Jackson Strehlow is an aspiring fiction writer and veteran of the United States Navy. You can follow him and see more of his work @jsghostwriter.
YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE LOOKED
I consider myself a patient man. After all, good things come to those who wait, and I’d say I’m very good at waiting for things. But today, for some reason, my curiosity was eating away at my patience like stomach acid. And all because of this box that showed up out of nowhere this morning. The little thing was wrapped in plastic and covered in bright red stickers on all sides.
I had placed the box on the coffee table in my living room before I went to the kitchen, where my wife was making dinner. I stood by the counter, listening to my wife talk about her day, when I thought back to the box on the table. What was it doing here? I hadn’t ordered anything, and it wasn’t like my family to send me gifts unannounced and for no reason.
“Jack? Jack, are you listening?”
I stopped my train of thought as my wife’s voice caught my attention. “What?”
“Is everything alright? You seem kind of spaced out.”
“Oh, sorry. I was just wondering about that box we got earlier.”
“Hun, you’ve been distracted by that darn box ever since it arrived. Can’t you focus on something else?” She let out a brief sigh, “Why don’t you just bring in and we’ll look at it?”
With that, I walked into the living room and picked up the box from the table and brought it into the kitchen.
“Just set it on the counter, I’ll just be a moment.”
As I waited for my wife to wrap up, I took a moment to examine the box. It was medium sized, large enough to hold a watermelon or two, had been wrapped in what felt like several layers of plastic, and each side had at least three bright red stickers with different foreign languages typed out on them. I checked the sides again, trying to find a name or an address, but to no avail.
I looked up to see my wife was now standing next to me, looking intently at the box with a curious look in her eyes.
“No, nothing. There’s no name, no address, and these stickers are written in at least a dozen different languages.”
“Well, whatever it is, I think we should wait on opening it until we have it examined by somebody.”
“Because we don’t know what’s in there or who it’s from. I mean, it could be a bomb or something. Terrorists are always doing this sort of thing.”
I chuckled at the notion. “Terrorists? Really? You’ve been watching too much Fox News.”
“Ugh, regardless, I think we should have someone come over to examine it. I’m gonna call the police.” In an instant, my wife had her phone out and was dialing the cops.
“Fine, if it’ll make you feel better, go ahead.” As my wife left the room, I called after her, “I still think you’re over reacting.”
I brought the box up to my ear and shook it, hoping to hear something that would let me figure out what was inside, but nothing came out. I set the box back down and decided to check on my wife. As I entered the room, she was just hanging up the phone.
“What’d they say?”
“They said it was probably nothing to worry about, but someone will be over soon.”
“Seriously? Why don’t we just open it and get it over with?”
“Because I’m worried, that’s why.”
“Come on, I’m not sure there’s anything even in there. The box sounds empty.”
She slapped my arm. “Don’t mess with that box! You don’t know what’s inside!”
“Well, maybe I would if we just opened the damn thing!”
“Then go ahead, open it!” throwing her hands up in resignation as she walked towards the kitchen door. “You do what you want, I’m going to finish dinner.”
As the door closed behind her, I felt a little guilty about yelling at her. I mentally chastised myself as I looked at the mysterious box. Why was I so damn curious about it? Maybe I should wait till someone came to examine it. But as I looked at the box, I felt the urge to check it out one more time. Lifting the package and flipping it around, I finally noticed one of the stickers had English writing on it.
Do Not Open. Seriously? That was kind of odd.
Ignoring the sticker’s warning, I grabbed the letter opener from the coffee table and cut through the plastic before opening the box to reveal…nothing inside of it. Wow, all this over an empty box. Kind of a let-down, if I was being honest with myself. I was about to tell my wife to cancel the police when I heard my wife’s scream come from the kitchen.
“Honey? Are you alright?” I dashed towards the door, box still in hand. “Honey, what-”
And there before me was my wife, lying on the floor with blood oozing out from her eyes, ears and mouth, her limbs unnaturally contorted. But what made it even more petrifying was the fact that her head was missing, leaving only a bloody stump. I dropped the box, the object now feeling heavy in my hands, as I noticed a small slip of paper left on the chest of my wife’s corpse. I picked up the paper and made out four words written in small, barely legible handwriting.
You Shouldn’t Have Looked
Suddenly, I could hear sirens coming from down the street and I backed away in horror, tripping over the box and falling to the floor. As I turned my gaze to the momentarily forgotten parcel, I now noticed why it suddenly felt so heavy only a moment ago.
What was once an empty box was now occupied by the bloody, severed head of my now dead wife, a look of horror frozen on her face. The sound of enclosing sirens did nothing to drown out my screams.
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