Sunday, January 15, 2012

"The Birthday Box" from a collection by Steve Mace (Short Stories)

Genre:  Horror

Type of Short Story:  Short Story Collection

Summary:  Lydia Charlesworth, the daughter of a museum curator, receives a mysterious and sinister package on her birthday. The contents are linked to her father's work...and a secret deadly cult which worship a supernatural spider-goddess...

Victoria tore open the brown paper wrapping. Underneath that layer, she found a plain cardboard box. On top of the box there was a piece of paper, attached by sticky tape. It was a typed note, with James’ name on it. She carefully tore it away from the box, before opening the note up and reading the following:

Dear James,
I do hope you accept this gift, a present for your daughter on her very special 7th birthday.

My client wishes to keep his identity discreet, and therefore it shall not be revealed, but this gift is a reflection of your services rendered.

Many happy returns to your daughter.

That was it. There was no clue as to the identity of whoever had sent the present. Victoria frowned, bemused. ‘My client wishes to keep his identity discreet’- how odd, she thought. It was a bit of a mystery. She picked up the parcel and found that it did not feel that heavy. She took it upstairs to her husband’s study. She would ask him about it when he arrived back home from work.

In the meantime, she went to pick Lydia up from school. The little girl was already excited about her birthday and looking forward to having her friends round for the party. She sat in the back seat of the car and talked about the games they would play, like ‘Pass the Parcel’ and ‘Musical Chairs’. She was a very pretty child, having inherited her blonde hair and blue eyes from her mother, rather than the dark looks of her father.

When James got home from work, his wife showed him the mysterious box in his study. He was as mystified by it as his wife was. “I can’t think who it would be”, he told her. “A client would have mentioned something to me at work. I don’t think I even mentioned Lydia’s birthday to anyone. How strange.”

“Do you think…it’s alright?” Victoria asked, biting her lip. “I mean…maybe we should open it and see what it is? We can always wrap it up again. I think we should check it out.”

“You want to?” James glanced at her, his eyes made smaller by his bi-focal glasses. “It would spoil the surprise, wouldn’t it?”

“James, I want you to open it”, his wife said firmly. It was not just the fact that the sender was anonymous. There was something sinister about the mystery, something that instinctively made her feel wary. She didn’t want her daughter opening this mystery box without her or James having checked it first.

James picked up the box and held it up to his ear. He heard nothing. “You think it’s a bomb?” he asked, laughing.

“Don’t joke about things like that”, Victoria said, admonishing him. “Open it.”

James shook the parcel hard, wondering if he might break what was inside, if it was something delicate. Nothing made a sharp cracking noise, but he did hear something else. He frowned. It had been almost…a scuttling noise. Like something was alive and moving in there. Would someone have put a kitten or a puppy in a box? There were no holes for breathing.

He wondered if he had imagined it, but decided it was probably best to open the thing. The lid was taped shut, and he picked up a pair of scissors to slice through the tape. Once he had done that, the two sides of the lid were slightly ajar. Cautiously he opened the lid…

Buy this collection on Lulu or on Amazon UK.

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