Robyn Lloyd has been writing and illustrating poems, comics, short stories, and novels since she was a child. In 2008, she joined the annual writing contest National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo.org) with hundreds of thousands of others around the world. It began a whirlwind of writing passion that led her to self-publish. In 2011, though, she decided there was a lot more to learn, so put her noveling on hiatus to go to college, where she earned an Associate of Arts and High Honors. Throughout it, she continued to write and illustrate little things with friends. She is now in the midst of earning her Creative Writing Bachelor's degree through Full Sail University, and plans to pick up short stories and noveling again throughout it. You can find her updates on Goodreads.com (Robyn Lloyd), Twitter (@cocoamoovamp), and her personal website WorldOfMCo9.blogspot.com.
Christen stumbled to the front door, half asleep, while the doorbell rang a third time. Being on graveyard shift was great for him, but the rest of the world didn’t seem to understand that required sleep during the day.
“I’m com’n!” He yawned. “Coming!” Fumbling with the three locks, he finally got the door open and stuck his head out. No one was there. He looked around, but no vehicle or bike was nearby, either. Weird. The doorbell had only just stopped when he reached it.
Tying his blue-plaid robe closed over his Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon night pants, Christen slid the chain and opened the door completely. The neighbors complained enough about his habits—getting so many deliveries, getting so many large deliveries of frozen foods and flowers when he had a tiny freezer and allergies, leaving in the wee hours… They didn’t need his thirty-five-year-old, pasty, slightly pudgy body to gripe over, too.
He frowned, but took the cube wrapped in unmarked, cardboard-colored paper inside. Things were generally dropped off in front of his garage. And he wasn’t expecting anything. In fact… He set the cube on the living room coffee table then snatched his cellphone off the kitchen counter to call his boss. Someone answered right away.
“Hey, Sugar,” Christen mumbled, hand in his shaggy, sandy hair. “Get Barry, would you? Yeah, I know he’s with what’s-her-face, but he’s out with a new girl every two nights. This is important. His order wasn’t supposed to be here for another four days, but here it is. Thursday is the earliest I can do the job.” He sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose as his mobster employer’s secretary put him on hold.
Just about to reach for a cigarette, a papery rustling caught his ear. A subtle, chilly finger ran down his spine.
Christen scanned the small cube that was his living- and dining-room. He waited a few heartbeats. Nothing out of place, he turned back to the counter for a light, took a drag, and then waited another minute.
“Yeah, I’m still here, Sugar.” As she gave the usual excuses why Barry couldn’t get off his keister to answer, Christen plopped down on his couch, socked feet up next to the box. “Seriously, Sug. Just tell me he’s making another hooker rich, and give him my message before the end of the day, okay? Oh, sorry, not a hooker. This one is serious, huh? Well, congrats to him. But I’m his delivery boy that makes that money. If he wants to keep his business open, he’d better-”
Paper rustled again. Another icy tendril on his skin.
Christen paused, stormy-grey eyes darting the room. He didn’t keep loose papers lying around. In fact, he barely kept anything untidy. Came with the territory of moving around a lot for, uh, messenger jobs.
This time, he spotted the source. It was the paper around the box slowly peeling away. On its own.
Christen’s brow furrowed. “Just have him call me, okay, Sugar? Thanks. You take care, too. No, no, I’m sorry for you, not me. You gotta deal with him every day. Keep that pretty head up. You, too. Thanks. Bye.” With that, he hung up and tossed his phone to the next cushion, eyes glued to the package.
As he stared, the paper continued to slowly roll itself back, as if an unseen force was fidgeting. Feeling brave, he swiped his hand over it. He didn’t sense anything—no temperature change, no tangible force. Probably wasn’t a ghost.
Maybe it’s a new Harry Potter toy. Self-opening parcels, he mused.
Curious, he moved the package to the other side of the coffee table. Paper kept tearing. He tried it on the couch, then across the room on the counter. Still, the paper peeled. He even tried putting his hand in the way, but the tears just went around it.
Christen rubbed his scruffy chin, but let it finish. Beneath the paper lay an old, polished wooden box. The edges were tipped in gold, the six sides covered in odd symbols. Christen leaned closer.
“Cuneiform, maybe?” He mumbled possibilities to himself, hovering an index finger over the line in front of him. “Or some sort of hieroglyphs?” His finger bumped a symbol.
Suddenly, the box flashed bright blue. Christen shielded his eyes and dove under the breakfast nook on his side of the counter. When the light faded, he crawled out from under it to find the top of the box open.
Rubbing the spots from his eyes, the man peered inside. It was pitch black, but a soft, curious croon like a puppy greeted him.
Christen arched an eyebrow. “Hello?”
The sound stopped. Christen leaned closer… only to be sucked in, whole, as if he was paper himself. The box slammed shut, and the packaging rewrapped itself.
Christen’s phone rang a minute later. Across it read Barry. But it was left to play its Godfather tone as a mysterious figure entered Christen’s house through the shadows.
The humanoid creature, with its translucent black skin, seven-foot frame and gangly, clawed limbs, featureless face except for a pair of walnut-round, white, pupil-less eyes, and gnarled antlers, ignored the ringing as it slinked to the counter. It blinked slowly, studying the package. Then took it, slinking back into the corner shadows in its leave.
The messenger’s job was done.