Short Story Preview: The Box

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Here’s a sneak peek at a brand new flash fiction, the entirety of which will go out in my newsletter this Sunday. To read this and other stories that are exclusive to my mailing list, sign up here!

The box sat on the dinette table, a silent threat to everything Keely Brewster had worked so hard for. She sat and regarded it as she sipped her chamomile tea—it was supposed to keep her calm, but it wasn’t doing the trick. Maybe if she added a shot of bourbon—and mulled over what she should do. It had just shown up on her doorstep, all brown and nondescript. No postal marks, no return address, nothing to provide even a hint of where it had come from or who had placed it there.

The first thing she had done, after searching the yard and scanning the street for any sign of its deliverer, had been to get on her hands and knees and put her ear against it. There was no ticking, although that didn’t necessarily mean it wasn’t a bomb, of sorts. The enemies she’d left in her wake weren’t the sort to deign to use such backward human means as a mechanized explosive, although that didn’t preclude them from paying off a human assassin to get the job done.

A magic bomb, on the other hand, would be much harder to detect, and have much more far-reaching consequences than simply blowing Keely to bits.

The white-haired lady from across the street—Keely had only moved in last week, and hadn’t yet had time to learn any of her neighbor’s names —came out to walk her equally white-haired Scottish terrier. She stopped to stare questioningly at Keely, still down on all fours inspecting the box, prompting her to get up and, very carefully, bring the box inside, where she’d set it on the table before making herself a cup of tea.

Sipping and contemplating, she considered the list of people and other beings who would happily see her dead or dismembered. It was too long to count. After all, she’d killed countless of their kind. Some wanted revenge, some what they would call justice. Others just wanted to remove her as a threat to their existence. Nothing personal.

The former she could understand. The latter she wished would understand that she no longer posed them any threat. She was done with that life. She just wanted to raise her daughter in peace. Let someone else deal with all the monsters for a change.

More important than the question of who had sent the package was knowing how they had found her. She’d changed her name, her looks, her entire life so she could run to ground in the smallest nowhere town she could find that still offered her daughter a decent education. She’d done every possible thing to cover her tracks. This was supposed to be the end of running. A chance to put down roots and give her girl a normal life.

Whatever that meant.

She glanced into the living room, at the toys scattered among stacks of still-unpacked boxes, and thought of having to load those boxes back in the Jeep, having to pack those toys and explain to her little girl that the new best friend she’d already made at school was someone she’d never be able to see again, not even to say goodbye. She finished her tea, longing even harder for that shot of bourbon and lamenting her decision to quit drinking.

There was only one way to find the answer to these questions. She had to open the box.

***

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