It’s been a while since anything’s been posted here. I have plenty of excuses, but I’ll spare you that. Instead let me tell you a story. Click the arrow below, sit back and enjoy!
I hoisted the rollup door and it banged at the top. My wife, Patricia, was standing next to me. I could feel her sidelong glare as she rubbed her hands together. Me? I was looking at what we bought. Still trying to guess what was under the ancient floral bedspread.
We participate in auctions at a few storage facilities in the area, bidding on abandoned storage lots and then emptying out the ones we win. People, for one reason or another, stop paying their rent and the storage company sells off their stuff at auction. It’s part of the deal and they know it.
One time, we bought the contents of a storage bay and all we could see were Rubbermaid tubs and furniture. It was basically junk. But something was covered in the back corner, too low to be a motorcycle yet the shape at one end said ‘handlebars’ to me. You can’t go in and rummage around until after the auction so there’s a lot of guess work. The bidding got to fifteen hundred or so before we won that lot. Turned out the hunch was right. There was a snowmobile underneath which we turned over for sixty five hundred. I still love to tell that story.
This time it had that same feel…of being more. No handle bars, but the layer of undisturbed dust told me this was something important to someone—important enough to take out a storage cubicle long enough for that dust to accumulate. There were some boxes of old books. There were some stage props and costumes we could consign out. A top hat in clear plastic was intriguing. But this time, we were in it for eighteen hundred and whatever was under that bedspread had to be the goose for us.
I finally stepped inside and pulled the bedspread away to reveal a trunk. Pat stepped around the side, looking it over, and said, “That’s different. I wonder what’s inside.”
The bottom half of the trunk stood nearly crotch height and the curved lid made the whole thing reach to the bottom of my rib cage. It was made of wood and the corners were strapped in metal and hand wrought fasteners. The locking hasp took a skeleton key, the hole was so big.
In my best pirate, I said, “Arrrgh, and if ye be knowin’ ye be guardin’ this here treasure till my return.”
Pat shoved me and we laughed. I was glad she didn’t seem worried about losing money on this lot. The trunk was old and ornate enough to pull down a few hundred at consignment; I had my doubts about what could be inside. Something was whispering to me that the trunk itself was the treasure here, and nothing to bank on. I had a lock picking kit in my satchel, so I went to work.
When I finally got it open, we lifted the lid together and peered in. “What am I looking at?”
“Huh. Stairs,” she said. “What’s up with that?”
I looked at the front of the trunk to gauge its depth—then looked inside again. “The stairs go farther down than the trunk.”
Pat performed the same assessment and said, “You think?”
Subtle sarcasm. She was good at it and she made me smile.
I rummaged the flashlight from my satchel and shined it down the murky staircase. There was a landing after fifteen stairs. They continued on to another landing, and another, on into infinity—or whatever passed beyond the scope of my flashlight beam.
We were on either side and after shining the light around down there I turned it off. We looked at each other stoically. I gave the trunk a quick shove as a weight test and it didn’t even budge.
“I guess we’ll see if that winch is worth anything now. I’ll be right back.”
We come to these auctions with a trailer hooked up to my pickup truck. I have a winch mounted on the trailer in case we get heavy stuff. I meandered out to the parking lot and brought the truck around. By the time I got back, Pat was gone.
I looked down into the trunk and she was three flights down. I could see her pointing the flashlight this way and that. As I moved away, I saw something else. Unsure what it was, I looked back down in time to see a figure one flight above her skitter away. It was a skinny thing, short with thin little arms. Immediately after it was out of my sight, Pat shrieked.
“Pat? You okay?”
“Yeah. I just thought I heard something.”
Two more shadows well below her and I had to remember she was a student of Karate.
“Well, come up. Okay? I’m going to hook up the trunk and haul it onto the trailer.”
“Okay.” She started back up.
With the winch cable hooked to two cargo straps wrapped around the trunk, I took up the slack. The trunk jerked and the lid flopped down. I didn’t stop dragging the trunk until it was fully into the light of day. Then I went to look in the hole it was covering—the hole with the stairs leading down into oblivion; looking for Pat, my wife of fifteen years. I wanted to be sure she was alright.
But there was no hole; just the scuffed concrete.
After a moment’s reflection, I scrambled to open the trunk—frantically picking the lock a second time. My mind reeled and I couldn’t bear the thoughts that came to me so I focused on getting it open.
And then it was.
This time, the inside had a bottom.
This time, the trunk was empty.
The scream, I realized, was my own.
Well, that’s the story and I’m sticking to it. This is the product of that thoughtful zoned-out gaze while watching Storage Wars or some such and wondering how things could go wrong. If you enjoyed it, leave me a comment. Even if it’s just a simple “Thanks!”
Oh, and tell your friends, because I love to tell a story to anyone who’ll listen…