Jack and the Box Part One
The sound of raindrops on the metal roof echoed through the house, as Jack laid in bed waiting for sleep to come. It had been almost and hour since he crawled underneath the covers, but every time he closed his eyes, he could only conjure up darkness. After the first thirty minutes he gave up and just stared out the window. Watching the treetops sway like ocean waves at a beach.
The loud boom of thunder interrupted the raindrop rhythm, and a flash of lightning turned the dark and stormy night into day for a split second. After the sky once again calmed down, Jack made out the faintest sound of a car engine pulling up the house and shutting off. Jack hopped out of bed and darted to his window just in time to see a figure dart through the rain and into his house.
Jack ran out of his bedroom and down the stairs, to find his mom and his older brother Owen peeling off their wet jackets and stepping out of their mud covered shoes. As Jack stepped off the last step, the floor ground it adjusted to his weight, and Owen and their mom turned and looked at him.
“I didn’t know you were still awake,” Mary said while hanging her soaked jacket on a hook, “You have a package from your dad”. She then took the box from Owen and held it out for Jack to take. He took it and began to open it.
In the package was a numerous amount of bubble wrap, and a wooden box with multiple rusted, metal plates on the corners and sides. Jack took it out of the box and discovered a curved rod jutting out of one of the sides.
“What is it?” Jack asked examining it.
“It’s a jack in a box,” Mary replied, “You turn the handle a couple times and then a clown pops out”. She then took the box from her son and began to twist the rod. The room went silent as the familiar sound of POP Goes the Weasel filled the air, and the two boys moved closer to Mary as she continued to crank. As the last note squeaked out, a small card shot out of a slot on the front and floated to the carpet.
“Well I guess it’s broken,” Jack said breaking the silence, “Just like this family”. But before Mary or Owen could recant, the rod on the box began to rotate and the song once again filled the air. For the first few verses, the three just stared at the box with confusion.
Owen bent down and lifted the card from the floor and examined it. It was a golden brown and on one side had a few words written on it.
“A sturdy back, and legs counting four. I was once alive, but am no more.” Owen read aloud, “It’s a riddle. Is this some sort of game?”
“I guess..” Mary began, but was interrupted as the music finished and the box jolted and a small figure emerged from the opening. Owen and Jack jumped, as Mary tossed the box to the ground with a shriek.
The three stood in silence, as the wooden clown bobbed back and forth on its spring. The fabric used for its shirt and hat, was torn in some places, and its face was freckled in spots of chipped off paint and spiderwebbed in cracks. Its one eye showed the reflection of Mary and her sons, and its twisted smile sent shivers down Owen’s spine.
Then another card shot out from the slot and slid to Jack’s feet. He bent down, picked it up, and read out loud the one word types on it. “Chair? Is that the answer?”
“I guess so,” Mary replied picking up the box, and shoving the clown into the box and latching it, “We can look at it more tomorrow. You need to get some sleep”. With that she handed the box to Jack and chauffeured him up the stairs. Owen began to follow, when he saw something move out of the corner of his eye. But as soon as he turned to look at it, it seemed to disappear. He then turned his attention to his mom, who was returning down the stairs.
“You need to get some sleep too. We have an early day tomorrow.”
“I will after I take a quick shower,” Owen replied, “I’ll see you in the morning”. With that, Mary walked off into the kitchen to drink her nightly glass of wine, and Owen stomped up the stairs. As Owen walked down the hall to his room, Jack closed his bedroom door and tossed the box under his bed. He climbed back underneath the covers and closed his eyes to darkness.
Steam fogged up the bathroom mirrors, as Owen washed the night’s rainwater from his hair. He thought about the conversation he had with his dad only hours ago. His mom, Mary, teared up as his dad handed her papers and told her he was taking her to court for custody of him and Jack, and the ran began to fall from the thunderheads above.
Owen yelled at his dad and shouted every terrible word he could think of, and then helped his mom to the car and drove off. Leaving his dad standing in the rain that had just begun. It was only on the drive home did he realize the box his dad had given him to give Jack was still in his mom’s hands.
Owen’s thoughts were pulled away as the sound of gears clicking and a familiar tune filled the room. For a moment Owen just stood there trying to figure out if the sound was just in his head. He then peeked his head around the curtain and saw that the toy was nowhere to be seen.
Owen turned the water off and as soon as the water slowed, the song went away as quick as it had begun.
Owen stepped out of the shower and dried off with a nearby towel. As he dried his hair with the towel, he heard the faintest sound of the song once again. He looked up and the room went silent once again. Owen shrugged it off as the stress from recent events finally getting to him.
He wrapped the damp towel around his waist and walked to the cloudy mirror, and wiped away the hot steam to reveal his reflection. Owen’s heart skipped a beat as he spotted the jack in the box behind him in the reflection. The aged clown bobbed back and forth with its twisted smile.
Owen spun around in a blur, but the clown and box were nowhere to be seen. He searched the room with no result, and then got dressed and walked out into the chilli hallway.
Owen made his way to Jack’s room where he found his little brother fast asleep, and the jack in the box closed on his nightstand.
Mary quietly put away dishes as hot tears slide down her cheeks. The clock on the oven nearby read 2am, but Mary knew she wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight. Not while she knew that she would never be able to win custody of her boys in court.
She put a plate in a cabinet and turned around to find the old jack in the box on the kitchen table. “Oh god!” Mary shouted and put her hand over her chest, fearing it might leap from her chest.
“I thought Jack took you with him upstairs,” She said to herself walking toward the table.
Before she could pick up the box, a card shot out from the slot once more. She picked it up and read it to herself out loud. “Time’s up.”
Mary had only a moment to wonder what it meant before a deep groan filled the house as the china cabinet behind her began to tip over.
A shrill scream and crash woke Owen up from his dreamless sleep. He quickly jumped out of bed and run down the stairs. Owen arrived at the kitchen to find the china cabinet fallen over and a woman’s hand jutting out from under it.
The air in Owen’s lungs disappeared and he stood there frozen in place. He was then pulled out of his shocked state when Jack suddenly appeared at his side, screaming. Owen heard nothing of what his brother was saying, but reacted the only way he knew how. He grabbed his brother and tucked his face into his chest to shield him from the horrific view.
Owen led Jack out of the house, onto the porch, and into the rain. Owen called the police and they arrived shortly to find a woman under a china cabinet holding onto a jack in the box, now slightly dotted in red.