“Did you do it, did you open that thing?” William asked. Shelly was sitting on a splintered tree that had fallen during the storm. She didn’t take her eyes off the box. She’d been holding on to it since the storm.
“Not yet, but I want to open it. Don’t you think I should? I want to see what’s inside,” she whimpered.
Shelly found the black box, with its weird writing and odd symbols while they were digging through the debris. What they found was this ancient relic Shelly had inherited from her mother.
From the second she touched the box, she’d been unable to do more than sit, cradling it like an injured child. She hadn’t eaten or slept much in days and wouldn’t leave it long enough to go with William to the shelter.
“Honey, you need to put that damn thing down and get some food. You’re gonna get sick. I can watch it for you so nothing happens to it.” William pleaded with her. He didn’t want to take it away, but he was getting nervous.
After the storm, the plan was to find a shelter that would take them in until they could move what little there was to his sister’s place. Then Shelly found the box and didn’t want to leave.
“I’m not very hungry. You can go without me, Will. I’ll be fine sitting here,” she said, her voice hollow and distant.
William felt the wind pick up but the moving air was no comfort. The temperature had gone up ten degrees and he feared another storm was on its way.
“Shelly, we should get inside somewhere before the weather kicks up again. Look at the clouds. What if we take it with us?”
Shelly answered, but not in words. She began cooing at the box and caressing it. She had her back turned and he couldn’t see the look on her face. William walked around to the front of the tree where she was sitting. “I want to stay here, Willie. It wants me to stay here,” she finally moaned in an odd, baby doll voice.
Her eyes had a sunken-in look and her skin was gaunt on her diminished frame. Had it only been a few days since she’d eaten? “Shelly?” He touched her arm, but she was a statue.
The wind picked up and it began to rain. William knew staying any longer was a bad idea. It might already be too late to get far enough away but he hadn’t heard the air raid siren go yet. Maybe the storm would be fast and blow itself out, but they wouldn’t survive without some cover. The debris from the last storm whirled, leaving cuts all over his exposed skin. He barely noticed.
“Baby, we need to get out of here, now!” he shouted. It had grown so dark that even the short space between them was like looking through black ink.
“I can’t leave yet. It’s about to open and show me what it’s been hiding,” she said, in that spooky baby doll voice again. “You’re going to want to see this, Will.”
Her fingers stopped caressing the lid and began to lift one corner. The light escaping the box was dim as Shelly wormed her finger deeper, making the space between the lid and the box bigger.
The light brightened and William realized that as the light intensified, so did the storm. Dawning recognition hit him. The storm hadn’t come from the plains; it was that damned box. Shelly was letting it out of the box.
“Shelly, no!” William shouted as he leapt forward. He was going to slam the lid back down on that thing before it killed them both. She might lose a finger, but…
He reached for her, grabbing for the box and trying to push the lid back in place. Shelly turned slightly at the sound of his voice and the box slipped from her lap. She began to shriek.
William tried to ignore the pain he heard and made for the box as it hit the ground. It skidded away in the mud. The lid popped up for a moment and the wind matched her screams. Then, it closed and the storm puffed out instantly.
He looked at Shelly to see if she was alright but she was sliding limply from her seat on to her knees.
“Shelly, are you okay? Oh my god, Shelly,” William cried out, trying to catch her. He didn’t want her to smash her head on any of the fallen debris. Everywhere he looked, he saw sharp gouging death winking up at him.
Shelly crumpled into a ball and collapsed before he could reach her. He screamed at the sound of her head and face slapping the wet earth. She twitched once, violently, then was still.
William lurched forward onto his knees, heedless of the glass cutting in to him. He reached under her wet hair, wanting to see if she was alive, but something bit into his hand.
William pulled his hand away, screaming and holding it to his chest. He had squeezed it shut instinctively, and now he could see blood pooling in the spaces where his last two fingers should have been.
Shelly lay forgotten for a moment as he held his hand to his face. The missing digits hadn’t registered just yet. It felt like hot iron was being poured over the place where his fingers had been. He clapped his other hand over the stumps and searing pain bolted down his arm. He thought he was going to vomit right there, watching the blood rush through his fingers.
When he realized she could have fallen on whatever just cut him, he snapped.
“Shelly!” he yelled. Was something gnawing at his wife while he knelt there nursing his own horrible injury? The shock of being bitten was almost too much.
He pulled his shirt over his head to wrap around his hand. When he looked down, she was no longer lying on the wet ground. It took him a moment to realize that she had moved a few feet away. He shook his head, trying to clear his vision.
She was sitting with the box in her lap again, caressing the lid. Her face had a twisted, horrified look that he had never seen on any human before.
“Shelly,” he asked, trying to keep his feet.
“You shouldn’t have taken it from me, Will. It doesn’t want you to touch it.” She looked up at William with a demented, hateful grin. William’s heart skipped a beat.
“What are you doing Shelly,” William asked. He moved in closer to her.
“I can’t stop myself, Willie,” she said. He could see the outright terror on her face. The look stopped him in his tracks.
For a long moment, Shelly sat, staring blankly back at her husband. Her fingers had stopped on one corner of the lid.
Finally, she smiled again. It was part Shelly and part whatever evil had taken hold of her in the last six days.
“I can’t, William…” She trailed off. William relaxed a bit. Then he watched in horror as she ripped the lid off the box all at once.
“SHELLY…” his voice ending in a blood-curdling scream.
Shelly laughed, in that spooky baby doll voice. She stood and stepped blindly into that darkness.
~ Christopher A. Liccardi
© Copyright 2015 Christopher A. Liccardi. All Rights Reserved.