Jeremy Garner is an up and coming writer currently studying at Full Sail university
Carol dreaded this. She cast the box on the porch of her house a tired look and groaned. She truly dreaded this. She knew another would come. They always did. Every single year. Sometimes they’d be bigger, and she’d struggle to get it inside. Sometimes they’d be small enough to fit into the palm of her hand, and she’d lose it for a day or two before finding it again. Once, she’d forgotten for a whole month. And for her forgetfulness, she found herself with a mess that’d taken almost three weeks to clean. And even then, she still found remnants of the mess, be it underneath the couch, behind the entertainment system, or in a stray corner off where no one would notice.
For a second, Carol wondered. Wondered if she should just leave the box there, and pray that this time, this one time, it’d be gone by morning. But she knew that wouldn’t work. The box would remain there tomorrow, and the day after, and so on until she decided to pick it up.
Disposal of the box didn’t work. She’d tried that. She’d tried throwing it away, time and time again. And each time, she'd see him looking at her, and the guilt would grow, and she’d find herself unable to do the deed. She’d tried asking nicely, then a tad less nicely, for the sender to stop. And for at least a year, they did. Then the year after rolled in, and Carol found herself with an even bigger box. She stopped asking after that.
“Oh, look. A mysterious cardboard box on my porch.” She droned. She heard a giggle and the tinkling of bells from out of sight. She sighed.
Let’s just get this over with. She picked the box up and carried it into the dining room, setting it on the table. She eyed the ribbon holding the box together with a withering glance before finally tearing it off. She hesitated to cut the box open, only to hear another giggle. With one last resigned sigh, she reached for the box, only to find-
Carol yelped, clutching a hand to her chest as the source of the giggles appeared before her, standing on top of the unopened box. A creature, vaguely human in appearance, with a long, bushy red beard, was trying his best to look her in the eye, a wide grin on his face. He was small enough to where even as he stood on the box, he barely reached her chin. He wore a dull green suit, patched in a few places, a top hat, dress shoes that barely held together, and a top hat, the same color as his suit, possible the oldest looking thing he wore. A family heirloom, he called it, passed down throughout his family.
All these year, and he hasn’t aged a day, she thought as she gazed down at her old friend, Flanagan Dunwood.
“Do you like it?”
She gave him a tired smile. “I haven’t exactly opened it yet Flan.”
The dwarf cast his eyes down to see she was right. His expression quickly grew sheepish. “Cripes! Yer absolutely right lass! Look at me! Gettin’ my feet all over your present! So sorry, very sorry,” he said as he hopped off the box. “Now! Go on then, open ‘er up! I wanna see your face!” he exclaimed.
Carol nodded as she turned back to box. No way of getting out of this now. He was right there, waiting for it. She reached for the box, pulling it open, to find-
A book. An simple, leather bound book.
No, she thought as she eyed the pastry in question. Not simple. With Flan, simple, just won’t do.
She opened to book to see pictures. Pictures that shifted and moved to play scenes from throughout her life. The day she and Flanagan had first met when she was seven. The day he’d shown her a magic trick, pulling a rabbit from his hat. When she didn’t believe him, he pulled birds, a fish, and a whole horse out to prove it was real. The first brought her an item from his world, a flower that, when ingested, could let the user speak to animals. When he asked if she’d like to try, she was ecstatic, and by the end of the day, she’d held conversations with every animal she could find, from the nearby squirrels to her dog.
The scenes continued into her later years. The day Flan had snuck into her locker in middle school, and she had to sneak him out. The day he’d followed her on her first date and accidentally wound up launching her date across the restaurant. Her husband swore he was over it, yet he still checked under his seat at restaurants for magic crystals that made one fly. The day of her wedding, where Flan arrived late on the back of a griffon to deliver his present. A pair of earrings for her, a pair of cufflinks for Phillip, her husband. Both shopped like stars, made of crystal.
“For good luck,” he said with a wink before flying off. The guests were flabbergasted. Her mother, to this day, laughed about it.
Carol grinned as more and more scenes played out before her. Soon, however, the pages became blank. She turned back to Flan who was smiling expectantly.
“Why are the rest blank?” she asked. The dwarf chuckled.
“For the future, lass! I intend to stick around to fill those out those down the line.” His smile suddenly grew worried, his hands clasped before him. “Do ya like it?”
Carol looked at the dwarf and thought. Thought of all the times they’d shared. Of the wonders he’d shown her. Of the messes they found themselves in. Of the good times they’d shared. And she smiled.
“Yes,” came her answer. “I did.”