One day it just appeared on the coffee table. We weren’t sure who had given us the black box, or why. “It might be from another dimension,” Marvin said. I said he’d been watching too many bad movies.
Shiny, plastic, inscrutable, it sat on our coffee table. We left it there for days. Didn’t talk much about it. Tried to ignore it. But there it sat – that black box. “Wonder what’s in it,” I said. “We’d better not open it,” Marvin said. “Anything could be in there.”
We puzzled over it. It really gave our brain cells a workout, I tell you. It sat there – sinister and waiting – for a week.
One day we just couldn’t take the stress anymore. “I’m just going to flip that switch,” I said. It was just making me mad, is all. It was driving us crazy. You don’t know how crazy. We were fighting over little things. Couldn’t sleep, thinking about the box. Making lists of who might’ve sent it. Maybe Marvin’s Aunt Lucy, who had never forgiven him for leaving the milk out overnight all those years ago.
Maybe my old roommate Dolly, who liked practical jokes. She was always putting rubber spiders on my desk. “Maybe it’s Dolly,” I told Marvin finally. “I just have to know. Maybe there’s a note inside. I’ll bet it’s her.”
“Whoever sent it, I just want to know what’s inside. Little puzzles, maybe. Or candy – maybe there is candy inside. Sometimes fancy chocolates, they come in a black box,” I said. If it was candy, it wasn’t from our world, I thought. That made me curious to see, so I flipped the switch and took a few steps back. We waited.
The box had began to jump. “Probably it isn’t candy,” I said. “Maybe Mexican jumping beans?” The lid rose slowly…very slowly. Marvin retreated to the doorway, ready to bolt.
And then the hand reached up out of the Mysterious Box. We stared at it, frozen.
It waved impatiently, like it was hailing an invisible taxi. “Hey you out there!…Yeah you, c’mon, come over here. I’m not gonna bite ya. Not unless you’re a cookie! Har har….Speaking of which – you got anything good to eat?”
“You’re a hand,” I replied, trying to hide my dismay.
“It’s not for me, folks. It’s for him.”
“The big intellectual genius in here.” The hand made a huffing sound. It jabbed a thumb downwards. “He’s been thinking inside the box for too long. He says it makes him hungry.”
Marvin muttered “OK, I’m out of here.” Didn’t see him for three weeks after that, either.
“Well – um, OK. What does he like?” I said. “We have some leftover clam dip, I think.”
“Nope, no good, sorry Charlie! What else? Desserts, how about desserts? He likes chocolate chip cookies. Even graham crackers would do, in a pinch.”
“Sorry. We ate up all the Chips Ahoy last night. But I do have some Jell-O salad, I think. It’s called Ring-Around-The-Tuna.”
The hand shuddered, and made a – well, a very rude gesture. Then it grabbed the switch, turned it to OFF and slid back into the box, slamming the lid behind it.
I didn’t want to touch the box but I wasn’t staying in the room with it either. Went in the kitchen and had a look at the Ring-Around-The-Tuna. It was a “beautiful jewel-like entree salad,” that what it had said in The Joys of Jell-O. But it was also a powerful weapon against the unknown and unseen.
The Jell-O salad shimmered strangely, looking more luminous than when I had made it – I was sure of that. It was positively glowing. Something was happening. And things were going to be different around the house from now on. I was sure of that, too.