the box

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
sometimes the scariest monsters don't live under our beds.....

Submitted: November 06, 2018

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Submitted: November 06, 2018

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The Box 

By Triniti McPhail 

“Tell Pryor I said hi.” Dean tosses a paperclip at his younger sister. 

“Dean says hi.” Ash flicks it back at him and it hits him square in the nose. She stifles a laugh as Dean rubs his nose and grumbles. “He says hey.” 

“I gotta go, Ash. See you tonight.” Pryor says from the other line. 

“Okay, I love you.” Ash waves her hand at Dean, who is making kissing noises loudly by her ear. 

“I love you, too.” Pryor clicks off. Setting her phone on the nightstand, Ash glares at her brother. 

“When did you get so damn annoying?” She throws herself back on her bed. 

“Annoying?” Dean widens his eyes and puts a dramatic hand to his chest. “Me?” 

“I thought you were turning 23 not 3.” She yawns. She had spent the entire night adding to her newest picture. It’s a beautiful landscape, with rolling hills, high-peaked mountains, and tiny, realistic livestock. 

“4, actually.” He sits back down in her desk chair. Ash rolls her eyes and yawns again. This time, her eyes start to water. “If you want to take a nap, I can go downstairs and watch TV for a while.” 

“That’d be great.” Ash closes her eyes. 

“Kay. Come down when you wake up.” Dean flicks off her bedroom light and shuts the door. Ash is asleep before he hits the stairs. 

 

“Ash. Ash! Wake up!” Ash opens her eyes. Pryor is kneeling on the bed beside her, shaking her gently. “Hey.” He smiles down at her, his dimple creasing deeply in his right cheek. 

“Hey.” She stretches and brushes the hair out of her face. “What time is it?” 

“7:30.” He leans down and places a gentle kiss on her forehead. 

“Geez. Where’s Dean?” Ash sits up. The light is off, but she can feel that something is wrong. 

“Dean?” Pryor looks at her quizzically, then smiles again. “He must have left before I got home.” Ash gets out of bed. 

“No, he wouldn’t have done that. Maybe he was in the bathroom.” She slips out of the room and makes her way downstairs. “Dean?” She calls out. The TV is on Dean’s favorite channel, and a half empty glass of 7-Up sits on the small table next to the couch. “Dean?” She turns to go into the kitchen and steps in something wet and warm. She looks down and sees a dark spot on the carpet. More spots lead to the kitchen. “Dean, this isn’t funny.” Her voice has raised a couple pitches. Flipping on the kitchen light, she steps into the kitchen and screams a high-pitched, blood-curling scream. Dean is lying in a heap on the ground, surrounded by a pool of dark red blood. “No, no, no! Dean!” She races over to him and shoves her hands against to large stab wounds in his chest. His eyes are open and glassy, his jaw slack, and his right hand lay across his stomach. 

“How unfortunate.” Pryor comes in behind her and drops to his knees next her and Dean. 

“Pryor! Call 911! Ash sobs and pulls her brother into her lap. “Dean. Dean, wake up!” Her tears fall onto his face, mixing with the splattered blood. Pryor is still beside her, smiling faintly. “Pryor! What are you doing? Call 911!” She cries harder, clutching Dean tightly to her. 

“Ash, he’s dead.” He stands up and rinses the blood off his hands in the kitchen sink. 

“No. No! No, they can save him! They can….” She gapes up at him. In the light, she can see that his shirt is covered in blood, his face sprayed with droplets of it. His white Nike’s are now crimson red. “Pryor? What….” 

“He’s dead.” Pryor says slowly and deliberately, each word flowing from his mouth like a shower of tiny knives into Ash’s heart. He smiles brightly. “Now he can never bother us again.” 

“Pryor…. why? Why’d you kill him?” Ash stammers, her tongue moving slowly and awkwardly. Pryor’s smile falls and he stares at her, confused. 

“I thought that’s what you wanted. I thought he bothered you.” He says, genuinely surprised by her reaction. 

Pr…. He’s my brother! Of course he bothers me! That doesn’t mean I wanted him dead!” She chokes out painfully. 

“Oh….oh.” A sudden realization comes over him. He turns ghost white and runs out of the room, leaving bloody footprints in his wake. Ash leans over his body and screams and screams and screams until her lungs feel like they’re on fire and she’s sure her body is going to cave in on itself. 

 

“Ash! Ash! Wake up!” Ash sits bolt upright in bed, nearly flinging Dean off the side. “Ash!” 

“Dean? Dean!” She cries and pulls him against her, clawing his back, trying to hold him as closely as possible. “De…De….” She sobs uncontrollably, her entire body shaking. 

Shh. Ash. Hey. Ash, I’m here.” He pulls her into his lap and rocks her like he did when they were kids. She lays there for a long time, crying, clutching Dean’s shirt in her fists. He scoots back so he’s leaning against the wall and strokes her hair, holding her protectively. Her sobs die down to sniffles and hiccups, then slow, even breaths as she falls back asleep. He shifts her weight after a while and she whimpers in protest, tightening her grip on his shirt. He shushes her and whispers to her that he’s still here. Her grip loosens and she relaxes again. Dean picks up her sketchbook from her nightstand and opens it. Her drawings are all beautiful and intricate, lovingly and passionately created. He stops on a portrait of a beautiful woman. She has long, curly hair like Ash, and the same almond eye shape, nut the mouth, nose, and face shape aren’t hers. He realizes with a start that it’s their mother. Since their parents got divorced 12 years ago, they hadn’t seen much of their mother. She’d taken off to start a new life, only calling occasionally on birthdays and Christmas if they were lucky. The bedroom door opens and the light clicks on.  

“Ash, hey. I’m ho….” Pryor drops off when he sees that she’s sleeping. “Hey, Dean.” He lowers his voice. 

“Hey, man.” He closes the sketchbook and sets it back on the nightstand. “Sorry for still being here. She had a nightmare. A really bad one.” He brushes her hair out of her face lovingly. 

“Another one? She’s been having them every night for the past week or so. She barely sleeps these days.” Pryor leans against the door frame. 

“She used to have night terrors after our parents got divorced. I thought she grew out of them, but maybe they came back.” Dean’s stomach lurches. He remembers how horrible it was to see her night terrors when they were kids. She woke up every single night screaming and crying. Only he had been able to calm her down. Their dad took them to therapist after therapist, doctor after doctor, but it was no use. She wouldn’t talk to any of them. When she was 13, Dean moved from their home in Laguna Woods to Modjeska, just 10 minutes away. From what he had gathered during conversations with his sister and their dad, they started to subside after she went through puberty. 

“You guys lived with your dad after that, right?” Pryor slips out of his jacket and drapes it over the back of the desk chair. 

“Yeah. Our mom kind of disappeared.” Dean stretches his cramped legs. “We haven’t really seen her since then.” Ash stirs in her sleep and whimpers again. Her breathing quickens and her hands clench on her brother’s shirt. 

“Dean! Dean, no. No…” She cries, thrashing wildly. Pryor hurries across the room and holds her arms tightly. 

“Ash!” He slides his hands down her arms to her hands and curls his fingers in hers, detaching her hands from Dean’s mangled shirt. 

Dean! She screams. Her eyes fly open. “No! Don’t touch me! Don’t touch me!” She rips her hands out of his and shrinks into her brother’s lap. “Don’t…. touch….” Her eyes flutter shut and she goes limp. Pryor stumbles backwards off the bed, nearly tripping over Ash’s shoes. His eyes are wide and full of tears.  

“She didn’t mean it.” Dean slips out from under his younger sister. “She was delirious. Confused. Her night terrors….” 

“It wasn’t just this one time.” Pryor scrubs roughly at his eyes. “Every. Night. She’s terrified of me. I come home at night and reach towards her, and she flinches.” He gives up trying to wipe his tears away and draws a shaky breath. “She flinches, Dean. You guys have known me since we were in elementary school. Ash and I have been together for 4 years. I just…. I don’t understand. I would never hurt her.” His voice breaks and he lets out a single sob, then shoves his fist against his mouth. 

“Pryor, it’s nothing against you.” Dean stands up and crosses the room to stand in front of Pryor. ”She was the same way with our dad when we were little. She wouldn’t let him even touch her some days. But she loved him.” He hooks his fingers through his belt loops. “She loves you, Pryor. I know it, you know it. She’s just…. she’s sick. The night terrors were caused by a major change all those years ago. She just started college, and she’s getting her veterinary license in a couple months. She’s stressed. For whatever reason, she has a really hard time with change, and when she gets accustomed to the change, the night terrors die down. Just give her time.” Dean squeezes Pryor’s shoulder. “She’ll adjust.” Pryor nods. 

“Okay.” He clears his throat. “Ae you busy tonight? Ash and I were going to have tacos for dinner. You’re welcome to stay.” He look over at Ash, who is still sleeping. 

“I don’t know. I don’t want to intrude. You and Ash have stuff to work out.” Dean looks at his sister, too. 

“Let me rephrase that. Please stay for dinner. And as long as you can, honestly. Ash needs you.” A look of desperation floods his face. Dean has never seen him look so vulnerable. 

“Okay. I’ll stay.” Dean agrees. Pryor nods and looks at him gratefully. Slipping past him to go downstairs, Dean turns around. “And Pryor?” 

Hm?” Pryor turns to look at him. 

“I’m not sharing a bed with you.” Dean grins. 

“Why wou…. Oh, Jesus, Dean.” Pryor laughs a little and follows him downstairs, clapping him lightly on the back and shutting the bedroom door. 

 

Ash sits up and rubs her eyes. She feels like she hasn’t slept in days. Yawning, she slips on her pink fuzzy socks and heads downstairs, where voices echo from the kitchen. 

“So this guy hurls the stapler across the room and it hits the wall, busts a whole in it, and rebounds into our boss’s foot.” Pryor is explaining to Dean, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth. He’s standing at the stove, bent over seasoned ground beef sizzling in a pan. 

“What’d your boss do?” Dean finishes chopping lettuce and dumps it into a large silver bowl. He drops the knife into the sink and rinses his hands. 

“Gave him a two-week leave so he can figure thing out.” Pryor turns off the heat. The oven timer goes off and Pryor pulls out a tray of crispy taco shells. Ash smiles. Dean and Pryor have been friends since they all met, and even as they got older, that friendship never lessened. As if sensing his sister’s presence, Dean turns around and smiles. 

“Dinner’s almost ready.” He ruffles her hair as he walks by her, then pulls a stack of plates out of the cabinets next to her and carries them over to the counter with all the ingredients. “You hungry?” He puts a taco shell on each plate. 

Kinda.” Ash walks up behind Pryor and wraps her arms around him, running her fingertips across his abdomen. He sighs softly and laces his fingers in hers, the muscles in his torso contracting as he moves. Ash stretches up on her tiptoes and kisses the side of his neck. “Lace night?” She whispers. She can hear his breath hitch as the code registers. 

“Lace night.” He tugs on a lock of her hair, his heart thumping quickly underneath Ash’s hands. He turns around and pulls her against him, pressing his lips to hers gently. She gasps quietly and melts against him, twisting her fingers in his hair. He draws away after a moment, smiling crookedly, his face flushed. He runs his fingers along the light scar that runs from under her right eye to her ear. 

“Well.” Dean clicks his tongue. “Now that that’s over, can we eat?” Ash giggles and squeezes her brother’s hand. Pryor pulls out a chair for Ash and pushes it to the table once she sits. He sits to her right, and Dean sits to her left. 

“So, Dean.” Ash piles ground beef, cheese, lettuce and sour cream onto her taco shell. “How’s work? Are you still working for that jerk Jeremy?” She passes the cheese to Pryor. 

“Um…. Well, no. See, uh…. I quit.” He stammers. He takes the cheese from Pryor and nearly drops it. 

“Why? What happened?” Ash sets her taco down, untouched, and eyes her brother, concerned. 

“Nothing. I just got tired of it. Working 6 days a week, 11 hours a day. Plus, the pay sucked.” He stares at his plate like it’s the most interesting thing he’s ever seen. 

“When?” Ash asks quietly. Dean hates it when she gets like this. She’s always so concerned about him, but never about herself. 

“About a week ago. Maybe a little longer. Look, Ash, it’s not that big of a deal. I’ve been trying to get out of that job for two and a half years. You know that.” Dean looks up and is stunned to see a look of disbelief and something else he can’t quite decipher consuming her face. “Ash, I’m gonna get another job. Remember my old buddy Shawn? He works for a medical center that’s hiring, and he’s hooking me up with a good position.” He reaches under the table and grabs her hand. “I’ll be fine.” Ash shakes her head and smile. 

“Of course you will. You always are.” She squeezes his hand reassuringly. She drops his hand and looks over at Pryor, who is examining the rim of his glass, trying his hardest to mind his own business. “Let’s eat.” She picks up her taco and bites into it. Pryor and Dean follow in suit, grateful for the release in tension. After dinner, Dean clears the table and carries the dishes to the kitchen, sternly denying Ash’s efforts to help.  

“I’ve got it, Ash. I know how to do the dishes. I live alone, remember?” Dean grins and fills the sink with hot, soapy water. 

“Okay, well, Pryor and I are going upstairs. Make yourself at home.” Ash picks at a snag in her black and purple AC/DC shirt. 

“Should I turn the TV up?” Dean asks jokingly. 

“Probably.” Ash answers truthfully. Dean splutters and turns around so fast he almost falls over. 

“I was kidding, Ash!” He laughs. Ash laughs, too, her giggle filling the room like the tinkling of tiny bells. 

“I’m just being honest. We’re usually alone.” She smiles, her turquoise-braced teeth shining white. She stands there quietly for a moment before stepping forward and wrapping her arm around her brother. “I love you, Dean.” She lays her head on his chest. 

“I love you, too, Ash.” He rest his chin on the top of her head and holds her tightly. He feels himself starting to cry, his heart aching for his sister, wishing he could take away her pain. He releases her and turns around briskly, not wanting her to see his tears. “Go on. I’m sure Pryor’s waiting for you.” 

“Night.” Ash turns around and runs up the stairs, her footsteps growing softer and softer as she gets further away. 

Ash opens the bedroom door and is immediately seized by Pryor, his hands caressing her hips yearningly. He kicks the door shut and presses her up against it, his lips crashing down on hers roughly. Ash sighs and slides her fingers up the back of his neck and into his hair, tangling them in his soft, tawny locks. He groans deep in his throat and fumbles with the button on his jeans for a moment before finally undoing it and throwing them to the side. His t-shirt, boxers and Ash’s clothes follow, landing somewhere in the darkness. Still kissing her, Pryor lifts Ash up and lays her on the bed. He pulls away and looks at her, love radiating from every inch of her face, and a question in his eyes. 

“What?” Ash asks breathlessly, skimming her nails up his torso. His abdomen quivers under her touch. 

“What do you dream about?” He asks hesitantly, brushing her hair out of her face. Ash’s breath catches and her heart skips a beat. 

“A lot of things.” She says carefully. “You. My brother. School. This.” She flicks her fingers across his narrow hipbone. He lets out a gasp and she giggles. “Don’t worry about me.” She leans up and nips his lip gently. 

“Okay.” He kisses her passionately. “Okay.” Pryor pulls the blanket up and over them, covering her body with his own. 

 

Dean has the TV turned up to drown out the giggles and moans coming from upstairs, but the noises ceased a few minutes ago. He turns down the volume and closes his eyes, sleep tugging at the edges of his mind. He gives in and drifts into a quiet, peaceful sleep. 

 

After she’s completely sure Pryor’s asleep, Ash slides out from under his arm and crosses the room to their closet. Reaching into the pocket of her favorite black hoodie, she pulls out two folded papers. Taking a deep breath, she sets one of the two folded papers on the nightstand next to Pryor’s phone. She pulls on an old t-shirt and panties, then opens the door just enough for her to slip into the hallway. Padding soundlessly down the stairs, Ash peers into the living room and smiles. Dean is sound asleep on the couch, his jaw hanging slightly open. She sets the other paper on the end table above his head. He stirs and she goes rigid, hoping she didn’t wake him up. Dean rolls over and continues to sleep. Ash sighs and goes back upstairs, tiptoes into the bedroom, and stops next to Pryor for a second. She then shuts herself in the bathroom, careful to not let the door click shut, and opens the cabinet below the sink. Ash pulls out her pink razor, pulls off the cap, and lays down in the tub. 

“I love you, Pryor.” She rakes the blade across her pale forearm. Crimson blood pours form the gashes. She brings it down two more times, then switches hands. “I love you, Dean.” She draws the razor across her other arm. The corner of her vision becomes fuzzy and dark, and then she is consumed by the darkness. 

 

Pryor yawns and reaches across the bed for Ash, and is surprised to feel nothing. He opens his eyes and sits up. The bathroom light is on, and the door is slightly ajar. He lays back down and closes his eyes. Minutes pass, and Ash is still in the bathroom. Concerned, Pryor gets up and knocks on the door. 

“Ash? Baby, are you okay?” He asks, his voice full of worry. No answer. He pushes open the door tentatively. “Ash?” He looks in and sees a pool of blood on the floor next to the tub, and follows the drops to Ash’s lifeless body in the bathtub. “Ash! No, no. Oh, god. Dean!” He cries out, his voice breaking. “Dean!” He collapses in the blood next to the tub and pulls her up over the side and into his lap. Dean bursts into the room. His face turns white and he drops to his knees next to Pryor. “Call 91. My phone’s on the nightstand.” He sobs and brushes her hair out of her face. Dean nods and stumbles out of the bathroom. “It’s okay, baby. You’re gonna be okay.” 

“My sister slit her wrists.” Dean is saying, his voice unsteady. “I don’t know. Hold on. “Pryor, does she have a pulse?” He calls. Pryor puts his finger to her throat.  

“No.” He sobs harder and holds her tighter to him. He kisses her forehead, her cheeks, her lips. “I love you, Ash. I love you so much.” 

“Please hurry.” Dean hangs up and comes back into the bathroom. Sliding down the wall to the floor, he turns to Pryor. “You’re going to want to be dressed when they get here.” He pulls his sister into his lap. “I’ve got her.” Pryor stands up, covered in Ash’s blood, and leaves the bathroom. Dean looks down at her. “Remember when you were 14, and Pryor finally admitted that he liked you? Remember the look on his face?” His voice cracks. “Me, too. It was then that I knew you guys were going to make it through anything.” He swallows hard. “It was then that I knew he was the one you were going to spend the rest of your life with.” He lets out a single, heart-wrenching sob. “I guess I was right.” Sirens approach the house. “I love you, Ash. I love you more than I’ve ever loved anything or anyone else in this whole world.” He stands up with her in his arms and carries her downstairs. Pryor is trying to talk to the paramedics, but they can’t understand his hysterics. A young, brunette man walks up to Dean. 

“Did you make the call?” He stares down at Ash, his eyes trailing down her body. 

“Yeah. I’m her brother.” Dean cradles her close to him. He tucks her hair behind her ear. 

“What’s her name?” He asks, his eyes full of sorrow for Dean. 

“Ash. Ash Johnson.” Another paramedic brings a stretcher over to them. “She’s only 18.” He looks down at her and his heart clenches when he realizes that her face is blue. 

“Okay. Lay her down. We’re going to try to bring her back, but we have to move.” Dean lays her down on the stretcher and they start hooking her up to air and begin CPR. “Are you both riding behind us or do one of you want to come with?” He asks as they wheel her out. 

“He can go. I’ll drive behind you.” Dean grabs his phone and keys, and hid hand hovers over a piece of paper with his name on it. It’s his sister’s handwriting. He stares at it for a second, then slips it into his pocket. Pryor climbs into the back of the ambulance and the doors shut behind him. Dean locks the front door and races over to his car, climbs in, and pulls out right behind the ambulance. At the hospital, he gives his keys to valet and runs into the E.R., spotting Pryor standing outside a closed door. His clothes are almost as bloody as Dean’s. 

“They made me wait out here.” He whispers, his throat obviously raw. He tugs on the chin around his neck, an anniversary gift from Ash. After a minute, a doctor walks out with a solemn look on his face. 

“We did everything we could.” He holds his hands open and upward, a gesture of sincerity. “I’m so sorry.” 

“No!” Pryor howls and collapses to the floor, dropping his face into his hands. “No….” He sobs. His cries are rough and dry. Dean looks around frantically for a second, then crosses the room to the trash can by the entrance, leans over the side of it, and vomits. When he’s finished, he breathes heavily and bites his tongue to hold back his tears, but to no avail. He starts to cry, and once he starts, he can’t stop. He grabs Pryor by his shoulder and hauls him into the room, despite the doctor’s protests. Ash is laying on a blood soaked bed, a tube down her throat, her shirt cut open. The scar on her cheek is a dark purple, like it was a few months after she got it when she was 5. Her arms are wrapped in bandages that are already saturated in some places. Pryor kisses her softly, whispering in her ear. He steps back and Dean steps forward. He kisses her scarred cheek and grabs her jewelry off the silver tray by her bed. 

“Goodbye, Ash.” He chokes out between sobs. A doctor comes in and wheels her away, blood trailing down the hall from the wheels. 

 

Back in the car, Dean and Pryor sit silently on the way back to the house. 

“Her scar.” Pryor says finally. “On her face. How did she get it?” He swallows hard. 

“Our mom was drunk one night when she was driving Ash home from daycare. She passed out at the wheel, flipped over a guardrail. Part of it broke off and cut Ash. She was 5.” Dean stares at the nearly empty street. 

“Oh.” Pryor reaches into his pocket. “I found this. On the nightstand.” He holds up a folded piece of paper identical to the one Dean found. “It’s from Ash.” 

“I got one, too.” He pulls his out of his jacket pocket. He turns the wheel of the car and parks next to Pryor’s car. Turning the engine off, he his note and reads it. Pryor does the same, and when he’s done, he holds it out to Dean. “No. She wrote your name on it. It’s for your eyes and your eyes alone.” He folds up his note and slips it back into his pocket. They get out of the car and head into the house. 

“I’m gonna, uh, go clean up.” Pryor goes into the kitchen and comes back out with gloves and cleaning supplies. Dean holds out his hands. 

“I’ll help.” {Pryor hands him a bottle and a pair of gloves. 

“Okay.” 

 

“Dean, can you give me a hand?” Pryor calls from the bedroom. Dean pushes open the door. Pryor is examining the mirror on the wall. 

“What’s up?” Dean looks at it, not seeing anything wrong. 

“This thing’s crooked. We’ll have to take it down to fix it.” He grabs one side of it. “Ready?” Dean grabs the other side. 

“Yeah.” They lift the mirror and turn it clockwise a little, then hang it back up. A sticky note flutters to the ground. Dean picks it up. It has Ash’s handwriting on it. 

12.37.08- Under bed 

“Any idea what this means?” Dean shows the note to Pryor. 

“Nope. Only one way to find out.” Pryor drops to his stomach next to the bed, reaches under it, and withdraws a safe. He puts in the code and opens it. Inside is a notebook. Pryor flips the notebook open to a random page. Dean looks over his shoulder 

Aug. 14, 2017 (Sat) 

The dreams came back last night. I thought that they were gone years ago. It’s always the same; I wake up to Pryor shaking me. I go downstairs to find Dean, and he’s dead in the kitchen. Pryor has stabbed or shot him to death. And there’s so much blood... 

Dean flips forward a few more pages. 

Aug 19, 2017 (Thurs) 

I can’t take this anymore. I’m going to end everything on Sunday night after Pryor goes to sleep. 

Pryor slams the book shut. “Dammit.” He groans. “If I could have found this a month ago….” 

“She didn’t want you to. If Ash didn’t want someone to find something, they didn’t.” Dean closes the safe. “It’s been 2 weeks, Pryor. It’s time you stopped blaming yourself.” 

“I know.” A single tear trickles down Pryor’s cheek. “I know.” 

 

“Today, we celebrate the life of Ash Laine Johnson. Although she is gone, she will always be remembered for the wonderful, kind person she was. She will continue to live on in our hearts, our minds, and in our souls. So though we are saying goodbye, she will never really be gone.” The pastor concludes. Pryor walks up to the casket one last time, reaches into his pocket, and pulls out a ring on a chain. 

“I’ve had this for a long time, but I could never work up the courage to give it to you.” He whispers. “I’m going to wear it around my neck until the day I die, Ash. I will never give it to another woman. I promise.” He slips the chain around his neck and stands back as the casket is lowered into the ground and covered with earth. A cold sensation settles over him and he closes his eyes. “I love you, too.” 


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