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The Thing in the Box: a Short Story by Ngoc Vuong and Abby Landrum


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The Thing in the Box

The home I live in is dark, lonely, cramped. Never mind the word home; it is not a home at all. It is a prison and I am its only prisoner. Like many others, you’ve come here today to make a mockery of my existence, exposing me to the horrors of the light. Yet, you’re the only one who hasn’t cowered in fear and ran away in disgust. You’re the only one who gazed into the inner workings of my fragile soul, sympathize with and look beyond the monstrosity of a being I call myself, and not shut down the very gates of this prison which deprive me from the beautiful life outside.

I once was like you; certainly, I was once like everyone else. I once reaped the fruits and labor of what this beautiful Earth has to offer. My life was one of simplicity, spending my days and nights under the security and comfort of the land. For fun, I played with my brothers and sisters among the mud, the brown liquid covering our very skin, but subsequently, we enjoyed it. The others thought we were weird because of this. They called us terrible names and relegated my people to the outskirts of society. Outcasts we were, but it didn’t matter, so long as we had each other. Certainly enough, my life was better than the life I live now.

We slept under the aura of the angelic moon, its embrace lighting up the sleepy town below us. And the fences that were built protected us from foreign invaders, those who forced my family to be outcasts, those who sought to take us away from the pristine and immaculate comforts of our home and land and take us to the hellish nightmares that lied beyond the forests. I was always the last one to sleep though for I found an incredible beauty in the silence of the world; the gentle wind music to my ears.

I wish I had gone to sleep earlier. I can no longer remember how long ago this happened, losing concept of time from my seemingly eternal imprisonment within these sullen walls. But I know that my family has been long gone by the time you opened up these walls. I hope they did not suffer the same fate I did, but I can only imagine the pain and grief that struck into the very soul of my family due to my disappearance.

I wish I had not been deceived. The voice I heard late at night that I wish no one had heard was indeed music to my ears. Its lull was a curse, sending my mind and body further and further away from the safety of my family and closer and closer to the fences that protected my home. I was immersed by the beauty of it, the sound seemed as if to have descended from the heavens itself.

But Satan was also descended from the heavens, and once I realized that I had been deceived, and saw the dark hands grasping my body, I realized it was too late.

My fate was a tragic one: a faceless giant donning a black helmet and an iron axe slashing through the bones and muscles of my body. The smell of blood filled the room; a pool of red expanding and expanding upon the distraught floor.

I saw my legs and arms being carried away from me, felt my heart pulled out of my very ribcage.

But why did I not die? Why am I not dead?

I ached in pain and agony, begging for this murderer to let me go and allow me to resign to this death. But he did nothing of the sort.

I heard silent chuckles from his helmet. His laughs, although silent, filled the very room and cemented my eternal suffering.

He threw me in this wooden box and slammed its opening on what remains of my once beautiful face.

The murderer rested the box on the vast shores of the ocean. The waves of whom I once considered a gentle friend carrying my being further and further away from the place I once knew as home and from the loved ones I call my family.

From that point on, this life of mine has been relegated to mockery by strangers who violate my already gone privacy and happiness. This prison I am forced to live in is both internal and external.

I lost my life but I’m still alive. I am lonely, betrayed, and miserable.

That is, until you came.

I no longer remember what my name used to be, but the people call me Smelly Ham.

Smelly Ham at your service, thank you for saving me.

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The Thing in the Box: a Short Story by Ngoc Vuong and Abby Landrum