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Silver Box

Time to do what is right

By Joshua MaggsPublished 3 years ago 8 min read

The morning sun shone through the lone window of the shack. The rays of light hit Oliver on the face, as he rolled over in frustration. Surely it wasn’t time to wake yet. The birds chirped away outside as they had done every morning. The fire had settled down after burning to provide heat and warmth throughout the night. Oliver sat up, rubbed his eyes and placed his feet on the floor. He went through his mental checklist. Put out fire. Check. Find something to eat. Check. Go find more wood. Must do. Put on gas mask. Check. He gathered his rack sack, bow and arrow and started to make his way through the forest towards the river. There was no means of any communication since the dreaded day ten years ago. He tried to not think about the events and memories of that time. He was only eight, and to be fair couldn’t remember a lot about what happened. It was the memory of his family that hurt the most.

The sun had made its trek higher into the sky as Oliver arrived to the river. He knelt down next to the gushing water. He placed his rack sack beside him and pulled out a tattered drink bottle. He placed it into the flowing water and filled it. He cupped his hands, placed them into the water and splashed it onto his face. He rubbed his eyes dry and stood up. He looked across the river to the embankment while looking intently. Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye he saw something that shouldn’t have been there. Something silver was glistening at the edge of the water. It was stuck in the sand yet still partly submerged in the water. He squinted making sure he wasn’t seeing things. It was definitely there. He took off his t-shirt and jumped into the water and swam across the river to collect this mysterious looking box. As he approached it, he noticed a small padlock on the side. It was completely sealed shut. Good, he thought, nothing inside will be damaged. He grabbed the box quickly and made his way back across the river.

Oliver placed the box in his rack sack until he was back at his shack before trying to open it. He had gathered enough wood for the night and made sure everything was secure before locking himself in for the evening. On the wall behind him were photos of his family. His mother, father and his younger sister. Next to the photos was a small teddy bear and a heart shaped locket. The teddy bear was his sisters, and the locket belonged to his mother. He didn’t have anything of his fathers. He wished he did. He looked down at the box in his lap. He broke off the padlock and pulled off the seal. Inside was a diary and a note that read ‘To the one who finds this… thank you’. Oliver had no idea what the importance of this box was, or meant. That was, until he opened the diary.

‘I must let you know the importance of this diary. I have kept a detailed record of the events of the past few weeks and know I don’t have much time left. I won’t start at the beginning, because I know we all know how it begins. I’ll start by telling you this. Don’t be afraid. This airborne pathogen wasn’t natural, nor a mistake. It was deliberately created to wipe out fifty percent of the world’s population. But, it clearly did more than just that. I remember that day clearly. The news spread like wildfire. Out of nowhere people in Europe began having trouble breathing. No one knew what was going on. Ordinary masks didn’t help. If you were fortunate enough in acquiring a gas mask, then that protected you. But then, we who are left, have seen the worst in humanity throughout the world became very clear on that dreaded day. Millions had lost their lives in one day by the time the pathogen had circulated around the globe. And so, my research and investigation led to finding out the true cause of this horrible catastrophic event.’ Oliver slammed the diary shut. Surely this was all a joke. No one knew what and why it had happened. Tears welled up in his eyes. He blew out the small candle and closed his eyes.

The rain fell down in millions of little droplets. The sun was nowhere to be seen. Dark, gloomy grey clouds formed above with flashes of lightning and thunder. Oliver woke to water dripping through the shack’s roof and onto his nose. He quickly wiped his face dry and got out of bed to fix the hole in the roof. The fireplace was about to run out of fuel as he noticed the silver box sitting on the shelf. Next to it was the diary where he had left it. He looked at it. He wanted to know more but at the same time he didn’t. It hurt too much. Going back and reliving that day. It already had its own way of repeating itself over and over, like a broken record stuck on the same note. The diary sat there as if it were whispering to Oliver to pick it up and read it. He looked over at it, unsure yet perplexed. His curiosity overtook his unwillingness and he picked up the diary. He read and read hour after hour. ‘The research shows that this originated by human manipulation to decrease population sizes. The chemical compounds of the gas…’ Gas? It wasn’t a disease? Oliver was really confused, but then he thought about it. People died because they couldn’t breathe. Yet, animals didn’t. Plants didn’t. He looked up from the diary and looked over at the gas mask sitting on the table. He looked carefully at the mask. His memory provided small snapshots of his father handing him the mask, and telling him to put it on. He remembered looking over at his sister, who also had the same mask on. His parents looked both of them in the eyes as they closed the car door behind them. Oliver looked up through the window as they placed the top of their clothing over their mouths. They started coughing and were struggling. He didn’t want to remember the rest. He looked back down at the diary. ‘The compound was designed not to harm animals or the process of oxygenation to plants. After a process of elimination, it was determined a group of radical criminals had conspired and produced such a gas, and distributed it throughout the world through thousands of vents in and around large cities…’

Oliver threw the diary across the room. It hit the shelf and knocked off his sister’s teddy bear. These wretched people created this gas? And spread it all over the world, for what? He thought, as he began to cry. He had lost his whole family, because of the actions of these criminals? Those who survived turned on each other especially for the gas masks. Many fled to forests where the trees would help relieve the air of the pollutant. He remembered hiding in the car for hours with his little sister. After dark, they opened the door of the car and ran and ran. They reached the forest after days of walking. Oliver looked up from his hands and saw the teddy bear. His little sister had gone missing a few days after building their shack. He spent days trying to find her but with no success. The rain started again with loud cracks of thunder and lightning. Night had set in and had brought with it a taste of revenge.

Oliver flicked through the diary trying to find anything that could help him get back at these people. He didn’t know if they were still alive or not. That didn’t matter to him. All he wanted was revenge for the death of his family. This diary was the only thing that could give him peace, and ultimately the revenge he now wanted. He flicked toward the back pages of the diary and saw diagrams of machines that looked like something from a movie. A note fell out of the back of the book, and fell towards the floor. Oliver saw it fall out, and lent over to pick it up. It was long and detailed. ‘You might be wondering why this letter isn’t written in this diary. That’s because it was never meant to be needed. But fear can make you do strange things. I can hear the same people who created this horrific gas entering this building now. I know where and how to stop this gas from spreading. If you’ve found this note I know that whoever you are, you are now the hope, to help those that remain on this planet. These are the last words I will pen and or speak. On the back of this note is the location where the gas is piped from. Destroy it. No one has known the location of this place until now. It has taken me ten years to find it with the help of my former colleagues. You’ll see a tank rising out of the ground. Destroy it’.

Oliver turned the note over to find a map with directions. He knew where this was. It was an abandoned warehouse yard that he’d been past several times, actually hundreds of times. This is where it was being pumped out of this entire time? He felt anger and rage. It was still dark outside. He looked around at the shack he had built with his little sister. He thought back at the memories he had created in this place. His sister’s teddy bear was still on the ground where it landed earlier after being knocked off the shelf earlier. He picked it up off the ground and grabbed his mother’s heart shaped locket from the shelf too. He picked up his rack sack and put out the fireplace.

It was still raining. It was dark and cold. He put on his jacket and placed on his gas mask. He neared the edge of the forest and as he did, he turned and looked back at his home for ten years. He knew he had to get his revenge, and it would taste wonderful. He began walking to the place where the note had led him. The rain began to fall heavier, water began flowing between his feet with every step. He could see the wire mesh fence in the distance. It was covered with barbed wire at the top. He had no intention of climbing it, but he could do what he had come to do right here, at the fence. He stopped for a moment. Rain bucketing down, soaking him and the ground. The moment he had longed for had finally come. He never thought it would. But it had. He placed his rack sack on the ground and knelt down. He pulled out his bow and arrow and a pot of oil. He had a couple of matches left. He saw the teddy and the heart shaped locket on top of the sack. Suddenly something changed. He wasn’t doing this for revenge, but for love. The love of his family. He would save countless numbers of survivors by doing this. It was never about revenge, but sacrifice. Just like his parents did. He was doing this for them, his sister and for the millions of people he didn’t even know. Tears mixed with droplets of rain washed down his face as he prepared the arrow. He lit the fire on the tip, and aimed it at the emerging tank. Time stood still as the arrow shot through the air and hit the tank with an almighty, fatal explosion.

Short Story

About the Creator

Joshua Maggs

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    Joshua MaggsWritten by Joshua Maggs

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