Logan pulled his coat tighter around him, hiding his hands in the folds of the fabric to save them from the cold wind whipping up the street. The wind was strong enough and cold enough that he had to turn away from it or risk having his breath taken from him. His slacks and spring jacket were hardly warm enough to stop the cold from seeping in, so he gritted his teeth, took a deep breath, and pushed on toward the small consignment shop just off Main Street.
A few minutes later, Logan turned the corner and stepped out of the wind with a sigh of relief. Pulling his hands from his coat, he ran them through his shaggy, dirty-blond hair and checked his reflection in a window. Satisfied with what he saw, he winked at himself and stepped inside.
The shop was small, perhaps twenty or thirty feet deep and half as much wide, but shelves filled with random objects ran every few feet from front to back. In the front, a small counter sat with a tablet for a register as well as the reason he had come in the first place.
Skye Brock, the owner of the shop, sat on her usual stool, with a book in her hands as she read furiously through the day’s selection. She wore a grey linen dress, one that Logan had come to understand was her favorite. Her brown hair was braided and hung low down her back, a small ribbon tied to keep it together at the end.
“Good morning, Skye,” Logan said, smiling at her, “How’s the book today?”
“Hello, Logan,” Skye replied without looking up from her book. “It’s good.”
Logan shook his head with a chuckle and proceeded to walk down the new arrivals section of the store. His eyes darted from old books to creepy porcelain dolls that sent shivers down his spine. He picked up a tiny piano toy and was pleasantly surprised when he found the crank on the back of it worked perfectly and played its tinny song without issue. Further down the shelf, he spied a dark box, intricately carved with symbols covering every flat surface. Setting the piano on the shelf next to it, he tried the lid but found that it didn’t open. There was no keyhole, and the seam along the top was so small he could barely see it under the fluorescent lighting when he examined it.
“You wouldn’t happen to know the secret on how to open this box, would you?” Logan asked, looking toward the front of the shop.
“Everything here is as is, Logan. You know that. If there isn’t a key, you’ll have to talk to a locksmith.
Logan picked the box up off the shelf. It felt heavy, and as he turned it over, something heavy slid around on the inside. The price tag on it said $50. He moved to set it on the shelf, but his mind wandered back to the contents. It was definitely an old box and finely crafted. He imagined that there was some lost relic inside that a museum might pay him to acquire. If nothing else, the box was beautiful and would look good on the shelf in his office. He scooped up the piano and walked back to the front.
“I’ll take these,” he said.
Skye looked up from her book only long enough to check the prices, punch them into the tablet, and spin it around to him.
“That’ll be fifty-five dollars,” she said, looking back down.
“Are we still on for dinner?” he asked as he slid his card into the reader.
“Was that tonight?” Skye replied, closing the book on a finger. Her amber eyes met his, and he felt his breath leave him. “Yeah. For sure. Did you want to pick me up at my house, or did you want to meet there?”
“Whatever your preference is,” Logan replied as he used his finger to sign on the screen. “I feel like I should pick you up, but I also know that if you don’t enjoy yourself, I don’t want you to feel trapped with me.”
“I’ll meet you at Elements around six?” she said.
“I can’t wait,” Logan said, plucking his purchase from the counter.
“Don’t get into trouble today!” Skye called after him as he stepped out onto the street.
Logan practically skipped to the end of the street, feeling like he could fly until the blast of cold wind hit him once more.
“Shit,” he muttered, fighting with his coat as he attempted not to drop either of the things in his hands.
He walked as fast as he could back to his car and drove home without incident. He parked in the garage and waited for the door to finish closing before getting out. He didn’t want to be colder than necessary. He stepped into the kitchen, dropped his keys and the piano on the counter, and walked to his office with the box.
Sitting at his desk, he pulled a magnifying light over so he could look at it better. Through the glass, he could see that the carvings covering the surface of the box were not symbols or runes, but names of people in ornate sweeping patterns.
“Okay, that’s cool,” Logan muttered as he shook his head. “Who could carve like this? They are so tiny!”
He continued his inspection of the lid with the magnifier and found just above the seem a few words that differed from the names everywhere else.
If you want to look inside, you have only but to ask. ~P
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” he muttered as he shifted in his seat and leaned closer to the box. He pushed, pulled, and twisted every inch of it that he could over the next few minutes, but had no success.
“Open,” he said, unable to think of anything else.
“Please?” he added.
“I’m going crazy. I’m talking to an inanimate object, expecting it to listen,” Logan said, running his right hand through his hair. “Will you please open?”
A sudden click from the box in front of him made him slide his chair back a little.
“No fucking way,” he said. “It can’t be that old if it has voice recognition.”
He reached a hand over and pulled up on the lid. It opened with ease, as though there had never been a mechanism in the first place. Inside was a tiny black marble, sitting in one corner.
“That’s it?” he muttered as he reached for the marble.
The marble suddenly shifted from a round sphere to a puddle that bubbled and grew. Logan hesitated, looking at it through the lens of the magnifier. It filled the box in less than a second, then shot out into his face, slamming into the wall and ceiling behind him. He fought against it with everything he had but felt it tightening rapidly on his neck until he couldn’t breathe any longer. He kicked the desk and flailed his arms until the world went black.
Artist Credit: Yury Ostapchuk