About Us

We are a group of several aspiring writers, who thought it would be fun to get together and challenge each other on a monthly basis. Judging is done by adding the total number of stars up and dividing by the total number of votes, so having the most stars or most votes doesn't necessarily mean you win, it's the overall average. Whoever wins gets to pick the subject matter for the next session's short stories. Please read each story and vote them all appropriately. The voting boxes are to the left of the page and are marked by story title. If you would like to leave a comment simply click on the story title above each entry, but please keep them constructive. Again, thanks for reading and I hope that everyone can get as much enjoyment out of this as I have.

User Directions

TO WHOEVER VISITS THE SITE WITH AN INTENT TO HELP, WE WOULD APPRECIATE IT IF YOU VOTE ON ALL STORIES RATHER THAN JUST THE ONE YOU LIKE MOST. RATE ALL STORIES BASED ON HOW MUCH YOU LIKED THEM EACH. IN THIS WAY WE CAN GET A MORE ACCURATE TALLY FOR JUDGING THE WINNER. THANKS AGAIN FOR YOUR TIME AND VOTES, WE APPRECIATE IT VERY MUCH.

Contest Subjects

December's subject was chosen by myself and is... "A large stone was found in the middle of a field in Iowa."

The first subject for January was chosen by Sgt. Hubbard and is... "A locked box is left to you in a will."

The second subject for January was chosen by myself and is... "A person is found in the desert with amnesia."

The first subject for February was chosen by Stan Weiss and is... "The baby sitter is snooping and finds your many passports, each with a different name."

The second subject for February was chosen by T.J. Reed and is... "Rewrite a classic monster, ghost, horror story in a modern way and include the story as the title so we know what you have rewritten."


Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Secret Box


The Secret Box

Back in February of 1987, my great-grandmother died after losing a year long battle with the things that occur naturally from old age.  I always found it amazing that no matter how much her body wanted to fail her that her mind was as good as I ever remembered it being.  She was 92 when God took her home and left our home a lot emptier.
In the days before she died the entire family was called so they could come see her one last time.  Some of the family came to see her but I wish I had been more surprised that not all of them arrived.  It was evident in her voice that she was sadly disappointed they had not all come.  But sometimes I guess that happens in families.  Fortunately I had always been close to her even though I really hadn't known her for long.  I was only 15 when she died.
Growing up in rural Missouri meant our family was always close and took care of each other.  At least the ones that didn't move away because they wanted something more than our town could give.  We pretty much helped take care of each other.  In fact, my great-grandma lived with us in a room my dad built onto the back of the house.  We would sit down for meals each day and she would tell us kids the stories of her growing up on the family farm.  How her and her sisters were responsible for feeding the chickens and collecting the eggs everyday.  And how her brothers always handled the larger animals along with her father, my great-great-grandfather.
The original farmhouse that she grew up in is still on the property we own.  The paint is peeling and its small porch is surrounded by tall weeds but we still use it for storing extra furniture and things we might need.  My father never wants to get rid of anything so it gets stored in the old house. 
But many years ago my grandfather built a new farmhouse because he thought it would be easier than trying to update the old house with plumbing and better electric.  He always said that it was too small for a growing farm family anyway.
Great-grandma told me stories of her childhood that weren't too different from my own.  Playing in their upstairs room with dolls that they had made, having pretend tea parties and wearing their mothers clothes as if they were sequined gowns.  When she described her room it always sounded so plain.  Pink patterned wallpaper that was peeling a little at the seams, hardwood floors that had lost their finish long before and the only light came from an oil filled lantern that her mother lit each evening.  Each of the 3 girls had a plain wooden bed and they were stuffed into the tiny room.  But when she talked of the times when they played together it always sounded magical. 
Having grown up hearing the stories, I always thought I knew the old farmhouse pretty well.  All the secret spots they would play, where they would hide their most precious treasures and where they would go to try to hide when they were in trouble.  Little did I know I was about to discover the most secret spot still remained a mystery.
In the days before great-grandma died I would sit by her bedside in my feeble attempt to comfort her and to pray with her.  She shared with me some thins that I had not heard before.  Such as how she had a crush on a boy in school but her parents were very strict about such things and she wasn't allowed to even walk home from school with the boy.  And how she had met my great-grandfather at a church social and she just knew he would be the one to sweep her off her feet.  As we sat together, the day before she died, a great sorrow seemed to come across her very soul.  It was impossible for her to mask the pain brought on by the memory that she wanted to share. 
As she took hold of my hand, she spoke just two words: “The Box.”
I didn't understand what she had meant by that and she quickly fell silent while staring intently into my eyes.  What did she mean?  What was this box?
When I asked what she was talking about she stared into my eyes and began to silently weep. 
“It's a box filled with my most precious memory.  One that nobody has ever seen and one that hasn't been spoken of in a long long time”, she managed to get out through her labored breathing and tears.
My great-grandmother spoke softly, “Everything I have is left to your parents.  But this, this is too important to put in my will.  You are the first one in our family that will know what it holds.  Share it when you know it's the right time.  And only share it with the right person.  You'll know when.”
Straining to hear her she continued, “behind a seam of the old wallpaper is my secret hiding spot.  Over the years I've gone up there many times to remember that day.  The memory is yours now.”
Those were the last words my great-grandmother ever spoke.  It was shortly thereafter that the failing systems ravaging her body took over.  A few days later she was buried in the family burial plot on our land.  As was everything with our family, the funeral was simple but was abundant with family and friends sharing their favorite stories of her life and expressing their sadness at how much this dear lady will be missed.
The day after the funeral I went to the old farmhouse.  It was time to find the box.  With sadness and excitement I scoured the edges of the old wallpaper looking for a spot where it would pull away and reveal the secret hiding spot of my great-grandmother.  There was an edge near the bottom of the wall that was much looser than the rest.  Peeling back the wallpaper with a great deal of care there was a small opening in the wall.  What type of box could this small space hold, I wondered. 
Reaching into the opening I could feel a small wooden box and slowly removed it from great-grandmas hiding spot.  Realizing that I was probably the only other person to lay eyes on this treasure I admired the beauty of the detailing.  Hand carved on the top of the small wooden box was a single object, a star.  The clasp opened easily and my hand was shaking as the contents were about to be revealed.
A note and a small silver locket. 
The note said, “Baby, I will always miss and I will always love you.”  Opening the locket revealed a small black and white picture of what looked like a newborn baby. 
At that moment I understood.  My great-grandmother had lost her baby boy just days after his birth.  Inscribed on the locket was his name.  Andrew.
The box contained her excitement, her joy, her sadness and her sorrow. 
She had lived with this secret most of her life.  Not even my parents knew.  I searched our family records and never found a mention of Andrew.  I  wish she had shared this birth and death with us sooner but her reasons will forever remain a secret.
For years now that box has been on display in my home.  My husband and my children understand its importance to me and don't open it.  It serves as a constant reminder of one of the most important, even if brief, relationships in my life.  When my own daughter is older I want to share the memories with her  about her great-great-grandmother.  My great-grandmother was an amazing woman, she raised a family, cared for a farm and through it all she held great sorrow and sadness in her heart.

Did You See it Coming?


Did You See It Coming?

Allow me to introduce myself. I am Derbyshire Haversham III. At present I am 59 years old. I am currently unemployed and living in a rooming house here in Manhattan. I stand 5 foot 3 inches in stocking feet, if I had stockings, but alas, that is a luxury which I no longer possess. I was once referred to as a portly fellow but as my circumstances have changed considerably of late, that can no longer be said. It has been said that I have a fine speaking voice. I am a socialist.
The circumstances of my life were not always thus. I was born to a family of some small means and due to the hard work of my father I was able to attend some of the better schools and thus gain an education which allowed me to attain adequate employment. I was employed for many years by Colgate and Company as an accountant. This position allowed me to live a comfortable life.
While I never married I was not an unhappy or unfulfilled man. I had a fine apartment in a suitable neighborhood which I filled with many books and manuscripts. My modest library was the envy of some and the scene of many fine debates with my contemporaries over the years. We would sit in comfortable chairs for hours discussing subjects as varied as politics and natural history. I was content but still looked forward to drawing a modest pension from my employer upon retirement and devoting all of my time to reading. There was so much to learn.
I began my career with Colgate at the age of 16. Mr. William Colgate hired me as a junior clerk. Mr. William was kind and generous man. Under his tutelage I slowly climbed within the company until I held the title of Chief Accountant. I was often invited to his home for social events where his wife was always a gracious hostess and Mr. William held court with good humor and a mischievous twinkle in his eye. His son, Samuel, was a prat.
Six years after I attained the post of Chief Accountant Mr. William passed on. Samuel reluctantly took the reins of the company. Having been born to an elevated position in life young Samuel was nothing less than a spoiled brat. The daily workings of the company held no interest for him. He was rarely in his office. I became de facto manager and, for the most part, the company rolled on under its own inertia.
In The Year of Our Lord 1872 we developed the first ever milled perfumed toilet soap and quickly patented the product and called it Cashmere Bouquet. The money began to roll in. Demand outstripped our capacity to produce the soap so we began plans for expansion. Alas, as greedy men often do, Samuel began to demand ever higher profit margins. Try as I might I was unable to reconcile his demands with the necessity of providing safe and humane working conditions for our factory employees.
Frustrated with my championship of the workers, Samuel hired a manager and I was once more relegated to keeping the company accounts. I was content with that and somewhat relieved that the growing problem of labor relations and unions was lifted from my shoulders.
Mr. Robert Cleary, the new manager, immediately cut wages by half and began hiring new immigrants to replace disgruntled workers and increase our workforce and thus, our production. This was disastrous. Union organizers quickly began to picket in front of the factory gates and violence erupted. Several of our foremen were set upon by mobs and it was not long before security forces had to be hired to allow management personnel to access the premises.
Somewhere in the midst of this chaos I lost my principles. My morning walk to work became a walk of shame. I trudged along, head down, afraid to meet the accusing eyes of men that I had known for years. I knew that families were starving and living on the streets but all I was concerned about was my promised pension. I took refuge in the numbers that occupied me during my working day and my modest library at night.
On a morning as bright as a child’s smile I made my way meekly down the gritty sidewalks of the city toward the factory. A young woman thrust a handbill insistently toward me, and coward that I was, I took it from her and stuffed it into my jacket pocket without a glance.
I had been at my desk less than an hour when Mr. Cleary summoned me to his office. I stood before him like a schoolboy as he ranted about socialists and unions and then concluded by saying, “Derby, you’re fired. A Pinkerton agent witnessed you fraternizing with a union organizer this morning. Don’t deny it, Derby, it would do you no good. I know you have that socialist trash in your pocket”. 
So there you have it. I was sacked. No salary and certainly no pension. 59 years old and out on my arse. In the months since I have been forced to give up my apartment and my beloved library. I sleep on a bedbug infested mattress with two other men. Each morning I leave the rooming house and make my way to the factory gates, there I add my voice to the throng crying for justice, but, I am a diminutive man and overlooked by many.
This morning a messenger arrived at the rooming house. He informed me that Mr. Samuel Colgate passed away last evening, choked to death on a quail bone in one of the cities finest dining establishments. I was being summoned to the offices of Daniel Whorthington, Esq, the Colgate Company attorney of thirty years. We had been cordial acquaintances for many years.
Mr. Whorthington greeted me warmly although I could see perhaps a bit of distain in his eyes as he took in my threadbare and worn appearance. We chatted briefly, fondly remembering Mr. William and commiserating about the direction the world was heading  and then he said, “ Well, Derby, we had best get on with it. Samuel added you to his will only last week. This is quite unusual, actually, but he left you that box you see in the corner.”
I had spied the box upon entering the office. It was a wooden crate, actually, about knee high, slightly over shoulder width in length and perhaps five hand spans deep. It was a typical shipping box for soap. In floral script across the front was written “Colgate & Co.
Cashmere Bouquet”. A sturdy looking hasp and padlock had been added to the front. Mr. Whorthington handed me a key.
With more than a bit of trepidation and building excitement I knelt and unlocked the padlock. Lifting the lid revealed nothing within the box but a scrap of paper. With trembling hand I brought the paper to the light and read, “ My dearest Derby, I know that we did not always see eye to eye and I trust you will forgive me for past trespasses. It has been brought to my attention that you often stand outside the factory exhorting the workers to join the union. Perhaps this gift will give you a bit more standing in the community much like it does the muckrakers in Hyde Park. May it speed you on your trip to the bottom. Sincerely, Samuel Colgate”
I began to chuckle. Mr. Whorthington smiled with obvious relief. The chuckle became a guffaw. Tears rolled down my cheeks as the attorney said, “It’s a soapbox, Derby”.



The Mysterious Box of Mystery


Johnathan Lansing sat at his uncle Ernie's hospital bedside every day for
years. He just couldn't find the inner strength to pull the plug. Uncle Ern
had been in a coma for months, and was a vegetable a few years before that.
As he sat and watched TV 'with' his uncle, he thought about how much his
uncle meant to him. Johnathan turned his chair towards the bed and held
Ernie's hand.
"This is too hard Unc. I can't make this decision alone. Why can't you just
wake up and tell me what to do?"
Nothing happened.
"Give me thumbs-up or something!"
Nothing happened.
"Twitch you're nose if you want me to wait it out."
Still, nothing happened.
"C'MON UNC!"
Johnathan gripped his uncle's hand harder and began to cry.
Suddenly, Uncle Ernie squeezed back.
No.
No, he didn't.
It was all in Johnathan's mind.
"Dammit! Uncle Ern!"
Johnathan wept some more.
After a few moments, Johnathan dried his eyes and began talking, as he did
every day.
"After dad left, you were the only one there. You came by every few days,
fresh off the road from your, 'Travels of Wonder and Amazement!' to tell me
all the amazing sights you had seen. You looked out for us. You went from
being an over-the-road truck driver who was rarely ever home, to coming by
the house every three or four days to check on me and mom. We wouldn't've
made it without you."
Johnathan let go of his uncle's hand and pushed the chair back with his
legs as he rose.
"You gave up everything for us."
He began to walk around the hospital room.
"You had been on the road months at a time, not taking days off, for over
fifteen years! The only break you took from the road was to pull in to some
side-show attraction and buy a curiosity. Trying hard to make a big
savings. Saving every penny you could. Saving up for the dream. Only the
curiosities to hinder you. But after dad left, you took care of us.
Dropping off money, making sure I had food, and clothes. You had to change
everything for me. The Bahamas, the hut, hand making shell necklaces for
tourists as your only needed income."
He began to pace as he spoke.
"All that time spent collecting curiosities from across the nation, silly
little things you would've decorated you're hut with... You gave up
everything, and bought a little shop on the edge of town, a 'magic' shop.
Unc, you didn't know the first thing about magic, but you opened that shop
and sold decks of cards and funny little gags, and more importantly, all of
your little nick-knacks."
Uncle Ernie lay in his bed, motionless. Listening, without interrupting his
nephew, who began to quicken his pace as he spoke.
"I remember going in to that shop every day after school and marveling at
all those things. Pulling you away from customers that might have bought
something, to tell me the story of the tiny head, shrunken by Res-Arf, the
Voodoo witch doctor, who went on a mystical rage of magic-wielding against
his entire tribe, after seeing his only son fed to a tiger as a sacrifice.
Or," he laughed as he spoke, "remember the 'Key to Everything and Nothing'?
We tried that key ON everything, and it opened NOTHING! I remember you
telling me I was the best salesman in the store. All I did was want you to
tell me a story, and every time you did, everyone in the store would stop
to listen, and everyone in the story would end up buying something, and
usually telling a friend. What did THEY do? Come in and end up hearing a
story and BUYING SOMETHING!!"
"The only thing you had left after all those years was 'The Mysterious Box
of Mysterious Mystery’s of Mysterious Mystery'. And you'd slap my hand
every time I'd try to touch it!"
Johnathan, stopped pacing and began to get misty eyed again.
"I guess it's only right. You spent your entire life giving me everything
you could, so I could have everything I ever wanted. The very least I could
do is let you rest."
Johnathan left the room, as he did every day, to get the charge nurse. As
they returned to the room, the charge nurse asked, as she did every day,
"Are you sure Mr. Lansing?"
But this time, Johnathan's response was different.
"Yes. Yes I'm sure. I know he would have wanted it this was. He... would've
wanted me to take care of him, like he did for me for so long."
"It's been a long day, maybe you should go home and get some rest."
The next day, Johnathan Lansing sat in the attorneys office waiting to hear
about Uncle Ern's last wishes.
The attorney spoke, "Your late uncle was a very giving man, as you know,
and wanted to keep on giving as long as he could. So it should come as no
surprise to you that he wished his organs be donated at the time of his
departure. Only myself and a particular doctor at the hospital knew, and we
were given specific instruction not to make you aware. It comes as quite a
shock to all of us, quite frankly, to find that your uncle had hidden
something away. A key, as it turns out, was discovered in his intestines.
Not within, but it appears as though someone, perhaps he himself, made an
incision in his stomach and placed this odd looking key in there, before
suturing the wound. It's a wonder he didn't become septic. But, soon-after
was the accident... In any case, it's yours now, along with this box and
instruction to keep it forever, but never open it. Any money left in the
account was exactly enough to cover the hospital fees and my fees. It's,
rather peculiar actually."
"Thanks." Johnathan said, taking the key and box.
He got up and left with the only things his late Uncle Ernie owned. As he
walked the two towns and thirty-seven blocks to his apartment, he wondered
at the 'Key to Everything and Nothing' found in his uncle's stomach and
'The Mysterious Box of Mysterious Mystery’s of Mysterious Mystery'. He,
once again, relived all the memories of Uncle Ernie the truck driver,
curiosity collector, and magic shop owner. The only father he ever really
had.
"Well Uncle Ern, let's see what you kept from me all these years. A picture
of your parents? Or some unspeakable truth you never thought I'd be able to
handle."
Jonathan sat the box down on his kitchen table and tried to open the lid.
He tried again. He went to his junk drawer and retrieved a screwdriver and
pried at the lid. He returned with a hammer and beat the side of the box.
He held the box high above his head and smashed it to the ground. He became
furious and kicked the box across the kitchen and in to the living room
breaking a lamp. He became MORE furious and yelled at 'The Mysterious Box
of Mysterious Mystery’s of Mysterious Mystery', "YOU FUGGIN' PEICE OF
SHET!!"
He went to the refrigerator and pulled out a beer, opening it up and
tossing the cap in to the trash as he walked back in the living room. He
took a long pull off the beer and plopped down on the couch.
"YEOWWCH!!" he yelled as the 'Key to Everything and Nothing' jabbed him in
the hip. He arose and pulled it from his pocket with his non-beer hand.
"Stupid fuggin' key! Never opened any fuggin' thing anyway!"
He began to take another long pull from his beer when he spied a box,
blatantly refusing to open, and a key, defiantly refusing to open anything.
As Johnathan stepped in front of the speeding bus, he realized what he knew
that he knew... he would survive this. He didn't know anyone that would
ever have the strength to pull the plug.
And Uncle Ernie, who had previously opened the box, knew that Johnathan
would eventually know, despite his efforts to save him.

Patient Care


Saint Christina the Astonishing Repository For The Criminally Insane

Patient Care Notes

Physician:  I.M. Akwacque
Patient:  Trevor Pinkweasel

3rd January, 1891

My first patient, fresh out of Medical School.  I am so excited!

     Looking back over his intake notes, I see that Mr. Pinkweasel was delivered into our care by the Magistrate after being adjudged a “hopeless and dangerous lunatic” after the brutal and grisly murders of at least fifteen people.  Many of his victims were known criminals but several were ordinary workingmen.  Mostly locksmiths. 
     The Director, the eminent Professor Longparcel, has given me the patients case notes to study.  Several pages into the folder I found this strange note, which appears to be an oral recitation by the patient himself.

          On 17th October, 1887 I received a summons from a solicitor to attend the reading of the will of my late Uncle Seamus Pinkweasel.  I was surprised upon receiving the summons, as I had always thought that my Uncle did not much care for me, or indeed any part of my family.  But as I was his only living heir, I guess he was left with little choice. 
          Upon being seated in the solicitors office I was presented with an iron strongbox, about a foot square and ten inches in height.  It appeared to have a stout lock built into it.

          The solicitor read a note that was attached to the box by a string:
                   “Nephew-
                   This box is a key.  A key to the life and status
                   that you so richly deserve.
                                      -Uncle Seamus”

          I took possession of the box and held out my hand.

                   “The key, Sir?”  The solicitor shook his head.

                   “I have no key, Master Trevor.  Only the box and the note.  Nothing more.  Your uncle said the box itself was the key.  Other than that, I know nothing.” 
          So typical of my uncle to play a joke on his death bed.  I shook the box gently.  There was a susurrus of sound inside.  Like paper sliding around.  What could it be?  Money?  Stock certificates?  A treasure map?  A clue to a long lost family inheritance?  His note mentioned “status”.  Maybe it was a dukedom!   The deed to a titled estate somewhere in the Highlands.  I could be “Lord Trevor of Pinkweasel Hall”! 
          Seizing the box in my arms I fled home.  A drawer in my study held a small collection of old keys, many of which I had saved since my childhood.  Feverishly, I tried each one to no avail.  Drat!  Not a single key I possessed would fit the lock. 
          Next I attempted in my own crude unschooled way to pick open the lock with small tools and bits of wire.  How many hours I sat there, probing the opening and cursing my uncle I have no clue.  I awoke in the morning light with my hands clutching the box and my head laying on my desk.  I had to go to work! 
          I tried leaving the thing on my desk but my mind dwelt on the fear of thieves breaking in and stealing it.  After a dozen abortive tries, I finally thrust it roughly into a suitcase and carried it with me to the office. 
          As Chief Actuary of the Felonious Life and Trust Company I actually had an office all to myself rather than working in the Gallery with the mere accountants.  This afforded me privacy to continue my attempts to open the box.  But as each hour passed I became more frustrated and my ire rose in my throat like bile. 
          Cecil Blivetkins, from Accounts Receivable, entered my office unannounced (as he was wont to do on occasion) as I was fiddling with the thing again, 
          “I say, what are you doing there, Trevor?” 
          “Trying to open this lockbox.  It’s… ermm…. For a client.”  He shook his overly large head and waved his hands. 
          “I’m hopeless with mechanical things.”  He said.  “Why don’t you try a locksmith?  They’re wonderfully clever with that sort of thing.  Why, once I had locked meself inside the privy and…..”  A light flashed inside my head.  Declaring “Blivetkins, you’re a genius!” I thrust the case back inside my bag and fled the building and down the block to the first locksmith I could find.  
          “Are you having me on, Gov’nor?” the first man said.  “It’s a bleedin’ joke, it is!  “’Ere aint no lock like this in the world!  Look ’ere.  It aint no Harper or Pedley or Brueton.  I knows them sort. This aint even a Roughley or a Walton!  And them is geniuses with locks.”  He turned away in disgust after an hour and threw his picks back on the workbench.  He shoved the box back into my hands and said “Take your joke box somewhere else and ‘ave your fun!  Me, I got serious work to do!” 
          A white hot ball of rage exploded behind my eyes and before I even knew what was happening the locksmith was laying on the floor, his head a bloody unrecognizable mess.  There were still bits of his brain sticking to one corner of the box. 
          Needless to say, I fled the scene. 
          The following month was somewhat of a blur.  I never returned to Felonious Life and Trust, nor indeed to my home.  Sleeping in noisome alleys and dens by day and traveling by night, I traipsed all over London looking for the one man who could open my box so I could claim my inheritance.  Along the way I acquired a good collection of weaponry, both to protect myself from common thieves and to exact my revenge on those who Failed The Test. 
          But mostly I just used The Box.  It was my Greatest Weapon. 
          How many did I kill?  I know not.  Dozens, they say.  Maybe hundreds.  Maybe thousands.  I do not know and I do not care.  They all failed me. 
          Those incompetent policemen caught me entirely by accident.  I was my sheer bad luck that they were hot on the trail of that useless worm Haversack, who billed himself as the Greatest Pickman In The World.  He spent three hours slaving away with his fumbling fingers before I sent him to hell along with all of the others.  The police burst in with their silly whistles and billy clubs as I was wiping the blood once again from the corner of The Box. 
          And then they took It away from me.  I was enraged and senseless.  I may have killed a few of them, I don’t know.  I screamed and howled and foamed at the mouth and fought.  I kicked and bit while they suffered numerous indignities on my body.  My senses whirled away from me and all I knew was rage and revenge. 
          They had taken MY BOX!  I would not rest.  I would not sleep.  I would not stop from screaming or attacking them until it was Mine again. 
          When they put me in a cell I screamed and fought. 
          When the detective came to question me I bit off his ear. 
          When they tool me to trial I leapt over the chancery rail and screamed at the judge to return to Me what was Mine, biting my lips and spitting blood all over his fine powdered wig.  I kicked the bailiff in the knee and smiled and screamed with satisfaction when I heard the bone snap. 
          I screamed and fought until my throat was raw and my body was a mass of bruises and cuts.  I never felt a thing but hate and rage. 
          They weighed my body down with chains until I could barely stand then threw me in an iron carriage for my trip here.  But even with all of their precautions I almost had the door off by the time we arrived.  I heard I had warped it so badly with my numerous blows that they would have to have it completely remade.  And it took over a dozen of their burliest attendants to get me into their cell. 
          How long?  Months.  Years.  Again, I don’t know.  And I don’t care.  I stayed true and screamed and fought them at every turn. 
          Finally one morning the food slot of my cell opened and an object was slid under my door.  Thinking it was the usual slop for my meal I almost turned away then a glint of brass caught my eye. 
          It was My Box!!!  They had returned it to Me!  I raised my head and howled with pure joy.  A great calm settled over my body and soul as if I had gazed into the face of God Himself. 
          I was at Peace.  And I would soon have The Box open.  I felt it in my soul.  And what was Mine would be Mine.

          I was at peace.

                   -Trevor Pinkweasel    1 December 1890 

4th Jan 1891-

     Upon performing my morning rounds this morning I found Patient Pinkweasel apparently dead in his cell, slumped over the box which the Director had arranged to be returned to him.  Both of his pupils were wide open, fixed and staring.  He appeared to be smiling. 
     As I turned to have the attendants remove his body I heard a small whirring sound and a loud “click”.  I rolled Mr. Pinkweasel’s body off of the box and it sprang open.  Inside there was nothing but a single piece of folded paper.

          It read:

          “Nephew-
                   I never liked you.  Now you have all that you deserved.
                                              -Seamus”

Not the ideal conclusion for my first patient.  I have high hopes for the next one.

                             -I.M. Akwacque

Medals and Memories


Medals and Memories 

            The ride to the funeral home had been a long one for Maggie. The light rain was leaving dimples across her windshield only to be erased by the arching wipers; then repeating the process. The small town streets were clear of traffic. Each light pole lining the streets had an American flag flying proudly. Every patron normally walking the sidewalks of the home town businesses were paying their respects to a small town hero, Tommy.

Maggie’s high school sweetheart.

Her one and only.

She had prayed this day would never come. After the men in their crisp uniforms set foot on Tommy’s mom’s porch, she knew what they had come to tell them. She had seen the movies; watched so many times with Tommy. He would always tell her that there was nothing to worry about. He would come home and they would have their happily ever after.
            Maggie glanced at the passenger seat of her sedan. A wooden box, red in color, with shiny gold hinges, and a lock sat patiently waiting for her to open it. She had specific instructions for when to open this box. Tommy’s mother had handed Maggie the folded piece of paper the day she heard her son had been killed in action.
“Tommy told me that if anything were to happen to him, I was to give you this note and this box.”
            The same box that sat next to her in the passenger seat. She reached with her right hand and lightly placed her fingers on the cold wood lid. She immediately began to think of the days when her and Tommy had skipped school to go swimming in Crystal Creek. Those warm days when they would cruise with the windows of her sedan rolled down, the dust rolling in the windows from the county road, and the smell of wild flowers; the two madly in love and oblivious to the horrors of the world that each would have to face in the coming months. She remembered the day they lay drying on the large smooth rocks of the creek and he told her his plan for their future.
“Honey, I am going to join the Army.” Tommy had said.
“What? Why? Baby, there is a war going on. Two wars. Why?” The same feeling Maggie had felt when Tommy had told her that was the same feeling she felt now; that the bottom of her heart had fell out. That every happy feeling she had ever stored in the sanctity of her loving heart and been dumped and left empty.
“Baby. I am not going to sit here in my wonderland and let someone else’s son’s and daughter’s fight a war that I am well capable of participating in. Plus, maybe I can learn a good trade so that I can provide for you. So I can be a good husband.”
            Maggie knew the real reason. Tommy came from a long line of military men. Patriotism ran through his veins more than the blood that was keeping him alive. She knew that he had made his mind up well before there was a war or even before her and him were together. He would go no matter what.
            Maggie parked her car in front of Eckerd Funeral Home in the space that had been reserved for her. There were so many people and they were all staring at Maggie. She opened the note for the tenth time and reread the instructions that Tommy had left her:

Maggie,

Well my dear, it looks like I have broken my promise. I am sorry sweetie. I never meant to leave you this way. I pray that when you read this you do not hate me for the decisions that I have made in my life. I hope that you are proud of me. I hope that when you read this you remember the good times that we had and the love that we felt for each other. When you get to Eckerd’s, I want you to open the box that I left with mom. There, you will find a couple of items that I have held dear to my heart. Baby I love you so much and when your time comes, I will be waiting with arms wide open and I promise to never let you go. When my son gets here tell him his daddy loves him and to carry his family name with pride. I love you baby. See you when you get here.
Tommy

            Maggie rubbed the bulge on her waist line. She had found out she was pregnant the month after Tommy had left. Tommy had said the child would be a boy. Maggie hoped that it would be. Maggie folded the tear stained note and placed it on the dash. In the cup holder of the car sat the small golden key for the lock. She pulled it from the cup holder and placed the wooden box on her lap. The key slid into the lock perfectly, and she twisted the key until the lock popped open. Maggie held her breath and lifted the lid.
Inside the box was lined with red felt. A small ring box sat on the left side of the box and a stack of pictures were on the right. Maggie’s breath caught in her throat, coming out in choppy gasps. A ring box. Her shaking hand pulled the small box from its resting place and she opened it. A gold ring with a small diamond glistened in the dull light of the rainy day. She placed her free hand over her mouth and fought back the tears and they streaked her makeup across her cheeks. A white note in the lid of the box said,  “Will you?”
            Maggie placed her forehead on the steering wheel and let out all the pain and lose that she had left pent up in her body. She shook violently and screamed the name of her lost lover. The pictures of their happiest times lay in the floor now. Scattered like the memories they were. Each picture fell victim to the falling tears that left her sorrowed eyes.
            Maggie marched through the parlor of the funeral home. The conversations in the room stopped, leaving only the soothing sounds of the church hymns playing over the speakers. She walked down the aisle and stopped a few feet short of the coffin. Tommy lay in his military uniform, complete with a beret on top of his head. His medals were pinned to his chest including the bronze star he received for giving his life for his country and his friend he had saved from small arms fire. He had given his life to save another.
            Maggie stepped closer and placed her left hand on the edge of the coffin. Her wedding ring shining under the parlor lights like a twinkling star. She had played this moment out in her head several times, the words she would say, the things she would do, but all she could do was star at her high school sweetheart. She glanced down at his hands and she smiled. On his left hand, on his ring finger, was a gold band.
            Tommy’s mother came from behind Maggie and placed her hand on her shoulder. She had already known what her son had planned. She was smiling as well.
“He told me he knew you would say yes. So he asked me to make sure that he was buried with it. So he would have it when you two met again.”
            Maggie leaned forward and kissed her husband on the cheek.
“I will see you when I get there my dear. I love you. Your son and I are proud.”

The Unseen


“The Unseen”

            I never believed in monsters and my mind was firmly set in reality.  My closet stayed open, my nightlight stayed off, and my covers never, ever covered my head.  When my parents tried to tell me about the tooth fairy, Santa Clause, or the Easter bunny, I just laughed.  No, monsters and fairly tales were never real to me.  But all of that kinda goes out the window when you're staring down the nose of a fourteen foot snarling, horned beast who's looking at you like dinner's been served. 
            A week ago was my twelfth birthday.  My parents threw me a huge party, complete with balloons, a bouncy house, clowns, tons of presents, and all the cake and ice cream you could eat.  Sounds nice right?  Well not if on that very same day you got a call saying that your only living grandpa had just died.  The news kind of ruined the moment for me, in fact it ruined my whole day, because it wasn't long after that, that we received another call from my grandpa Joe's lawyer, Mr. Kindley, about the will.  The next twenty four hours would forever change my outlook on life. 
            My parents were greatly saddened by the loss of grandpa Joe, but even as young as I was, I could see the gleam in their eyes, for grandpa Joe was a man of no small means.  His mansion alone was worth millions, let alone his possessions and assets.  As the sole heir to that fortune, my mother stood to gain it all. 
            Mr. Kindley was a shady looking character, with his hawk-like nose and tortoise shell glasses.  His long, spindly fingers reminded me of spiders and his overly expensive suit told me that he probably won most of the cases he handled.  The room was silent until he cracked open his briefcase, which sounded like a gunshot, and handed my parents the manila envelope.
            Apparently grandpa Joe wasn't as well off as we thought because mom burst into tears upon reading the letter and buried her head in dad's chest.  Dad could see the curiosity in my eyes and handed me the letter.  It read as follows...
           
To my dearest and only daughter Pamela,
           
            Sorry to break it to you this way but my fortune has already been spent.  I blew my money on useless items, buying things I didn't need to impress people I didn't even like, and in the end it was all I could do just to pay my doctor's bills.  I know that this will come as a shock to you but money can't buy happiness, believe me I've tried.  I have left you with just enough money to cover the funeral and have a nice dinner afterward.  Please, Pamela just continue living life as you always have.  Love your family, keep them close, and savor every day you have with them.  I love you very much.  Take solace in knowing that I did not suffer greatly, and that I look forward to seeing your mother soon.

                  P.S. I know it's not much, but Mr. Kindley should have a birthday present for young Charlie.

                                                                                                With all my love and care,
                                                                                                            Joseph William Rothgarn

            When I had finished reading the letter, Mr. Kindley reached under the table and pulled out a big box covered in transformers wrapping paper and a big blue ribbon.  On the side was a plain white card with Charlie written on it in big black letters.  My father suggested that I wait until we got home to open the present, since mom wasn't feeling well, and I begrudgingly complied. 
            When I got home though, I couldn't get up to my room fast enough.  I gingerly tore into the wrapping, uncovering what looked like an old pirate's chest.  All my excitement went out the window, though, when I saw that it was locked and I had been given no key.  I asked mom and dad about it, and neither one of them had ever seen the chest before, nor had they any clue how to open it.  Mom attempted to open it with the myriad of keys she had and dad tried prying it open with a crowbar, but that didn't work either.  In the end I just slid it under my bed and decided to leave it for when I was better rested.
            About a week later, I woke up some time in the middle of the night to use the restroom and was startled to see a green glow from under my bed.  The light was coming from my grandpa's chest.  I slid it out and was surprised to see that there were glowing inscriptions just above the metal latch.  They read as follows...

            Only one of proper heritage may open this seal, for it is only by that bloodline that the truth shall be made known.  Give of your own to get of your own.”

            An idea came to me just at that moment that even now seems kind of ridiculous.  I searched through my dresser drawer to find the old pocket knife that my dad had given me a few years back.  With it I pricked a tiny hole in my finger just enough to draw blood, and dripped some into the key hole on the chest.  And just like that the clasp came undone.
            When I opened the chest, I expected to find something old, maybe pirate doubloons or rubies and jewels.  But instead there was only a dusty pair of spectacles and an unopened letter sealed with wax.  Pressed into the seal was what looked like an image of a giant tree.  I opened the letter and read it aloud...

            Whosoever dons these spectacles shall join a long lineage of truth seekers.  Your eyes shall be opened and your mind shall be tested, for with these comes both pleasure and pain.  Be warned, though that if you decide not to wear them, the reality does not change.”

            I took all of this to be some sort of practical joke perhaps.  I mean, with all the money that grandpa had, he could have arranged something odd like this.  Anyway, I tucked the glasses into my pajama pocket, stuffed the chest back under my bed, and tried to get back to sleep.
            The next day I dressed for school, loaded my backpack, and headed down to the kitchen.  Mom went to hand me my lunchbox but dropped it when she saw what was in my shirt pocket.
            “Are those grandpa Joe's old glasses?  Were they in with the box that he gave you?”
            “Yeah mom.”  I didn't bother telling her how I managed to open the chest. 
            “Well I don't like seeing them.  They remind me of the one time I ever saw him wearing them.  We all thought it was odd that a man who had never needed glasses in his whole life would one day show up with them on.  But he kept going on and on about how he could see so much clearer now and that he saw everyone for what they really were.  I thought he was going crazy or senile, but your grandma insisted that it was just a phase, so we laid him down in bed and set the glasses on the night stand.  In the morning they were gone and he never wore them or spoke of them again.”
            “Interesting,” I said, “well I'm off to school.  Don't want to be late for the bus again.”
            Once I got to class, the day seemed to drag on and on until finally the recess bell rang.  At least half of the day was over.  I sat by myself reading a book, until a big shadow blocked out all my sunlight.  It was Jeremy Jenkins, the sixth grader built like a high-school kid. 
            “What you reading there four eyes?”  Then he smacked the book out of my hands and laughed.             When I leaned over to pick the book up he kicked me in the stomach and I dropped to my knees.  My own glasses went flying and grandpa's spectacles fell out of my pocket and onto the ground.  I couldn't see that well without glasses so I slipped grandpa's on to find my own.  All at once the world became crystal clear to me.  But that wasn't the strange part, hovering just inches away where Jeremy Jenkins was previously, was a fourteen foot tall snarling, horned monster.
            Just when I thought that my end was near, I beheld a shining, angelic winged being swoop down beside me and order the beast to leave.  It did so and then she handed me my own discarded glasses.  I took grandpa's off and donned my own.  Suddenly the world was right again and standing next to me was Mrs. Hangrad my third period English teacher.  I dusted myself off like it was no big deal and told her that I didn't want to turn Jeremy in to the principle, and that I'd just like to go home for the day and rest. 
            When I got home I explained to my mom and dad what had happened with Jeremy, minus the beast and angel part, and mom hugged me like she hadn't seen me in a while.  Dad offered to give me some self defense lessons, but I declined, saying that it wasn't that big of a deal.  That Jeremy probably had a bad home life and was taking it out on us innocent school-mates. 
            At dinner that night I decided to wear grandpa's glasses instead of my own.  The meager meal that mom had prepared looked like a feast for a king, but the real magic happened when I looked up from the table.  There sitting across the table from me was a very heroic looking knight and a beautiful princess.  It was at that moment that I knew everything was going to be all right. 
            I had been given a mighty gift, which would guide me in my life.  The ability to see people for who they really were, to view the world with unbiased eyes.  How I will use this gift remains to be seen.

Ever Lasting


“Ever Lasting”

I paced back and forth in my apartment like a kid in ice cream shop trying to decide between vanilla and chocolate, both furious and curious all at the same time.  I looked over at the fat, little man with his balding head and rounded glasses, wearing a beige suit that was way too small and ugly as sin, and I seethed with venom for him.  “I really should be ashamed,” I thought to myself, for the way I felt, but I couldn't help it.  Here this pudgy old white bearded, supposed lawyer, who could hardly speak a lick of English, was telling me that I had to make a choice, between a locked box that was left to me in a will or the very person who left it to me.  But I couldn't have both. 
I looked at the nervously blinking man for what seemed like ten minutes, before finally laughing out loud asking, “This is a joke right?  Who put you up to this?” Laughing some more I said, “It was Tim right?”  The man shook his head no, but didn’t say a word.  He was really beginning to piss me off.
“OK, Mr. Yitzchak Ben Avraham is it?”  Holy smokes, I think I actually said it right, to which he nodded yes.  “You work for Avraham and Patinkin law firm out of Jerusalem Israel?”  Again he just nodded yes.  
I thought about who could have left it to me.  Was it my uncle Lee, who had just passed?  Heck, we hardly ever saw each other and it had been a good fifteen or twenty years since I last saw him, and we were never that close.  I had a few acquaintances who had passed recently also, but no one who I could imagine willing me a box with these stipulations.  
OK, it was an easy decision.  I just had to know what was in the box.  The thing looked older than anything I had ever saw in my life, plus “Yittzie,” as I was now calling him, had said if I chose the box, that I could ask him three questions which he must answer truthfully.  However, the questions could not be directly about who willed me the box.  Besides, maybe what was inside the box would answer the question as to who gave it to me.
“OK Yittzie, lets see what is in the box.”  He blinked rapidly and pulled from around his neck, a key that was at least six inches long and looked like it was hundreds of years old.  I reached for it, but he wouldn’t hand it to me.  “Oh yeah,” I thought, “I had to ask my three questions before he gave me the key!”  I thought long and hard about my questions before asking.
“First, when was the box given to you?”
“1962,” he replied.
I laughed and said, “You must have it wrong.  I wasn’t even born until 1970.”  
He just shook his head no, and said “vit fas vineteen sixyshoo.”  
“How do you know it was meant for me then,” I asked?  
He handed me a piece of parchment paper and on it was written in English, to deliver the box to me at my address on this very date.  
“When did you get this paper,” I shouted?
He replied “vineteen sixyshoo vid fee vox.”  
Now I was really mad because someone had to be messing with me and I figured ole’ Yittzie was in on it.  I quickly logged onto my computer and searched for the Avraham and Patinkin law firm based out of Jerusalem.  Much to my surprise, there really is a law firm with that name and after searching for a few minutes, I even found a picture of ole’ Yittzie as head partner.  “Hmm,” I thought, “What the heck is going on?”
“Final question Yittzie, did whoever willed this to me, actually hand you the box themselves?”  He nodded no, handed me the key, and bolted for the door.  I called out to stop him but he never even looked back.   In fact, he practically ran to the cab waiting for him outside.
I stared at the box for a few seconds, wondering if maybe a bomb or something could be inside, since Yittzie split on me so fast.  But curiosity was a lot stronger than fear, so I put the key into the hole, pushing hard, as it barely fit.  It would barely turn so I figured the lock must be rusty.  I cursed and twisted forcefully, until I felt the lock give way with a pop.  It sounded like metal gears grinding, as the lock slowly turned until I heard a clicking sound. 
Sweat trickled down my forehead as the anticipation began to well up inside me.  I reached for the lid and then boom, it flew open and a puff of dust came rolling out.  I stumbled backwards, believing for a second that a bomb really had gone off.  I tripped over my son’s toy drum and landed on one of his hot wheel cars, driving it straight up the crack of my…well you know.
After sitting still for a minute and slowing my heart beat back down to a normal rate, I stood up and walked back over to the box.  Lying inside the box was a book, or a tome rather, as that would be a better description of it.  It was old, real old and leather bound, and quite frankly, like no other book I had ever seen.  The leather cover was a tan color, like it was faded from time.  It had writing on the front, though I couldn’t tell exactly what it said nor was I even sure what language it was written in.  
I picked it up and was practically floored when I felt how heavy it was.  It had to weigh at least fifty pounds!  Hey, don’t laugh at me.  I’m not kidding; it was at least fifty pounds.  I laid it on my desk and opened it up.  The pages were just as I had expected, frayed on the edges and it looked as if time had changed some of the color on them.  It was still, even on the inside, written in a language unknown to me.  I started turning the pages, one at a time, looking for something that I might be able to identify with.  
Two hours and fifteen minutes later, I wasn’t even half way through just turning the pages.  How could I not be all the way to the end, it didn’t seem that thick?  So I had a thought.  I turned to the last page, which was just as unrecognizable, and just stared at it for a few seconds.  Then I thought about how much I would like to kill Yittzie for bringing me this stinking book.  At the very moment of my thinking that, I noticed some words began to appear on the page.  “What the heck?”
I reflected on this for a moment and then said a silent pray to God, wishing to know what this was about.  Just then it came to me and I knew.  I knew at that moment who the author of this book was, is, and would be.  I also knew that written in this very book were all my sins past, present, and future.

The Box

The Box

     My eyes started to tear up as I opened the lid on the little wooden lock box setting on the attorney's desk, my entire childhood streamed over me as everything that ever meant anything to me flooded my mind and my heart.
     I grew up on a small farm and was the youngest of four kids; I was ten years younger than my brothers and sister who were all within a year or two of each other. My Mom stayed at home and took care of us while Dad worked seasonal construction to pay the rent and utilities. We all worked on the farm to make sure there was food on the table. Even I had to work every day doing whatever chores that were pawned off on me at the ripe old age of five or six. Being so much younger than my siblings had its advantages and its disadvantages because whenever the older ones had something they wanted to do I became a hindrance instead of the cute, little, adorable brother they used to amuse themselves with by getting me into every kind of mischief imaginable and then hiding to see what mom did to me. I must say I remember a few times that I felt sorry for them, because dad was the first one to find out what I had done and he seemed to always know who put me up to it. I still laugh about a couple of those times and find myself crying about one or two other times because my dad was a rough old bird.
     My oldest brother Carl was the one I looked up to the most because he was always doing something cool, but I guess to a six or seven year old everything seems cool. He worked construction with my dad when the work was there and rode the rodeo circuit the rest of the time. Sometimes he would take me places with him but I always had to give him something before he would let me in the truck; sometimes one of my toys and other times my birthday money and I remember him taking my Christmas silver dollars a few times. I didn't care what I had to give up because I really wanted to go and he always bought me something when we were out. My first bike, my first cowboy hat, and even my first knife came from Carl and I never even asked for any of them, he just gave them to me. As I got older I understood why he always took me to the rodeos and the horse sales; he was using me as bait to attract girls to him. The girls would see me and they would start talking and playing with me and then he would step in and pick them up. I don't remember how many times he ended up talking with some pretty girl because she was hanging out with me; he stole more than one of my girl friends. Oh well, what are brothers for? That is what I thought until He tried to steal my girlfriend when I was sixteen and after the fight I never spoke to him again. We lived next door to each other on the same farm but never had anything to do with each other from that day on. We still saw each other and when it came to something on the farm we had no choice, but still ignored each other.
     I was away in college when I got the phone call that Carl had been in an accident on the way home from a rodeo in Oklahoma. I sat in the floor and cried for what seemed like hours praying it wasn't true; maybe it was someone else and Carl was sleeping off a drunk or maybe he was with some Buckle Bunny in a motel somewhere. After reality set in the next morning I started home and it was the longest drive from Springfield that I had ever made. I questioned my every action and my every word over the last four years and his too; was it really worth losing a brother over a girl? The usual three hour trip felt like an eternity as a mist filled my mind and my eyes and an overwhelming despair crept over me. I made it to the farm before noon and was totally wiped out; I could hardly keep my eyes open as I sat down and stared at the flames dance in the fireplace and watched the smoke curl up and rise up the chimney. Mom was on the couch and her tears hadn’t stopped since I walked in the door. Dad was outside working on the tractor as if nothing had happened, I guess he had to keep his mind off the fact we would be burying his first born son. The others were all there by early afternoon and we went to the funeral home to make arrangements for his body to be shipped back home to be buried, it was the hardest thing I ever had to watch my parents do; It was the hardest thing I ever had to do.
     Mom called me a couple weeks after the funeral and said that Carl had a will and it would be read when I came back for Christmas break. I was surprised that Carl had a will and even more surprised that I was in it after all we had been through. He had a wife and a son who needed taken care of so everything he had should go to them. We went to the lawyer’s office early on a Thursday morning; it had snowed the night before and Carl's wife Karen was running late so mom and I waited quietly in the reception area. Dad refused to go, he said he had work to do and the cows wouldn't feed themselves. Mom didn't say anything about it but I knew it was tearing her apart because he wasn't there with us. Finally Karen showed up and we went in and sat down across the desk from Carl's attorney while he spoke all the pleasantries that he had to because of the consequences of our meeting. Everything was in black and white and seemed to be in order with an insurance policy that went to Karen and little Carl. The money that he had borrowed from mom and dad to build his house was there too. My mind was on overload trying to figure out why I was there and then the lawyer looked at me and said there was something that he had retrieved from Karen ahead of time for today. What could it be that Carl wanted me to have that Karen had to give to the lawyer? The attorney placed a small wooden box on the desk in front of me that had my name carved into its lid rather crudely, I just stared at it. I had never seen the box before so what could be so special about it that it would need such an official or formal transfer to me. Why couldn’t Karen have just given it to me sometime when I was at home? The lawyer handed me a small skeleton key and asked me to open it. I slowly reached over and pulled up on the lid, it was really locked so obviously there was something valuable in it. I inserted the key into the lock and turned it slowly to the right and pulled up on it. When it opened there was a little white piece of paper folded and lying at the top of the box, as I opened it the tears filled my eyes and ran down my cheeks. I began to read his hand written words under my breath to myself so no one else could hear me. The note said, “I am sorry! I know it was my fault that we haven't spoken in so long and I want you to know I never did anything with Susie”. Under the card I found several Christmas silver dollars along with many other coins, a pocket knife, a toy car and probably every other little thing I had ever given him as payment to get a ride in his old truck. I was amazed that he had kept everything I had ever given him in a little wooden lock box. I took out every object and looked at each of them with awe until the only thing left was another tiny piece of paper at the bottom of the box that simply said, “Thank you for going with me when I was afraid to go by myself, I love you little brother”. I broke down as I thought of the wasted years and how I never knew what I meant to him. How could I have known I would find my freedom and forgiveness inside that little wooden lock box?