Jake knew the problem was the box…it was always the box, the box that caused so much anguish but hadn’t existed only 24 hours before…
It was the way it looked…it looked busy, hard to explain really that a static object could look like it was moving but it did, however he moved his head it was just, there…moving, living but not making a sound or even moving.
He was obviously nuts, I mean come on a stupid box just sitting there and suddenly he was freaking out…what a div, he just needed air, yeah just some air.
He’d been ‘catching air’ the day before when he had started to notice little things starting to change…only some little changes initially, people reacting differently to him in this street and giving him a wide berth in the few stores he had stopped in on. .. If it was one thing you could guarantee with Jake is that people didn’t avoid him in fact it was the total opposite it was hard for him to shake off his happy smiley admirers.
Old woman nodding to him smiling, children in prams gazing up as if he was suddenly looking down on them with a huge head made of candyfloss. Well the excitement on their little pudgy faces made it look something like that. Even young girls wouldn’t glance away as he walked towards them, holding his gaze and often smiling back. He was as others may say, a heartbreaker, but as Jake would say…Lucky enough to get along without any bad juju.
But that all changed on that Wednesday, old people hesitated and almost flinched at the sight of him, people crossed the street and don’t even mention the girls, it was as if he was the star in the latest; Before; advert for deodorant…But hey he could do with a day off without being smiled at every moment so he carried on with his day.
He’d only popped into town for some essentials, bread, milk, bleach, eggs, no biggie, just in and out no probs and no bad juju.
After packing up his shopping he was turning to walk out of the door when his path was blocked by an old man standing in front of him. Jake hesitated immediately taking a step back on instinct. He never scared easy I mean c’mon he’s finished all call of duty zombie levels, but there and then he was scared. He stopped still as the man looked at him, through him.
The man was approx 5”9 and crooked to the eye, bent over in front of him it was still obvious to Jake that this man was made up of a mass of sinew and muscles, and although old there was no doubt in Jake’s mind that this man could ‘ handle himself’ although by the smell of him he was as if he couldn’t handle a shower head. It was a rank smell that met Jake’s nose, like a dense, thick sweat mixed with something Jake couldn’t quite grasp…sulphur? Bleach?
His complete itinerary of smells and why the hell they would be coming from this old guy was cut drastically short as the man spoke
“You, you’re still here” he spat
“….” said Jake
“You can’t still be here, this isn’t right…it’s her turn now, your chance is over” the man grew more agitated as he spoke leaning in towards Jake who, found himself glued to the spot, looking down at the man’s eyes
“Not you anymore” the man repeated again and again now looking sad and forlorn.
The man’s outburst had caught the attention of the security guards in the store who came over to see what the fuss was about. The old man saw them approaching and turned to walk away. Jake noticed that the man moved in a jerky, broken fashion almost as if a child was learning to walk backwards for the first time. He stared back at Jake whispering ‘ Her turn now’ and wandered off into the hubbub of the busy car park.
Jake picked his shopping up looked at the security guard and tipped his head towards the old man swirling his index finger on his right hand in a circle next to his head.
The security guard nodded back happy not to have to evict another ‘mental’, he’d already done three this week and to be honest was a bit sick of them, he’d rather a thief on the self check outs at least you could nail them!
Jake arrived home shaken by his encounter with the old man, he couldn’t shake the feeling that he had seen him before, like an old teacher or someone in passing, god knows these days there enough ways to ’see’ someone. Had it been on freakbook, twitsser or in the paper he didn’t know but he was pretty sure he had seen him before. He was even more freakin sure he did not want to see him again.
Jake went into the kitchen and there on the worktop was the box. Except that wasn’t where he had last seen the box, he had left it on his bedside cabinet in his bedroom, he’d been staring at it all morning. Now with it sitting there right in front of him he doubted himself. He knew he hadn’t been 100% recently so had probably moved it with him on getting ready to leave the house. ‘OK’ he thought ‘ I brought it down with me, no problems and no bad..’
Before he could finish his JuJu based mantra something shifted. A huge, solid noise as if a cabinet had been slammed against the wall or something pretty huge and heavy had tried to smash his door down.
Jake turned to look a round, I mean seriously what the frick was that? When he turned his head back to the kitchen counter it was still there but this time the lid of the box was open.
It was a relatively tiny box ten inches by five, ornate to look at but not particularly good workmanship, in fact the way the top of it was scratched he thought it quite ugly but still when something turns up on your bedside cabinet out of the blue your first thought is not ‘Awww that’s nice’ it’s more ‘What the…Who the…’ Well, you get the idea
The open lid revealed the inside of the box and on leaning over Jake saw nothing; it was empty except for more scratches inside. These seemed more deliberate, more desperate than the ones on the lid which seemed more accidental excusable. But the more he thought about this box nothing seemed accidental. I mean this thing had just opened itself on his bloody kitchen worktop there ain’t much accidental about that!
He switched all his lights on in the kitchen as it was starting to grow quite dim outside, ‘Time of year’ he thought unconsciously. It was two thirty in the afternoon.
He pulled the box towards him and held it in his hands, it’s weight disturbed him slightly, had it been this heavy the first time he had picked it up, he would have remembered that, had he picked it up or was this the first time? He turned it in his hands and looked all around it. It was intriguing as it was ugly and he found himself drawing his finger along the edges of the patterns carved into the sides. Tracing the lines from the start to the end of each pattern. He studied the box for what seemed like ten minutes and was astounded to see when he looked at the clock that yes, it was exactly ten minutes he had been doing it for.
He laughed a nervous laugh to himself ‘What did you expect? For it to have been hours’ He spoke to an empty house, his voice wavering He stood up straight, manned up and put the box back down on the side, picking up his bag of shopping and clearing it all away occasionally glancing back at the box.
He finished putting the food away and closed the fridge, turning his attention back to the box, distracted he caught his hand on the edge of the work surface, tearing a small piece of skin from the corner of his finger. He shrieked, probably a bit too girl-like for his own good but no-one was watching so he rushed to the sink and ran it under the tap to close up.
“great day, real laugh and now a frickin sore finger” he thought to himself as he saw the blood mix with the water and go down the plughole gurgling as it went, in fact gurgling quite a lot considering he was just running water the sink was making a bubbling noise as if he was running some kind of fat down the plughole.
Glob Glob Glob it made, faster and faster and louder and louder
He stopped running the water but the noise continued, Glob Glob Gulp Gulp..
Gulp? Nah don’t think so, he shook his head, Gulp!??...’looks like a job for fat cleaning liquid cos this drain was ruined’
He stepped backward and reached back with his cut hand for a towel to dry his finger, his hand taking hold of the box which was now on the worktop directly behind him, where it wasn’t, where it had no right to be, where …the hell had it come from!!! He dropped it instantly and it fell onto the top and although dropped urgently it landed perfectly with the lid open, inviting and offering anyone who cared to a glimpse into the inside, it’s inside. He looked around and saw a towel, grabbed it and went to dry his hand to stop any bleeding but as he went to apply the towel he noticed that all evidence of the cut and blood had gone. Not just dried up but gone completely, not even a piece of skin missing just…nothing.
He sat down.
‘Ok,’ he thought ; Let’s go through it…1/ a box appears 2/ things get weird 3/ I get stalked 4/ things stay weird…how the hell can I get rid of this feeling this weird feeling ?’ he asked himself, without realising he was speaking outloud.
His doorbell rung. ‘Jane!’ he thought, of course, his girlfriend was due around that afternoon for a nice dinner and maybe a movie (probably a downloaded DVD it was cheaper these days and they had more important things to spend their money on). He walked to the door casting a last glance to the box before he left, still there…in place
Opening the door he saw Jane, 5ft 9 inches tall and natural raven hair she really was a specimen, she turned her head on hearing him answer and her shiny hair clicked towards him ‘Hey handsome’ she said smiling at him, her white beaming smile making his heart melt. ‘So, you gonna invite me in or do I have to stand here all day not being kissed’ she said smiling
He beckoned her in, ‘ Of course, sorry’ he said planting a kiss on her face. He had loved Jane since the day he saw her, her smile, her eyes and just energy about her. He was lucky and he knew that every second of the day. She felt the same too.
She strolled through to the lounge throwing her bag on the sofa, she was never shy in creating a little pile of stuff, ‘So, I’ll get the beers on, what we watching…Cuban documentary or Japanese nuclear animation?’ She winked, she loved to take it out of Jake’s eclectic movie taste, but secretly that’s one reason why she loved him so much…well at least that’s what he thought.
Jake smiled and was following her into the kitchen when something caught his eye. A shadow had cast over the lounge window and then disappeared as quick as he had seen it. Nothing much but on a day like today enough to drip icy fear down his spine all the way to his boots.
‘I’ll join you in a second’ he shouted ‘ got to check on something outside’
Jane shouted something back in agreement and although he never made out the words he picked up an inquisitive tone in it., but either way he was out of the door to see what was at the front of the house.
Nothing, just the ordinary street a few neighbours down the road pottering away, life carrying on as normal except for a small patch of grass on his lawn that seemed to have layers of sawdust on it. The area was about 10 inch square, he leaned over to it and as he got closer he noticed that instead of sawdust it was tiny splinters that seemed to be treated with some varnish or colouring as some were a deeper colour. He picked them all up in a handful looking closer the colouring; it was deep and a dark brown. What could make it that colour..’Well’ he thought ‘Add red to green get brown…Add red to brown to get…’ the thought faded away, whatever was ‘added’ to these splinters was red, deep red…blood red. He dropped them instantly and turned frantically to the house. He got to the door and stopped in his tracks/
It wasn’t his door. What faced him was an aged large oak door with a green rusted knocker hanging forlornly in its centre it’s brass rust leaking down the front of the door racing in lines to the floor. The wood itself was solid, hardwearing and unwelcoming. Carvings rendered themselves all over it. Deepset and weathered but still protecting all from intruders…Is that what he was now an intruder to what he thought only 30 seconds ago was his home.
His home? He looked up and around the door but that had changed too, now faced with a granite fronted rampart like wall. This was not his home, it couldn’t be anybody’s home… He leaned forward as he spotted a small dirty grease covered window. Nervously he reached out and smeared the coating off the glass, looking in, into his own lounge.
He threw himself back as if burned and then after a moment’s hesitation leaned back in to the glass, gazing. He saw Jane setting up the room, placing beers on the table, tootling about as she used to call it. He called her ‘Jane, hey Jane’ his voice broke a little as he realised he was increasing his volume. Nothing
‘JANE’ he shouted now bashing the window…still nothing. His cold feeling of fear was close to freezing him to the spot then he noticed it. The reflection.
As he stared into the greased over window watching Jane carry on with the preparations for an evening that was starting to become further and further out of reach he realized he was gazing into the eyes of another, not his own. The eyes of the man.
He pulled back from the window, trying to focus his eyes for the first time on a face that wasn’t his, that had no place here.
Then he heard the voice, a growling whisper (was that even possible?) delivered with such weight that it seemed to force itself into his brain
“Your time gone...her time come” it rasped “You’re time gone...her time come”
Tears ran down his cheeks, confused as to what was going on he stared back at the window, Jane happily walking around and then pausing, leaning over to look at something, the box.
He slammed against the glass screaming ‘No, No!’ banging against the smaller, ever shrinking window...was it getting smaller?
“Why?” he whimpered, his hands sore from banging on the glass “Why?”
Then a true whisper in his ear “It’s the way it must be...your choice”
He turned, no-one was there, looking around completing a full 360 he caught the reflection of himself in the mirror, that was when he saw the reflection of the man again, this time talking, to him.
“Blood has been cast, it’s heard your voice, One must sacrifice, it is your choice”
“Who are you?” he desperately asked, the reflection of the man mocking his words as he spoke them, seemingly repeating them, speaking for him and also for the man himself.
“Do you not recognise me Jake?” the man whispered smilingly “No, I don’t suppose you would, and you never will”
The realisation hit Jake like a steam train, the familiarity of the man from earlier, the look in his eyes, the movement of him. An old man but with young eyes, familiar eyes, they should have been familiar as they had been looking back at Jake forever...his own eyes.
“You would have lived” the man said “A good life, well...a long life, good is in the eye of the beholder” the man sneered, his yellowed teeth exposed. “But now....well it’s up to you”
“What do you mean, what the hell are you talking about” Jake spurted out
“You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain” he grinned “Right now Jakey boy you have a choice..you see (the reflection grinned and leaned forward) you have yourself a Dibbuk box in your possession, or rather it, and it’s resident, has you in its..”
“It’s harmless enough if you ignore it, but you didn’t although it does have rather an attraction to it wouldn’t you say”
Of course, the box what the hell else could it have been, the box that appeared from nowhere. Could he have ignored it? Got away from it? It ‘followed’ him around, pretty hard to shake something like that off, but why him?
“Why not” the man said in response (Great, now he was a frickin mind reader!) “You had a charmed life, popular, happy and trust me it would have got a lot better and what else would a spirit want to draw reserves off more than your youth and vitality. It wants the young”
“You gave it energy, power and most importantly you also may have been stupid enough to ‘seal the deal’ wit the old B+....signed in blood you may say” the reflection lowered its brows and grinned what Jake could only describe as the unholiest grin he had ever seen, then the face looked up and into what felt like Jake’s soul directly.
“You’re done sonny!”
Jake stopped. He stopped thinking, processing and for what felt like a lifetime, breathing. This was it, over, for him...everything. He was jolted back to attention by the man’s voice.
“That is unless of course you want to make a trade?”
Jake turned “What...My soul? My first born? What the hell kinda way is there out of this?” he screamed at the man
“Hahaha someone’s been watching too many TV shows...no something a bit more than that my friend” the man mocked, all the while as Jane’s image continued to move in the background....of course.
Jake fell to the floor, his hands landing on the damp mossy floor. He lifted them to look at them, green matted stains on his palms. He turned to look around for something to lift himself up.
What he had thought was a normal neighbourhood scene earlier was anything but. Now his eyes had become adjusted to his surroundings he saw what was really going on around him.
The old man moving things from his car had altered, shifted slightly and now Jake could see it for what it was. A man sized cloud of dark grey and red gas...with claws? As he looked it flicked it’s ‘head’ towards him and grinned. A claw filled mouth, row upon row of glimmering white fangs leering and salivating at him, Jake pushed himself back in horror, scrabbling across what was once his lawn.
“You need to make a choice, either it takes the last of you...or it takes it all from her”
“It’s her time now” that was what the man has said at the shops. It hadn’t made sense then, and it still didn’t really make sense now. It was if he had said it as a warning, trying to help him but instead he as trapping him, threatening him with a life and death gamble. Jake got a new lease of life from his inherent anger
“Screw you!” he spat at the reflection “You can’t do this! How can you even exist to threaten me if I don’t live?”
“Oh you did live Jake, you lived a fine life, full of love and happiness and you and yours lived a good long life, comfortable, happy and full of love. But then...you lost her.” For the first time in the conversation the man seemed to pause
“It was Jane?”
“It was always Jane. Until that day when she left. You were out celebrating your wedding anniversary, the same restaurant as always, the same table your favourite. It was on the way to the car park the driver hit her.”
Jake listened intently
“She died instantly and on that day so did you...well what counted as anything within you. I remember it as if it were yesterday; you said you’d give anything, anything to stop this from happening. Turns out anything is a powerful world Jakey boy” The man’s grimace returned
“It was the day after the funeral that the box first appeared with a note. ‘To Whom It May Concern I hope this box helps ease your pain and makes your dreams obtainable’ it read. I had opened it and found it quite beautiful initially it was only later on that the darkness fell”
“Each day got harder and harder to carry on. Some fool had wiped out my only love and I needed her back, even if not with me, just back. She needed to exist and I could not tolerate her not ‘being’. I made a wish”
Jake sat up on the grass, the man’s expression becoming more vivid in the glass, more agitated.
“I wished for her back, to live, as simple as that and then the next note came. The morning after, pinned to the door. To save a life I must take a life...You know us Jake we couldn’t harm a fly, especially at my age and then it hit me. My age. I’d lived, what would I really be sacrificing? So yes I made the deal....for your life!”
Jake froze, although it was true he had watched a low grade shows on tv and kinda guessed this was coming, but still when it boiled down to his life on the line suddenly it got a bit more real than a two bit drama, it was his life, his life that he would never live...with Jane.
Jake looked up from the floor, broken and weak “What do I need to do?” he whispered
“Give up...actually give yourself up to the box. Give your life..Or it takes hers as it is her time now...”
Jake stopped. He knew what options he had but could he do it. He had a good life and it was only starting, he thought of Jane, all he wanted to do with her, the family, and the foreign adventures they had planned. Every day with her was a blessing, she had stopped him taking things too seriously she had really opened is heart. Could he kill all of that off for her?
Did he have an option though? He tried for a moment to feel the loss of a sudden death after a lifetime together and then he realised a sudden loss is exactly what she would have now...but at least she is younger and could live, a voice seemed to whisper to him.
Yeah, she could live. Jake looked directly at the window, standing up straight
The glass cleared and the man’s reflection disappeared instead Jake was now looking at his own reflection, through which he could see Jane. She was starting to look concerned and made her way to what would have been his front window and looked directly through it, at Jake. As she was looking for Jake at the front of the house he was looking back through his only portal to his previous world, to his previous love.
He reached out and touched the glass, his hand print the only warm on the glass, misting it with is touch. She looked form left to right and then smiled, probably assuming he was chatting to a neighbour and then turned back, doing her funny wiggle back to the kitchen. He loved her, so much.
He loved her
That thought maintained longer than the prints on the glass as his hand faded away. Where he had stood was only compressed areas in the moss and a few bloodied splinters.
He loved her
Jake had been gone for a good ten minutes now; he was probably off bending someone’s ear about a random film or bad parking. She’d looked out of the window but couldn’t see him anywhere...Ta Daa ‘Disappearing act!’
She laughed and went back to the kitchen
She really loved that about him, even though he thought he was cool and trendy (Was it even trendy that he still used the word trendy!) he was an old geezer inside. Worried about the world, global warming, political situations but most importantly he worried about her. And she loved him for that.
She’d never felt anything like she did with Jake, they’d only been together for a year but they knew this was it. There had been talk of a wedding, joking initially probably eighteen months away but it was a certainty they both knew it.
They used to joke that they had both ‘Saved each other’ She had laughed at him when he first said that, he always wanted to be a hero, well he’d have to be a double hero soon...
She giggled to herself; she couldn’t wait for him to get back. She’d bought him a gift; it was in her bag, just needed a little wrapping but it looks like he’d thought the same and got her something.
As soon as she had stepped into the kitchen she saw the box. She’d instantly loved it; it was exactly the antiquey look that Jake knew she loved. Obviously he had picked it up for a surprise for her, maybe for their new place, whenever that happened
She giggled again and walked towards the box. The lid was open, had it been open earlier? She hadn’t noticed, but now as she looked at it she noticed how intricate it was. She ran her fingers across the carvings on the inside of the box. It seemed like ancient writing but as she ran her fingers across it she noticed how thick the wood felt, almost like a thick grease spread across the inside.
‘He’d really found something special here’ she thought and smiled...he was a softie alright.
“It’s her turn now”
She turned thinking Jake had come back into the kitchen but no, she was still alone. As she had quickly turned she caught her finger on a snag on the inside of the box.
‘Damn’ she thought as she put her finger in her mouth, leaning closer to the box. She noticed she had caught it on a small splinter on the edge and yup, well done her, she had bled on it. Jake would be overjoyed ‘I bought you a gift and you bled on it. Thanks for the feedback chick a kiss would have been enough’ And he was going to get a million on his face when he came back...
She thought of this and smiled as she ran her finger under the tap looking out of the window to the dark garden ‘Getting dark early...must be that time of year’ she thought.
She dried her hands and went to close the box lid, but she must have done when she pricked her finger as it was shut solid. She shrugged and went to her bag.
‘Well at least I have this time to wrap my gift whilst Mr Jibber Jabber is outside’ she thought.
She reached in the bag and pulled out a small bag. He was going to be overjoyed she thought...the real start to their life together, she smiled.
The bag fell to the worktop, the contents leaning out of the corner. This was the only noise in the room
As the echo faded across the room it left the sight of a desolated kitchen.
A bag tipped over on a worktop spilling its contents across the surface. In amongst the pile of lipsticks mirror and purses lay a small bag. The rainbow coloured bag had also spilt across the top showing the corner of a small woollen item.
Closer inspection would show a tiny pink woollen cardigan, on the top of which lay a small piece of photo paper, the paper was dark, as dark as the room now was, covered in mostly black ink although it had a small, familiar grey outline in its centre.
The outline of an unborn child.
“It’s her turn now”
© Copyright 2016 Andy Grannell. All rights reserved.
Short Story / Thrillers
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