Dear Reader:

My name is Robert Graham, and this letter is a warning. If you are reading this, your life is at a crossroads between the mundane, and something unimaginable. Please take the time to read this letter in its entirety before doing anything rash with the package it was attached to, one little black box bound in chains.

I could simply relay the facts to you, but instead I’d like to tell you a story. The facts are not easy for a sane or rational individual to believe, but I hope reading this convinces you. So, here is a story about how this strange box found its way first into my possession, and now into yours.

*        *        *

I found the box when I was twelve years old playing in the patch of trees near my home, which my friend Peter and I considered the ‘woods’. We would walk the paths, backpacks slung over our shoulders and canteens of juice at our sides. It was a magical place where we could let our imaginations run wild, build forts, or hunt for forgotten treasures. One day we came to a place far back from the main road which looked like it had been a homeless camp. Amidst the empty bottles, crushed cans, and other trash that littered the area I spotted it. A little black box near the burn pit.

The box was wooden, about the size of a cigar box really, and had a strange crimson symbol on the lid that blazed out from the flat black color which covered the rest. There was no latch or lock and when I picked it up, I felt a small object shift inside. I stood there for a moment, a strange feeling twisting my guts into a knot. At that age, the only thing I could compare it to is the feeling one gets when they contemplate the worries of adulthood. The inevitable death of one’s parents, the fears of being left alone in the world. It was a cold, suffocating feeling that came over me like dark clouds rolling across the sun on a summer day. I wish I had listened to that feeling. I should have taken it as the warning and left the box where I had found it, inches from the makeshift fire pit.

“Bobby? What did you find?” Peter came up from behind me, returning me to the moment.

“Call me Robert, I’m almost thirteen now.” I whined, irritated at Peter for using what I considered my ‘baby name’. I gestured halfheartedly at the box I held, feigning disinterest. “Probably some crack-head’s stash. We should leave it.” even while saying this, I made no move to drop the item in question.

“What’s inside? Maybe it’s porn or something, check!” Peter grinned mischievously as he said this, his adolescent mind ever preoccupied with sex. He’d been obsessed with porn ever since we found a weathered old Hustler magazine stashed in the bushes. That prospect did interest me, but I was more curious about the contents being something valuable. It seemed unlikely as it was just left here, but there was only one way to know for sure.

“Okay.” I replied, holding the box out in front of me, “but if it’s something that will get us in trouble keep your yap shut, deal?” Peter nodded emphatically, unconsciously tugging at the crotch of his jeans. He was probably getting wood at the mere prospect of forest porn just moments away.

“Jesus Pete, if you start jacking off in front of me I’m out!” I shot him a disgusted look and nodded towards the offending hand.

“W-what? Just open it already!” Peter flushed and looked indignant, his hand quickly pulling away from his crotch and shooting into his pocket. Poor kid was hornier than a three balled cat, but he was my best friend.

I found the edge of the lid opposite the hinges, rusty old things that looked like they might not budge. I looked at the symbol on the top before opening it, a single red eye in a simplistic style. Had I known the word at the time, I would have compared it to an Egyptian Hieroglyph. A sharp line extended down from the flat lower lid of the eye, and the pupil turned upward and to the right. It seemed like the eye of one lost in either deepest ecstasy, or unimaginable agony. The box lid moved easily enough, although it felt a bit heavy for its size. I opened it.

The interior of the box was the same flat black as the exterior, yet as we peered in It seemed to me as if the light around us was fading and the trees around the clearing were closing in. There was something inside, but I can’t describe it to you. It’s not as if the thing inside was indescribable, only that whatever it is has some power over me. I’ve tried many times, but the words are lost before they can reach my lips, or the tips of my fingers as I type. I've even tried to draw the thing a few times, but I'm always held back.

I felt my mind fog as my eyes fell upon the object, and beside me Peter fell to the ground in a faint. Feeling as if I was watching myself from outside, I slowly knelt down and straddled the smaller boy. I gently set the box beside him before my hands gripped his slender neck in a strangle hold. Peter’s brown eyes bulged from the force of my grip but he made no move to resist. I saw the whites of his eyes first become bloodshot, and then seem to flood with crimson. All the while I was screaming in my head and trying to regain control of myself, but the presence in my mind was too strong. I couldn’t understand this sudden possession, nor why whatever it was that had taken over my body would do this to my friend.  

For a few long minutes, I held a firm grip. I watched my dearest friend first convulse, then go limp as his face turned from red, to blue, and finally white. After it all seemed to be done I saw myself thrust my weight into my palms and heard a sickly crunch, that I could only assume was his windpipe being crushed.

That terrible sound would also mark the moment at which I regained control. I instantly drew back in horror at what I had just been forced to do. I cried soundlessly at first, my body shaking as I tried to hold in each sob. Finally It all came out in one howling piteous wail. I crawled from atop Peter’s corpse, cradling his head, which hung loosely like the head of some string-less marionette. I looked into his lifeless eyes, the whites still that angry crimson. His jaw hung open, spittle flowing from either side. I wiped it away, as if it would do any good. I looked him over and saw that he had pissed himself as he had died, and prayed that it wasn’t in fear of me. I hoped that he had simply blacked out, not been paralyzed and awake as his only friend in the world was murdering him.

I don’t know how long I sat like that with him but his body was cool when I finally stood. I looked to the box that lay open beside Peter, wondering what to do. I started to back away, my eyes fixed on the strange object. I had no idea how I could explain what had happened. Knowing that my life was as good as over, panic took hold. I was ashamed to be thinking about myself after what had just happened, but I couldn’t help it. The weight of Peter’s death struck me then, and I turned away from his body to vomit. Bile and bits of my lunch sprayed over a mound of crushed beer cans that must have been saved for recycling.

I turned back sharply as I heard an odd sound, snot and puke still streaming from my nose and chin. It sounded like a low growl, both animistic and with a quality that was utterly unnatural.  The box had moved to Peter’s head, covering his face which was turned to the side. It didn’t appear to be wooden or solid anymore, instead It was stretching like latex, or perhaps the mouth of a snake around its prey. Black shiny tendrils protruded from the edges, dragging the body further inside. What I was seeing defied reason, and yet I knew in that moment that it was real. I heard his skull cracking and wet ripping as Peter's entire head disappeared into that damn box. Although the box was flexing slightly around peter, it was also somehow compacting him, causing his limbs to shake limply as flesh and bone was crushed into, into what? I still don’t know. All I know, is that I stood there watching in horror as a box no bigger than one of my father’s hard bound books, ate my friend.

When it was all over and I saw Peters sneakers forced into that vile maw, I knew that no one could help me. A single shoelace was the last thing to slip inside, looking oddly like a strand of pasta disappearing into a mouth. I almost started laughing hysterically as a scene from Lady and the Tramp flashed into my mind. It wasn’t funny, but I guess my mind was having trouble coping.

I then felt little slimy fingers grasp my brain, I could feel them like worms inside of my skull. I lost control again, pushed back into the passenger seat as something else took the wheel. I walked slowly over to the box and picked it up. I looked again at the object inside, and closed the lid. The box’s size and weight had remained the same, despite apparently containing my friend’s body. I heard myself speak aloud now, my voice filled with venom and malice that came from hell itself.

“You will keep me Robert. Keep me safe.” I paused there, feeling my own face twist into a terrible grin. “I’m always hungry Robert, if you try to resist I will eat your mother, your father, even your little sister. You will feed them to me Robert, so be good.” I saw myself tuck the box into my backpack, close the zipper almost lovingly, and put the bag over my shoulder. Seconds later the tendrils in my mind receded, and I was once again under my own control.

I had no tears left, I felt numb and broken. I just stood there, processing everything that had happened. The threat the box had made to me was very real, I knew I would never be free. In shock, I made my way home. The sun was setting now over the surrounding foothills, and I could hear distant traffic through the bushes and thick woods. The magic of the forest was dead as Peter now. I spent the time reviewing my story as I walked, going over the lies and finding the holes. My story had to be perfect, as it turns out I was a passable liar. Lucky or unlucky as that talent may be, it saved my family that day and on a few other occasions.

*        *        *

That’s the beginning of my nightmare, and now I hope it is finally ending. For me at least, not for the families and friends of those who have met Peter's fate. I fed the box when it called to me, I never resisted. There was always someone I loved, someone who could be its next victim if I failed to provide. I never imagined the box would be so hungry, I’ve lost count over the years. I had to keep moving around to avoid suspicion, so I took on work as a truck driver. I would find a victim that wouldn’t attract too much attention, show them the object, and the box did the rest. There were never any bodies left behind, so the police tend to treat them all as missing persons. The old, the homeless, and the poor were all food for the box. I'd check the local paper before I left town, and one thing I've learned over the years it's that even those deemed worthless by society have people they leave behind. The box left so many holes in the world, and I was too weak to stop it.

Years later, I wouldn’t be able to save my new wife from the voracious demon that had taken over my life. I had fooled myself into believing I could have a normal life, aside from those times when the box needed to feed. Sarah found the box in my den one night, and I gutted her with a letter opener. She had peeked inside, and those are the rules. The blade was so dull, I remember just wishing I could at least take control for one moment and make her death less painful. Her screams still haunt my dreams, I now know that Peter knew exactly what was happening to him, the box must like the taste of fear.

That wasn't enough for the thing in the box however. I won't write in great detail on this matter, but it's final act is what finally pushed me over the edge. We shared a meal that night, and I will never be able to push those experiences from my mind. After all the times I had done the bidding of that demon, it was as merciless with me as it was with all of it's other victims. When my share was consumed and my wife's pale blood streaked hand had finally slipped silently beneath the lid, I was held in place for hours as the bastard used my own voice to taunt me, chiding me for not hiding the box better. calling me a fool for trying to have anything good or pure in a life that was clearly so cursed. I wasn't allowed to vomit, I could feel the flesh of my loved one inside me, and it was as close to hell as I think I've ever been. I wished my torment was over, I didn't want to live like this anymore, but the box must not win.

I plan to rid the world of this thing once and for all. As the years have dragged on, with every feeding I’ve grown a little more resistant to the control the box has over me. It’s been five years since I lost my wife, and my resolve hasn't wavered for a moment. Yesterday, I took a victim as myself. I felt the needs of the box, but it was my own hands that did the killing. I was in control, yet I took care to never tip my hand. The mind worms were there but at last I felt stronger than their presence. Perhaps the box has gotten weaker, or perhaps it’s just a trick. Some sick game before it ends me and finds another slave.

Either way, I plan to bind the lid in chains and bury the damn thing in the same place I found it. The hole has already been dug, I made it quite deep. I’ll seal this letter in plastic and attach it to the box. When the deed is done, I’ll return to my home and end my life. I don’t deserve a quick death at this point, So I’ll hang myself without a drop. My penance will be to die like Peter, and I hope it’s enough to free me in death from the curse that followed me in life.  

Since you have somehow found the box, please try to believe my story. Throw this thing right back in the pit, cover it with stones and bury it again. Better yet if you can, drop it to the bottom of the ocean. I fear the time involved in that would allow the box to stop my efforts, I have no idea how strong it can be when threatened. The box can never be allowed to feed on humanity again, it must be stopped.

PS: One last thing, I know you want to see what’s inside the box, and I wish my resistance to its influence would allow me to tell you. What I can tell you is that the object inside isn’t particularly interesting. Strange maybe, but nothing that would blow your mind. The mystery is the bait, so don’t bite. In this case curiosity will kill more than the cat, don’t say I didn’t warn you.