Fiction logo

A Special Delivery

The Ark

By Kenny PennPublished about a year ago 14 min read
6

“God, I wish you would put me out of my misery.” Ryan says, staring at the ceiling through dry, puffy eyes.

Sleep has been eluding him for months. He can’t remember the last time he slept for longer than forty-five minutes at a time, or more than four total hours in a given night. When was the last time I actually had a dream?

Forever ago, it seems. In another life. He has come to believe sleep is a luxury only given to those whose minds are not riddled with shame and guilt.

The cell phone next to his bed gives a loud buzz on the nightstand and then rings. For a moment, he thinks about not answering. He’s been expecting her call for two days now, but doesn’t want to deal with her grievances just yet. But if he ignores her, she’ll only keep calling. She might even show up here, and that would be far worse. May as well get it over with, he thinks.

“Hello?” His voice comes out cracked and weak.

“Ryan?” Her voice is anxious and concerned.

“Yeah, ma, it’s me.”

“Were you sleeping? I didn’t mean to wake you.”

No need for pleasantries, ma, just get to it. Aloud, he says, “No, ma, just haven’t eaten breakfast yet. I guess I’m a little tired.”

“Oh, ok, well you make sure to eat something, dear. You’ve been looking kind of thin lately. Anyway, look Ryan, the bank called me this morning, and wanted to verify a few recent transactions.”

Closing his eyes, he sits up on the edge of the bed and waits for the inevitable question.

“Now, I don’t mean to accuse you of anything honey, but according to the bank there have been two withdrawals amounting to five hundred each on Tuesday and again last night, and several purchases from a place called, ‘Lady Luck’s Tavern.’”

Ryan rolls his eyes. A tavern it had been, but lucky? Not so much.

“Well, hunny, it sounds like the kind of place that would be in a casino. Only my bank card is still in my purse right where I left it.”

It hadn’t been that hard. His ma goes to bed early these days, and he has a key to her house, after all. The hardest part had been the strain on his conscience, but after long years of being a screw up, ol’ Jiminy Cricket doesn’t whistle as loud as he used to.

“Are you there, Ryan?”

“I’m here, ma.”

“Are you going to make me come out and ask, hunny?”

No, they’re past such games now. Besides, he wants to get this over with as quickly as possible. Standing up, he slips into a pair of slippers, throws on a robe, and begins to walk to the front door. Fresh air will do him some good.

“Ryan?”

“No ma, I won’t make you ask. It was me. I guess I’ve had a bit of a relapse. I … I’m sorry.”

Silence. He can’t even hear her breathing, and imagines she has taken the phone away from her head and is trying to keep from breaking down into sobs. A strong sense of guilt grips his chest, and a large lump forms in his throat, but he says nothing, only looks away as though she’s there in the room with him.

When she speaks again, her voice cracks with suppressed emotion. “They asked me if I wanted to press charges. I told them no. But this can’t keep happening, baby, you need to check yourself into a clinic or something.”

Her voice nearly undoes him. She’s always been a good mother, and doesn’t deserve a horrible son like him. He wants to promise her it won’t happen again, and he knows he would mean it too. But he also knows he will eventually break that promise, and she doesn’t deserve to be lied to either.

“I’m sorry, ma.” He says again, and now it’s his voice that cracks. Fresh air should help. After making sure his robe is tight, he opens the front door and steps outside.

“I know you are, baby, but sorry isn’t going to cut it anymore. You need —- “

As the door shuts behind him, he’s distracted by a loud buzz somewhere above him, like a swarm of angry bees. Glancing up, he’s surprised to see one of those flying machines — A drone, he thinks — coming toward him and carrying what appears to be a medium-sized cardboard box.

The drone descends in front of him, and as it does, the swarming, buzzing noise grows quieter. It has four long, jointed metallic arms pressed firmly against the sides of the package. Once it’s set on the ground, the arms release, the swarming noise increases, and the drone takes off in the direction it had come from.

“Ryan? Did you hear me, are you still there?”

This must be a mistake, he thinks as he kneels beside it. What he had initially taken for cardboard turns out to be wood. It’s carved with intricate swirling patterns that seem to have no beginning nor end. The box has been expertly carved from one piece, except perhaps for the lid, which he can’t see because the shipping label covers it.

Who the hell sends a beautiful box like this without packing it first? He thinks, and then, who the hell would send this to me? No one, that’s who.

“Ryan! Hello? I can hear you breathing. Say something, please?”

“I’ll have to call you back, ma.” He replies, and hangs up.

#

The box sits on the kitchen table underneath a drum-shade light, as yet unopened, like some curiosity on display at a museum.

He had assumed the drone made a mistake and delivered to the wrong house, but his name is there on the label in black and white: RYAN TIMOTHY FITZGERALD. He can count the number of people who know his middle name on one hand, as he hardly ever uses it. Timothy is his father’s name. His absent, ‘see you again someday when you’re all grown up’, piece of shit father’s name.

But that’s not the only strange thing about this label. For starters, there is neither a return nor a recipient address printed. The only proof the package is meant for him is his name. He hadn’t known you could ship anything without a return address, but there it is. The only possible identifying feature about it is the yellow tape holding the shipping label in place. The words, ‘OMEGA SHIPPING’, are printed on it with thick, blocky red letters.

“Well, it’s not gonna open itself.” He says with finality, and goes to the kitchen to grab a knife.

There’s bound to be something really cool inside a box like that, he thinks, and feels the beginning of a smile take shape.

Still, he pauses before trying to lift the tape. Perhaps he shouldn’t be doing this. After all, he hasn’t been expecting a package from anyone. No one – other than ma, of course - gave two shits about a plague like Ryan.

Curiosity and impatience make the decision for him. Maybe whatever’s inside is sellable. If it is, I swear I’ll only sell it and pay back ma and be done with all this gambling bullshit.

Another voice, far in the back of his mind yet quite clear, whispers, Yeah right. Who you trying to fool, man?

The tape comes off almost too easily, and with it, the label. As soon as it does, a small plain white piece of card stock slips out from underneath, slides off the box and comes to a rest in front of him. Curious, he unfolds it and reads the short inscription inside:

OMEGA SHIPPING IS THRILLED TO FULFILL YOUR REQUEST. WE HOPE YOU WILL BE PLEASED WITH THIS GIFT.

That’s it? No phone number or email, no facebook link or anything?

Frowning, he sets the note aside and inspects the top of the box. The label had been covering a slit running straight down the middle, but he’s unable to determine how to open it yet.

Excitement begins building in his chest. Leaning close, he explores the top, bottom, and sides of the box until he finds the answer. There’s a tiny hatch that can be lifted on the left side, revealing a small round button. He presses it, and the lid panels swing upward slowly and silently, as if there are hydraulic hinges installed. Heart pounding, he leans over to see what’s inside.

And sees nothing.

But that’s not right. There is something, and it’s as frightening as it is impossible. The box appears to be filled to the brim with pure darkness. But that’s not quite right either. It’s not just dark, the way one might describe a moonlit shadow outside the window at night, but true absence of light. As if he is staring into the physical embodiment of the color black.

Cursing, he recoils from the box as if stung. His heart beats hard against its cage as he backs the chair he’s sitting in several feet away.

“What the hell is that?” He asks in a small, shaky voice.

The note he set aside is still on the table. He snatches it up and scans its contents again. “Who the hell is Omega Shipping?”

Googling the company yields little results. There’s an Omega Shipping Inc. in New York, a Turkish company having nothing to do with small towns like Madison, North Carolina. And then there’s another company sharing the name out in Sri Lanka. Neither companies deal in small packages or residential deliveries.

In other words, the internet hasn’t heard of this company. More strangeness. You’re supposed to be able to find anything on the web.

After taking a minute to catch his breath, he stands on wobbly legs and goes to the garage. When he comes back, he is carrying a flashlight.

The walk to the table is slow and terrifying, because he half expects something to jump out of that blackness. But nothing happens, and when he reaches the box, he turns the flashlight on and directs its beam at the opening.

What happens next is so crazy, he can’t credit his own eyes. I must be seeing things. Like, hallucinating or something. Maybe someone slipped something in one of my drinks last night.

The flashlight’s beam cut through the surrounding air in a clear, tunnel-like path. He could see dust motes floating around inside the illuminated area like dancing fireflies. But the moment the beam touched the inside of the box, it cut off, as if a sharp blade had sliced it clean through at the bottom.

Or like it ceased to exist. He thinks with a shiver.

For a few minutes, he only stands in a paralytic state, staring at the point where the light vanishes into blackness. What would happen if I touched it?

An inspirational thought has him running back to the garage. This time he returns with multiple items: A golf ball, a tennis ball, a pen, two screwdrivers, and a nine iron golf club.

The pen is first to be tested. Carefully, he leans over the box with the pen pinched between his index finger and thumb. Once the pen is hovering over the center, he drops it, then jerks his hand away, not knowing what to expect once it touches the void.

But there was no need to worry. The pen doesn’t hiss, or fizzle, or bend, break, grow, or any other thing his mind conjured up. Instead, the pen passes into the blackness without so much as a whisper or a disturbance in the surrounding dark. He hears no report from the pen touching the bottom, no clatter, nothing. Again, it’s as though the pen has ceased to exist once it crossed that plane.

Frowning, he tries again with the screw drivers, then the golf ball, all with the same eerie results. He gets creative with the tennis ball and throws it down, thinking perhaps the velocity may cause something more to happen. Maybe the ball will hit the bottom and bounce back out, but it doesn’t.

That just leaves the golf club. Knowing what he plans to do next causes sweat to bead on his forehead. His throat is dry anyway, so he decides to take a moment to grab a cup of water and try to calm his nerves before moving on.

I’m crazy to be doing this, he thinks, but the desire to understand this mystery has him in its grip now. He has to know.

He takes the nine iron by the head, and after another hard swallow, proceeds to put the handle down into the box. As with the pen, it disappears once it touches the void, but there is no sudden shock to his hand or any other reaction to the rest of the shaft that he can tell. So he pushes it in more, holding his breath in anticipation, waiting for the suspected moment when the club jerks in his hand.

The moment never comes, yet what is happening defies the universal laws of physics. His trembling fist clutches the head a mere few inches above the box, yet the shaft has not hit the bottom. The club should be scraping the floor right now. It moves freely when he gives it a stirring motion, as though moving through nothing but air.

Is there really no bottom to this thing? Is this like a magical box that swallows what you feed it?

Perhaps the answer is that the shaft no longer exists. Eyes wide, he pulls the head back up. The shaft has not been cut off. It comes out of the darkness whole and doesn’t appear to have a mark on it. When he touches the tip of his index finger to it, he can’t tell if there is any discernible difference. For the purpose of this experiment, at least, nothing has changed.

A whisper suddenly fills his ears, coming from everywhere at once. “Ryyyyyaaaaan.”

He gives a strangled cry and jumps back, releasing the iron in his haste to be away from the box. It falls into the void and disappears.

“What the fuck, man?!” He shouts. His back comes up against the wall behind him with a loud thump.

“Ryyyyyaaaaan,” the whisper comes again. “Come closer, don’t be afraid.”

Again, the voice is everywhere, directionless, but it doesn’t matter. Ryan knows where the whispered voice is coming from. It’s the goddamn box.

“Wha … what do you want from me?”

At first no answer comes. He has almost convinced himself that his mind had just played a trick on him when the whisper came again.

“Nothing. From you. We are here only to grant your wish, isn’t that what you want?”

“Wish?” He pauses, racking his brain for an explanation, but is unable to find one. “What do you mean, wish? Who are you?”

“I … am …”

“What? I can’t hear you! Who are you?

But there is no answer this time.

“Do you mean I can make a wish? Like you’re some sort of genie?” The idea is attractive. A magic box with a magic genie inside. What would he wish for? Money most likely, enough so that he could never spend it all. So much he could make his ma rich too, and forget about being a leech on her and everyone else he ever cared about.

“Hello? How many wishes do I get?”

Silence.

“Are you even there?”

Again, no response. He takes a tentative step toward the box. Alarms are truly going off in his head now, but he ignores them. Perhaps this is the answer he needs, the ultimate gift, maybe from God himself, though he has never been much of a believer when it comes to religion.

For another moment, he only stands over the box, waiting to see if the voice will speak again, but it never does. It makes no difference. He thinks he understands what is required from him. Just a tiny leap of faith, and all his problems would be over. He could think of himself as a man again.

Steeling himself and his resolve, he reaches toward the box, closes his eyes, and plunges his hand into the depths.

Something grabs him back. Something freezing, like the ice tipped peaks of a jagged mountain top. It squeezes and Ryan screams, “AAAAAAAGH LET GO LET GO LET GO!”

That frozen touch begins to burn, and a paralyzing sensation begins to travel up his arm. Too late, he realizes he’s has made a terrible mistake.

Now he knows what it is. Oh yes, now he knows but it’s too late. As the freezing, burning, paralyzing sensation works its way up to his shoulder, down his chest and to his legs, he thinks his first guess was right. It really is nothing. Nothing has seized him in its terrifying grip and it is quickly shaping him in its image. In a way it’s eating, devouring him, because it hungers for all living things.

Soon the burning sensation has reached his entire body, and he watches, helpless, as he is pulled toward the opening in the box. He cannot fight, can no longer scream, there is nothing he can do but watch his end draw nearer.

The phone in his pocket rings. He has time to think, I’m sorry ma, at least I won’t be around to burden you anymore.

And then time runs out.

Short StoryHorror
6

About the Creator

Kenny Penn

Thanks for reading! I enjoy writing in various genres, my favorites being horror/thriller and dark/epic fantasies. I'll also occasionally drop a poem or two.

For a list of all my work, and to connect with me, go to www.kennypenn.com

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

Add your insights

Comments (4)

Sign in to comment
  • Brian Cassell about a year ago

    I love this story bro. Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for…

  • Claire Guérinabout a year ago

    “Hello? How many wishes do I get?” - I simply love this sentence! You managed to capture this interesting character in a single sentence, masterful! Very strong theme, too. Well done Kenny!

  • SC Wellsabout a year ago

    The way you describe the absence of anything inside the box is awesome. I really pictured it and it felt so scary. Also, the voice that comes from the box is super creepy. Absolutely love it. A wonderful idea!

  • Novel Allenabout a year ago

    Beautifully written. I love the carved box. Great writing.

Find us on social media

Miscellaneous links

  • Explore
  • Contact
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Support

© 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.