Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Thing in the Box

It’s simple. You write the name of someone you hate onto a piece of yellow card stock and seal it into a linen envelope. Take the evening’s last train. Sit in the third car from the end. A thin man in a dark wine-colored suit with skin like old paper approaches and guides you out into the jumbled streets of some factory city. You reach a bulkhead door in a backyard pocked with dead spots of bare, hard dirt. Down in that cellar you find the thing in the box.

You don't see it. The cheap plywood lid opens toward you, blocking your view. Perhaps you catch a glimpse of claw or filthy hair. But nothing more, and you're grateful. Because when the man in the wine suit takes your envelope you notice one of his fingernails missing. And when he looks down at it he swallows as his spine goes a bit soft. Shuffling and hissing comes from the box along with wet sounds the thing makes gobbling your name. The cellar fills with the smell of old meat and sour milk. The man seems older and impossibly tired as he leads you away.

Soon the one you hate loses her job. Or his wife leaves him. She thins out as her stomach, her throat, her breasts bloom cancer. As he drinks until his face becomes yellow, yellow as the card stock. The one you hate doesn't die easily or soon. Three years pass before you read the notice in the news.

And of course by then you’ve aged yourself. Until your skin is like paper. Until you swallow and feel queasy at a train’s whistle. Until your spine goes a bit soft when the mail comes to your door. Because one day, you’re certain it will be a wine-colored suit, just your size, and you’ll have to go.


  1. My spine often goes soft when the mail comes, but that's usually just because I'm afraid of Pottery Barn catalogs.

  2. Fair enough. We all have our own definition of terror.


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