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March/April Challenge: What's in the Box? - The Stories

PostPosted: March 25, 2019, 05:05:37 AM
by Wormtongue
Five tales of mysterious boxes from five authors. Fait vos jeux, mesdames et messieurs...

The Wounds of the Mother

PostPosted: March 25, 2019, 05:07:21 AM
by Wormtongue
The Wounds of the Mother

By Thea

A few weeks ago, it was my daughter, Abigail’s, birthday, and my ex-mother-in-law sent her a gift. It was a baby doll that arrived in a reused sugar box likely picked up from the local Walmart that was wrapped in white printer paper because being impoverished meant she had to be creative to send the gifts to my children, Abigail and Austin. I tucked the box away for a potential shipment in the future. I gave Abigail the gift and told her it was from her “grandmother in California.” She smiled and loved on the doll.

It was a trinket from a family she’ll likely never know, a culture she was cut off from because of their mistakes, a decision I live with daily, but at least, we are alive. I wasn’t so sure we were going to get out there alive or at least together, but in the end, we did. It’s a tale as old as time: girl meets boy, boy seems nice at first, but later turns into a beast, girl remembers the “nice guy” within, but the abuse continues, and often, his family joins in, turning on her when she needs support the most.

Over the last few weeks, I culled my children’s library and put the “baby books” in the birthday box to send to my friend, Tiana, in Wisconsin. Today was the day I planned to drop these books off at the post office. Tiana has children that are half my kids’ ages, and they would love these books. In my home, they were only taking up space, long forgotten, and collecting dust on my limited bookshelves. These titles weren’t special to us. Tiana posted on Facebook that their copy of “Good Night Moon” had been loved too much by her three monsters, and it was time their copy was retired. I had a couple of copies and decided to send them what I had, and then I went overboard and wound up with 15 lbs of books. It’s a good thing the post office offers “media mail.” This would be too expensive otherwise.

Today, as I stand in my driveway, preparing the box for mailing, I rip the plain white paper off of it, and as I rip, I notice there is poetry on the backs of the pages. I gently remove the wrapping paper until I have removed all 5 pages, and on the bottom of one, Terror strikes through me like a cold dagger as I read the words “John M. Rains,” — my husband’s father.

I haven’t told my ex’s family that I remarried. Why would I? The only contact we have with them are the birthday and holiday gifts that sporadically arrive some years, but not others. There is no visitation and no child support. These children have no idea who those people are, just that they exist and send things. How did they find this connection to me: John M. Rains? Paranoid, I look around, and in the vibrant green bushes, I see a dark figure cloaked in shadow. My world stops dead. The figure steps into the light. It’s my ex, and in his right hand, I see the dull gray metal of a gun. We lock eyes, and he winks. He always winked before the abuse sessions began. He must have stalked me, that’s the only way he could have known John Rains, a random unknown poet from Biloxi, Mississippi. It was the only possible conclusion. Could this have been his plan all along?

My thoughts race. I’m back there, back to the time when he controlled every aspect of my life. He would find a way to blame me for my own inevitable death. He always blamed me for his abuse, saying that I was “playing the victim card.” Here I stand in my driveway, in a middle class suburban neighborhood in St. Louis, two thousand miles from where my horror began a decade ago, frozen in terror. I am his prey. My feet betray me with their inability to move, melted into the asphalt; my real life nightmare has come true. Fight or flight has failed me.

My life flashes before my eyes: past mistakes and past loves. The days my children were born. The future I will never see. My life revolves around my babies. Who would ever love them like I do? Who would tuck them in at night? Who would kiss away their pains? How would they exist without me? My husband will be fine, I’m sure. He’s grown and survived before I arrived in his life, but my babies…

I feel the hot, thick fluid creep down my face as I’m sprawled on the pavement. I didn’t realize I had fallen or even that I had been shot. As I lay here dying, I hear the love of my prematurely short life screaming. He has no idea what happened or even who would do this to me. My past is a tightly guarded secret. I could never bring myself to tell him about my painful history. Talking about the abuse brought it to the present, and that was a past I wanted... no needed to forget. He timidly cradles my bleeding head in his lap. I hear him screaming out as the world goes dark. My children are now motherless.

Hey Dude What’s In The Box?

PostPosted: March 25, 2019, 05:08:17 AM
by Wormtongue
Hey Dude What’s In The Box?

By Rick Tornello

Once upon a time, stuck in a very large vacuum box, a subatomic black hole ingested matter causing it to break the magnetic bonds that held it in place. It was supposed to slowly evaporate as programed in the science experiment. But for some unexplained reason one of the students bumped it and caused the box to crack open just a teeny tiny Planck length. The absorbed matter framed and programmed the physics of an unexpected rapid inflationary expansion.

What’s in the Black & White screened idiot box this week?

Cowboy verses Indians, bad guys getting strung up, Gunsmoke, Combat with Vic Morrow, Nazis and dirty Japs coming out of the sun, Paladin for hire, Indians attacking the peaceful settlers and the Gray Ghost harassing the Union troops and Soupy Sales at 5 PM. My country tis of thee.

When I was 8 or so I tried to get my brother and neighbor to string me up. We saw it on TV. What could be bad? What could be wrong? My neighbor cut me down.

At dinner I sopped up the spaghetti sauce with a napkin and ingested it. I’d seen it on a commercial on TV. The silence at the dinner table was deafening. What could be wrong? It was on TV! Sweet land of liberty.

We had hundreds of acres of woods to play in. It was yet to be subdivided. We played army. And when we captured our enemies, we tortured them, just like on TV. Lord of the Flies had nothing on us. What could be wrong? To thee I sing.

We knew to some degree we were pushing the envelope. The term was not in our vocabulary, but TV said it was okay. We saw it every night. Land where my fathers died.

We saw the Alamo defended and over run. I had a coonskin hat and a six gun that shot plastic pellets. Little did I know that Santa Ana marched to the Alamo because the white settlers from the United States brought slaves to a non-slave country, Mexico. The religious aspect and contract between the Mexican anti-slave government and settlers was never discussed in our history classes. Davy, Davy Crockett king of the wild frontier. Dirty Santa Ana. From sea to shining sea.

We hid under our desks or we were massed head to shoulder to protect us from nuclear explosions or as I asked, maybe it was to be able to identify all of us. I was told to shut up. How could a second grader understand that?

I saw soldiers wearing sunglasses watching the explosions from a safe distance. It was on TV. I just wondered aloud. One nation under god.

So, what’s in the box?

Today the boxes are all different sizes and colors. They provide news as entertainment and entertainment as news. The boxes promote a worldview that mimics the old B&W days. There is new technology that makes the same old reality exciting. Watch the bullet or torpedo spin stabilize and seek out its target with the AI brain embedded allowing it to think on its own. Fire and forget. With Liberty and Justice for all.

This is what was essence ingested in the original black box a subatomic black hole that inflated to the point where we are presently, a science experiment in some other dimension that ate its world and is still growing and rapidly expanding as I write. I’m part of the original on going program as is everyone and everything else. One funny thing I noticed, one of the current boxes that the original box spawned has the fruit that some AI named Adam ate a bite out of eons ago, as its logo. From dust to dust.


PostPosted: March 25, 2019, 05:09:27 AM
by Wormtongue

By Jontrue

Tragedy surrounds us like putrid film on a rotten tooth, and humanity is too often the decay that needs to be drilled out. People turning their backs on the downtrodden, the ignored, the overlooked, the broken. Nowhere is that more obvious than in our nation’s capital where the corruption is as thick as the filth and nowhere is as wretched as Portland Street.

Amongst the crowd of the damned, the murderers, the drug dealers, the smackheads, and the politicians trying to rent a silky-smooth boy for the night, that’s where she lies on a bed of flattened cardboard and scraps of paper that the wind has whipped up around her frail visage.

“Meera” the word inaudible by the people walking past her. She lays huddled around a shoebox blackened with the pollution of the city and oily from the constant contact with her skin.

From the passing cars, she appears to be just another lump of trash on the grimy sidewalk. Even the people that see her don’t care, they are hardened against the suffering of their fellow man, they are swallowed whole and numb to its raking claws. Perhaps if she were white someone would see her and at least throw some food money at her for the use of her cold, skeleton-like body. She is not, she is a woman of color; valueless to the people of white-nationalist America, valueless to her President and the Nazis he represents.
She lays forgotten by all but the janitor that raped her nightly in an underfunded mental health facility that was shut down due to budget cuts while the mega-corporations make billions and pay nothing in taxes. Her stomach has all but forgotten the feeling of fresh food. The soup kitchens have been forced closed to fund the devil’s war machine, more souls to die more souls to let die. The lines for food are now too long and she is too weak to stand in them anyway. She pulls the shoebox close to her, trying to protect it from the arctic breeze.

“Meera” she stares blankly into the night.

“What the fuck did you say to me trash bitch?”

She has been beaten all her life. She knows what is about to happen, it’s not always the same man, but the look in their eyes is always the same. The rage, the hate, it’s an unspoken war waged on the weak. Man’s hubris has allowed susurrous spoken by madmen with forked tongues in the shadows to allow these pernicious thoughts of superiority to seep into the core of his being. False justifications of farouche violence portended by those who see and propagated by the fascist talking heads that are delighted to watch the poor tear each other to smoldering smithereens.

No one stops him. There are no protectors for her, no heroes, no white knights, just bystanders who turn a blind eye. A police car drives past as he stomps on her exposed frost-bite blackened foot shattering it. She does not fight, she cannot feel it anymore her only concern is protecting the box. She protects it with her life, nothing else matters.

Like a predator born and trained, rewarded for vicious behavior, he spots her weakness instinctively. No thoughts cross his whitewashed mind, just ignorance and anger fueled by his furor’s hate fueled rhetoric. Vicious guttural laughter lurches forth from his throat as he kicks her in the teeth. Already brown, rotten, and held loosely in place her teeth easily gave way to a thick gush of blood. One more swift kick, she sees stars again. She remembers that she has not seen any real stars in years. She focuses on the bright floating orbs and ignores the crunch as her nose collapses. It’s getting colder, the blood freezes as soon as it drips on the ground.

“You’re no fucking fun you ugly little slut.” he regards his handiwork with pride. His expression falls flat. She is not begging, no whimpers, no screams. He receives no utils from this transaction, no joy or sense of empowerment from the domination of another human and it angers him. Desperate to support his belief that she is the trash and he is the superior creature he takes the only thing that she cares about. She clings to the greasy shoe box shaking, blood splattering on it and her assailant. Her fingers are too cold and it has been too long since she’s had anything but garbage to eat.

He rips the box from her fingers and looks to see what valuables she was guarding with her life. His expectation was that he would be rewarded with a box of crumpled up cash and coins mixed with some shiny baubles. The reality caused him to throw it back at her with disgust.

“What the — What the fuck is wrong with you?” He ran when the shriveled-up rotting newborn tumbled out rigid onto the ground.

“Meera...” The woman pulled Meera close to her chest. The child had been dead for weeks now. Meera died three days after birth. Both mother and child ejected from the hospital after only forty-eight-hours from its birth. No help, nowhere to go only the bare minimum Medicaid would provide. The only attention she got was from white women screaming at her for feeding her child on the street with their twisted distorted faces dripping with accusation, “Cover your tits up! What if my husband sees that? I’ll call the cops you filthy black whore. Go back to Africa you fucking godless savage.”

So she took her baby and hid behind a dumpster in the ally. Within hours its already weak suckle faded to nothing. Unable to part with her daughter she put Meera in a doll’s dress and placed her lovingly in the shoebox coffin.

The night of the attack she joined Meera, discovered the next morning by garbage men. The frozen woman still tenderly clutching her baby, even in death protecting baby Meera from the cold.

The Right Choice

PostPosted: March 25, 2019, 05:11:02 AM
by Wormtongue
The Right Choice

By Michelle "Bottomdweller" Dutcher

The graying, well-dressed man checked-in at the acetate counter, attempting to smile while introducing himself to the person sitting at the desk. “I am Mr. Calloway, Tad Calloway, here for my appointment.”

“Mr. Calloway, Calloway, Calloway” mumbled the man in the lab coat, looking at the screen in front of him. His search for information was brief so he nodded affirmatively. “We have your trip slated for today and your financial transfer was successful.”
The receptionist touched a hidden button on his left sleeve. “Sharlese, your 10:46 is in the lobby. Understood. She will be right with you,” he told the customer, looking directly at him for the first time. “You look exhausted, Mr. Calloway. I hope your trip her was satisfactory.”

“The trip was fine. It’s nice that your company pays for the airfare…”

“That is no problem at all, sir. We want to be certain that all your needs are met before your trip.” The receptionist smiled and waited a moment, expecting the man before him to say something further.

Tad Calloway looked at his fake-leather shoes for a moment before nodding slightly.
“It’s a big decision, you know.”

“Yes, I’m sure it is…”

From out of the wall behind him, a woman appeared wearing a yellow lab coat and carrying a flat tablet that seemed to be made from flowing water. “Mr. Calloway. We’re so glad you are here – and right on time. Please if you’ll step this way, I will be your guide to the departure room.” They began to walk together through the warehouse-sized lobby of Signature Journeys.

Tad looked around at the adults coming in. Of course there were no children, no one was allowed to do the procedure before 38 years-of-age. Throughout the building he could see other adults checking-in at clear, clean, acetate desks. He sighed, realizing again how much he missed the sight of children, becoming more resolute than ever. “What does the contraption look like, Sharlese?”

“Oh – it’s just a large box, you’ll see it. Gray, metal, no big deal.” The woman in her forties slowed down a little to keep her place beside the man who was walking slowly. “However, what’s inside the simple box is an amazing leap forward. I think you’ll be impressed. I may even use it someday,” she said before adding softly, “if I need to.”

“I’m glad it’s available, even though the price seemed astronomical.”

The woman looked down at her tablet. “Yes, 300 units is a lot, without a doubt. Some people who take advantage of our services simply pay everything they have – and the rest is covered by private donations.”

A section of the wall opened and the pair stepped through. As described, the room they entered was bare except for a man in a suit standing beside a large gray, metal box, taller than the man but not much deeper than the average person.

“Mr. Elliott, this is Tad Calloway, your 10:50 appointment.” She motioned to the 60-something man beside her. Upon delivering her customer, she immediately turned on one heel and left the room.

“Tad, your life is going to get much better very soon – and it’s all because of this box…and your wise decision to take advantage of what we offer.” Mr. Elliott looked at the customer with wide-eyed enthusiasm, happily emphasizing his words with broad hand motions.

Mr. Calloway was less cheerful. “I understand the basic concept, but does anyone ever return?”

The man in the suit paused and put a hand on the shoulder of his customer, his demeanor quietening a little. “I read your file. And I don’t mean to be rude or insensitive. But most of our clients really don’t have anything to come back to…”

“You’re right of course,” whispered Tad, shrugging his shoulders.

“Once inside the box, you’ll realize that you made the right choice.” The assistant quickly brightened up again. “If you do decide to come back, one-half of your finances will be cheerfully refunded, as specified in the contract bearing your signature.”

“But have you ever SEEN anyone come back?” asked the man stoically, eyeing the metal box.

“Me personally? – no never. Once that you step inside and the sequence is initiated, you will understand why, I assure you. The inventor came back – but his circumstances were different, as he was merely doing a test run.”

“I understand,” replied Tad, pulling himself up a little to gather his courage. “I’m ready.”

“Good, good! Now, what date have you chosen?”

“Yes…12/25/2167,” he said.

The small, balding, man in the pastel blue suit smiled broadly and said out loud, “Twelve twenty-five 2167.” There was a buzzing in his ear and he nodded. “The machine is programmed and ready for your Signature Journey.”

“And I can live that one day over and over, forever?”

“Yes! As many times as you wish. Just step inside and I will close the door. Think happy thoughts.”

The man did as he was told, closing his eyes, thinking of his late wife and their children.

“You made the right choice! Bon Voyage!” he could hear the happy technician shout.

“Tad, Tad. Where is your mind?” laughed Leah. She was there, with him, in their upstairs bedroom. “Come to the window – it’s the first snow of the season.”

He approached her with reverence as she stood facing the window, saying her name like a prayer. “Leah, I have missed you so.” He put his arms around her and nuzzled the back of her neck.

“Missed me? I only took a shower. You are such a silly romantic.”

Suddenly there were footsteps rushing up the stairs to the bedroom.

“Daddy, it’s Christmas!” his children screamed joyously. “Santa came! He came!”

“I guess we should go downstairs and see for ourselves,” said Leah.

“I guess so,” said Tad, following his wife downstairs, all the time realizing that he had indeed, made the right choice.

Customer Satisfaction is Service Out of the Box

PostPosted: March 25, 2019, 05:12:08 AM
by Wormtongue
Customer Satisfaction is Service Out of the Box

by Sergio "ente per ente" Palumbo

The part of the town the slim blonde-haired woman had entered looked seedy and smelled dreadful. This was certainly one of the worst slums around, as that highly populated urban area was filled with people who had nowhere else to go. This was the zone that some chose to reside in when they had some low standards and had no interest in living among polite society, other than if their goal was to conduct illegal activities, or to perform some bad actions, without getting caught or spotted…

As she kept walking, a corner full of decrepit housing units finally appeared. That was today’s destination. She reached one of the front doors and rang the doorbell to announce herself.

When the door was opened, an old man with unbelievably clean, gray, long hair appeared. He had a large nose and strange clothes that seemed to be from the 1700s, as they certainly hadn’t been purchased in 2026.

“Who are you…and why are you here…?” the old man asked the woman as he looked around suspiciously.

“I was told you could help me…to prepare a special box, with special contents.” She briefly paused. “For the right price of course…”

The strange man stared at her for a moment, as if he was trying to figure out who might have sent her here.

“Allison, the fish seller, told me about you. She also said that you’re very good at preparing boxes meant as…gifts, so to speak…”.

“Oh, I see…She gives me, at times, items…for my work that are useful. What is it…you want?”

She took something out of a pocket in her dress and handed him the paper. “Here are the specifications for the gift I have in mind…Can you do this?”

“Possibly…but it will be expensive…” the man whispered as his eyes seemed to darken.

“The price doesn’t matter; I will pay it. But I want it done. This is an important gift and it must be ready in time for Christmas…That’s important.”

“I see…the cost will be considerable, but if you can pay…” whispered again the man. “It should be possible…”

“When can I have it delivered?”

The man was pensive for a few moments. “It should be ready the second week…of December.”

The woman left the building with a strange look on her face. People had told her that this man was extraordinary but she wished that he could have been more certain about the box, instead of being so hard to pin down.


The box was delivered to her on time, as the man had promised, and the woman was eager to wrap the Christmas gift before giving it to the addressee she had in mind.

So, three days before Christmas, she went to where her husband was living - the man who she had left some months ago because of their constant arguing - as she wanted to give him what she had asked to be prepared.

She didn’t know if it would work but she had to try, so she knocked on the door.

Yevgeni came outside and was surprised to see her there, after everything that had happened between them. In spite of his reservations, he accepted the gift and was strangely touched as he heard the woman say she wanted to forgive him, given the festive season. She wished him a Merry Christmas, too.

When the door closed, she waited outside for a few moments. She knew that although Christmas was only a few days away, her husband couldn’t wait. And within just a few minutes, it happened.

As soon as she heard the first screams coming from inside the house, the woman was sure that the man had opened the box well in advance, as predictable.

And she knew what was going on inside, without even seeing it.

The box contained a small creature, but not one from this world, oh no! The specifications on the paper she had handed to the sorcerer, weeks before, had been very clear. Her husband had to suffer by being attacked in the part of his body he seemed to love the most. This was why she had requested that the box had a fabled creature inside, an otherworldly spirit, which would bite his groin as soon as the parcel was opened.

Of course, the unearthly being was invisible, so that her husband would never know who or what had caused him so much pain. Even better - the creature itself would disappear from their dimension once it all was done.

If her husband did try to bring charges against her, no judge would believe his story about supernatural creatures, so she was pretty sure she would never be sentenced. Her husband, on the other hand, would have to pay huge court costs and would probably be seen a madman…

All that trouble was thanks to the power of a skilled sorcerer from the city’s underworld, although no one would ever believe it. For the right amount of money, he was always available to be hired, anyway.

The woman left the house with a satisfied look on her face, moving away from the growing cries she heard.

Her cheating husband had betrayed her with her own sister, her niece and with friends of hers, too. Really, he had never missed a single chance to humiliate her and to boast about his love affairs.

This was why they had eventually separated. However, she couldn’t let things end so quietly. Yevgeni had to pay dearly for the cost of his betrayals. The woman discovered that she was already feeling better. It was as if a heavy weight had been removed from her mind.

As she walked along the way, she considered an old saying with new meaning: ‘Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful…’

Wasn’t it, after all, a magically woven Christmas that had eventually brought, by means of an unearthly spirit, some satisfaction even to her?

Re: March/April Challenge: What's in the Box? - The Stories

PostPosted: March 26, 2019, 06:44:38 AM
by ente per ente
My vote is,eh :D

I noticed that there is a very deep, very touching entry on this occasion, maybe that will be the winner in the end, who my opinion, is really touching and well done, among the other very good entries...

Re: March/April Challenge: What's in the Box? - The Stories

PostPosted: April 04, 2019, 04:30:09 PM
by Lester Curtis
My vote is in--and I had a hard time deciding this one.