She cocked her head to the side and listened, straining to hear anything. The wind answered, rustling the dead leaves on the trees. She sighed. She had become a cliché, a slasher-film victim. Her she was, in the woods, in the middle of the night, looking for some mysterious box, buried in the ground, under a stone with drawings on it.
The fool’s errand her grandmother had sent her on was just unsettling. There was nothing sinister in these woods unless you considered small mammals and the occasional security guard sinister. She didn’t. She was a grown woman. She’d be at home, snuggled into her cozy bed, if it hadn’t been for her grandmother’s frantic call.
You have to go get the box! The old woman had practically been screaming into the phone line.
The Box was folklore, passed down through generations of her family. It was supposed to contain something magical, something mystic, something unknown. No one could remember what it was or why it had been buried, but they remembered The Box.
And because she wanted to put all this box nonsense to rest, she was out, scouring the woods, looking for the marked stone. She’d search the area all night and when she found nothing, she’d take that back to her family and tell them where to shove it. She couldn’t save a make believe box from land developers any more than she could pull a rabbit from a hat.
Her feet led the way. Her eyes and flashlight scanned the darkened ground. Her brain reminded her that she was an idiot giving into the senile old woman’s ramblings. Her feet stopped. Her eyes stared. Her brain shut-up and took it in. There, right in front of her, was a stone with strange writing on it.
Another rustle. This time the wind wasn’t responsible. She stared into the night, her flashlight falling on the bark of dormant trees. Nothing moved, but the sound still existed. A rustling noise that never changed. It didn’t get louder. It didn’t get softer. It reminded her of sticks being rubbed together. Then silence again. Too much silence. There were no insects buzzing, no birds calling out to each other, not even the rustle of dead grass.
She bent down and began to dig. The dirt caked under her fingernails. Her fingers were covered in wet soil that wasn’t quite mud. Why hadn’t she brought a shovel? She wondered. Because she hadn’t intended to find anywhere to dig. But she had. It was like her feet had known the destination she didn’t believe existed.
A fingernail broke as it scraped against wood. She swore softly and contemplated the finger. Blood oozed slowly from the wound, mixing with the dirt. She needed a Band-Aid, some Neosporin and maybe, a tetanus shot.
Gently, she hoisted the wooden box from the hole. It was roughly the size of a shoebox. Its size was deceptive, it was a good fifty pounds. She was now going to have to lug this box back out of the forest, put it in her car, drive it to her grandmother’s and wait to see what was inside.
Or she could take a small peek here. Would it hurt? The tiny padlock on the box was rusted. It could break, no one would know. She’d been told not to open it. She’d been told not gaze at its contents. But one small peek wouldn’t hurt.
She tugged and the lock broke. Too many years spent in the ground with the elements leeching the strength from the iron. There was another moment of hesitation. Did she really want to look without her approval from someone? It was a family legend, maybe there was something amazing or awful inside.
Steeling her nerves she opened the box and shined the flashlight inside. The light caught a button. Then another button came into view. Doll clothes. The entire box was filled with doll clothes. The great treasure of her family were doll clothes. How disappointing.
©Hadena James 2015
This is a work of fiction. Any names, places, characters, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination and are purely fictitious. Any resemblances to any persons, living or dead, are completely coincidental.