Someone was ringing the bell. No, that implies that the person on the other side of the door lightly pressed the button and then waited patiently for me to drag my half-asleep rump from the wonderful medicine induced sleep and that clearly was not happening. Whoever was pressing the button was really laying into it causing the electronic buzz to reverberate through the house and into my skull. This was not the day to mess with me, I was home sick with the flu and when I’m in less than stellar health I can be a bit of a jerk.
I stomped down the hallway toward the front door with my blanket draped over my shoulders like a cape and wrenched the door open. Before my hand had touched the handle I was ready to spit venom and possibly sneeze on this inconsiderate invader but once I opened the door the ringing stopped and instead of a person there was a small parcel waiting on the mat.
Notice I did not say a welcome mat, I don’t trust those things and strangers are not welcome in my house. I lived alone and planned on dying alone only to alert the neighbors with the smell a few weeks later.
My blanket dropped to the floor and I stared down at the package in wonder. Flu addled and sleep deprived my brain could not comprehend why there was a cardboard box on my front step let along begin to ponder the sudden disappearance of the delivery person. As though the package would pop when I touched it I eased down into a crouch and gently picked it up. Sure enough it was addressed to me.
Upon further inspection I found it to be lighter than expected, the size was about that of a double slotted toaster but it was hardly more than a pound. Still confused I backed into the hallway and shut the door with my foot, walking on the blanket and leaving there for later.
Each step was gentle reverence as I walked down the hall and to the living room. The box gave a small hollow sound as I set it down on the bistro table which stood in place for a dining area and I pulled out the matching chair to examine the box. My name and address were present but I couldn’t find a return address or any postage markings for that matter. Not exactly knowing why I leaned forward and sniffed it, a faint scent of cedar tickle my senses and I sat back in the chair to let my brain try to figure this out.
After a moment curiosity won out over caution and I slid my fingers along the mat-brown packaging to find an opening. In that moment I was no longer almost thirty, alone, and flu-ridden I was a kid again unwrapping a late Christmas present from a far off relative. The paper tore away with a satisfying rip exposing a mundane white unmarked box sealed with boring clear packing tape.
Curiosity and wonder were replaced with boredom. I pointed my index and middle finger on my right hand with a downward thrust I broke the seal on the package. Ripping my hand back toward my body I completely removed the tapes hold on the box and pulled it open to look inside.
There was nothing. I jiggled the box but the only sound was that of the wrapping paper falling to the floor. Still unwilling to give up I reached my hand in to feel around and instantly pulled my hand back. Somehow the box went deeper than its dimensions. I put my hand in again, this time pushing the box up to my armpit and still there wasn’t any resistance. An idea struck me and I leaned forward to see if I could catch a glimpse of my arm under the table.
A sudden rush of air from inside the box brought the strong odor of brimstone. The wafting nastiness made me stumble back into the chair. I lost my balance and tried to reach out to steady myself but the box was still pressed against my armpit. Suddenly I wasn’t falling anymore something was pulling me to my feet. Someone or something had my hand from inside the box.
I opened my mouth to scream but the overpowering scent of brimstone made the noise halt in my throat. Something clamped down on my wrist, piercing the skin and shooting painful, burning impulse to my already overwrought brain. There was a tug, the lid of the box scraped against my neck now.
Another, harder this time and I lift off my feet.