I’m telling you Billy, it’s out there somewhere and it’s all my fault.”
“Slow down Jimmy. What’s out where?”
“If I hadn’t opened that box everything would still be OK. I wish I’d never found the thing in the first place. We’ve got to find it Billy, get it back in that box before it’s too late.”
“Jimmy, I’ve no idea what you’re rambling on about mate. Why don’t I go and get us both another pint and you can start at the beginning.”
As Billy went to the bar Jimmy looked nervously around the room. He knew it was here. He couldn’t see it but he could smell it. When Billy returned Jimmy started his story.
Two nights ago he’d had this weird dream where some old lady was pulling him around his back garden. She had a map in her hand and seemed to be looking for something. Then she’d stopped, thrown a shovel at him and told him to start digging. As he did so she stood over him cackling.
“Then what?” asked Billy.
“Nothing. I was still digging when I woke up. I was wet with sweat and shivering like hell. When I finally got back to sleep the dream didn’t come back.”
“So why all these hysterics then?”
“Because last night I had exactly the same dream and it stopped in exactly the same place. Now that’s weird. You’ve got to admit Billy, that’s not right.”
“It’s just a nightmare. We all have them. Get a few pints down you and I guarantee you won’t have any dreams tonight.”
“But it’s not the dream I’m worried about Billy. It’s what I’ve gone and done.”
Billy sighed. Jimmy had been his best friend since they’d first met all those years ago in infant school but there were times when he drove him round the bend. Jimmy had such an overactive imagination and on top of that he was extremely gullible. You could tell him any nonsense you liked and, however crazy it was, the chances were he’d believe you. Obviously somebody had been feeding him with some daft and scary stories and he was taking them as the truth.
Jimmy looked around the room yet again. That smell was closer than ever. It felt it was at the same table as them. He still couldn’t see anything but had the distinct impression they weren’t alone. If only he hadn’t found that bloody box.
But this morning he couldn’t get the dream out of his head, so he’d gone to the garden shed, got out a spade and gone to the place where, in his dreams, that old woman had made him dig. An hour later he’d unearthed a small, wooden chest with a rusted padlock on. Taking it back to the shed he’d prised the padlock off with a crowbar.
He’d looked at the box sitting there on the work bench and had wondered what was inside. He smiled. If it turned out to be diamonds from a bank robbery or rolled up bundles of £20 notes he would share them with his best mate Billy.
The lid was rusted around the edge and he’d had to prize it open with a screwdriver. The suddenly the lid flung back and Jimmy was blinded by a bright light and a sudden whoosh of air blowing dust into his face. Covering his eyes from the light, he choked as the dust caught the back of his throat. Within seconds the light had gone and everything was silent.
As Jimmy told his story he felt as if someone or something was leaning in between them and listening. Billy could see that Jimmy was scared. Maybe this had actually happened, though he had his doubts.
“So go on then Jimmy, what great fortune did you find in the box? Am I about to become a multi-millionaire and share in the treasure from your mysterious box?”
“That’s just it Billy, there weren’t no treasure, just this.”
He handed Billy a folded piece of paper. As he did so he felt a cold chill seep down his spine and that smell was getting stronger. Billy opened the piece of paper and on it were the words ‘Thank you’
“Is that it? Is this what was in your mysterious box? What does it mean?”
“Don’t you see Billy. I’ve let it out and it’s let this message to let me know what I’ve done.”
“You’ve let what out Jimmy? What on earth are you talking about?”
“There was something terrible trapped in that box and I’ve gone and let it out. What’s more it’s been following me all day. It’s here now. Sat at this table listening to everything we say.”
“I think you’ve probably had too much to drink my friend. There’s nobody at this table but you and me. It might be a good idea for me to get you off home.”
Jimmy said nothing. He sat bolt upright and shivered. The smell was under his nose, then he felt it trickle up the passageways into his head, at the same time a chill wind blew around his ears and through into his mind. He could feel it inside his head, could hear it cackling. A picture of that old woman filled his mind. His last words to his friend were,
“Run Billy Run for your life.”