 1,986 books and software programs just on antiques. The first thing I wanted to look at was the necklace with the Celtic cross locket. I found in one of my reference books, that there were only three made. I also discovered that the young woman in the picture was Queen Anne of England. The book listed a price of $7,000. I placed the necklace in my wall safe.

 

The next item was the ring. I studied many different books and software on the piece. I only found one reference; not exactly the same ring, but very close. The listed price on the ring in the book was $2,700. It was a celestial ring, and very unique. I tried it on my right hand index finger and it fit perfectly. I decided to wear it.

 

Now I looked at the box. I searched in book after book to find some type of reference. There was nothing. I studied my software and web sites. Nothing. Although I didn't find anything that referenced the box, I still felt it worth the ten bucks; just for the curiosity it stimulated. Indeed, when I shook the box, it sounded like marbles rolling and clinking. I considered the box carefully, but was uncertain of the purpose of the small squares and circles of ivory. Were they purely decorative, or did they have some hidden meaning? I became annoyed with myself for not taking the time to clean off the dust, but a damp cloth solved the problem. I still couldn't see any seams; was it made of one piece?

 

Something I hadn't noticed before, after cleaning it up, was some type of writing in the middle. I couldn't tell what language it was, nor could I decide where the words started or ended. They just wrapped exactly and completely around the strange box. I shook it again. I could hear the damned things rolling and bouncing on the inside, but I didn't know its secrets. I could only make guesses on how it might be opened. I ascertained that it had something to do with the little ivory buttons of circles and squares. However, unaware of the time I had spent with the antiques and box, I was surprised to find that it was very late. That evening I went to bed tired and hungry.

 

The next morning I awoke late in the afternoon--later then I wanted too. But after some coffee, and a clean shower, I was back in my office toying with that box again. I looked down at the strange object and considered it very seriously. I pushed some of the ivory squares and circles and discovered that they also twisted. I tried one, then another, then a combination. I fiddled around with the thing for about an hour. I became agitated again, and decided to hell with the box! As I was setting it down on the table, my clocks chimed 3:30 p.m.

 

Throughout my little inspection, my stomach growling was incessantly distracting me. I was hungry, so I went down to the kitchen and made myself a sandwich. I stood over the sink and ate, when suddenly, it occurred to me that today was Sunday--I was supposed to call Ken. I gobbled down the rest of my sandwich and dialed his number.

 

A woman's voice answered, "Mr. Miller's residence, may I help you?"

 

"Yes, my name is Ted Newson. May I speak with Ken? He's expecting my call."

 

"Just a minute, Mr. Newson, I'll see if he's available."

 

After a couple of minutes, "Hello, Ted, this is Ken."

 

"Hi, Ken. I meant to call you earlier, but I got caught up in some business. Would you still be interested in getting together?"

 

"Sure, Ted; what time?"

 

"How about five, this afternoon?" I asked.

 

"Sounds good, I'll expect you then. Looking forward to meeting you."

 

I went upstairs, washed up, and put on some fresh clothes. I looked at the clock; 4:35 p.m. Ken lived about five miles down the same road. A black, smooth road called, Salisbury. After I finished dressing, I went downstairs and engaged the alarm.

 

I went into the garage and chose my 1952 Mercedes 300SL. Before long, I was speeding down the road at 130 mph. As I drove up Ken's driveway, the gates automatically opened. I drove in and up to his home. Like all the others on this road, he also had a large and beautiful home. As I was getting out of the car, Ken was outside to greet me.

 

"Ted?"

 

"That's me," I smiled as we shook hands.

 

"It's nice to meet you," he said with a big grin.

 

"The pleasure's all mine, Ken."

 

"Please, let's go in, enjoy a drink and talk," Ken said, "or would you rather spend a little time outside in the garden? It's such a pleasant afternoon."

 

"Sounds good me. Let's sit in your garden. You know, Ken, this is the first day of summer."

 

"I know; and it's only 88 degrees outside. Thank goodness that cold spring is over," he added.

 

We walked through some overhead passages and into his garden patio. We sat down in very nice, ornate and comfortable chairs. I was taking in the lovely view when Victor, one of his servants, came out with a bottle of wine and two glasses.

 

"Well then, would you like to talk about business, or pleasure?" Ken inquired.

 

"Pleasure," I replied.

 

"Tell you what, Ted, let's not talk--let’s do.”

 

"Do what?" I said.

 

"Well, do you like to play with model airplanes and helicopters?" Ken asked.

 

"Yeah, but not the kind that roll on the ground, I'm a little too big to..."

 

"Ah, don't worry about it," Ken said as he skipped into the house, "I'll be right back." He returned with two model helicopters.

 

"All gassed up and ready to go." Ken was grinning from ear to ear.

 

"I've flown airplanes, but not helicopters and.oh, what the hell," I said, pretending not to care how weird it all seemed.

 

At first, it took me about half an hour to get used to the crazy thing. Then I finally got the hang of it. We flew them till it became dusk while we tried to outwit each other with flying maneuvers. Of course, he was better than I. We finally got into a game of war and I accidentally crashed into Ken's helicopter destroying them both. He laughed hard--pointing at the helicopters and me. He actually had tears in his eyes.

 

"Sure beats work!" Ken yelled. "Say, Ted, you like billiards?"

 

"You got a table?" I asked.

 

"I've got two; one here, the other in my 747," he joked, I hoped. "Come on; follow me." We went to his playroom, as he liked to call it.

 

Not only did he have two professional billiard tables, he also had: pinball machines, slot machines, poker tables, wet bars, darts, jukeboxes, a six lane bowling alley, a large wall theater in his movie room and God knows what else. But it was good. I had more fun with Ken that evening than I'd had in years. We talked, played, laughed, and drank. I was getting buzzed, and going for drunk--if I didn't quit. I looked at my watch with blurred eyes and saw that it was after one in the morning. I told Ken what a good time I had, was having, whatever, and we'd get together again soon, but I should be going. He slurred, "okay," but insisted that he would not have me drive on my own.

 

"I'll have my chauffeur take you, Ted; I insist."

 

We shook hands, laughed some more, and then said our good-byes. I left for the evening.

 

I was awakened, mistakenly, by one of the maids. I looked at the clock--10:30 a.m. and hung over. But today was Monday, and by two o'clock, they would be delivering my armoire. I got up, put my robe on, and went downstairs for a badly needed cup of coffee.

 

"Angie?" I said in a lower voice than usual.

 

She appeared before me, "yes, Ted, what do you need?"

 

"Could you be a dear and bring me a cup of coffee--with aspirins?"

 

"With sugar and cream?"

 

"Please."

 

When she returned, Angie handed me my coffee, aspirins, and said, "Sue is cleaning your bedroom and bath, and Rachel is doing the laundry. We shouldn't be too much longer."

 

"Thank you, Angie."

 

Rachel bought me today's newspaper. I read for about an hour, and then decided to go upstairs to get cleaned up and dressed. Afterwards, I came back downstairs and waited for the delivery. The movers arrived at about one-thirty. I had them take the armoire upstairs and place it in my bedroom. After the movers left, I inspected the armoire. It was in exactly the same condition as when I purchased it.

 

About 3:30 that afternoon, I decided to cook myself something to eat and watch CNN news in the entertainment room. I watched the headline news and the stocks. The local weather channel indicated storms in the area. I was just about to turn the TV off when the phone rang.

 

"Hello?"

 

"Ted, this is Ken, I thought you'd like your car back. Is it okay if I send a couple of my drivers over to drop it off?"

 

"That would be great, Ken, thank you very much."

 

When the drivers arrived, one following the other, I went outside to park my car in the garage. I could see in the far distant, the clouds becoming gray. I spent most of the day doing nothing. It wasn't until four o'clock when the maids were getting ready to leave, and before they left, all three of them lined up in front of me.

 

"Oh...I'm sorry ladies, today is the day I promised you an advance; isn't it? I'll be right back."

 

I went upstairs to my third floor office, pulled out my checkbook and wrote each one their weekly check for $2,000. All three of the maids were pretty and young women in their mid twenties. I had to force myself to respect them, and never approach them in any sexual way. To me, they were just my maids, and I had already started to care for them. They appeared to be doing an excellent job of keeping my house in order. With checks in hand, I came back down the stairs.

 

"Here you go, Angie, Sue, and of course, you too, Rachel. Thank you very much, ladies. I wish you a nice day, and please, drive carefully; take care of yourselves and I'll see you this Friday."

 

After the maids thanked me and left, I went back to my office. While doing nothing, I was however, thinking curiously about the box. Again, I researched it. I couldn't find anything that even came close. This box was truly a mystery. I tried the finger combinations on the little ivory buttons again, but nothing seemed to open it. I shook it again, and still heard that rattling sound. This was one of the most intriguing things I've ever held in my hands. How could a box be hollow, with no apparent seams, and yet, has something inside? And if there are no seams, how in the hell could it be hollow?

 

The entire situation was starting to irritate and make me angry again. Although I was exasperated with the damn thing, I had to admit, it was very clever. I started to settle down and began to appreciate the beauty and craftsmanship. I decided that it might look nice on top of the armoire. The two would look good together. I took it into my bedroom and sat it on top of the armoire. They did, indeed, look good together. But something troubled me about that box. I hadn't the slightly idea when it was made, how it was made, or why it was made. I figured that someday I'd break the code of that little puzzle box.

 

Later on that evening, I watched a special on TV about life after death. It was entitled: Into the Light. They were showing a scene of a man dying while he was laying on a very sophisticated, state of the art, weighing table. The table was made of metal that was grounded to a very sensitive voltmeter. Apparently, this would let the doctors know if any electrical energy went through the table when the man dies. The tables, and the dying man, were in a special room; the doctors stood outside the room so nothing would be disturbed. The table could weigh things to 1/1000thof a microgram. The dying man was nude, unconscious, and was not aware of what was happening to him. (The program stated that the dying man signed a document while he still had his cognition, but terminally ill. He wanted the doctors to perform this procedure on him; in the interest of science).

 

The TV kept switching to a weight readout instrument and the dying man. Everything was computerized. The weight of the man while he was still breathing was 5.68154834 x 1010 micrograms. Suddenly, the man stopped breathing. He died. At that moment, the TV switched to a different readout instrument that represented the loss in weight. It showed a reading of 9.86453298 x 10-6 micrograms. The doctors explained that this number represented a loss of approximately, 0.4 ounces. They also talked about Albert Einstein's famous equation: E = mc2.

 

They then started deliberating on where this energy, or mass went. They were discussing the white light that dying people see as a loss of this energy, and the fact that the vacuum of space was not empty--quantum fluctuations and so on. I thought the show was interesting but too technical and hard to understand. It started to make me depressed. The whole idea of death and medical stuff was starting to make me feel sick, so I switched the TV to the weather channel. The weather experts were talking about the warm and cold air masses when suddenly the TV switched to a local channel. They announced that there was a bad storm coming into this area and to be alert for severe thunderstorms and lightning, with possible hail. I turned the volume down and listened. I could here thunder rumble from far away. I stepped outside to have a look. The western sky was black and I could see lightning in the far-off distance.

 

I was starting to feel really ill. My head ached, my nose was stuffy, and my stomach was upset. Was I was coming down with a flu or something? I looked at my watch and it read a little after eleven. I decided to head upstairs to my bedroom and read, or go to bed. I crawled under my blanket covers and fluffed up the pillows behind me. I grabbed a book off my bedside stand and started reading a satire on politics. All of a sudden there was a big flash of lightning, then a thunderous roar that shook the house. Then I could hear the rain coming down. And with the rain, I could hear the bouncing of hailstones off the windows. I finally put the book down and snuggled under the blankets. I was tired and drifted off to sleep.

 

I was startled when a brilliant flash of lightning lit the room followed by the crash of deafening thunder. I looked at my clock and noted that I had slept for only about forty minutes. Again the room lit up. I could see all the strange shadows cast in my room--dark, evil apparitions and I must admit it spooked me too. Ka'boom! That blast of thunder scared the shit out of me. I never really did like thunderstorms--not for as long as I could remember. I turned my bedside lamp on to dispel the shadows.

 

Another flash of lightning lit the room well beyond my little bed lamp. As I began to turn around, I abruptly saw a hand and part of a face looking at me from beside the door jam. I saw about two thirds of a man’s face with one white and black eye rolling around in a socket. His face and hand were gray white. I froze. The thunder clapped with a loud snap, and I knew at that very moment, that a bolt of lightning had just hit one of the weather vanes.

 

I turned to the bedside drawer and grabbed my .357, then quickly got out of bed and ran to the door. Nobody was there. I turned on the lights and began searching through the house. I carefully inspected the second floor first. There was nobody around. I looked everywhere. I went up to the third floor and looked in every room--nothing. There was nothing in the closets either. He must be on the first floor. I ran down the stairs and investigated everywhere. Everywhere! Nothing.

 

Then I thought, the attic. Yes, yes...the attic. I went back upstairs to the third floor, which led to the attic. There was a door at the end of the hallway, which led to the attic. I knew it would be dimly lit. I opened the door slowly; it creaked. As I started up the steps--about half way--the attic door slammed shut. It shook the steps and made the dust fall. I had my gun pointed toward the top. As I approached the landing, I could hear my heart beating and my ears ringing. When I made it to the top landing, I stopped and crouched down while pointing my gun, and as I slowly turned, the attic abruptly exploded with a short burst of lightning, followed by a tremendous boom of thunder.

 

As I looked around, and to my trepidation, I saw a rope noose tied to one of the rafters, still swinging. I heard a muffled, deep and demonic voice say, "Wanna play swing?" I slowly walked forward, still pointing my gun.

 

"Don't shoot me you stupid bastard! Play with meee..."

 

"Who are you?" I said nervously.

 

Another flash--another thundering explosion.

 

"Right now, I'm your attic playmate, you imbecile!"

 

At that moment--a momentarily and brightly lit light bulb just darted inches from my face. I heard it smash against the wall behind me.

 

"What do you want?" I demanded.

 

"Hummmm…let me think. Oh! I know. I want you, my lovely," a deep and low voice whispered.

 

I started to say something, when suddenly; I felt a tickling on my genitalia. I quickly reached down to brush it away but as soon as I did, the tickling stopped.

 

"Tell me what you want, damn it!" I yelled.

 

I waited for the voice to answer, but I heard nothing.

 

"Where are you...you shit?” Again, I waited for an answer, but there was none.

 

Another blinding flash followed by a house-shaking thunderclap.

 

I started down the stairs backwards--eyes still fixed toward the attic. I stretched out my hand behind me and reached for the doorknob. Seconds later, I was out and slamming the door shut. My feet stood frozen to the spot while I turned my head and surveyed my surroundings. Still, I saw nothing.

 

Flash...boom!

 

I decided to go down stairs into my living room and make myself a strong drink. A triple shot of scotch whiskey. I now found myself shaking, especially in my knees and hands. Damn! I thought to myself, what the hell just happened? Is my house haunted, do I have ghosts, was it a delusion, could it have been a poltergeist? I sat in my favorite chair thinking. Slowly, very slowly, I began to get a grip. I sat my gun down on the coffee table and started to pace the floor, naked. I checked my alarm systems. Nothing was breached.

 

It eventually became clear to me that I was walking around naked. I shrugged my shoulders and thought, so what? The scotch was starting to take its effect. I was feeling much calmer. I sat back down in my chair and with my drink on the end table I laid my head back. I just sat and thought.

 

I woke up the next morning with a start. I looked at my gun, and then looked around wide-eyed. I began to relax. Sluggishly, I climbed out of my chair and wiped my eyes with clenched fists. I needed some coffee. I went to the kitchen and made myself a pot, then walked into the entertainment room to watch the news. After about two hours, and six cups of coffee, I got up and went upstairs to clean up. It wasn't long before I was dressed and fully awake. The gun was still on the coffee table. I picked it up and proceeded to the attic.

 

With keys in my pocket, my 357 in my right hand and a 100-watt light bulb in my left, I walked up the stairs and through the door that led to the attic. Pushing the bulb gently into my pocket, I slowly opened the door and started up the steps. I reached the attic and looked around. The rope noose was still hanging from the rafter. With my gun pointed in front of me, I inspected the attic again. It was larger than I had realized. There was an old trunk sitting in a corner that I had overlooked, and some raggedy old clothes lying in a pile. There were other things lying around that seemed to be just odds and ends--more junk. I walked over to the noose and looked it over. It was tied tightly around the rafter. I couldn't remember if that thing was there when I moved in. Maybe; maybe not; although I think I would've remembered a hanging noose! I untied it and threw it on the floor. The last thing was to replace that stupid 25-watt light bulb. I switched bulbs, looked around again and saw nothing else of interest. I shrugged my shoulders and went back down. Before I left, I took the keys from my pocket and locked the door, then went to my room to put away the gun. Everything was normal again.

 

Later, as I was sitting in the living room, I thought about last night. The thing that really bothered me--other than the demonic specter--was that noose. I didn't remember it hanging there when I moved in. The whole night felt like a bad dream--nothing more--nothing less. Everything is sane.

 

The clock on the wall told me it was one o'clock in the afternoon. After that storm last night, I was surprised to see that it had turned out to be such a nice day. The sun was shining and it was warmer then usual. I decided to go to the city and have some lunch in a nice restaurant. I went into the garage, looked at my cars, and decided to take my 1995 McLaren Marque GTR.

 

After I left my driveway gates, I turned onto Salisbury Road and stomped on the gas. The tires began screeching, smoking and burning rubber as I accelerated to 185 mph.

 

"God, I love speed!" I yelled out loud.

 

After about five miles, or one and a half minutes of insanity, I slowed down to 65 mph.

 

It took me another 35 minutes to reach the city. I drove around slowly looking for someplace that looked like a nice place to eat. I spotted a fancy restaurant called: The Golden Plate. I pulled up to the valet, got out and handed the kid my keys.

 

"Don't drive off with her, and be careful," I said, giving the attendant the old evil eye.

 

"No sir, I wouldn't…" he paused and gave me a strange bewildering look.

 

"Anything wrong?" I asked.

 

"No, sir, I'm just not feeling...I mean...You have a nice lunch sir."

 

"Thank you."

 

I walked into the restaurant and waited to be seated. It seemed crowded and busy, but there was no waiting. A waitress came up to me.

 

"Good afternoon, sir. How many in your company?"

 

"Just myself, please," I replied.

 

"Smoking or non…I...I, do you want smoking?" She said, strangely.

 

"No smoking, please."

 

She led me down an aisle while looking back at me several times.

 

"You sit here," she mumbled, taking the ashtray and walked away farting.

 

"What the hell kind of service is this?" I whispered to myself.

 

I looked over at a man sitting across the aisle from me. He stopped eating, looked up at me, opened his mouth to show me his partially chewed food, grinned, then shut his mouth, looked back down at his plate and continued eating.

 

"Now there's one weird son of a bitch." I whispered again.

 

Not one damn person waited on me. I found myself saying to the waitresses who walked by, "Miss? Oh, miss? Excuse me miss? Could you...Miss? Pardon me…miss?" Finally, I got so upset that I simply got up and walked out.

 

I went to the valet, handed some different guy my ticket, and waited for my car. Within a few minutes, he came driving up to me and stopped. He got out, looked at me bug eyed--was it purposefully I thought to myself when I noticed his tongue sticking out at me while walking away. I climbed into my car and drove back home. Fuck this shit!

 

When I arrived back home, my watch read 4:15 p.m. I went straight to the kitchen and cooked myself some steak, potatoes and creamed corn. After eating, I went into the entertainment room, put on some CDs and listened to music. When my anger subsided, and with the help of four antacid tablets, it was time to go upstairs to my office and do some work. I did my usual routine--checked my e-mail, reviewed my profit/loss statements, looked into my stores and inventory, and made a few phone calls until my work was done for the day. It took me four hours--two for work, and two for play.

 

It was about eight o'clock before I went to my room and put my robe on. I was through doing anything more today. I looked at my armoire and smiled; it really was a beautiful piece of furniture. I glanced at the box and decided it was time for another go at it. I walked over to the armoire, picked up the box, and took it downstairs. I went to the living room and poured myself a glass of scotch whiskey. I sat down in my favorite chair and studied the box. As frustrating as the thing was, some strange fascination kept drawing me back. I just couldn't leave it alone.

 

I sat in my chair drinking whiskey while toying with the puzzle. Again, I was pushing and twisting the little ivory squares and circles in different combinations. After about an hour, I discovered that I could also pull out some of these little ivory buttons. I screwed around with the box for another hour--but I was simply dumbfounded. Here was this goddamn hollow, wooden box with something in it, and yet, I still couldn't open it.

 

I took it back upstairs and placed it on top of my armoire and decided I'd watch some TV. I grabbed my glass, refilled it, and went into the TV room. There was an old movie on called, Blood Simple. I watched the entire movie until it was over. The clock on the wall chimed 12:30 a.m. By this time of the night, the alcohol was making me feel sleepy. I wanted to go to bed. I floundered up the stairs to my bedroom, peeled off my robe and fell into bed. Within minutes I was dreaming of my young teenage sweetheart, Pam Rose.

 

I was dead asleep when my dream changed from fantasy, to something more real. Still on the edge of slept, I felt the bed mattress sink softly as she was getting under the sheets. Slowly, the dream brought me into an attentive state of animation. I rolled on my side and put my arm around her. I snuggled up close, and started to become aroused. I was still not completely awake, but in my state of mind, I drew closer and kissed her lips. I felt her put her arm around me. I began to wake up. I opened and focused my eyes.

 

"Ahaaaaaaaa! What the fuck! Shit! Go away! Get out!" I yelled while pushing away.

 

To my horror and disbelief, there lay beside me an old woman with scabby white hair, a wrinkled and deformed bony face with a toothless grin and ghostly, cream-colored eyes inscribed with jet black irises!

 

"Come on my little lovely, kiss me and fuck me," she begged with an old squeaky voice. She flipped the blankets off and spread her old and gray emaciated legs wide open! Her chest was sunken showing a skeletal rib cage with no breasts. Her hands and skinny arms hung with decaying flesh. I quickly jumped out of bed. I went for the gun in my drawer, but she jumped up faster than I, and sat her bony ass on my nightstand.

 

"Come and shoot me, baby!" she laughed while turning her head.

 

I picked up an iron poker beside the fireplace and swung it at her with all my might. It struck her in the ribs with a loud crack, almost slicing her in half. When I pulled the poker out, she started to bleed in squirts. She got up from the floor and started dancing around like some macabre broken puppet. Her laughter sent chills down my spine. Abruptly she flopped to the floor--as if puppet strings had suddenly been cut--and laid there jerking. After a minute, she quit shaking, and abruptly started convulsing. Then suddenly, she started to shoot red vomit straight in the air! Her whole body was splattering blood.

 

I ran out of the bedroom naked and upstairs to my office. I had another gun hidden in my office table. I opened the drawer, grabbed the gun, and stood quietly and still for a few minutes. Then came the stomping from the attic.

 

"Thump, thump, thump, thump, thump...!"

 

"Stop it! Stop it!" I yelled, trying to cover my ears from the noise.

 

"Open the door for your sweetheart!" the deep voice demanded. It was that same voice I heard last night--a low and demonic reverberating sound.

 

"Shut the fuck up!" I screamed as loud as I could.

 

The noise finally stopped. I listened to the quiet intensely. Nothing. I waited about five minutes more--again, nothing.

 

I slowly walked out of my office and into a corner room where I softly followed the steps down the tower. I made it to my living room and looked at the wall clock. It was after three in the morning. Cautiously, I picked up the phone and dialed Ken's number.

 

Ten rings later, a man answer. "Mr. Miller's residence."

 

"Ken?" I said anxiously.

 

The man on the other end replied, "I'm sorry, sir, but Mr. Miller is not available at this time."

 

"Wake him up. Please. This is his friend, Ted. He'll understand. Please wake him up. It's important," I requested with a quivering voice.

 

"I'm terribly sorry, sir, but..."

 

"Wake Ken up now, Victor, or I'll have your fuckin job tomorrow!" I whispered angrily.

 

"Just a moment, sir," he replied.

 

"Hello...Ted?" Ken said yawning through the phone.

 

"Ken! Can you come over here?" I replied desperately.

 

"Ted, it's after three in…"

 

"I know, Ken. I know. But I need your help. Will you please come over here? Something is wrong, terribly wrong, Ken!"

 

"What's wrong, Ted?"

 

"I can't talk now. Please… just come over?"

 

"Okay, Ted, okay. Give me about fifteen minutes."

 

"Thank you, Ken...thank you; and oh...?"

 

"Yes?"

 

"Bring a gun."

 

I quickly, but quietly, put the phone back down and tiptoed past the kitchen. In the laundry room, I found some pants, socks and a shirt. I put them on then stopped to listen. Nothing but tick...tock...tick...tock; my grandfather's clock was driving me mad. I walked slowly and carefully back into the living room, pointing my gun. I pushed the gate button and waited for Ken. After about ten minutes, I heard a car drive up. I gently, but forcefully opened those front doors. When Ken appeared, I shushed him and waved him to come in.

 

"What is it?" Ken said in his normal voice.

 

"Shssssss," I whispered with a finger over my lips, "There's something in my house!" I whispered nervously.

 

He whispered back, but in a louder tone, "You mean someone has broken in?"

 

"No. Something," I replied softly.

 

"Something?" he asked louder with a funny look.

 

"I saw, felt...I mean...I hear ghosts," I said in low, but normal tone.

 

"You saw a ghost?" he said incredulously.

 

"Yes," I demanded, "and I heard it too."

 

We were no longer whispering, but talking, "what in the hell, Ted. You ask me to come over and hold your hand to protect you from fucking ghosts!"

 

"Please, don't mock me, Ken. I truly had something really, really strange happen to me tonight."

 

"All right...all right, Ted. What'd you see?"

 

"Follow me, Ken, and I'll show you. Did you bring a gun?"

 

"Yes," Ken said simply. He followed me up to my bedroom.

 

"Now; get ready," I whispered.

 

We both stood by the door with our guns pointed. I grasped the doorknob and flung the door open. There was nothing unusual in my bedroom.

 

"What do you want me to shoot, Ted--your bed?" Ken said sarcastically.

 

"What the hell! Where is she?" I whined in disbelief.

 

"She, who?" Ken asked amused.

 

"The old woman. She wanted to fuck me! I killed the old bitch. She was laying here bleeding. I don't get it. Where'd she go? There was blood and puke all over the floor. She was here, Ken--I swear it! She was lying right here," I shouted while pointed to the floor.

 

"Ted," Ken said with concern. "You must've had a terrible nightmare."

 

"This was no fucking nightmare, Ken. Something weird is going on in this house. There were sounds coming from the attic, like heavy feet stomping on the floor. Honest, Ken. You've got to believe me! Let's go to the attic, Ken, and I'll show you..."

 

"Ted; Ted! Get a hold of yourself. There's nobody here. There's nothing here. Let's go downstairs and see if we can find you something to calm your nerves. Do you keep any medication?"

 

"Just aspirin."

 

"Okay, Ted. Let's have a drink; got anything to drink?"

 

"I've got some scotch in the liquor cabinet." Ken poured two small glasses.

 

"Here, Ted, drink some of this, it'll calm you down. Then you can tell me what happened."

 

I told Ken everything that happened that night, and after, he did the asking while I did the answering.

 

"Ted," Ken said, "I think the first thing you ought to do tomorrow is see a doctor. Get a complete checkup. If you're under a great deal of stress, maybe these nightmares could be neurological, or even psychosomatic. Obviously, I'm not a doctor, Ted, but I do have an open mind. Maybe your house is haunted. I don't know, but something has to be done. You're just not acting normal."

 

"I don't know; I don't know anything, Ken--I just don't know what to think! Was I dreaming, or was it real?"

 

"Tell you what, buddy. I'd like for you to stay the night over at my house. You can sleep in one of my guest rooms. Why don't you pack a few things, come over and get a good night's sleep. I promise, nothing will disturb you."

 

My head was hanging low, and staring at the floor. Eventually, I looked up at Ken and to my dismay, his eyes were bugged out and his mouth was wide open with a big toothy grin. His tongue was sticking out lapping up and down in a fast repetitive motion. I turned my head away quickly.

 

"Something wrong, Ted?"

 

I paused for a moment, and looked back at him. His face appeared normal and concerned.

 

"No, I'm okay. Give me a few minutes to pack my tooth brush and we'll go." Within twenty-five minutes, we left my house, and arrived at his. Ken showed me a bedroom.

 

"Will this be okay?"

 

"This will be fine. Thank you."

 

"If you need anything, just push this button on the bedpost and one of my servants will be up here immediately. Are you feeling all right?"

 

"I'm okay, thank you, and good night," I said wearily.

 

"Good night. Now get some sleep."

 

I slept twelve hours. When I awoke, I laid in bed a few minutes with my eyes opened. That was the best night sleep I've had since the first night in my new home. I thought about last night and how erratic I must have looked and sounded. How would I apologize to Ken? I got up and put on a robe. I stepped out the bedroom and looked around. A servant saw me and came to my rescue.

 

"What can I do for you, Mr. Newson?"

 

"Is Ken here?"

 

"No, sir. Mr. Miller had to leave on an emergency business call," the servant said while bugging his eyes and picking his nose.

 

I looked at him strangely. "Oh...I see."

 

"Would you care for something to eat, sir?" he asked while scratching his crotch and ass.

 

Ignoring his behavior, I replied, "that sounds good, Victor, but please, give me about half an hour to get cleaned up.

 

"What sounds appetizing to you, sir?"

 

"Just some eggs, toast and milk sounds good, Victor...and, Victor?"

 

"Yes, Mr. Newson?" He answered through clenched fists and teeth.

 

"Could I have someone drive me home after breakfast?"

 

"Of course, Mr. Newson," he replied, hopping and skipping insanely away.

 

I ignored everything Victor did. It started to occur to me that all of these absurdities that I perceived from other people might be the onset of schizophrenia. I felt old and diseased. Ken may be right--I probably should go see a doctor.

 

After eating my eggs and toast, I looked at my watch--five-thirty in the afternoon. Another few hours or two and it would be dusk. Victor had a servant drive me home and at my arrival, I pushed a button on my key chain, which opened the gates and disengaged the alarm system. I thanked the assistant, who gave me the finger while shouting: "fuck you!" as I waved good-bye.

 

I went into my living room and poured myself a glass of wine. I then went into my entertainment room, and watched the news channel. While half watching the news, and half thinking about the possibility of going schizoid, something occurred to me--the noose in the attic--that was real. I untied it and threw it to the floor. I was not imagining that! I got up off the sofa and grabbed my set of keys. I frantically took the attic key off the key ring and ran up the staircase to the third floor hallway door that led to the attic. I unlocked the door and walked up the steps. When I arrived at the landing I looked down on the floor for the noose--there was no noose. I kicked a few things around to clear the floor, but I still didn't find the noose. I slowly turned back around and walked down the steps. I closed the attic door and locked it.

 

I screamed to myself in panic, "Either I'm going nuts, or this house is haunted!"

 

When I got back downstairs, I went into the living room and to the liquor cabinet. I poured myself a triple shot of scotch, sat down in my chair to think and drink. After I finished the first glass, I made myself another. I became aware that my index finger, which wore the diamond and emerald ring, was swollen and festered and oozing yellow pus. I couldn't take it off because of the swelling and pain.

 

After about an hour of staring at my finger, thinking and drinking, I was becoming fidgety; I wanted something to do. I was tired of thinking and worrying. I thought about seeing a doctor, but decided to doctor it myself. I went into the bathroom, cleansed my finger, wiping thoroughly, and then poured peroxide before the bandages. Those made me feel better. Back into my living room, I drank and thought and drank some more. I needed something to do! I thought about painting, but was too intoxicated for fine art work and creativity. After some time, I decided I'd try and break the code on that puzzle box. That would take my mind away, and give me something to do.

 

I went upstairs to my bedroom, grabbed the box sitting on top of the armoire next to the gold chain and necklace--which I had put in my safe. What was it doing here? In my current condition, I was in no mood to play detective. I simply rubbed my forehead, turned around, and followed the stairs back down to my chair in the living room. I took a big gulp of scotch and started messing around with the little squares and circles. I could confidently say that I was drunk, but still sober enough to experiment with the box.

 

Setting the box on my lap, with my right hand on top, something flipped my hand over, palm up with my new ring on a square of ivory on the center top of the box. To my amazement, the box sprang open! And the smell of the air trapped inside was formidably repulsive. I quickly jerked my head sideways and threw the box to the floor. It was the worst smell I've ever encountered. It created a terrible noxious taste in my mouth and on my tongue, my lips, my throat, my nose and even my eyes. I quickly stood up retching, gagging and holding my chest in.

 

I rushed to the bathroom and rinsed my mouth and splashed water all over my face. The water took away most of the nasty taste, including the smell and stinging. Looking into the mirror, I saw blood shot, swollen, eye balls, but something didn't seem right. I took a closer look at my eyes, which are normally a light gray; but now seemed to be glazed a darker gray. Was I becoming delusional and psychotic, or were these real physical changes? Maybe there is something unusual in my eyes; something that makes people behave so strangely around me. The more I thought about it, the more I became frightened that all of these bewildering things were driving me to a nervous breakdown. I turned away from the mirror and managed to regain most of my composure and sobriety. I made a strong effort just to walk back to the living room where the box laid.

 

It was sitting up right on the floor--opened. The smell had dissipated, and there were also no marbles; everything appeared normal. As I approached the box to look inside, I saw nothing. What made the box rattle when it was closed? I looked around on the floor, under the chairs and other furniture. I looked essentially everywhere in the living room. Nothing. I even moved some of the furniture away from the walls and still found nothing. I was completely baffled. The box was still sitting on the floor where I had dropped it. I walked over to the box and looked in. There was nothing inside but blackness. I slowly and cautiously bent down to smell the box. It simply smelled like cedar. The box appeared to be about ten inches deep; the same size as before. I had a strong desire to reach into the box for some inexplicable reason. If nothing else, just to feel the inside and touch the walls. However, the thought frightened me.

 

"Oh, this is nonsense. Feel inside the damn box for heaven's sake," I barked at myself out loud.

 

As I put my hand on the inside wall of the box, I started to slide my fingers to the bottom. As I touched the bottom and pushed, I was thunderstruck to see my armpit touching the top of the box! How can this be--an illusion--a clever trick to the eyes? No, oh, no. My arm is at least twenty-seven inches, and that box is only ten; there's something very strange going on here.

 

As I pulled my arm out, the bottom of the box seemed to follow. When I had my hand completely out of the box, it looked normal again. The depth was about ten inches. To my surprise, I found that the walls of the box did exactly the same thing. I could reach in and push on a wall and it would appear to slide sideways deeper, and deeper, but the outside stayed the same width. After I had discovered the mystifying properties of the box, I decided not to push fate any further tonight. This amazing thing had to be shown to someone.

 

I noticed that tonight was becoming daylight, so I took the opened box upstairs to my office and placed it on my table for safe keeping. Today was late Thursday...no, early Friday morning and the maids would come today. When I went to my bedroom, I happened to notice that the gold necklace and locket were gone. I simply shrugged my shoulders; they were probably just floating around the house somewhere.

 

I shed my clothes--forgetting my socks--and crawled into bed. I was insane and deranged, but even the mentally afflicted need their sleep. Periodically, I was awakened by the maids talking, but then I would just fall back to sleep again. I slept in bits and pieces throughout the entire morning. Eventually, I decided to get up. I felt tired and haggard, but was determined to get out of bed. I thought that after I got up and drank some coffee, and maybe even something to eat, I'd feel better. I stumbled out of bed, put on my robe and went downstairs.

 

"Hello?" I squawked.

 

Sue came around the corner. "Ted, you're up."

 

"Sue, could you get me a cup of coffee?" I pleaded.

 

"Why, of course," she said.

 

I sat down at my dining room table and looked out the window at the bright sunny plants and flowers. "Here you are, Ted; do you feel ill?" Sue asked before snorting and huffing a wad of phlegm from her throat.

 

I disregarded her actions and said, "I'm okay, Sue, just a little tired."

 

Rachel fixed me some breakfast while I drank my coffee. After I had finished eating, I went upstairs to clean up.And after a shower and fresh clothes, I started to feel better. But I was becoming more curious than ever about that box again. It had become an obsession. About two o'clock, I went up to my office. The box was still opened and sitting on the table. I put my hand into the box and still observed the fantastic characteristics that it exhibited. I looked at the inscription more closely.

 

It displayed the following:

 

hic jacet theobestia ecce scrare signum post abitum resurgam deprofundis ante caveat lector exponere me per ego velle devorare theospiritus theomens bellus humanus ego velle reisa theoyfel dauthr

 

I began a vigorous search into the meaning of the inscription. The first idea to come to me was the resemblance to Latin. I had no information on my computer, or in my library. I decided to do a manual search for a translation. I went down to my second floor library and investigated all of my books. I spent about three hours searching for a translation book. By some fate, or dumb luck, I found one that I had never categorized. I took the book to my office upstairs and began the long tedious and exhausting search for the words and their translated meaning. I was near the end of my work when Angie came up and knocked on my opened door.

 

I turned my head around and bluntly said, "Yes, Angie, what do you need?"

 

"I'm sorry to bother you, sir, but I just wanted to tell you that we've finished cleaning and that we're leaving now, sir."

 

"Okay," I replied without interest.

 

After five hours of the maid's departure, I had finished the translation. In English, and to the best of my knowledge, this is what the inscription said:

 

Here lies the beast. Behold the sacred sign. After death, I shall rise again out of the ancient depths. Let the reader beware. Expose me. For I wish to devour the spirit, the mind, beautiful humankind. I wish to raise the evil dead.

 

I stared at this translation in disbelief. I couldn't take my eyes off it. The box is evil and it's got a hold on me. I shut the box immediately.

 

"What should I do?” I shouted to the house.

 

I picked up the closed box and sat it on top of the armoire. The gold necklace and locket had returned. I left my bedroom and went downstairs to fix a drink. I called Ken, but discovered he was out of town until Monday. "Damn you, mother fucker!" I yelled in anger. I felt so mad that I was beside myself--I was also frightened. I sat in my chair all curled up biting my nails and trying to relax. I thought about having the house exorcised by a priest. I even thought about moving. I sat in my chair and thought and drank. I heard the clock chime midnight. I was exhausted from anxiety, and was starting to do the head nod. I made an effort to go to bed. I slowly crawled up the staircase to my bedroom; undressed, slipped into bed and fell asleep.

 

I was dead asleep when, in a blink of an eyelid, my eyes abruptly popped open! I definitely felt a disturbance in my room. There was something dark, diabolical and ominous, floating by the bed--it drifted out of the doorway. I got up, grabbed my gun, and ran out the door after it. I looked in every direction, but saw nothing. This time, I thought to myself, I was not going to play the game of hide and seek. I decided to lie back down. I sat the gun on the nightstand and proceeded to go back to sleep. I figured I'd had enough of this spirit shit. I thought that if I just ignored all these crazed abominations, they'd simply go away. I felt that I was being teased and spooked by something that was really nothing but some kind of vapor. And with that thought, I fell back to sleep.

 

It seemed only minutes, and maybe it was, when I felt something waking me. As I became more alert, I became aware of the sensation of tickling. At first it was behind my knees, then it moved down to my feet. I sat up and something hit me on the side of the head--I saw stars. As I became conscious again, I felt the tickling on my chest. Then, and without warning, something punched me hard in the back--it knocked the wind out of me. Trying to sit back up in bed and gasping for air, I heard laughter that sounded like the old cadaverous woman. I struggled to fall out of bed while grabbing my gun. As I hit the floor, I started shooting.

 

I didn't know where or what I was trying to shoot, but I emptied the chambers trying to kill whatever was in my room. Again, I heard the laughing. However, this time it was accompanied by terrifying screams of pain! It was pure insanity, laughter and screams together. I saw every piece of furniture in my bedroom starting to shake. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the box flying erratically--along with the necklace and locket.

 

I got to my feet and started to run out of the room, but something tackled me and flung me to the floor. I turned my head around to look behind me; but saw nothing. I got up again and started running and screaming insanely. I ran downstairs to the living room and stopped. Everything seemed too quiet. Dead silence. I listened carefully; but heard the sound of nothing. I was shaking from head to toe from fright--trying not to make even the slightest noise. I started for the liquor cabinet when something grabbed me around the neck and pulled me back until I fell on my bare ass. I bounced up quickly while turning around. Nothing! Nobody! I started yelling and screaming incessantly until I heard a deep voice.

 

"You cannot run from me. You are now plagued with my spirit. You, and only you, have opened the box, with your ring, to desolation and destruction. You are my personification of evil. I expose within you the beast, and I possess your soul!"

 

I started running around the house like a lunatic. I ran in and out of different rooms, up and down the stairs, yelling, "Noooooo...nooooooo...leave me alone! Go away! Noooooo..."

 

The demonic spirit chased me while I kept feeling him grabbing for my shoulders and jerking me backwards; trying to pull me down. It was playing with me. I found myself in the darkened basement running from vaulted stone room to room. I waved my way through webs and spiders while all the time it was right on my heels; trying to pull me down by my shoulders--trying to tackle me.

 

I woke up the next morning face down in the dirt. I was naked, dirty and hungry. There was a bloated, dead rat lying next to my head. I reached out and grabbed it. I squeezed it until gooey red and white shit started coming out of its mouth. I took a big bite from the rat’s stomach, chewed and swallowed.

 

"Humm...tastes like chicken."

 

I sat up and looked around. I felt numb and detached from myself. Suddenly I felt angry! I started to kick the dirt while literally barking. Walking through my catacombs kicking, screaming, laughing and yelling profanities.

 

"Fuck everything! God damn, I feel great; invulnerable--invincible!" I shouted.

 

I started for the upstairs. I went to the bathroom next to the bedroom to clean up. I left dirt everywhere I went.

 

"Let the bitches clean the shit up!" I bellowed, and then giggled.

 

After my shower I looked in the mirror. My hair was all white with mangled clumps interspersed with bald spots here and there. I smiled while I shaved my head. My eyes were completely glazed over with a pearly white gleam. While I stood looking at my eyes in the mirror, I began to see a black dot forming in the center of my eyes. The little black dots began to enlarge until I had a quarter inch jet-black irises centered in each eye. I started laughing and pointing to my image.

 

"My eyes posses the power!" I shouted, "I knew it all along!"

 

I looked at my ring finger. It had healed very nicely.

 

I searched my wardrobe for just the right clothes. I put on a bright white silk shirt and buttoned it up all the way to the collar with no tie. I put on a pair of black pants with a spandex waist and catch. My socks were black cotton, and my boots were patent black leather with zippers. My sport coat was black silk and double breasted. I had diamond cufflinks and a solid gold Rolex. And my right hand finger sported a gold and diamond ring with an emerald on top with skull and cross bones on each side. To top everything off, I put on a silk brim hat with a leather hatband. Only one more item left. I needed something to hide my eyes. I put on a sporty, black pair of rimless sunglasses. The perfect finishing touch!

 

I grabbed the box from my armoire and walked into another second floor room. Behind a wall panel was my largest safe. I grabbed two attaché cases and filled them with millions. Then I proceeded to a first floor closet and seized a dagger and a black cloak from my collection. I shook the box and heard human souls rattling around--I just had to smile. Then I went out to the garage and decided to drive my black, 1967 Ferrari P4. I put my attaché cases and the box in the trunk. After leaving my house, I stopped at Ken's. I knew he wouldn't be home for another few days, but I wanted to talk to, or rather see, Victor. I stopped at the gate. Victor opened them when I told him through the intercom who I was. I drove up the driveway and got out of the car while Victor came out of the house to meet me.

 

"Good day, Mr. Newson, how may I help you?"

 

"Well; let's see, Victor…have you ever experienced any chest pains lately?"

 

"No. Why do you ask?"

 

"Victor, I think you are going to have a very serious heart attack."

 

"That's ridiculous, sir, I should say!"

 

I took off my sunglasses and stared deeply in his eyes. Victor clenched his teeth while grunting and gasping and clutching his chest--he dropped dead on the spot.

 

"Pity. Poor, poor, Victor." I said slowly and calmly.

 

I put my glasses back on and walked into the house spotting another servant. He was watching TV.

 

"Excuse me, sir. Have you ever met anyone with schizophrenia?"

 

"I beg your pardon?"

 

"I said…have you ever met anyone with schizophrenia?"

 

"No, sir. I haven't."

 

I took off my glasses and looked him in the eyes. As I started to walk out the door, I turned around and saw him arguing with the TV. I simply smirked while leaving.

 

I had one more stop to make--Gramp's Unlocked Attic. When I arrived, I popped open the trunk and retrieved the box. When I took it into the antique store I spotted Elizabeth.

 

"Hello, Liz. I have a surprise for you," I said frowning.

 

"Well, hello there again stranger!" she said briskly.

 

"You may take your damned puzzle box back!" I yelled.

 

"Well…thank you, Ted," she answered smiling.

 

I took my glasses off. She looked at me, and then took hers off. Our evil eyes met directly. We began to laugh and point at each other.

 

"Thank you for the box, Ted. Can you stay for a cup of coffee?"

 

"I'm terribly sorry, Liz, but I have too many places to see."

 

"Oh?" she replied.

 

"I have to go to the city, Liz; get something to eat at the The Golden Plate restaurant. Then I have some hospitals to visit. Some grave yards just outside the city. I have to meet some people in the Middle East. You know, Liz, I have so many places to go and so many people to see. I don't expect to be back any time real soon, Liz, but when I do get back; I'll give you a ring. It'll go nicely with the box!" I laughed and left.

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