This is a work of fiction, a short story of 1200 words.
Diane had enjoyed the walk home from the station that evening. The cherry-blossom trees along the avenue were all in bloom, and the fading light of the setting sun made everything appear slightly out of focus. She was looking forward to a quiet night at home. The weekend had been a busy one, and the back to work day on that Monday was as hectic as usual.
As she approached her front door, she was taken aback by a huge parcel at the top of the steps. Almost as tall as her, and just as wide too. She checked the label on the side. Definitely her name and address, not something delivered in error. There was no other information on the label, and the packaging was only marked with a large black arrow, pointing straight up. Diane squeezed past, and opened the front door. Putting her bag down and taking off her jacket, she estimated the size of the parcel, relative to the opening. It would just fit, she reckoned. Pushing a hand against the top, she was pleasantly surprised to find it was not too heavy. No need to ask for help from Mr Embury, her next-door neighbour.
Tipping the big box toward her, Diane was able to drag it into the hallway quite easily, with just a slight bump as it came over the doorstop. Once the door was closed, she kicked off her high-heels, and gave the box a shake. No sounds of rattling, nothing moving around inside. She felt quite excited. Sure that she had ordered nothing herself, she could only assume that this was a gift. Perhaps the sender would have enclosed a card, or their name at least. In the kitchen, she got her sharpest small knife from the block, and returned to the hallway. Carefully cutting the tape around the edges, she began to peel back the cardboard packaging, until there was a large pile of it propped against the door behind her.
Viewing the unwrapped contents, Diane had to admit to a great deal of disappointment. Inside the parcel was another box. Just an unattractive plywood box, unadorned, and smelling rather musty. The top had a hinged lid, so she opened it. To look inside meant having to tip the box again, so she opened the front door, and put the cardboard in the recycling bin outside, to make room. Holding the lid open, she pulled it forward, and peered inside. It was empty. She reached around behind awkwardly, and switched on the light in the hallway. Even with better illumination, nothing could be seen inside. Diane was frustrated. Was it some sort of joke? She couldn’t think of anyone who would do something like that, and now she was stuck with a big empty wooden box filling her hall, and no way of disposing of it.
After changing out of her smart work clothes and eating a much-needed dinner, it occurred to her to call some friends, and see if they might have sent her this thing. Maybe the company had forgot to include the contents? There might be a second delivery, when they discovered their mistake. Six phone calls later, and she was none the wiser. None of her close friends had sent her anything, they had all assured her. In desperation, she rang her sister, Irene. They hadn’t spoken since Simon’s wedding, and maybe this was some sort of peace offering. Irene was cold and dismissive. “Why on earth would I send you anything? I still haven’t forgotten what happened at Simon’s wedding”. That was all she said, before hanging up.
Diane had a shower, and got ready for bed. There were lots of meetings tomorrow, and she needed an early night. She would sort the box out another time. Mr Embury would be pleased to help, she was sure. He might even find some use for the wood, as he was always making something or other. Although it wasn’t even ten, she slipped under the covers, looking forward to a good sleep.
It was the smell that made her wake up. Musty, damp, unfamiliar. The bed felt hard, and she couldn’t move easily. As she opened her eyes, it was still dark, so she reached for the switch of the bedside lamp. Her arm scraped against something, and could move it no further. The surface against her arm was rough and scratchy, nothing like the soft covers of her bedding. Her legs were slightly bent, and she couldn’t straighten them. It took a few moments to come around fully, but Diane soon realised something was very wrong. She pushed with all her strength, but could not free herself. Adjusting to the darkness, she could hardly believe her eyes. She was in that box, she was certain of that.
Closing her eyes for a moment, she found herself smiling. It was a dream, that was all. When she opened her eyes, she would be back in her nice bed, and ready to get back to sleep. It always made her smile, just how real a dream could feel. Eyes open, she started to really panic. She was still in the box, still smelling that musty odour. Trying to calm herself, Diane remembered how light the box had been. She stopped trying to think about how she had come to be inside it, and started to concentrate on getting out of it. Bracing her hands and feet against the sides, she pushed with all her might. When that didn’t work, she started to kick and punch it instead. Nothing. It didn’t give, and if anything felt harder and more solid than before.
Feeling around in the darkness, she tried the edges and the hinge with her nails. But she knew that was unlikely to work, as they were false tips, and had all soon broken off. Diane turned her attention to the smaller bottom of the box, kicking with all her might, her feet striking the wood together. A sharp pain told her that splinters were getting into the soles of her feet, and the bottom of the box was holding firm. So she started to yell for help. Her voice sounded dull inside there, echoing off of the wood. Mr Embury would never hear her. He was in his late seventies, and could just about hear a face to face conversation.
It was starting to get uncomfortably hot in there too, and she could feel the sweat from her exertions in the hair on her neck. Perhaps if she rolled from side to side, she could break the box. Worth a try. All that achieved were more splinters, this time in her arms and hands. No matter how hard she tried to roll, there was no movement at all. Diane started to scream, hoping the high pitch would alert her neighbour. But it was a vain hope, and soon gave her a headache, as well as a raging thirst.
Fighting against the panic that she feared would overwhelm her, she tried to calm herself down by talking out loud. “Come on girl. Think. Calm down and think. You Can do this”.
But she couldn’t think of anything.