Deacon sighed as he browsed through yet another cafeteria sized table crowded with junk. He’d always loved rummage sales, estate sales, flea markets and thrift shops, so when he spotted the blindingly yellow flyer on the way home from work he just couldn’t resist. With its bold headline claiming hundreds of long forgotten treasures from dozens of families, and all gathered in one cul de sac, it has sounded like the perfect way to start the weekend. Within a few minutes he was parking his car and making his way towards the surprisingly crowded street. There were dozens and dozens of tables, carts, racks and plastic bins full of wonderous wares. But his excitement quickly dwindled when he found that most of the ‘treasures’ were nothing more then mismatched tea sets, outdated clothing, worn out stuffed animals, cheap jewelry, yellowed books and hundreds of useless baubles and trinkets. It was the type of things old women and children ooo’d and aww’d over, but nothing that he just had to have.
Disappointed, but glad he’d stopped and checked it out anyway, Deacon turned away from the table he’d been going through and tripped over something at his feet. With a few ungraceful steps and a hop he managed to keep himself upright, and looked to see what he had stumbled over, at the same time choosing to ignore the amused looks and snickers of his fellow treasure seekers. Acting as though nothing had happened he bent over and picked up the object that had been carelessly left behind him.
It was a simple box; covered in a thin, tight layer of old dark leather, approximately 18” x 18” x 18” with a brass latch and pin, securing a circular lid in its top, as well as brass trimming, and a crank on the right side. The design was clearly that of a Jack-in-the-Box. A common child’s toy that when turning the crank produced a tinny song and a cheap scare as a overly made up clown or jester popped out upon the songs completion. This though was not your average Jack-in-the-Box. Typically the toy, now mass produced in various warehouses across the world, was made out of pressed tin, was feather light, and about half the size. Also Deacon could not recall ever seeing one that latched shut. What was the purpose in that? It would ruin the scare if the clown couldn’t ‘pop’ out at the appropriate time. He tried to pull the brass pin out, but it was stuck, and refused to budge even a hair. The result was the same with the crank as well and despite his efforts he couldn’t get it to produce even a single musical note.
Even though the toy didn’t work it intrigued Deacon. It was clearly old, and probably needed some repairs, but he was willing to bet, that even in its current state it was worth some money. He turned the heavy box over and around looking for a price sticker, but could find none. Someone here must be selling it, perhaps a kid had taken the sticker off in hopes of playing with it. He carried the Jack-in-the-Box to the only table with someone sitting at it. A rail thin, middle aged woman, with long red, extremely frazzled hair and tired blue eyes, sat with a clipboard and a metal box, exchanging various odds n’ ends for cash. He waited patiently behind three young boys who were debating the value of a box of sports cards, and when they finally agreed on a price, paid for their cards and moved on. The woman at the table looked at him with such exasperation he was sure she was going to demand to know what he wanted. He was surprised though when her expression softened, “Those boys have been here four times, and have argued the price of everything, their parents must be car salesman”. She smiled weakly.
Deacon laughed politely, and asked, “I cant seem to find a price on this thing. Do you know how much it is”? he held the Jack-in-the-Box out for her to see, but not for enough for her to take it from him. He did not want to let it out of his possession, afraid she might guess its potential value.
“What is it”? She tilted her head, but saw nothing but an old box.
“A broken Jack-in-the-Box”, he turned the box enough to let her see the crank on the side.
“You want to buy a broken toy? And a dirty one at that”? She sneered at the box in his hands, mistaking the aged leather for stains.
Deacon shrugged, eager to make the purchase, but not wanting to let his excitement apparent. No need in letting on that he thought it might be worth more then a few dollars. “A project really, I like to repair things in my spare time”.
“Oh a handyman”, she smiled delightedly. “Well I’ll tell you what, its not marked as to who brought it, so I wouldn’t know who to give the money too, and seeing that its broken I couldn’t rightfully charge you anyway. You just go ahead and take it”.
“I couldn’t do that”, he shook his head. He wanted the toy, but knowing he could make some money off of it, he felt bad not paying anything for it. “It must be worth at least a few dollars”. He insisted, propping the Jack-in-the-Box in one arm and reaching for his wallet.
The red haired woman leaned forward and placed a halting hand on his arm. “Listen, it cant possibly be worth much, especially broken. How ’bout this, I have been sitting at this table for seven hours, and I would love nothing more then a ginger ale and some M & M’s, but I cant leave while the sale is going. You run to the gas station down the road and grab them for me, we’ll call it even”.
Deacon laughed, a genuine laugh this time, and nodded. “You got it”, he started to set down the toy, not wanting to let it out of his sight, but certain that it would be safe with the woman until he got back.
Again she stopped him, “I trust you hon, take it with you”.
“Thank you ma’am”, he smiled. “I’ll be back in just a few minutes”.
The woman at the rummage sale had laughed with genuine amusement when he returned to her table with a two liter of ginger ale, a cup of ice, and a three pound bag of M & M’s, as well as his insistence that it was a fair trade. A brief exchanges of thanks and a few pleasantries later he was on his way home, and after a shower, and a piece of cold pizza he sat down with the Jack-in-the-Box and his laptop to begin his research.
An hour later he had yet to locate any information on his particular Jack-in-the-Box. There was no manufacturers stamp, no signature or initialing of any kind to indicate who might have made the toy. He was surprised though when examining the box for the at least the fourth time since brining it home, to find a pentagram surrounded by a Latin on the bottom. The sinister star, and Latin were burned into the otherwise soft leather covering. He hadn’t noticed it earlier, and wasn’t sure how he could have missed it, but it was clear as day now. In his excitement over its age and potential profit he must have overlooked it.
The pentagram certainly added to the mystery of the toy, and he had hoped that the Jack-in-the-Box’s uniqueness would make it easy to locate information about it, but it was quickly becoming apparent that maybe its uniqueness was the very thing holding up his search. Frustrated, but not discouraged he began yet another search when he heard the front door open.
“Hi honey”, he called out to the only other person who had a key to his home; his girlfriend of two years, Melanie.
“Hey baby”, she answered from the hallway as she stripped out of her jacket and shoes, and dropped her purse before joining him on the couch, and planting a kiss on his cheek.
Deacon set his laptop aside, turned his head and eagerly returned her kiss. “How was your day”? he asked.
“Oh you know, long, drawn out, and uneventful, until five minutes before its time to leave”. She laughed, tossing her dark hair over her shoulder, and cuddling up to Deacon.
“Typical”. he agreed. “What happened”?
“This woman, wearing more make up then the entire fall line up in an Avon catalog, comes busting in practically hyperventilating, screaming that her Shitzu is curled up in her car dying. So I follow her out, cause she’s afraid to touch the dog, says he is so sick he’s growling and trying to bite her. Well we get to her car and I can see with just a single glance that this poor dog is in labor”.
“In labor”? Deacon asked in confusion, “He”?
Melanie laughed, a sound that Deacon always found pleasant, flipped back the persistent strand of hair and continued. “Yeah well, her precious ‘Marvin’ was clearly a girl and on the verge of dropping a litter of puppies in her minivan”.
“What did she think of that”? He asked in amusement.
“Oh she refused to believe me, said there was NO WAY she could have had her dog for two years and not know that it was a girl. Even after I wrapped her up and took her inside the woman insisted I was mistaken. Marvin must’ve eaten something that he shouldn’t have”, Melanie shook her head and smiled. “It wasn’t until the first puppy was born that she admitted I ‘might’ be right”.
Deacon laughed out loud, “Well at least your day wasn’t a total bore”.
“Nope”, she agreed, “but I am glad its over”. Melanie wrapped her arms around Deacon’s neck and was pulling him close for another kiss when she spotted the object on the table. “What’s that”?
Deacon reached over and picked up the toy, “Oh I picked this up on the way home from work, pretty sure it’s a Jack-in-the-Box”.
“Pretty sure”? She asked quizzically, looking at it she couldn’t think of anything else with that type of setup.
“Well the crank wont turn, and I cant get the pin out of the latch”, he shrugged and handed the box to Melanie. “But its obviously old, so even if I gotta get some work done to it to get in working order, I think I can make some money off of it. I’ve been searching online ever since I got home”.
Melanie turned the box over to examine it, noting the pentagram and Latin before setting the heavy box on her knees and rubbing her fingers together, surprised, and a little disgusted by the soft texture of its surface.
“Weird huh? Its covered in some type of leather, but that’s gotta make it even rarer, never seen one like that before”. Deacon grinned hopefully.
Melanie nodded in agreement, “What does the Latin say”?
“Oh, I looked that up too and roughly it says; Music wakes the sleeper who seeks a successor”.
“What does that mean”?
“I have no idea, who knows what the person that made this thing was thinking. People believed all sorts of weird things way back when”.
“Did you see these”? She asked, barely acknowledging his explanation as she explored the box further.
“The caps on the corners”, she pointed to one but didn’t touch it.
Deacon leaned in closer and noted that every three sided cap had engraved on each of its flat surfaces the number six, so that each corner read 666. He stared for a moment in disbelief, how could he have missed that as well as the pentagram? Maybe it was time to go have his eyes examined he thought ruefully.
“I’ve never seen a toy with that on it before”, Melanie frowned distastefully.
“Well, it kinda makes sense”, Deacon said straightening up. “The original toy has been traced back to a sixteenth century German clock maker, who got the idea from a thirteenth century churchman who was said to have protected the city of Buckinghamshire by casting a devil into a boot. The clock maker took this legend and created the ‘Devil-in-a-Box’, for the son of a local prince. When he turned the crank a simple tune played, and at the end a comically painted devil popped out and surprised everyone. It was instantly popular, all the nobles wanted their own ‘Devil-in-the-Box’. Sometime during the Renaissance the devil was replaced with a jester and the toy became known as a ‘Jack-in-the-Box’. Jack, was an old nickname for the devil, so it still meant the same thing, but it seemed to have more appeal to people by that way”. Deacon explained.
“Well thanks for the history lesson honey, but it doesn’t make this thing any less creepy”, Melanie sneered as she picked it up off her knees to hand it back to him. In her attempt to touch as little of it as possible she misjudged its heaviness and her hands slipped, nearly dropping it. Her reflexes were quick though and she caught it by the crank causing the old brass handle to move forward. When it did the first few beats of, Pop Goes the Weasel, rang out in clear tinny notes. “I thought it didn’t work”?
Deacon excitedly grabbed the Jack-in-the-Box and set it on his own lap, “It didn’t, I couldn’t get it to turn at all. Must’ve just been stuck, guess you loosened it”. He tried pulling the pin out once again, but still it refused to budge. He could see nothing that was preventing the pin from moving, no substance clogging up the latch, but still it would not move. Shrugging off the disappointment he grabbed the handle and gave it a gentle push. Effortlessly the crank moved forward and the room filled with an eerily slow rendition of the children’s rhyme. Deacon tried to hurry it along, turning the crank faster, but it refused to speed up. As the climax of the song approached, Deacon felt his stomach tighten in anticipation even though he knew the scare wouldn’t come, because of the stuck pin.
Melanie was tensed as well, mesmerized by the languid tune. When the ‘POP’ rang out, the single note did not disappoint, the lid of the toy jumping in its frame. Melanie gasped and grabbed Deacons arm who started in surprise himself; the vibration of the boxes movement still ringing through his hand. A second later the couple looked at each other and laughed.
“Well, clearly Jack is ready to come out and play”. Deacon chuckled, pulling at the pin again.
Melanie sighed loudly, shaking off the scare. “Well I am ready to eat”, she informed him, taking the Jack-in-the-Box from his lap, still touching it as little as possible, and setting it on the coffee table next to his laptop. “I am craving burgers from May’s”. In truth she didn’t really care where they went, she just wanted to be out of the house and away from the creepy toy.
“You got it”. He agreed.
Dinner at May’s had turned out to be an excellent idea. For nearly two hours they sat in a corner booth sharing food, and stealing kisses while discussing their anniversary plans for the following weekend. After dinner they went for a long walk in the botanical garden near Deacons house, and by the time they got home the Jack-in-the-Box had been all but forgotten.
They were barely through the front door when Melanie leaned in close and began to whisper enticing promises in Deacons ear. He grinned at her lasciviously, “I’ll grab the wine”. He kissed her, and watched her shimmy down the hall before making his way through the living room to the kitchen where he grabbed the promised wine, and two glasses. On his way back through the living room he glanced down at the Jack-in-the-Box and stopped abruptly. The pin; stuck all day despite his best efforts, lay neatly next to the antique toy.
Deacon sat the wine and glasses down on the couch and picked up the brass pin, and stared at it in confusion, unable to reasonably explain how the pin had come loose and landed so neatly next to the Jack-in-the-Box. His confusion was interrupted when Melanie spoke from behind him. “Deacon, what’s taking so long”? She asked in her best pouty voice.
“The pin”, he turned to show her the brass latch pin held between his fingers, and noted the tiny blue bathrobe she’d slipped into, “it came out”.
“And”? Her arms were crossed over her chest, and the look on her face clearly stated that if he wanted to proceed with her earlier enticement then he’d better leave the Jack-in-the-Box alone.
Despite his desire though, his curiosity won out, he turned back towards the toy, and sat on the couch in front of it. “I didn’t take it out”, he told her. “It was laying on the table next to it”.
“So? It fell out. You jiggled it around enough earlier. Who cares”?! Melanie cried in exasperation.
“It should open now”, Deacon almost whispered, not even hearing what she’d said as he flipped the latch back and began to turn the crank.
In spite of her anger Melanie was curious about ’Jack’ and stepped up behind the couch to look over Deacons shoulder as the song slowly progressed. This time though, when the ’POP’ came nothing happened, the box sat motionless. Not even a thud from within like earlier. Melanie laughed in nervous relief, “See, still broken”. she pointed out gladly. “Now grab the wine, and come to bed”, she said, kissing the back of his neck in hopes of drawing him away.
“Just a minute”, he pulled away from her, and began to turn the crank again. Again there was no ’Jack’ when the song reached its peak, and Melanie had, had enough.
“Deacon”! She snapped angrily.
“What”? He asked, seemingly unfazed by her anger as he leaned in and inspected the seam around the lid. “Go get me a knife, maybe I can pry it open”.
“You’ve got to be kidding”?! She cried incredulously.
“Come on honey it’ll…” his attempt at negotiating was interrupted as the crank began to turn slowly of its own volition, and the tinny song began to slowly play. “I must’ve cranked it to much”. he offered in a near whisper, as they watched in apprehensive silence.
“Deacon”, Melanie tried to say, she wanted to tell him to make it stop, to beg him not to let the song finish, but she couldn’t make her voice obey.
As the pinnacle approached Deacon was suddenly unsure whether he wanted to meet Jack or not. Before he could decide, the circular leather covered lid flipped soundlessly open and a blur of grey and white shot out of the box towards Deacon. More startled then he would ever admit, Deacon jumped and reflexively put up his hand, then cried out as a flash of white hot pain shot through his palm. “Son of a bitch”!
In a moment Melanie was kneeling at his side examining the wound in his hand. It was at least three inches across and bleeding profusely. She couldn’t believe a toy had done this, in fact it had happened so fast that she hadn’t even seen ‘Jack‘. Turning her gaze towards the table, she gasped when she saw the thing bobbing up and down on its noisy antiquated spring. “What the hell is that”? She momentarily forgot about Deacons hand as she stared in disgust at the thing that had popped out of the box.
Ten inches high, minus the spring, it looked more like a corpse then a devil. The spine appeared to grow out of the spring itself and barely supported the thin malformed skeleton draped in stringy dry flesh. The mouth hung open revealing a dozen sharp looking teeth, just below an empty hole where the nose should’ve been. Above the vacant hole, the eyes were sewn shut with thick strands of black thread. The top of its head came to a lopsided point, the skull almost entirely exposed except for a few stubborn patches of grey scalp clinging to short tufts of yellowed hair. Worst of all Melanie thought were the unnaturally long arms, and exaggerated fingers that looked more like claws, tipped red with Deacons blood and, pulled close to its desiccated ribcage. It was the sight of the blood, the brilliant crimson against the grey that brought her back to the situation at hand, and sneering balefully she back handed the toy, sending it spinning across the table and crashing to the floor.
“What’d you do that for”? Deacon asked, cradling his hand against his stomach.
“Are you serious”? She grabbed his injured hand, making him cringe but not caring. “You forget about this already”?
“Its just a scratch”, he insisted despite the rivulets of blood that spiraled down his wrist.
Melanie looked at him with big green eyes that said she couldn’t believe he’d just said that, “That is not just a scratch, you may need stitches”. She told him as she headed for the bathroom where the first aid kit was kept.
Deacon rolled his eyes and sighed, grateful she couldn’t see him, but equally grateful when she returned with the kit and began to tend to his hand in silence. For a few minutes neither of them spoke as Melanie cleaned up the blood and deftly bandaged the injury.
Finally after an internal debate with herself as to whether or not she should speak her mind, she took a deep breath and said, “I think you should get rid of that thing”.
“What? Why”? He asked in bewilderment.
“I don’t trust it”, she admitted, glancing in the direction of the fallen Jack-in-the-Box.
Deacon stared at Melanie in disbelief, “You don’t trust it”? His voice was thick with ridicule. “Its just a toy Melanie, there is nothing to trust or not trust about it”.
“There’s something wrong with it Deacon, look at what it did to you”.
“It was an accident”.
“An accident? Since when do Jack-in-the-Box’s accidentally draw blood”?
“Its an old toy, that ‘Jack’ is probably made of metal, or real bone, they weren’t exactly concerned with safety back then”. He pointed out.
Melanie shook her head as she packed up the first aid kit and garbage, talking over her shoulder as she put the kit back and disposed of the garbage. “I don’t care, it gives me the creeps, and I don’t want it in the house”.
Deacon continued to stare after her in disbelief, “You cant be serious. What exactly do you propose I do with it”?
“The garbage can at the curb would be a good place for it”, she said seriously.
“Are you nuts”? Deacon asked scornfully. He stood from the couch and walked around the coffee table. The Jack-in-the-Box lay a few feet away, it had slid further then he thought, he hoped it wasn’t damaged. Jack had toppled forward, his bony arms outstretched, as if trying to pull himself out of the box. Favoring his wounded hand he carefully scooped it up, stuffed the ugly Jack back into its hole and closed the lid. “This thing could be worth a fortune”!
Melanie crossed her arms again, “So? What’s more important? A possible fortune? Or me”?
“Melanie you’re being ridiculous, its just a toy! Its completely irrational to be afraid of it”. He held the toy out, turning it over on all sides to show her its harmlessness.
“Wrong answer”. She turned angrily away and Deacon was certain he’d been banished to the couch for the night. A few moments later though Melanie emerged from the bedroom fully dressed. Wordlessly she went to the closet, retrieved her jacket and purse, and slipped on her shoes. “I hope its worth it”, she said barely able to keep the tremble from her voice as she opened the front door and stepped out into the night.
“Melanie! Come on”! He set the Jack-in-the-Box on the coffee table once again and chased after her. “Don’t be like that”, he half-heartedly begged. “Its just a toy”! He repeated, as she started the engine.
“Good night Deacon”, she shouted through the window, and drove away, leaving him standing in the driveway staring after her.
Stunned that she’d actually left, and angry that the whole thing was over an old toy, Deacon grumbled to himself as he hurried back inside and slammed the front door. He flopped down on the couch next to the bottle of wine and thought as he picked it up, ’at least it wont go to waste’, and proceeded to pull the cork out with his teeth and begin drinking.
Almost an hour later, the wine bottle drained of its contents, and his head already beginning to pound Deacon decided it was time for bed. Clanking the empty bottle down loudly, he patted the top of the Jack-in-the-Box, proud of his discovery despite what Melanie thought.
“Oh well”, he mumbled. “Her loss”, and tried to push himself up on wobbly legs, giggling drunkenly to himself when he ended up back on the couch. He was about to try again when a sound caught his ear, something faint yet distinctly familiar. Frowning and closing his eyes Deacon tried to make his alcohol addled mind focus on identifying the noise and where it had come from when it repeated, louder this time. A wet sound that made his skin crawl. He opened his eyes and looked questioningly at the Jack-in-the-Box, picking it up off the table and putting an ear up to it. Had it really come from there? As if to confirm his suspicion it came again; a slurping, slobbering sound that made Deacon picture the skeletal ’Jack’ huddled inside sucking the blood off of its ragged fingers. The thought sent a chill through him, and he dropped the box back onto the table.
He was off the couch and nearly in the hallway when he stopped suddenly and burst into laughter. “Thanks a lot Melanie”, he said to the empty room. He had let her ridiculous rants, and the excessive alcohol get to him. Of course the Jack-in-the-Box made noise, he was drunkenly rattling it around, but it was no more menacing, no more a threat then a box full of feathers. Continuing to laugh at himself Deacon slowly walked, half supported by the wall, to his room and dropped into bed.
Just a few hours later Deacon woke, fully dressed, half hanging off the bed, with a skull splitting headache that made him desperately long to be back asleep. Knowing that it was not going to happen anytime soon though he forced himself out of bed, popped half a dozen aspirin and climbed into the hottest shower he could handle.
He was still standing under the stream of near scalding water, attempting to rinse away the previous evenings events, when he heard a barely audible thump over the sound of the water. The front door? Had Melanie come back? Anxious to apologize, and make amends, he shut off the shower, and stepped out. He was wrapping a towel around his waist when a crash of glass broke the silence of the house.
“Melanie”? He called out, exiting the bathroom, and heading down the hall towards the living room. “Is that you”? The room was empty, and dark except for the bright blue light from his laptop battery. It flashed its low power warning off the amber colored glass of the broken wine bottle, which lay in a pile between the couch and the coffee table. It must’ve been what he’d heard just a few moments ago, but how had it happened?
As he stood there trying to think of a reasonable explanation for the wine bottle breaking he noticed the empty spot on the coffee table. Where was the Jack-in-the-Box? The brass latch pin still lay next to his laptop, but the toy was nowhere to be seen. He closed his eyes and tried to remember if he’d moved it before going to bed, but it was useless, he’d drank way to much, and couldn’t remember anything clearly after opening the bottle of wine. Sighing in contempt of himself, he decided to look for the Jack-in-the-Box first. He would clean up the glass later. Besides, despite his ruined evening with Melanie, he still hoped to make money off the old toy.
Deacon went to the kitchen first, in his drunken state of mind he very well may have done just what Melanie had wanted and thrown the toy out. He was pulling the trash can out from under the sink when ’Pop Goes the Weasel’ began to play from somewhere behind him. Dropping the can, he spun around, but he was of course still alone. The song continued to play, and to Deacon it seemed to be slowing down, almost as if it were calling to him; enticing him. He left the fallen trash can, and followed the metallic tune through the living room, past the front door alcove, and into the hallway where the song continued, past its climax only to start over again.
“Melanie”? Deacon called out tentatively, suddenly feeling vulnerable in nothing but a towel as he searched for the misplaced toy. “Melanie, is that you”? He walked slowly down the hallway, certain the music was coming from his bedroom, but pausing to check the bathroom anyway. He didn’t want to admit it, not even just to himself, but he was delaying the discovery of the toy as long as possible. “Melanie, honey I’m sorry”, he called out, hoping as he passed the empty spare room that she had snuck in and was messing with him in retaliation for his earlier behavior.
When he reached his bedroom door he could hear the music as clearly as if he were holding the toy, but even if it was over wound, the music shouldn’t still be playing. Plus he knew he hadn’t shut the bedroom door when he left to take a shower. So it had to be Melanie, it just had to be.
As soon as he twisted the door knob the music stopped. “Mel”? he pushed the door all the way open hoping to see her standing there grinning triumphantly. Instead he was greeted by an empty room. Empty except for the Jack-in-the-Box sitting squarely in the middle of his bed.
A chill ran through him, covering him head to toe in thousands of goose bumps. The Jack-in-the-Box had not been on his bed when he’d woken he was sure of it. Melanie had to be behind it. Stepping into the room he looked behind the door, in the closet, behind a large cardboard cut out of Superman, and even dropped to his knees to look under the bed. But despite his hopes, they were all empty.
He was pushing himself up off the floor when the Jack-in-the-Box began its serenade yet again. It was so startling that his hand slipped and he landed back on his knees next to the bed. “Son of a…”the music picked up speed making Deacons heart skip a beat. “Stop”. He whispered pleadingly, reaching out to halt the crank. Before he even reached it, it stopped, one note before the ’POP’.
Laughing in nervous relief, Deacon sighed, and dropped his head on the edge of the bed. He had never been so relieved, or felt so stupid. He stared at the box and couldn’t believe that he had let Melanie’s paranoia get to him, it was only a toy. Nothing but wood and metal. Nothing vicious. Nothing to be afraid of.
While he knelt there berating himself the single note announcing Jacks arrival chimed, the metallic ping was like a gunshot in the silence, and as he raised his head the monstrous toy sprang from its hiding place, its long spindly arms reaching out for him. This time Deacon screamed, and threw himself backwards, landing on his backside as Jack continued forward, the momentum carrying the toy off the bed where it landed between his legs.
“Holy shit”!, he cried angrily, not sure what he was more mad at; the toy, or himself for fearing it. It was very old, there were kinks, loose parts, things that surely needed to be repaired. Hell the spring alone, was in desperate need of an oiling. He knew it was a desperate grasp at logic, but he didn’t care, it was better then admitting Melanie may have been right.
The Jack-in-the-Box lay on its side, Jack and spring stretched out towards him, looking as though it were reaching for him. He shook his head, angry with himself for his apprehension, and forced himself forward to scoop Jack back into the box when it moved. The fingers stretching slowly as he reached for it. Deacon paused, not trusting his eyes, and in his hesitation Jack confirmed his suspicions, its claw like hands swinging viscously at his fingers.
To shocked to cry out Deacon scooted back, his now bloody fingers making the floor slippery as he tried to stand. After a fumbled attempt though he succeeded, and stared in disbelief as Jack used its unnaturally long and narrow arms to pull itself across the floor towards him.
“No way”, he breathed, his stomach clenching in fear as he sidestepped towards the hallway, not wanting to turn his back on it. He glanced towards the doorway out of the corner of his eyes and as he did he heard the rusty creak of the spring, and for a brief moment he had the crazy idea that Jack was putting himself away. But when he looked back Jack was air born, launching itself towards him, using the force of the spring to push its body forward, and dragging the heavy box along. It landed just a few inches short of Deacons bare feet, and in his panic he kicked at it, intending to send the awful thing flying across the room, hoping to break it.
Before his foot even came in contact with the toy, Jack lashed out and grabbed onto his ankle, digging its sharp fingers deep into his skin. Deacon shrieked in pain, and began to kick wildly, but instead of tossing the toy off it seemed to energize it, and Jack’s clawed fingers sought purchase higher up his calf as it sank its ragged teeth into his shin.
“Get off”! He continued to thrash his leg furiously until his foot made contact with the heavy wooden box, and he felt at least two toes crush instantly. The pain was nauseating, and Deacon reached down to rip Jack off his leg. When his hands wrapped around the dry, thin body of the toy he could feel the fierce, raw strength that flowed through it despite its apparent delicacy, and Jack released his leg only to snake its way up his forearms.
“No”! Deacon screamed in horror. Blood was running in half a dozen tiny rivers down his leg, and pooling beneath his feet while he fought to get the horrible thing off of him. As he struggled desperately he lost his balance, slipping in his own blood. There was a brief moment of hope, when he thought he could remain upright, but it was quickly lost as he fumbled into even more blood. He fell backwards hitting the floor hard, first his shoulders, and then his head, bouncing off the hardwood with a crack.
The house was suddenly silent, and the pain faded away, as a heavy blackness came swimming up through the corners of his eyes. He saw Jack clawing its way up his chest, but felt nothing. “Please”, Deacon begged, as darkness enveloped him completely.
Deacon draped his arm over his eyes having no desire what-so-ever to open them. His head pounded ferociously, but he had never been so glad to be awake, he was giddy with relief. That had been by far, the worst, and most vivid nightmare he had ever had in his entire life. He would definitely not be drinking that much again anytime in the near future.
Sighing heavily at the thought of getting out of bed, but loving the idea of a hot shower, he put his arm down and sat up on one motion. But instead of the edge of his bed, and a sun filled room, all he saw was blackness, filled with a deafening, and heart-sinkingly familiar creak.
Deacon rubbed his eyes vigorously, trying to clear them. As he did his fingers caught something rough, something that made his heart ache with fear. He traced the roughness tentatively with his fingertips, knowing immediately what it was. Thick strands of thread bound his eyelids to the tops of his cheeks, and came together in knots at the corner of his eyes. He shook his head violently, trying to wake himself, he had to be dreaming he thought desperately, because the alternative was to terrible to concede, and he proceeded to fling himself around until he came up against a hard flat surface.
“No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no”, he couldn’t hear his own voice, but he continued the mantra anyway as he explored the walls that confined him on all sides. With every movement he was taunted by the awful metallic creak that filled him with a sickening dread that he didn’t want to confirm, but could not ignore.
After what seemed to Deacon like an eternity of hesitation, he placed his hands on his chest, startled by the sunken spots he felt. He continued down his waist, aware of areas of pain, and a wetness he was sure was blood, but neither of which concerned him. He forced himself to explore further, past his belly button, and then; nothing. No more flesh, and bone, nothing but a cold downward spiraling ring of metal.
The Latin he’d read on the bottom of the Jack-in-the-Box suddenly came to mind; Music wakes the sleeper, who seeks a successor.
In an instant all reason abandoned him, and he began to thrash, and scream, a raspy torturous cry, drowned out by the incessant creaking of his spring.
Credit To – AbsintheRose