Category : Stories
Sub Category : Suspense/Mystery
“Happy Birthday, Abby!” Eliza exclaimed as she handed her now four year old daughter the blue and white music box she bought. “Go on, open it.”
Abby, slowly at first, unwrapped her present ripping the paper in the process in her eventual haste and excitement. “Ooh, it's pretty, Mommy,” Abby murmured slightly jumping when she pressed the button and the top popped open in a burst of melodious tune. Abby watch entranced as the two blue birds danced and twirled to the song. For a second, the song paused and the birds jumped up in a slight screeching sound and then the song continued.
Puzzled, Eliza didn't recount the screechy jump at the shop but seeing as Abby was amused with it, she left it alone.
Eliza faded into black and Abby was pushed into a newer, more haunting memory: Eliza's cold face was hollow yet peaceful. Her hands were folded over her stomach and the doctor was so kind as to put a family picture, brought in by Abby, in her lifeless hands. She was still in her hospital gown. Abby was crying...
“Abby, wake up! It's just a dream, you're nice and safe.” Josh was slowly starting to shout shaking Abby to wake her. He had a rising suspicion she had a nightmare about her mother.
A tear stricken and confused Abby looked at Josh and sank into his arms, comforted he was with her. She knew he'd never leave her. Through her sobbing, Abby whispered almost inaudibly, “Thanks Joshy. I…” Addy's eyes were storm clouds flooding the hotel bed.
Josh hugged her tighter and soothed, “It's okay. I know, I know. We'll get through this together.” Josh was upset too, Eliza was more of a mother to him than his own mother, he was just able to handle the situation better.
“I'm sorry, I can't do this, I-I didn't even get to say goodbye,” Abby stuttered with a shaky, cracking voice. “How can I speak tomorrow when I can't even dream with her in it and wake up like this. I can't go to her funeral.”
Josh grabbed her hand and looked into her eyes, “It'll be okay, baby, I will go up with you and hold your hand the whole time. Even if you cry, no one will judge, it's your mother for Pete's sake. I'd probably cry with you.”
Abby wiped her eyes clear and hugged Josh tightly, neither of them pulling away. “I love you Joshy, and…”
Josh put his hand on Abby's face and kissed her. “I know you do, my little snowflake. I love you too. Now if we're going to go visit her house before the funeral we need to get some rest. Will you be able to get back to sleep?”
“Yeah I think so but I need to be in your arms,” Abby innocently looked at Josh and half smiled with watery eyes. He could always make her feel better and she loved him for it.
Josh kissed her softly on her forehead and put his arms around her. She adjusted herself so she could rest her head on his shoulder and let Josh kiss her again, smiling when he whispered, “Goodnight, my love.”
The chronic buzzing of the alarm Abby set on her phone was loud enough to wake the whole building. She pressed dismiss and snuggled under the blankets with Josh. Half awake half asleep, Josh asked, “You still want to go?”
It took Abby a couple of moments to register his question but she slowly shook her head in a solid yes. She knew Josh was about to get up and take the blankets off so she wrapped him in a hug and rested her head on his chest. Josh stroked her head and kissed her hair, catching a faint scent of strawberry shampoo.
“Okay, sunshine,, wakey wakey. Josh scooped Abby up in his arms and stood her up on her feet while still sitting on the bed. Luckily, she managed to cling onto a blanket and was still nice and toasty. She loved all the little nicknames he gave her and smiled, slowly walking toward the bathroom to get ready.
About twenty minutes later, Abby and Josh were sitting in their truck and ready to drive off when Abby started crying again. Josh was glad she didn't wear makeup because it would be smudged and most girls would make a big deal.
“Baby, we don't have to go, we can just go get breakfast. We have two hours so we could just sit in a restaurant and take our time until the funeral.
“I want to, but can we pick something up to eat from a drive through or something?” Abby was surprised she managed to choke out the little she said.
“Of course, baby. Burger King?”
Addy nodded her head and leaned her head on Josh since she sat in the middle seat. He rested his hand over hers in reassurance. She knew she was lucky to have such a great husband and ran her hand through his hair, murmuring she loved him.
Soon enough, they were at the house with Burger King trash in the passenger seat. Josh was worried it might be to much for Abby and kissed her forehead to calm her nerves. Abby melted and sank into his arms again, grateful that he was there with her.
Josh jumped out of the truck and helped Abby get out. Gradually, they ascended the weathered stairsteps to the house and went inside.
“You know, this is the second time I've been back home since I left for college?” Abby asked to try to calm herself. As she was looking around her eyes immediately flew to the music box and they pricked with tears. She would have bawled if Josh wasn't squeezing her hand. She opened it and the memory from her dream flooded back, except this time it was in first person, how it was supposed to be. She also remembered the devastating phone call she got when she was last in the house; her mother had passed.
The birds performed their screeching jump and Abby's vision was blurred, setting into a bluish black background with a shadowy figure quickly approaching.
“The last thing she heard was that music box. It was the cause. She knew she shouldn't have bought it. It's a beacon of destruction for whoever buys it. The screech is two, now three souls, including your mother's, wailing in agony.”
Abby was crying at this point and she was inconsolable. Josh could tell something was wrong but it was like she wasn't there.
“Abby, you killed her, by pressing the button. The phone call you got could have been avoided but you had to press it. How can you live with yourself? You killed your mother!”
Abby had her ears covered but the harder she pressed on them the louder it sounded.
“Her soul resides in the box. All you need to do is die and you can be with her. Press the button one more time. It will be peaceful.”
Abby ran away in the nightmarish world but stayed firmly on the real ground her feet were planted on. No matter how fast she ran, she seemed to stay in the same spot, the figure constantly behind her. She didn't know what else to do so she screamed and everything stopped. She came to a door and opened it. It was like a window to the past owners’ lives.
“James, give it to them, it doesn't matter to me if you give it up, as long as you stay with me.”
“No, they won't barge in here and take away your only prized possessions, those were Dad's last gift to you and you're going to keep them.”
Suddenly, one of the burglars pulled out a gun and shot James. Abby was mesmerised, she wanted to look away but her eyes her glued on the scene.
The girl grabbed the music box, crying, and tried to make a run for it. She tripped and her wrist snapped against the floor. She desperately opened the box and pulled out the golden bracelet tossing it under the staircase in an attempt to not let the men get both items. She glanced at the family picture strewn on the floor and a look of relief flooded her face; the boy in the picture didn't seem to be anywhere is the scene. “I love you J-”. The burglar with the gun walked over to her and shot her too, only thinking of the money he'd make from selling the box, and the lost profit of the bracelet.
The scene faded and the shadowy figure appeared again. Abby backed up in horror, recognising James’s voice. He was an angry soul, tethered to the box and sought revenge.
“Your mother bought it and she had to go. She paid that murderer a good amount for it, and I couldn't let her go unpunished. Press the button again and you can see her. Just one little push.”
The voice was slowly fading and Abby collapsed on the ground. Josh was at her side immediately and she looked at the box. Josh was talking to her but she didn't hear, she only felt her mother's loss and a pull to the box to be with her mother. She went to get up but couldn't with Josh holding her in a hug. She hugged him back and came to her senses.
Josh told her that she seemed like she was far away and asked her if she was alright. Abby gazed at him blankly and told him what she just experienced.
“It all took a minute but it felt like hours,” Abby sobbed. “Why did he have to kill her,” her voice cracked, “why my mom, why at all?”
“Let's get rid of it. Like break or burn it. Maybe it will release all three of them. It's worth a shot. And then you won't want to...” Josh couldn't finish the rest of the sentence; his eyes were watering at this point and a lump had formed in his throat. Abby understood what he meant and nodded. She hugged him: it was the least she could do to comfort him since he'd been comforting her for the past four days.
“Thanks, Joshy. I love you so much,” Abby choked out. She ran her hand along his face and kissed him on his cheek. This time, he relaxed in her arms.
“Can you go get the fireplace started?” Josh's voice was shaky and he didn't want to make Abby grab the box but was afraid to grab it himself, not wanting to accidentally cause Abby's death.
“Yes,” Abby murmured not taking her eyes off the box. She rose and went to the living room. When she left, Josh waited a couple minutes then took his jacket off and grabbed the music box with it, making sure not to press the button for fear of what might happen. He walked to the living room where Abby had already lit a fire.
“Are you ready?”
A small nod was all Abby could muster before Josh threw the box into the hungry flames. Josh grabbed Abby and faced her away from the fire while hugging her as they both broke out in tears.
Anguished screams faintly echoed through the house when the last scrap of wood burnt in the flames. Abby recognized the three voices of the trapped ghosts: the brother, sister, and her mother. The music played one last time, without the screech. and then stopped. Abby whispered, “Thanks, Joshy.”
Josh knew she couldn't explain everything with words but he understood almost everything she meant. He felt guilty and couldn't bring himself to tell her; James was his father.