I felt a finger poke and dig deeper into my cheek as my drool fell like a waterfall. My eyelids felt like sand bags as I struggled to open them and as the blur ceased a figure I recognized anywhere was put into perspective. There with her rosy cheeks and ear to ear grin was my little sister holding up a stuff teddy bear and that teddy bear held a large story book, the same book I always see in my nightmares, the same book she makes me read every night for the last three months.

“Again with the fairytales, can’t you see I’m sleeping here?” I asked exhausted as I tossed back and rolled over to the opposite side to avoid her puppy dog eyes that she will eventually make and I will eventually fall to because I’m a very weak individual who spoils his little sister, rotten.

“Come on Big Bro, just this once, I just want to finish the story.” Her voice felt like sweet honey to my ears, a mix of pleading and sincerity that can only come out from such an innocent soul.

I grit my teeth as I took a throw pillow and covered my exposed ear to it thus, blocking her spell completely. Of course she hadn’t stopped as I felt her little body pushing me from the sofa and afterwards trying to pull me out.

Then it stopped, I could no longer feel her prodding and unrelenting annoyance, I guess this victory goes to me. Though, I did felt bad crushing her little hopes like that, what was I to do? If I spoil her more then she’ll eventually cling to me like some sort of parasite and I’m pretty sure that title already belong to me-but I guess it’s kind of a win if my little sister would like to be like his college dropout brother-on second thought, forget I said anything.

But still, there was something in my mind that wouldn’t halt, my heart started thumping like drums being aggressively stomped on by a tour de France contestant as I felt something was wrong. And in an instance it fell on me like a ton of bricks, to put it clearer, she fell on me like a ton of bricks.

“What’s wrong with you?” I asked as I picked her up from her shoulders, carrying her like a lifelike doll, she only stared at me blankly as she hid her face with the story book-again to describe it clearer, the story book carried by a stuffed bear to emphasize how hard she was trying to melt my heart, and I applaud her, because it did melt my heart and fractured a fair amount of my ribs.

“Okay, I give up, you win. Just give me a little breather, okay, princess?” I asked, stretching my back as I felt her nod in both approval and victory.

Balancing house chores, finding a job and acting as a plaything for my little sister was exhausting for a young man but I guess I don’t have the right to complain neither do I have the energy to. My ears perked up as hoof like thuds began ringing across the house. Immediately, a fluorescent light bulb lit up on top of my head as an Idea began to shine. I extended my hand to the little girl with the light chocolate brown hair tied into a ponytail as she complied immediately as we both skipped merrily into the direction where the old grumpy troll sat and drank his brew.

“Good evening, grandfather.” We both said in unison as a gruff old man sighed as though he had just inhaled a pound of smoke. His old withering eyes stared at me with intensity as it shifted towards his cane clearly he was about to make a run for it.

“Alice, get the cane!” I said, yelling as she sprinted towards the cane. But even with her speed I know she wouldn’t be able to beat the quick scoop of an old man filled with caffeine so the only thing I can do to help is distract him, but how?

“Hey Grandfather, Elvis is dead!” I yelled as he stopped in his tracks long enough for Alice to grab the cane and within that split second run back to me as I held the cane smugly like the slickest, sexiest, most charismatic pimp this side of the red district dark alleyway. My grandfather only glared at me like he was about to shoot lasers from his eyes like one of those x-mans as I could feel a telepathic voice repeat over and over “You’re the biggest disappointment in my life.” This was a win and lose situation for me as my heart split into feeling proud of my petty accomplishment and feeling proud of my petty accomplishment.

“What do you want, parasite?” He said sternly as I felt a little piece of me, piledrived and pinned into a mat.

“Well, Grandfather, I was thinking-

“The deal was food and shelter, nothing more, parasite.” He said in retort as he sipped another cup of his coffee.

“No, I’m not asking for money, I’m asking for a story.” I said as my words made him gulp his coffee rather abruptly, he began coughing as he covered his mouth with his hand formed into a fist.

“Why on earth would you want that? Didn’t you hate my stories?” He said astonished. “Well, yeah. But it did give me a few lessons, and believe me I’ll never forget them so I was wondering if you could do the same with Alice, she’s spoiled you see.”

“And whose fault is that?” He asked as I quickly answered with my wittiest retort. “The Government, Thanks, Obama.”

“You need it alright, I guess I have no choice you won’t give me my cane back unless I give you a decent story. I guess it’ll help pass the time.” He said as he motioned me to take a seat as I again prepared my wittiest of retorts. “Yeah, you Cane-not (Cannot) leave until we say so.”

He sighed once more and began telling us a story…

“Box, it’s a game that come from god knows where but all I do remember is that it’s a game, a dangerous one, more dangerous than Russian roulette with a full chamber.” He said gruffly as I took a seat along with Alice who sat on my lap.

“Everything’s a blur, I don’t even remember what date it was but I do remember what prompt me to play such a game.” He took a large sip from his nearly empty coffee cup and exhaled. “Annoyance, I played that game because I was annoyed, annoyed of my little brother.”

“Little brother, but we don’t have an uncle.” I suddenly blurted out in surprise. “You had one. Regrettably it’s my own fault that he is no longer with us.”

“Y-you killed him?” I asked stuttering. “Not in the sense of murder in the first degree but I pretty much did kill him in the same rules as a judge sentences a jailer to the electric chair.”

“I’m not going to tell you the entire detail about replicating the box game, I’m afraid that you’re either too stupid or your little sister is too naïve to actually listen to my warnings.” He said as his eyes began examining me who was inching my hands closer for a cookie and Alice whose eyes were the size of dinner plates.

“You’ll two will inevitably try to imitate it but for the sake of telling a story I’ll tell you just a courter of the ritual. A person has to sit down in a cross sitting position on the floor as another person holds his hands together and outstretches his arms forming a hoop with his clasped hands and then that person slowly lets down the hoop as he says “You’re now inside the box.” After saying that and reaching the hip of the one who is sitting he will then again lift his hands up while saying the phrase again but this time that person must mouth it that way the person sitting would think that he had gone deaf, that’s why it’s called the box because it’s suppose to simulate that you’re inside a soundless, invisible box.”

“Sounds innocent enough, but why is it so dangerous, and if you're forming your hand into a ring, shouldn't it be called the hoop?” I asked as I munch on the cookie, though I looked composed the thought of my dead uncle still bothered me but I guess I’ll prod on the subject later, when my little sister is no longer around. “”It was, it was just supposed to be a prank but I just had to improve it and ignore the name, I wasn't the one who made it.”

“Improve it?” I asked. “Yes, in addition of imitating deafness, I also imitated blindness.”

“What’s wrong with that, that’s basically just ignoring someone, right?” I asked trying to comically lighten the mood. “It would be called ignoring if the box ritual wasn’t involved.”

“He always annoyed me you know. I was two years older and was at the peak of maturing, in the teens thinking that they’re mature at the age of thirteen kind of mind set. I didn’t want to be seen around him, he was fat, hyperactive and a nuisance, what every pessimistic teenager writing poems and haikus hated.”

“Were you-?

“Drop it.” He said flatly causing me to stop my further poking.

“Let’s just say that on the side I had other interest, with the occult. It was always just on the side, I tried rituals and such and always knew they would never work and they never did, but along the lines I was successful even if I wasn’t aware of it back then.”

“You summoned a demon?” I asked my interest amped to eleven. “I did, but we’ll talk about that later. Let’s go back to talking about the box game. Thinking back at it now I guess I confused a prank I found in a joke book into some sort of unfinished ritual from one of my occult books, but they never worked on anybody, anybody who was normal and my brother wasn’t normal.”

“My colleagues who claimed to see auras often told me that he was emitting something powerful and that he had his third eye open all the time, of course I wouldn’t expect demon like powers to come from such a jolly child but that’s not always the case, a genie can take room into any lamp that genie pleases after all.”

“It was a day I couldn’t remember but I did know that his annoyance had become too strong, or was it because I was too full of angst, I would have slapped him for his constant blabbering and nonsensical quips but a part of me didn’t want to, call it kindness or just the fear of the folks punishing me afterwards but my revenge was supposed to be just a harmless prank but I didn’t know how dangerous that game was-it was supposed to be just a prank, just a simple prank, a petty one at that.”

“So I put him in the box and pretended not to hear him, I acted like I covered him inside of a soundproof box as he shouted and yelled, hissed and barked-I remembered that they were deafening, If I wasn’t pretending to be deaf I would have been from his noise.” He said rubbing his temples his expression held a bothersome look mixed in with nostalgia and soon a contorted face of regret.

“I was about to end the entire charade right then and there but he just suddenly made a face so full of surprise followed by a quick dash to somewhere, I didn’t bother chasing after him I just enjoyed the peace.” He said forming a slight grin on his lips, a pitiful grin that took every ounce of his strength.

“Did he hear a spirit?” I asked in wonder. “I have no Idea, I don’t know if what put him into a trance that day was the angelic voice of an angel or a temptation of a demon, either way when he ran; he ran as if it was the most important race in the world.”

“The next day I found him with a smile in his face, as his eyes gleamed with pure happiness when he saw me. He explained that because of the box game he could now hear Tony-ton-ton, Tony-ton-ton was his imaginary friend that I thought he had grown out of but clearly I was wrong. He then began rambling about how Tony had such a great voice, very calming, very soothing and very soft. I should have taken that as a warning sign but like any rational person I dismissed it as simply just a child’s fantasy, I wish I hadn’t but then again there’s more than one thing I wish I hadn’t done in my lifetime, regret is so familiar now that I keep making mistakes because the pain of regret no longer stings, I guess that has its perks, somehow.”

“Did her run away with Tony?” I asked still intrigued by the story. “I’m getting to that, para-boy, after noon had passed I found him drawing in his room with crayons, paint, and even colored condiments like jam and peanut butter. Of course I quickly apprehended him and flat out yelled at him for the mess he made I would have nagged his head off if it wasn’t for the way he looked, quite exhausted and disheveled, a look I never would have expect from a child his age.”

“When I confronted him he explained that he was trying to draw Tony because Tony said that he looked different from how he drew him originally. I remembered that crude drawing of a kangaroo like thing with large wings and fuzzy arms stuck to the wall of our refrigerator that was what he would call Tony, but now the voice said otherwise.”

“All around I could see smudged drawings and sketches of Tony all marked with an “X” made with red crayon. Seeing the mess he made and how he was visibly exhausted I couldn’t help but try my best to at least help him in drawing his imaginary friend. I gathered all my art materials and told him to tell exactly what Tony looked like-at least how Tony viewed himself. He told me that Tony described himself as a guy with a large mouth that reached his stomach, the large head of an octopus and the torso and arms of a gorilla.”

“That’s kind of…” I said a little disturbed. “Weird, yes it was-that was the same thing that popped into my mind as I finished,  an entity with a large alien like head, a mouth open like a broken ventriloquist dummy, and massive arms and torso of a gorilla sounds weird but tamed. But when I asked him about the legs of his imaginary friend he innocently responded that, he doesn’t have any, and when I asked about the eyes, he just gave the same response. Finally just telling myself to ignore it I asked what color the skin was so that I could color it, he said that the same color that lies beneath our skin.”

“And that didn’t disturb you?” I asked prodding at him. “It did, but I guess he was just loosely describing the color pink. After that he told me to put him once again into the box so that he could hear what tony had to say I blindly agreed and he scampered off again.”

“You just dismissed it like that?” I asked quite dumbfounded, my grandfather was always think first and then move this wasn’t like him. “Call it youth, maybe that’s why I’m so cautious but either way everything was harmless, my prank was harmless, the effects were harmless enough that’s why I just dismissed everything and called it a day, I call everyday that went with him talking about his imaginary friend as normal as-harmless, just harmless fun.

“Are you okay, grandfather?” I asked as his eyes began to bulge out and his breathing began becoming heavy. “I think you should lie down for a minute.”

I said walking towards him holding up his wooden cane. He took out his hand in protest and gestured me to leave it while coughing heavily, I then began to rub his back all the while as I tried to again extend my hand into assistance. “I’m not that old, parasite. I’m going to finish this story if it’s the last thing I do. Alice, sweetie do me a favor will you and grab the box from under my bed will you.”

His face once again had that same flare as it did once before causing me to muster a small grin. Alice ran out with teddy bear in hand as her small form faded into the distance. “Listen, boy. I want you to take Alice out.”

“Grandfather, I can’t-I’m not like you!” I said almost screaming as the thought of being ordered to kill my little sister filled me with anger. “I don’t mean murder her, you piece of shit. I meant take her out somewhere, but here. I’m going to give you some pocket money just take her out into some place with animatronics or whatever these kids go for these days.”

“Is this it?” Alice asked carrying a small brown box, old and crusty. “That’s it, sweetie. Let’s continue the story then.”

“After weeks had passed I hadn’t notice but he showed himself less, I’ll admit I was worried so I tried the best I can to make an excuse to see him. His room was neat and tidy and he himself was the exact definition of a perfect child but there was something in his eyes that felt empty. When I confronted him about this I was only greeted with a giggle and a chuckle asking me to stop being silly but I knew something was wrong.”

“Come a bit closer, children.” We both leaned in closer as our ears perked up with intrigue. “One night when I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth, I saw his eye peeking through the small creak of the bathroom door, I was feeling cold that night and my heart began to thump and thump but I couldn’t move, somehow his stare had frozen me in place, I was helpless as his figure from the shadows let itself be known, then he opened the door, got on the floor, everybody walk the dinosaur.”

We both stared at our grandfather who had a cheeky grin in his face. “Good night, children.” He said as he took his cane and walked away.

“Brother, we have been had. I propose a plan for revenge.” My little sister said; her face still devoid of any emotion apart from frustration. “Just let him have this one, want to go out tonight, princess?”

My sudden engagement caused her to spring up and get ready, it was really troubling the she didn’t question anything but I guess she had the right to do that-she is quite young after all. I scratched the back of my head as I went into my grandfather’s room, my grandfather sitting on his bed looking like he was expecting me to come. We exchanged looks as we both knew that he was lying, not about the story but about the ending of the story.

“You copped out.” I said as I sat on a nearby wooden chair. “I did, but I don’t think you’ll appreciate me traumatizing your sister, now, won’t you?”

“Yeah, but tell me the real ending.” I said quite serious in tone. “Of course, that’s why you’re here and that’s why I was waiting here. We don’t need to kid ourselves we both know that I’m not that kind.”

“I didn’t check up on him for a few days, I didn’t check up on him at all, the last thing I remember him telling me is that he could now hear Tony without me simulating the box game, he could do it only if he covered his ears with his fingers and so I was rid of him for about a month then he came up to me and said that he wanted to see Tony.”

“And that’s when you “improved” the box game, right?” I said sternly causing him to raise his eyebrows up and down in approval. “I “improved” it by numbing my sense of sight, pretending that I couldn’t see him meant that he could see his friend, at least that’s what we both thought. Again he sprinted out as he went up the stairs and into the rooftop.”

“The rules was if you couldn’t be heard, then you would hear him and if you couldn’t be seen, then you would see him. And what he saw scared him out of his body, he didn’t fall, he was dead before even reaching the ground but I guess the eyes full of fright I saw that day was the eyes of a kid falling to his death slowly, but I’m not that grossly optimistic, I know that something scared him, and that was Tony.”

“Here you go.” He said throwing a wallet to me filled with bills. “You’re giving me all of this? I could actually afford a social life with this.”

“I want you to spend it on your sister, be a brother that I never was, a good one. But f you would prefer to disappoint me then, spend it on fleeting happiness but I warn you, if you do, I’m going to haunt you for the rest of your life.”

“Haunt, you aren’t dead yet.” I laughed as my grandfather motioned a gun with his hands shooting his temples. “You’re going to kill yourself?!”

“Not so loud, wouldn’t want her to hear us.” He said grinning with his eyes closed. “I’m very old, my eyes weren’t what they used to back in the day, but I’m still healthy in a sense all that’s wrong with me is my legs, my eyes are still working in tip top shape and so does my ears but my legs, they’re numb, boy.

And the he gave me a look of pure horror as he grabbed both of his knees and ran his nails into them. “…I could feel it touching my legs.”

After that I said goodbye to my grandfather, Alice dressed in a cute dress, her teddy bear left in her room and her arms intertwined with mine. We said goodbye to our grandfather, Alice waved her hand in goodbye with pure happiness as I nodded my head as he did as well, we both know that he was going through with it and I couldn’t blame him.

Along with his wallet which held the money inside it was also the key to his pickup truck, which was fairly unused, I drove off with Alice who was admiring the view of the night life, with people buzzing about and giving them a greeting as we passed by. We drove into a drive thru as I noticed Alice pouting and giving me a look of disappointment.

“This isn’t cool at all.” She said grumpily. “Come on. Don’t give me that look, see-look over there.”

I pointed at a bunch of people from inside the fast food restaurant hurry out along with their families as I opened the door to my side and quickly opened the door to hers I then grabbed her as we both took a seat in the back of the pickup truck.

“What’s going to happen, big brother?” She asked as her head on my chest. “Something, pretty…”

I said as the first explosion of fireworks went out, as the reflection of the spark reflected on her eyes which were two times their normal size. The beauty of the explosion, the shaped it formed and the mixture between blue and yellow shone in the sky like diamonds and gold, I would be in awe but the fireworks reminded me of the inevitable…

Had the bang gone off the same time as the first firework exploded? Was it as loud? I didn’t know but somehow something so beautiful caused me to remember something so morbid is beyond me, I was always the go with the flow kind of guy, I would forget something if it wasn’t actually appropriate for the time being but I couldn’t forget the inevitable, where will I find his dead body? Will I be the one to see it first? All these questions were silenced with a simple flick to my chin.

“What was that for?” I asked Alice who was glaring daggers at me. “Read the moment, big bro.”

She said puffing her cheeks I just apologized and patted her head as I hugged her beneath the stars and fireworks of the night sky.

I drove back home, Alice sleeping with a look of content on her face as I picked her up into a piggy back ride, I knew she was awake. I noticed that our parent’s cars wasn't there, that’s good I guess. I gently dropped her into her bed, wrapped her into her blanket, gave her the teddy bear and kissed her on her cheek not forgetting to turn on the night light before I left.

Someone as lazy as me would be tired now, but I wasn’t-call it something preventing another, you know when a person wouldn’t jump off a bridge because of common sense or maybe a person who runs in the morning in order to get fit. But before I went into my grandfather’s room I noticed the box from earlier, the box Alice took from his room. I was hesitant but I opened it anyway, and inside were books and a note.

It read: “Don’t worry these aren’t cursed, be sure to read this to her if you’re sick of reading the same fairytales over and over again.”

I gave a small smile as I picked up a book, fairly normal and newly bought-these weren’t definitely cursed. But that small smile faded when I heard a creak, from my grandfather’s room. Call it curiosity, call it kindness in fear of my little sister stumbling into it but I went and closed the door but not before peeking.

I hung my head as I closed the door from the inside, the image haunted me as I stumbled to sit in the same chair he stood moments ago. I was exhausted; I needed to rest so I slept on the dinning room table with my hands as a pillow I brought down my head into slumber.

Forever burnt into my mind is the image of my grandfather’s corpse, dead. Blood splattered across the wall along with a small bullet hole, his eyes were white, his face was full of unspeakable horror and he had a bullet hole…on his shoulder. He didn’t die in his own hands…

…My grandfather missed.