When I was ten years old, my aunt gave me a brass box. She was a dealer in antiques and passed the box on to me. I wasn’t sure why she gave me the box. It is lost somewhere in my attic. But, this past week I was thinking about story ideas. Where do ideas come from? How do you start a story? Sometimes, for me, it is a mystery. Specifically, a mystery box as J. J. Abrams has spoken about. What is in the box? It can be a literal box or a figurative box. Whatever is in the box is the great motivator for the story. So, just for fun, I present to you the beginnings of a story. I thought about that brass box of mine somewhere lost in my attic and wondered what was originally is this box. So, here it is. The beginning of a story. Read it and ask yourself, how would you end the story? What do you think is in the box? What is the mystery here? Just for fun, stretch your storytelling ability and drop me a comment and tell me what you think.
The box spoke to me in the middle of the night. It was not the first time.
The box is four inches tall by eight inches wide by six inches deep. It is covered in a beaten brass shell. The box is sealed and cannot be opened. On the top of the box is the impression of an American Indian in full headdress hovering over a boulder in the desert. Sitting atop the boulder is the skull of an animal. The animal is not of this earth.
I was thrashing about in my bed, suspended between the world of nightmare and the world of reality when I heard the box call my name. I arose from my bed and held a candle to the clock on the mantle above the fireplace. Three A. M. The box always spoke at three A. M. I slipped on my robe and made my way quietly down the hallway and passed by the nursery. Richard and Nathaniel were deeply asleep woven into a tapestry of dreams of soldiers and infantry. I eased down the stairs to the foyer and stood at the entry to my study.
Bloody light diffused across the mounted antelope head above the fireplace. When the box speaks, it glows a golden crimson and there is music unlike any music human ear has heard. My heart raced and I felt sweat trickle down my back.
“Michael. Michael. Michael.” The voice was soft, pleading and feminine. It rose gently against the rhythm of the unearthly music. It wove the threads of my name amongst the chords. I moved carefully around my desk and sunk into the leather chair. The box sat in the center of my desk. Pulsing; glowing; singing; calling my name.
“I am here.” I whispered.
The voice ceased its pleading. The pulsing crimson light faded. The room filled again with empty, cold shadows and the box sat there. I swallowed and reached a shaking finger to touch the face of the Indian on the top. The metal was as cold as ice and I withdrew my finger quickly. At times, the box was hot. At times only lukewarm. At times, I had felt nothing at all, not even the slightly rough texture of its surface.
I ran my index finger along the seam around the top of the box. It was growing warmer, returning to room temperature. The seam was barely palpable. I had tried many flat edged devices to open the seam. All had been unsuccessful.
“Why do you call to me?” I leaned forward over the box. “What are you?”
I jerked up in surprise shoving the chair backwards. It clattered against the windowsill of my study. Nathaniel stood in the entryway. His night shirt was pale and wrinkled and his blonde hair coiled around his head in disarray.
“I heard something, Papa.” Nathaniel stumbled sleepily into the room. He was only eight and yet already, he had grown six inches since his last birthday. I was beginning to see his mother’s willowy figure in his body language. It made me sad. Nathaniel wrapped his arms around my waist and buried his head in my chest.
“I heard mother, Papa. I heard mother.”
I gasped and combed his hair with my fingers. “Mother is in heaven, Nathaniel. You know that.”
He pulled his head away from my chest and gazed into my eyes. In the weak light of the moon coming in through the window behind me, his eyes were maroon and filled with moisture. “But, she called to me in my dreams. I heard her, Papa. I heard her.”