Come take me out of this nightmare. Come take me out of this nightmare, nightmare The words, so softly hummed, left his lips without him really feeling them. His new acquisition, he set down lightly on the bedside table. A wooden box. About one foot long and half that in height. The setting sun shone through the windowpane and across one of its sides, giving it a golden sheen. Beautiful? Very pretty at least.
Frankie dear. Dinners ready. The call from the kitchen brought his gaze away from the pretty wooden box. Yes, very pretty. If only he could-
Frank. Its getting cold.
Yes Mom! he called back. Hurrying into the bathroom to wash his hands, the pretty wooden box was momentarily forgotten. But it still remained. In the back of his mind. Not a conscious thought, but influencing his actions still.
May I leave the table?
But you havent finished your dinner.
Im not hungry.
Alone, back in his room. He couldnt lock his door. Though he longed to. Keep prying eyes out. Away from his pretty wooden box. He placed a chair under the handle. Hmm
Back to the box. The pretty wooded box. It sat across the other side of the bed, almost mocking him. Teasing. The sunlight was all gone now, its rays no longer fell across the smooth surface of the lid. Nor did it illuminate the brass handles on either side. Gently curving, he ached to pick them up again. To feel their smooth texture in is hands. The same texture that covered the hinges. The lid could open, but it wasnt until now that he felt the need to see what was inside. A desire that burned in his flesh, a curiosity that demanded to be satisfied.
But the lid would not open that way. Could not be forced. He knew better than that. The box had a key. A light touch would do.
Moving around the bed, he reached the pretty wooden box. Lightly dusting his fingertips along the lid as he reached for the crank handle on the side.
he hummed as his fingers tightened their grip around the wooden crank handle protruding from the side farthest from him. A jack-in-the-box? Yes, thats what it was. Turn the handle, the lid opens, the jack comes out.
He moved over further so he was directly in front of the pretty wooden box. He inhaled long and deep. The jack could wait. Why? I dont know he muttered to himself. But he was content to wait. The sun, long since departed, gave way to full moon. So bright, the light streamed in through the open curtains, and turned the lid of the pretty wooden box silver. His hand ghosted across its surface once again. Precious. Beautiful. His.
He didnt know how long he stood there. Nor did he care. He legs were losing feeling because he hadnt moved them, and he was beginning to sway where he stood.
He eyes focused on the object in front of him. The curiosity was growing. He really wanted to see inside it. Wanted? Needed to. But it didnt seem right.
He had bought it that day. At the fair. From the man outside the Maze of Mirrors. He seemed to appear when he walked past. Frightening? Very. So then, why didnt he run when the stranger reached into his coat?
Would you care to see something amazing? Something the likes of which you could never begin to imagine? Even in your wildest dreams? A common fair ground speech. He stood there, unmoved by it all. The stranger pulled a box out from the confines of his large trench coat. The pretty wooden box.
What is it?
What is it? What is it? Why, it is a jack-in-the-box dear boy. But one the likes of which you will have never set eyes on before.
What makes it so special? Ive seen them before.
Not like this you havent. Come now, dont you want to see whats inside?
Ah, but I cant do that you see. This here, its special. It can only be opened by the one who possesses it.
You mean buys it?
Yes. I do.
You want me to buy it?
I would be glad to sell it to you young man. But do you know what youre really doing?
What-? The stranger leaned in closer, and he could see part of his face, the rest of which was concealed by a thick hood. A pale face and long hair that hung down from inside the hood. The stranger appeared young, except for the voice coming from his mouth. The voice sounded strained. Like it had said some things it really shouldnt have. Condemned someone to death.
What? Where did that thought come from? The stranger was standing rather close to him. He was feeling increasingly uncomfortable. But his curiosity was spiked. How much? he asked.
Only $10. A real bargain. The strangers mouth stretched into a grin. It wasnt a friendly expression though. Menacing was what came to mind. Almost unconsciously, his hand moved to the pocket of his jeans. He knew he had $10, but he didnt know why he was giving it to this man. Fingers clutched the crumpled note. He pulled it out and handed it to the stranger.
A most unsettling thing happened. The stranger grinned, showing small white teeth. Like the grin, the smile seemed only to hold menace and danger. Here you are dear boy. The wooded box was handed to him. It felt heavy in his grasp, and he wondered how the stranger had managed to carry it around in his pocket.
Frankie! There you are. Cmon, were going home now. His mother calling him, made him turn around. She was walking over to him, hand held out, ready to escort him to a safer place. Away from the stranger with his unsettling smile and long coat.
He turned back, looking for the stranger, but found he was gone. As expected. It was as clichéd as it was real. He found it disturbing still. It was rather convenient that when the slightest amount of doubt entered his mind, the man should disappear. But he pushed the thought aside, and joined his Mom.
Now, alone in his room, he was able to think clearer than he had at the fair. He was stupid for buying it from a total stranger. But, how could this pretty wooden box be stupid? Doubt entered his mind again, almost overwhelming. The shady stranger, the beautiful box. The two just didnt match.
His right hand around the crank, he braced his arm to turn. But nothing happened. There was something wrong about this whole thing. A part of his mind (the part that still thought sense) knew he would regret turning that handle. But another, larger part wanted him to do it. Needed him to do it. Just so see what was inside.
Throwing caution to the wind, he turned the handle. Half a rotation, nothing happened. Another half. He heard a faint noise from inside. Another half turn, and he heard the first notes of a tune resonate from the box. He turned it again, this time without stopping. Again and again it turned, the music coming from the beautiful wooden box getting louder and louder.
He turned the handle a final time, hearing the mechanism inside click. The lid opened.
The parents of little Frank Iero discovered his body draped across his bed, eyes staring blankly at the ceiling. While there was no sign of physical injury, there was also no doubt that he was dead. The doctors didnt understand why.
But Frank did. The last thing he saw, what appeared out of the now non-existent jack-in-the-box will be forever imprinted on his eyes. Long black hair partially, obscuring his face. Pale skin beneath hazel eyes. The black jesters costume, covered in bells that rang in the still bedroom air. An image of the man who sold the pretty wooden box, returned to claim his item.
A ten dollar note was found in little Frank Ieros pocket.