The Mystery Box

It’s 3:30 a.m. Christmas morning and presents are under the tree waiting for the grown children of the house to awaken. The house is dark. I thought I heard a noise down the hall. Did somebody get up to use the bathroom? No. There are no follow-up noises that would support that guess.

The chinchillas are not running on their exercise wheels downstairs. The rabbit is not moving around in his cage. The guinea pig is quiet. All is calm. This is unusual for my house.

I get up to investigate the silence. Leaving the lights off, I start moving towards the bedroom door and collide with something heavy and hard on the floor. I stub my toe on a wooden box. Stifling a rude outburst at the sudden pain and shock, I catch my balance by grabbing the bed post. My wife stirs in her sleep a moment then settles again. Her regular breathing continues.

I backtrack to the bedside table and feel around for my camping headlamp. My wife laughs at me each time she catches me reading in bed with it, but I find it very useful. I don’t care if it is stylish or not. I prefer function over form. I slip it on my head and cup my hand over the bulbs and cycle the settings until the red lamps are on to minimize interference with my wife’s sleep.

The red glow reveals stenciled markings on the lid and a metal hasp that is fastened but unlocked. The markings appear military but their meaning is unclear. No words are present only letters and numbers in a two-row sequence.

I nudge the box to estimate the effort needed to move it out of the walkway and find it will not move. Something this heavy must be compacting the bedroom carpet. That random thought pops in my mind and I quickly dismiss it. Who could have put this box here?

My wife and daughter stayed up later than I did tonight stuffing stockings and arranging presents under the tree. The box must have been placed here between midnight and now. If it was one of those two, there’s no way they could have lifted it here.

I unlatch the hasp and cautiously lift the lid. The red glow of my headlamp softly illuminates a shiny surface inside. A wrapped present. Gold paper. Gold ribbon. A tiny tag with writing on it. I can’t make it out in the red light so I switch over to white. My wife rolls over, moves her arm across her face, and begins gently snoring. I open the box fully and reach for the tag.

“V53h Gm*2$ xp^w9” it says. No help at all. Completely unintelligible like the outer markings.

I decide to open the package. I reach in and prepare to lift the heavy object and am caught off guard by how light it is. I was ready to heave and wrestle it out but it rose easily and almost flew out of my hands. I kept a firm grip on it and set it down.

The paper crinkled as I prepared to tear it when I noticed a light inside the wooden box. I stopped opening the present and peered back inside the box. The light came from what seemed far below the level of my floor. Impossible. I put my head inside the box and spotted more writing on the inside. “Gallifrey Package Service – Lighter on the Inside”

“Uh-oh. This can’t be good.” I think. I’ve seen many Dr. Who episodes and know that messing with Time Lord technology is dangerous. I toss the wrapped package back inside the wooden box and am fastening the latch when I hear the sound of the TARDIS on my front lawn. It seems I’ve awoken in the BBC’s Christmas episode.

You wake up one morning to find a beautifully wrapped package next to your bed. Attached to it is a note: “Open me, if you dare.” What’s inside the mystery box? Do you open it?

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