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A Ticking Time-Box

Mystery Box Challenge

By Megan AlyssePublished 4 months ago Updated 4 months ago 14 min read

"Tick, tick, tick."

4pm, 4:05pm, 4:07pm.

I shake my head to clear the fogginess from my vision.

Stop looking at the clock, it doesn't make the time go by any faster.

Thanks, brain. I get it. I sigh audibly and roll my shoulders back out of my hunchback position, spread my arms out to either side, and give myself a good shake. Not enough to look like a psychopath but enough to get the blood pumping a little.

It's one of those days. One of those days that the only thing I need more than a bottle of wine is it to be 5 o'clock.

You're almost there, just work a little on the report that's due next week and it'll be time to leave.

Right, do something instead of staring at the clock. Thanks, logic. I let out another long sigh and pull up the report. It's almost done, just needs some editing is all. I double space it and get to work. Line by line I go, my eyes squinted and my lips mumbling hushed sentences as I read my work out loud to make sure it makes sense outside of my own head.

My phone buzzes. I ignore it. I am in the zone. My phone buzzes again and again and again. Jesus, who is blowing me up?

I look down at the screen but before I start to decipher who could possibly be bothering me, I gasp at the time....4:55!

I've done it! I save my work, log out, spin myself around hard in my chair twirling a couple times with excitement like a schoolgirl, and grab my big duffel bag of a purse. I pop up from my seat, and head toward the door. I am FREE!

"Bye Amanda, have a great weekend!" I call to my right. Amanda looks up at me with her squinty eyes and pursed lips.

"You too." She practically growls.

I laugh internally, she hates me. I love to kill her with my enthusiasm and joy because it absolutely annoys the living daylights out of her.

"Have a good weekend John, see you later Alex, have fun on your trip Jessica..." the list goes on as I say my goodbyes to the people I like best in the office all the while moving as quickly as I can toward the door before that sleezeball...

"You didn't say bye to me yet, Penelope."

Because you're a freaking pervert and I don't like you.

I smile my fakest smile possible and drench my voice in honey, "Have a wonderful weekend, asshole." The smile drops from his face, but I don't stay around for his reaction as I've already blown past him and push open the door. Maybe I'll be hearing from HR, or maybe he will finally get the hint. Either way I do not care. I am clocked out and am a soveirgn being again.

At least, until 7am Monday morning.

I hurl myself into the drivers seat of my beat up 1997 Toyota Camry, crank the heat up, and rub my hands together fast before gripping the freezing cold steering wheel. It's late January, and the roads are slick, and the sun is gone, and the air is colder than my heart. Hah, poetic.

I don't live far, but make a stop at the liqour store down the street from my house.

"Hellllloooo Jerry."

"Penelope, you really need to slow down." Jerry has his back to me and is standing in the second aisle. Clipboard in hand, checking off his list. His voice oozes with disappointment.

"Jerry loosen up, it's Fridaaaaayyyyy!" I practically skip to his aisle and stand in front of him with my hands on my hips.

"You own a liquor store for goodness sakes, don't you ever have any fun?"

Jerry looks down at me, his black square framed glasses sliding down his nose.

"I know your hearts broken, but if you're not careful you're gonna break your liver too."

I giggle.

"Didn't know you were a doctor, Jerry. What should I do tonight, whiskey, vodka...oooooh how about gin? Haven't had a gin and tonic in a while. Yes, I think a bottle of Bombay will do the trick!"

I mosey over to the gin aisle, and pluck the blue sapphire bottle from the shelf, head to the fridge to grab cold tonic, and waltz myself to the register.

Jerry is standing behind the counter with his salt and pepper hair, kind brown eyes, and thin lips pressed together in dismay over my life choices.

"Jerry please don't give me that look. I promise I won't do this forever. I just have to get through the winter."

"That's what they all say Ms. Penelope."

I hand Jerry the cash. "Well, I am the exception of course."

He rolls his eyes and I smile sweetly at him as he hands me the brown paper bag. "Don't drink and drive."

"Of course!" I say as I skip out the door and tumble myself into my tiny car. I whiz past the couple streets it takes me to get home, and pull up into my driveway. My driveway. My house.

No longer ours and we and us. Just mine. She is cute. A cute first home with a cute small yard and big oak tree we hung a big woven hammock on. The same one we would sit on, cuddled together, on a nice day and look up at the sky through the tree branches.

That's enough.

Right. I stop myself from the bombardment of good memories, climb out of the car, and head toward the front door. I curse out loud as I realize my house keys are buried in the bottom of my duffel bag and have to squat down to sit the liquor on the floor to search for them.

That's weird. A package.

Lodged between the vase of my big potted (dead) plant and the wall. What a weird place to put it too. Regardless, I pick it up. It's small, no bigger than the size of a toaster, but heavy. Really heavy.


I set it back on the floor, realizing I need both arms to carry it and still don't have my keys out. I hear the jangle of keys at the bottom of the bag, fish them out, unlock the door, turn back for the package, squat down, heft it into my arms, and walk inside. I walk straight to the dining room table and set the package on the dark oak as gently as I can. It's so heavy it still makes a deep "thud."

Huh, what the heck could this be?

"The gin!"

I turn back toward the front door, realizing I left the gin on the floor outside. I open the door, retrieve my lost treasure, head straight toward the kitchen, grab a nice crystal glass out of the cabinet, and pour myself a much deserved drink.

I can't lie and say I savor it. I chug down the first glass, and pour another, and another, and another. The buzz hits me like a ton of bricks, and my toes feel too warm in my boots. I pour myself one more glass to hold and sip as I float back to the dining room.

The package!

I grab a pair of scissors from the junk drawer in the kitchen and rush back to the mysterious brown box on my dining room table.

Huh. That's weird, no label. I heft the package up and flip it to the other side. Nothing. Just a heavy ass brown box.

What if it's a bomb!

I laugh out loud. Well, that would save me the embarrassment of having to tell everyone I am officially divorced.

I unconsciously touch my left ring finger with my thumb. Half expecting the gold band to still be there to fidget with as my anxiety spikes, and realize theres only an empty space and bare skin.

I sigh. Yah, a bomb would be great right now.

Shut up you lunatic.

I take a sip from my glass, set it down, and cut the box open.

"Tick, tick, tick."

"Holy shit it is a bomb."

The world goes black.

I jolt awake.

"Tick, tick, tick."

What the heck? I am sitting upright in my office chair. In my cubicle. At work. I glance over at the small side clock on my desk. 4:07pm. What happened? Did I really fall asleep at my desk again? I groan. I do not need a write up right now.

Oh well. It's Friday, at least the work load is light, and it's officially less than an hour until I am freeeee.

I was having the strangest dream, though. I was drinking, drunk on gin actually, opening a package in my dining room.

Wow, I remember everything. I can even taste the semi-sweetness of the tonic and the sharp bite of gin on the back of my tongue.

So strange, I never dream. Oh well. I just need to get out of here. Gin does sound great right now.

Maybe you should work on the report due next week.

Right brain, good idea. I pull up the report, double space it for editing purposes and go line by line.

I shake my head. I swear I fixed all this already. Did I not save it? Oh, well. I will make sure I save it this time. I just need to get it done. It doesn't need too much else, just some editing is all.

I look at the clock...4:45pm. Close enough. A bathroom break will cut the 10 minutes down some.

I save my work, triple check that I saved my work, close the computer tab, and head to the bathroom.

"Well, well, well, look who decided to walk by my desk."

Oh my god. Why does he always have to say something to me? There are 20 other women in here, and I swear he always finds the time just for me.

"Well, Tony, your cubicle is by the restroom and I have to take a shit."

The look of shock on his face was priceless. I can't say I've ever left a man speechless by professing my bowel movements, but there's a first for everything. Besides, I am in no mood for his BS today. I need to figure out why I feel so strange. I walk into the women's and check the three stalls. Okay, I am by myself. I look in the mirror.


I look hungover. My eyes are blood shot and puffy, my lips are dried and cracked. My face looks flat and too pale. I look bad, and I am beginning to feel worse.

A wave of nausea wiggles its way through my body and settles at the pit of my stomach. Oh no. I think I might be sick.

I run to the first stall and puke my guts out. Relief washes over me as the nausea dissipates, but I can't help but notice a certain smell. Beneath the vomit and my lunch all I can smell is...gin and tonic.

I haven't had gin and tonic in forever.

I need to get home, now.

I flush, and rush out of the bathroom. Stop by my desk, clock out, grab my huge purse and head toward the door.

"Bye Penelope, have a good weekend!" A crowd of people call out to me as I scurry toward the exit.

"You too! Same to you! Bye Alex!" I call my goodbyes over my shoulder as my head pounds harder and harder. I plop into my beat up old car, grip the steering wheel with both hands, and peel out of the parking lot.

I don't even bother to turn the heater on because the cold brings relief to the throbbing on my forehead. Fifteen minutes later I am pulled up into my driveway and am stumbling out of my car toward the front door. Keys in hand, I am ready to swallow a handful of advil and fall into bed. My fingers are numb, though, I fumble with the lock and drop the keys on the floor.


As I squat to pick them up, I see it.

The package.

Memories flood back into my brain with such violance, I stumble back and land flat on my butt. I bring my hand to my forehead and can feel my pulse....thud, thud, thud in time with my heart.

That wasn't a dream.

Well, universe. I don't know what wormhole you threw me in to, but go ahead and shove my foot up your...

I hear a clattering from my bedroom upstairs. Oh no.

I heave the box into my arms, unlock the front door and walk inside. I hover at the entrance, listening. There's a thud from the area that is my bedroom above me. As quietly as I can, I shift the box to my left hip and dig into my purse for my phone.

There is someone in my house. My fingers wrap around the rectangle and I slowly back out of the front door.

"Where do you think you're going?"

I freeze. I want to pee myself. There is someone behind me. Most definitely male. Do I run forward, do I scream?

Do something.

But he is close. Too close for me to run. I feel a sharp point at the small of my back. Oh no.

"Go inside Penelope." Well too late to escape. I walk forward like the man with the knife told me to. He stays with me step by step, I can hear him shut the door behind me. This box is heavy.

I guess nows my chance. I take a bigger step forward so the knife isn't on my back anymore, take a quick step to my left and swing the box with all my might at the mans temple.

But I am too slow. He reaches up with his knife hand and impales me in the forearm. This must of shocked him too because he lets go as I stumble backward. Red hot pain shoots up my forearm, but my adrenaline is pumping. The man, now without the knife, is coming toward me.

I am going to die.

Well wormhole, let's see what you got. The knife has gone straight through my arm. I grab the handle and maneuver the knife to cut the tape of the box...

"Tick, Tick, Tick."

Here we go again.

I wake up so suddenly, I fall out of my chair and land chest first onto my cubicle floor.

"Oh my god, sweetheart, are you okay?"

Before I can answer, there are hands around my waist trying to help me up.

"Take your hands off of me!" I say this too loudly, but I don't care. The adrenaline is still pumping as I was just about to die. The last thing I need is creepy Tony touching me.

The hands come off of my body, and I scramble to my feet.

"Jeez, I was just trying to help." Tony is standing in front of me with his hands out in front, palms up in surrender.

"Just leave me alone, Tony."

"Alright, I get it."

I survey the room. Everyone is staring at me.

"My husband left me for another woman!" I start laughing, grab my purse and head toward the door.

"Penelope, please come back here..."

"Kiss my ass Amanda!" I say as I turn around, flick her off with both hands and push myself out of the building.

I flop into my car and sit for a second.

Okay. My forearm is throbbing, but looks physically fine, there is a man breaking into my house as we speak, a strange wormhole box at my front door. What reality did I wake up in today?

My phone, where is my phone?

I dig into my purse.

20 missed calls from an unknown number. Well, it can't get any worse. I dial the number back.

The line barely rings before the person on the other side picks up.

"Hello?" I whisper sheepishly.

"Don't let anyone take the box, Penelope."

The line drops. I shove the keys into the ignition and race out of the parking lot.

I don't know who that was. But the person's voice, if that was a person, made it very clear what I have to do.

I need that box.

I skirt home. Someone is in my house right now looking for that box, but I know where it is.

I park on the street, leave the car running. Run up the grass of my yard to the front door, and grab the box that's tucked behind the dead plant. A piece of paper flutters to the ground this time. I grab the paper too and run back to the car.

As I slam the door behind me, two men come bolting out of my front door.

Ha! I did it!

There's only one place I know will be safe. I pull up to the back of the liquor store and use the emergency exit I know is always open.


I walk from the back of the store to the second aisle where I knew he would be.

"Penelope, what in the.."

"Just shut up and hear me out. I have a magic box."

"Are you drunk, Jesus, Penelope.."

"No, trust me. I have a letter too."

Right, the letter. I pull it out of my pocket, set the box on the floor, stand next to Jerry, straighten it out, and read out loud next to him...

"By the order of the Galactic Time Traveling Federation we hereby decree that, Penelope Galvan, be the proud guardian of the Time Traveler's Box. Guard it with your life."

"What's in the box, Penelope, drugs? You have to be on drugs."

Jerry picks the box up from the floor and rips the top open before I can stop him.

"Jerry, no!"

"Tick, tick, tick."

Sci Fi

About the Creator

Megan Alysse

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