Stan Daffin looked down at his gold wedding band as he spun it in his fingers. It was all that he had left from his marriage and now he was contemplating selling it for rent money. His ex had taken everything else from him with help from her father, even his laptop. She had sprung the divorce on him about 6 months ago (6 months and 12 days to be exact). He sighed, he wouldn’t get more than $300 for the ring and that wouldn’t even cover half the rent he owed. He placed it on the dresser, he would think about it later.
His bad luck had carried over into his career as well. His co-worker Pete stole credit for an error that he found that would have cost the company millions. Pete got promoted for this, then six weeks ago got Stan fired. He hadn’t been able to find a job since, and was almost out of money. He was feeling desperate, so much so that he had prayed last night, to God, or anyone else who would listen. It was pathetic he knew, but knowing didn’t get rid of the knot in his stomach.
Stan grabbed his phone from the night table. “No Service” it read. Of course it did, it hadn’t worked since he missed paying his bill 2 weeks ago. He didn’t have time to think of that, he had to get to the unemployment office to find a new job. He was determined to get an interview today, so he had his best suit on. He grabbed the keys and wallet from the counter when he heard something drop in the hall. It sounded like it had landed just outside his door.
Stan opened the door and peered out. Lying in the hall in front of his door was a pale orange envelope with his name scrawled across the front, no address, no sign of who it was from, just “STAN” written in dark black ink in the creepiest print he had ever seen. The ink looked seared into the paper. Looking up and down the hall he saw no one who could have dropped it there. Confused, Stan brought the envelope in. He tore it open and dumped its contents onto the kitchen table. A single leather-bound black book fell out. It was about the size of his palm and had no distinguishing features. Stan reached out and picked it up. He felt a sinking feeling as he touched it, but pushed it aside. He turned it over in his hand, but there was nothing written on it. He opened it and found something written on the first page, an address, “16 Perry Avenue”. The rest of the book was blank.
He glanced at the clock. “Shoot, the bus!”
He shoved the book into his pocket and ran out of the apartment, fumbling with the lock as he left. Running got him to his stop seconds before the bus. He squeezed himself in as the bus was packed this morning. Nearly everyone filed out at his stop, most heading to the unemployment office with him. He had hoped to beat the crowd today and be first in the door, but he was out of luck again. He waited with the swarm of people for the office to open.
The day was chaotic, he sent out a flurry of resumes and cold-called a bunch of businesses. He wasn’t qualified for any of the handful of jobs posted but applied for them all anyways. Despite the mayhem of the day, the black book and the mysterious address kept popping into his head. As the day drew to an end curiosity got the better of him and he decided to check out the address. He searched the address on a computer and printed off a map.
It was still light out when he got to Perry Street. This wasn’t the best neighbourhood, so stan felt nervous as he walked up the street. The street was eerily empty, but he was thankful that no one seemed to be out at this time. His eye was drawn to a large oil stain in the middle of the street. When the sun hit it, the oil almost looked red, so maybe it was transmission fluid.
It wasn’t a long street and he grew confused as he approached the end. The last house on the right was 12 Perry street, no 14 and definitely no 16. He pulled out the book to make sure he hadn’t read the address wrong. But when he opened the book, the address was gone, in its place was written “look in the bushes”. Stunned, Stan flipped through the rest of the book looking for the address, but it was nowhere to be found.
Stan felt a cold chill as he put the book back into his pocket. He nervously approached the nearest bushes and pulled back the leaves. There under the bushes sat a Ziplock bag containing 3 large rolls of money each wrapped in an elastic band. Looking around, Stan didn’t see anyone around, even the windows were empty. He quickly shoved the bag into his jacket pocket and briskly walked towards the bus stop.
“This belongs to someone,” he muttered to himself as he walked. “I should bring it in to the police. Whoever lost this will want it back.”
Stan stood at the bus stop and pulled out the book examining it. This seemed wrong, it was too much to just be a coincidence. How could the words in the book change? How would it know where this money was hidden? What was going on here? Had someone swapped books on him? If so, who and why? His fingers trembled as he opened the book. Again, the words were gone this time replaced with another message. “This is your money now. Do not go to the police.”
His jaw dropped and his hands started to shake. He closed the book again and asked. “Who dropped this money? Where did it come from?”
He opened the book as a new bigger knot formed in his stomach. The crisp white page showed yet another new message. “Do not worry about that, it is yours now. You need it more.”
Stan dropped the book in shock. “Impossible” He whispered to himself.
The book landed closed on the ground. Suddenly it swung open, as if caught by the wind. But there was no wind and hadn’t been all day. Written across the pages in large print was the message. “Pick me up, we are not done yet.”
Stan’s eyes went wide. He picked up the book and slipped it into his pocket. His heart was pounding, and his head was spinning a little. ‘This isn’t real. It can’t be happening!’ was all he could think. The bus came and Stan stepped on and sat in the back. A few transfers later he was home, but the whole trip seemed like a blur. He closed the door and locked it behind him. He checked for the book, it was still there and so was the money.
Stan hurried to the windows in a panic and closed all the blinds. Turning on his kitchen light, he went to the door and double checked that he had locked it. Then he pulled the money out and began to count. It was a mix of $20, $50, and $100 bills. There was $20,000 in total. Stan couldn’t believe his eyes. He could tell it was a large amount of money, but he hadn’t expected it to be this much. He felt excited and scared at the same time. This would solve his money troubles for quite a while, but there is no way someone wasn’t missing this money.
He stared down at the little black book. He didn’t know what it was or where it had come from. Was it evil? Stan felt sweat forming on his brow.
“Are…Are you a good or evil book? Are you after my soul or something?” Stan asked.
Hand shaking, he reached out and grabbed the book. Closing his eyes, he opened to the first page. He slowly started to peek, scared about what he would see.
Written in heavy black ink, in all capital letters was a message. “HOW INSULTING! YOU DARE QUESTION ME AFTER BEING SO KIND AND GENEROUS TO YOU? THE NERVE!”
Seeing the words made Stan flinch and drop the book. “Sorry, sorry, sorry!” He said as he clumsily picked it back up. He opened it up, worried about what else it would say.
“It’s alright, I forgive you, but you have seen too many movies. There is no good and evil, there is only those who get caught and those who do not. As for your soul, I have no use for such things. There is no one who would want your soul, or anyone else’s for that matter. You foolish humans are the ones who made up that silly myth. But I heard your call for help, and I decided it would be fun to answer. You’ve had a tough run of luck and you deserve a break.”
Stan felt tears welling up. “Thank you.” He said as he hugged the book.
He packed up the money and put in into a shoebox under his bed. The book sat on the table as he ate supper but couldn’t bring himself to say anything else to it. Before bed he got the nerve up to ask one more question. “What else do you have planned for us?”
His fingers trebled as he opened the page. “First we make a visit to your bank to make some investments. Then I think we will pay a visit to your ex. But for now, you should get some rest.”
Stan carefully placed the book under his pillow and laid his head down, he was asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.
When Stan woke up the next morning, he just laid in bed. ‘That was a nice dream’ he thought as he stared at the ceiling. He didn’t want to get up for a little bit. He wanted to pretend that it was all real, that he had $20,000 just sitting in a shoebox under his bed, and a book under his pillow that was helping his solve all his problems.
“Man, I wish that had been real.” He said with a sigh. Then he realized that he had to get to the unemployment office. If he didn’t go in early, there would be no chance of getting any jobs. But then, what was the point? He had gone in early everyday for the past week and it had done him no good. What was one day?
He sighed again and hugged his pillow, when his hand hit something. Confused he lifted up the pillow and found the little black book sitting there.
“It… It was real?”
He jumped out of bed and pulled a shoebox out from underneath it. Heart pounding, he opened it. It was filled with money. Stan began to breath hard; his eyes grew cloudy with tears. How was this possible? He had been sure it was all a dream. How could any of this be real?
He reached for the book and opened it up. There was a message. “Good morning Stan. Yes, it was all real. Now get dressed in that spiffy suit of yours, we have got a busy day ahead of us.”