Chapter 34: The closed box
The box was extremely old and blackened with age and evidence of fire. The ornate lid was carved with strange symbols. Around the body of the box were intricate scenes of suffering and damnation. A discomfort came with just seeing the vessel; touching it was worse. It was cold, like touching death. On the front staring at anyone who dared to try to open the box was a golden skull. Its red-ruby eyes burned brightly. Looking at it Alex felt like it was watching him, daring him to try to open it. Cautiously he ran a finger along the face. It moved slightly under his touch. His mouth was a desert while his throat burned. He tried to swallow. Every breath felt like dust in his lungs. Feeling the eyes on his back, he moved the skull. It slid smoothly up, revealing fangs on the top and bottom. In the middle of the mouth was a small keyhole.
“Are you freaking kidding me?” Aaron growled, snatching the box from Alex’s grip. Jamming the claw end of a hammer between the top and bottom, he tried to force it open. He stood it on end, stood on the large half, and tried again to pry it open. Now Arthur and Aaron had a crowbar. Metal clanged as they tried to force the bar into the crack. The lid did not budge while barely a scratch appeared on the ancient wood.
Ignoring Alex’s protests, Aaron tried the saw, a drill, a hacksaw, and pounded the box with a sledgehammer. He was about to take it outside to run it over with the truck when Alex grabbed it. “I don’t know what the hell is keeping this shut, but look at it!” He held it out. Nothing made even the slightest mark on the surface. “We have to use the key, or there is no way in to this thing.”
“We were lucky to find that thing. How the hell are we going to find the key for it?” Aaron shouted. Alex and Aaron turned as their father grumbled something as he headed to the door. He turned back to the boys as he turned the knob.
“Chloe, I’m counting on you to keep these two from doing anything stupid with that thing.” He nodded to the box. “I’ll be back in a half hour.” The door closed on three confused faces.
Twenty minutes later found the three of them staring at the impenetrable box. Holding up a chisel, Aaron asked, “What if I—?”
“No,” Chloe and Alex replied, annoyance clear in each. Aaron was crestfallen. Frustrated, he wandered down the hall. Inspecting the ancient grandfather clock that ticked away the moments, he grumbled.
“Dad will be back any minute.” He spun to face them, a manic gleam in his eye. “Let me have just one more whack at it!”
Before a response could be made, the front door swung wide, aided by a cold wind that scattered leaves across the foyer. Lightning flashed, silhouetting a man in the opening. Alex fell back out of his chair, Chloe squeaked in fear, while Aaron cried out, “What a bunch of babies.” Arthur grumbled as he shut the door behind him. His hands held an ancient book and a leather pouch.
“Um, just startled, that’s all.” Alex got guiltily to his feet. “Say, what have you got there, Dad?”
Arthur moved closer to the box but did not answer his son. Alex looked over his father’s shoulder at the tome he had set beside the wooden casket. The binding creaked as Arthur carefully opened the yellowed pages.
“Is that…a spell book?” Chloe breathed.
Alex, Aaron, and Chloe stood entranced, waiting with a collective held breath. Arthur’s eyes rose slowly from the musty page to meet theirs. “What?” he asked as a quizzical look crossed his face. Metal tools clinked free from the leather pouch. “No, this is Granddad’s manual on blacksmithing. My granddad’s, I mean. What the hell would I be doing with a spell book?” He shook his head at his sons. Chloe suppressed a laugh by trying to turn it into a cough.
“Good try.” Aaron frowned. “Since when do ghosts cough?”
Laughing now, Chloe replied, “It could happen.”
Alex ignored the conversation behind him as he watched his father work. Excitement built with each click in the tiny lock. Every time Arthur seemed to think he had it, the box remained resolutely shut. Suddenly Aaron cried out, “Blood! I bet it needs a blood offering. I mean, that is what this type of thing needs in the movies, right?” He grabbed a box cutter and began to inspect his fingers, trying to determine which one to cut. The blade began to press into the flesh when…
“Got it. Put the knife away, dummy.” Arthur held the open box out to them.