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  • Writer's pictureJ.L. DuRona

The Box Letter

Updated: Jul 15, 2022

A Short Story By J.L. DuRona

I'm a prisoner in my own home. The rest of the world gets to go out and have fun, while I'm stuck on this sofa flipping through an endless parade of crappy TV shows. What a lousy Halloween this is going to be.

My mom enters the room. She's dressed like a black cat, complete with a fuzzy tail.

"The bucket's on the window sill," Mom says. "Make sure to answer the door whenever the bells rings, okay?"

I keep silent and stare at the TV.

"Madi," Mom says, her voice stern, "are you listening to me?"

When I continue to ignore her, she sighs, walks over to the sofa, and sits down next to me.

"Honey, I know you're upset, but you only have yourself to blame."

I cross my arms, refusing to meet her gaze. "It's still not fair."

Mom shifts in her seat. "Young lady, we've been over this a dozen times."

"But the Halloween party is only once a year!" I say, finally turning to face her.

"Well, maybe this will finally teach you a lesson," Mom replies.

"Whatever," I say, turning back to the TV.

Mom's frustration is obvious as she tries to find a good reply. She changes the subject instead. "You'll make sure to give out the candy, right?"

"Yep," I reply.

"Madi, I'm serious," Mom says. "If you don't answer the door, we'll get egged for sure."

I roll my eyes. Every Halloween Mom freaks out about our house getting egged, and every year nothing happens. It's her paranoia that keeps the pranksters away.

"I will," I say, "I promise.

Satisfied, for now, she stands up and adjusts her tail. As she turns to leave, my little brother runs into the room and grabs her hand. He's dressed as an astronaut, complete with an oversized cardboard helmet.

"Hey, Mads," he says, his voice muffled under the costume.

"Hey, Spaceboy," I say with a smirk. "Nice costume. Hope it doesn't rain."

"Very funny!" He turns to Mom and tugs on her arm. "C'mon, let's go!"

"Slow down, sweetie," Mom says.

He starts to hop in place. "But if we don't go now, there won't be any candy left!"

"Oh no!" Mom says with a smile. "In that case, we'd better get going!"

Not needing to be told twice, my brother bolts out of the room. Before she joins him, Mom gives me one final look. "Remember, Madi, answer the door!"

"Yeah, yeah," I reply, waving my hand.

"I'll save you some gummy worms!" my brother yells from the hall.

"Thanks, Spaceboy," I call back.

The front door shuts with a click, which is my cue to turn up the TV. A five minute commercial for some medication comes on for the third time tonight, so I check my phone: nothing. Blake, my best friend, promised to send me pictures of the party.

The doorbell rings, filling the living room with two harsh notes.

It begins.

Just like Mom said, there's a plastic pumpkin on the window sill by the door. What she failed to mention, however, was what was inside. I pick it up, look inside, and gape.

You've got to be kidding me!

The pumpkin is filled to the brim with king size candy.

Mom did this to torture me, I know it. The house with the best treats is always the busiest, and word gets around fast. I'll be standing at this stupid door all night!

The doorbell rings again. With no other choice, I unlatch the lock and swing the door open. I'm greeted with a bloody ballerina, a werewolf, and a sparkly vampire.

"Trick or treat!" They say in unison.

I toss a bar in each kid's bag without a word. As they make their way back to the street, I hear one of them gasp.

"No way! They're king size!"

Say it louder, why don't you?

Already I can see another group of kids coming up the stoop. Good thing there's nothing good on TV.

It's over forty minutes later when there's finally a break in the trick-or-treat line. The last group of kids run off down the street and out of sight. The sun is setting behind the pines in my yard, casting an orange halo over the pointed trees; Halloween will be over soon.

I consider shutting off the lights, but Mom would be furious if I close up for the night when we still have candy to hand out. The break in the line at least makes it safe to go back to the sofa.

There's still no word from Blake, which is weird. She's usually good at keeping in touch. It must be a really great party.

Of course, the doorbell rings again just as I sit down. I get back up, grab the pumpkin, and unlatch the door. But when I open it, I'm greeted only with the rustling of leaves blowing across the yard in the cold October wind.

Assuming it's pranksters, I start to pull the door shut, but stop when I notice a box sitting on the stoop.

That's weird. I didn't hear a shipping truck, or anything.

I check the yard for anyone in a delivery outfit, then set the pumpkin on the window sill. Kneeling down, I examine the box: I don't think it was shipped, because there's no label. There is, however, a word scribbled hastily across the top: 'Madi'

Whatever it is, I guess it's for me.

The box is big enough that need both hands to pick it up. When I do, I'm surprised by its weight. It feels empty. When I shake it, something rattles inside. Not empty, just... roomy.

I carry the box inside and set it on the sofa. It's not taped, so I just pry it open. When I look inside, the only thing I can see is a singular envelope at the bottom of the box.

This is weird. Why would someone put a letter in a box?

Like the top of the box, my name is written on the envelope. I take it, and notice it's not sealed. There's a hand-written letter inside. It's too dark in the living room to read it, so I stand up and bring it to the dining room table. The overhead light is already on. I scan the letter, and immediately I recognize the handwriting: it's from Blake.

Why would Blake put a letter in a box and leave it on my doorstep?

I sit at the table and read the letter:


Last year, you told me you had a crush on Ryan Easton. I laughed at you, and told you he was out of your league, but I was lying. The truth is that I liked Ryan too, and I kissed him during recess one day when you were out sick. I didn't tell you because I didn't want you to get mad.

I hope you can forgive me for that, and for what I have to do now. Take this box, write your own letter to someone you've hurt, and leave on their doorstep like I did. If you don't, something bad will happen.

You have one hour. This is not a joke. I'm so sorry.

~ Blake

When I'm done reading, I burst out laughing. What a stupid joke. The party must've been a total bust if Blake went to all this trouble to mess with me.

I pull my phone from my pocket and start texting her: "Nice letter! I think I'll hang it on my fridge!"

I hit send, and am met with an instant reply: ERROR. MESSAGE NOT SENT.

What the heck?

I try again with the same result, then again. When it refuses to go through a fourth time, I slam my phone on the table.

Did she block me? That's a bit extreme, even for a joke.

I stuff my phone back in my pocket and go back to the couch, leaving the letter behind. I'm not going along with this.

Images flash on the TV screen, but my brain doesn't process them. I can't stop thinking about the box, the letter, and Blake. Why would she confess to kissing Ryan? That was forever ago, and he moved away last the summer. Why would she think I'd care now?

Maybe someone else wrote the letter to try and trick me? No, I'd know her handwriting anywhere. Plus she used her favorite purple pen to write it. She never writes anything without that pen, and frankly I don't know anyone else smart enough to put this much effort into messing with me.

The clock above the says reads 6:15. My mom and brother should've been back from trick-or-treating by now. He must really be running her ragged.

There's a ding from my phone. I grab it, hoping that it's Blake. It's a message from an unknown sender: "You have 45 minutes left."

I scoff at the message and toss my phone onto the sofa. If someone wants to scare me, they'd be better off forcing me to do a pop quiz, or-

The doorbell blares through the house, louder than it's ever been before. I cup my hands over my ears, then get up to answer the door. I knew I should've turned the lights off.

There's no one there when I open the door. Now I'm starting to get mad.

"This isn't funny!" I call out into the yard.

My phone beeps again from its place on the sofa. I go back inside and pick it up to find another message from Anonymous:

"Who is your victim?"

My what?

I block the number, then sit back down on the sofa. The second I do, all the lights in the house go out.

What the heck is going on?

My phone screen lights up, a blinding sun in the darkness. Somehow, after blocking the number, Anonymous has messaged me again.

"You're running out of time."

"Shut up!" I say to it. "I told you I'm not playing!"

There's a rustling from the kitchen. In an instant I'm on my feet, turning on the flashlight app on my phone.

"Mom? Is that you?"

A rustling sound grows in volume as I approach the kitchen. It sounds like a small animal scurrying around. If I'm lucky it'll just be a raccoon.

"Hey!" I yell, my voice cracking. "Who's there?"

I point the light on the floor just in time to see a black streak dash behind the kitchen island.

What the heck was that?!

My phone screen comes to life, startling me. A message pops up and says "I'm inside."

The door! I forgot to shut it!

It's wide open when I run back to check. The wind blows dead leaves into the hall, and they collect by the rug in a neat pile.

I curse, then hit the emergency button on my home screen to call the police, but nothing happens. No matter how many times I tap the button, it won't respond.

"What do you want from me?" I scream at my phone like I expect it to answer. To my surprise, it does.

"You know what I want."

I shriek as the lights all come back on at once with a loud click. When my eyes adjust, I spot a shadow on the hallway floor.

No, it's not a shadow. It's some kind of liquid. Ink. The amorphous shape is the darkest black I've ever seen.

It inches toward me like a slug. I can't move. Fear has me rooted in place. Suddenly the black shape vibrates like rippling water, and a second later my phone buzzes. Somehow I'm able to look away from the thing long enough to read the latest message:

"Tell me who your victim is."

"I don't have a victim," I say, my voice trembling.

The inky mass vibrates again. There's another message: "Everyone has a victim."

I understand now that the messages are coming from the thing on the floor. I slowly lower my phone and look at it. It's getting closer.

"I swear I've never hurt anyone!"

The shape begins to shake, but differently this time. It's rhythmic. It makes a sound like a guttural grunt.

Is it... is it laughing?

"E-even if I have," I say, my voice trembling, "what's the points of writing a stupid letter?"

It stretches out and touches my foot. It soaks through my sock. It's so cold.

My phone falls from my limp hand and bounces on the floor with a clatter. As the thing continues to coat my foot, it vibrates again.

"Write the letter."

I don't need the phone to get its messages anymore; they're being sent right to my head. Something else is being sent there too: a vision. I see my mom and brother. They're walking down the street against the thick traffic of trick-or-treaters.

They stop. Mom is distracted, talking to another parent. They're at a crosswalk.

"Why are you showing me this?" I ask.

The dark shape doesn't answer me, and the scene in my mind continues to play out. My brother notices a friend of his across the street. They wave to each other. He looks over at Mom, who is still talking.

He won't try to cross by himself. He knows better.

But my brother is riding the Halloween high, and bounces in place impatiently. He wants more candy, even though his bag is already full to bursting. He gets closer to the curb.

What are you doing, you idiot? Stop!

He can't hear me. He doesn't notice the blue sedan rounding the corner. He doesn't notice they're driving too fast for a rural neighborhood. All he notices is his friend gesturing for him to come over.


He runs out into the road, leaving a trail of treats behind him as his bag bounces. The lights from the car cast a halo over his body, and bathe him in silhouette.

"Okay!" I scream as loud as I can. "I'll do it! I'll write the letter!"

* * * * *

The woman grabs her son and presses him to her chest. Her heart is beating so fast she can barely breathe.

"What were you thinking?" She's yelling. She can't help it. Fear has her in a panic. "You know you're not supposed to cross the street by yourself!"

"I'm sorry, mommy," the boy says. His voice shakes and tears stream from his eyes.

Some costumed bystanders circle around them. The rest have gone to the blue sedan, which is wrapped around a power pole. They're checking on the young driver, who narrowly avoided hitting the boy that ran out in front of her. The sound of sirens grow in the distance.

Two kids, a brother and sister, watch the excitement from across the street. They're dressed as goblins, and look the part as they peek mischievously around a hedge in their lawn.

"That's Madi's brother," the boy says. "Do you think he's okay?"

The girl leans forward and puts her hand on her forehead like she's scouting the scene. "He's moving, so I guess so."

A voice, their father's, calls to them from an open window. "C'mon inside, guys!"

"But Dad, the police just showed up!" the girl says. "It's just getting good!"

"Right now, I said!"

Both kids grumble, then head toward their house.

"Do you think Madi's still gonna watch us on Saturday?" the boy asks.

The girl is about to reply, but stops when she reaches the front door. Sitting on the porch, haphazardly folded together, is a cardboard box with both their names on it.

~ The End

Copyright Jesse DuRona 2022. All rights reserved.

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