The Box

chest

When the sun had died, and the world had turned black, a cruel darkness swept across the land. Everything and everyone was gone. No sound. No light.

All was lost. The birds refused to sing, and the land fell silent. The creatures fell down and died. A coldness, that the Earth had never felt, shrouded the planet.

A lonely man stumbled through the blackness.

When he found the hut, he had been walking for a long time. There was no way to tell how long, for now all was night, day never came to visit. It was as if he were no longer there. Simply wandering through his own mind.

“Do I still exist?” he wondered. “ Am I still here and the world gone?  Am I somewhere else?  Am I dead?”  All he could do was to continue to walk.

He drifted through the thick nothingness. At first it had glimmered with the colours he remembered, but they soon died. And all was black.

He saw it. In what seemed to be the distance was an object. Something. A distortion of the emptiness. Slightly blacker than that which surrounded.

He ventured closer, and it grew larger. It developed edges, sharp and tall. It formed two up-reaching slopes, meeting in a perfect point.

He reached forward, losing his hand.

Something moved when he touched it. A door, opening. An icy cold, colder than that which had hold of the world, blew out at him. He gripped tight to the frame of the door.

It was a small hut, comprising just one room. Inside he could just make out the figure of a man. Enormous. Thin and tall.

“Hello, stranger?  What brings you upon my house?  You have come to make a bargain?”  His voice boomed and echoed, shattering the cold air.

“But I think I do not know you stranger. I have happened upon your house by mere accident. I know nothing of that which you wish to sell, and I have nothing to bargain with.”

“Enter, sir. I think your arrival was of no mistake. We SHALL make a bargain.”  His voice was slow, and deep, echoing the emptiness of the world. “Come closer.”

He entered the building.

The door slammed shut behind him. The wooden walls shook and quivered.

“Look here.”  The stranger moved to one side to reveal a large wooden chest. It, too, was black and glowed darker than that which surrounded it. It had no decoration. Just one large circular handle.

He reached down and lifted the top of the chest.

The lid creaked and strained. As it moved the most glorious light flowed out over the edges, splashing down onto the floor. It climbed the walls. Small globules took flight and buzzed around the air filling it with overwhelming, rejuvenating warmth.

The man fell to his knees. He scooped up handfulls of the light, kissing it, and letting it rain down all over him.

As the glow filled the room, he looked down upon himself. His body was crippled and thin. His clothes were torn. His feet swollen and bloody.

“I see,” he said.

He lay on the floor, letting the light wash over him. He drank some, and spat it out into the air in great spurts.

“Oh thank you, stranger. How can I thank you?”

With a loud crash, the stranger slammed down the lid of the box. The light fell to a puddle on the floor, and slowly faded, until all again was dark.

The man fell to the stranger’s feet.

“Surely,” he said, “that is the most valuable box that ever existed. But what have I to trade. I have nothing that can match such value. Should I have it, I would give anything for this great box.”

The stranger stood, his red eyes the only thing left visible. “The box is yours. But remember, the box can not be taken from this place, and soon it will be empty. When the light fades, and returns to black, I shall come, and you will be mine.”  The stranger closed his eyes, and was gone.

At first he was careful. The box would only be opened for a few seconds at a time. Just long enough to warm his heart, and remind him of his existence.

As time passed, the box stayed open for longer. He used the light to heat himself, and to attract any food that might be lurking past. Eventually he forgot how to close the lid.

The light faded so gradually that he did not notice it ebbing away. It became harder to see, and animals were no longer drawn to the hut. The glow began to fold in at the edges of the room. It dripped down from the air in great globules. It seeped into the ground. Everything faded.

The lid of the box slowly creaked, and slammed shut with a force that shook the earth and rattled the sky.

He leaped at the box, gripped hold of the handle. He pulled and strained. “My light, my light.”

He pulled so hard that his fingers snapped out of their sockets. The lid would not budge. There was no light.

He fell once more to the floor. “Oh, the darkness, foul darkness.”  The room turned cold. The air thickened with a pungent odour. He shivered again.

The box hummed and creaked. The lid began, slowly, to open again. He crawled closer. The stink grew worse, the aroma of rotten flesh. The box threw out a voice. “Come.”

He dragged himself up on the side of the box. The stink was blowing out. The foul retched stench, made him cough and gag. He climbed up and crawled inside the box.

The lid slammed shut again.

All returned to black.

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