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Hellbox (1)

When Timothy Shinholster kissed his wife Helen goodbye that morning, he had no way of knowing that the rumors of cutbacks at Luxten Pharmaceuticals would include his position. He also had no way of knowing what such unfortunate luck could lead him to. The gravity of the situation hit him as he placed the cardboard box of his personal items in the trunk of his Volvo. No matter how much they loved one another, he was not sure how he and his wife could get past a bump like this. They were already three months behind on the mortgage and Tim could just imagine the foreclosure notice coming in the mail. He was not normally a drinker, but he had to find a place to clear his head and think of a way to break the bad news to Helen. So, he made his way to a bar he drove by every day on his way to work.

The smoke that hung in the air made him gag a bit, but Tim made his way to the bar. He took a seat on a worn leather-topped stool and leaned his elbows on the bar with a sigh. The bartender approached and asked what he would have. Tim just asked for whiskey on the rocks, trying to keep it simple. Within a few moments, ice clinked amidst the liquor and was placed in front of him. It only took a of couple drinks to loosen him up, and his problems began to flow from him like a faucet. The bartender only half paid attention, not wanting to seem completely rude. Tim just kept going, asking rhetorical questions of the few patrons that happened to be in attendance. He received no answers.

Suddenly he felt a hand come to rest on his shoulder as a stranger took a seat next to him. The man seemed middle-aged but well kept. From the looks of his attire, he would have been a day trader from the brokerage down the street. It was a completely different lifestyle than Tim’s and he almost envied it. He wished he could provide for his family with a job like that. The stranger placed a briefcase on the bar beside himself and ordered a gin and tonic. When he paid, he gave the bartender more than he owed, instructing him to bring Tim another whiskey. The bartender did as he was asked and Tim took the drink kindly, nodding in appreciation.

“Sounds like you’re having a bad day,” the man said.

Tim laughed, “Yeah I guess, but maybe I shouldn’t air out my dirty laundry to strangers.”

“No, it’s good you did. You see I happened to be looking to help someone just like you,” the stranger said with an awkward smile. “The name is Black, John Black,” he said sticking out his hand.

Tim took hold of the man’s hand and shook, “Tim, and how do you intend to do that?”

The man opened his briefcase and produced a small wooden box with a clock on the face of it and a black plastic looking handle at the top. The trinket was placed on the bar between them before the briefcase was closed and placed on the floor beside the man’s stool. He began with a sales pitch that reminded Tim of a used car salesman. The stranger attempted to convince Tim that the box could change his life completely with a simple turn of the handle. Tim was unable to hold back the laughter, assuming this had to be some sort of prank and began searching the room for the hidden camera.

“You must be pulling my leg,” Tim said, still chuckling.

The man seemed slightly aggravated, his foot tapping beneath him, “No, not at all. Just make your request, turn the handle and you will see.”

Tim picked up the box, examining it closer. The clock was turning but in the wrong direction. He even joked with Mr. Black about it being busted. The man did not laugh at this, just kept tapping his foot on the floor. Tim tried to turn the handle at the top but nothing happened. He looked at the man slightly confused and feeling like someone was going to jump out laughing at him at any moment, “It doesn’t work.”

“You have to make your request first,” John said.

“Oh right, silly me,” Tim replied, mockingly slapping his forehead, “I would like all my bad decisions to be undone.”

As he spoke his hand pressed against the handle and it twisted around within the box. As it came to a stop he could hear a mechanism inside begin moving and noticed that the clock stopped. The hands upon the clock both rolled back to land on the twelve. He watched as the clock began turning the right direction, just as any clock would but the time being completely off. Tim examined the other sides of the box and noticed no way to reset the timepiece. While he was looking down, Mr. Black had collected his briefcase and had started toward the exit. When Tim noticed this out of the corner of his eye he stepped toward the man.

“Wait,” he called out, “what about your box?”

John turned back and gave another curious smile, “It’s all yours now, buddy.”

Tim downed his drink, thinking about how the clock reset as soon as the handle was turned. Surely it had been some kind of prank, he thought as he slid from his seat and headed for the door himself. As he exited the bar he looked each direction but saw no sign of the mysterious person who had bought him a drink. So, he simply returned to the bar and collected the strange little object and headed out the door. Tim attempted to the twist the handle once again but it would not move, which made him think it was broken. The dials were still turning, even though the time was not right and he saw no way to set it.

Once in the parking lot, Tim shoved his hand into his pocket and dug for his car keys. When he retrieved the bundle from his pocket, he instantly noticed something different about all of them. He no longer had a simple turn-key but a button mechanism instead. He pressed the small silver protrusion on the side, which revealed the etchings of a vehicle key. He pressed the button to unlock whatever vehicle this was to and the lights of a silver BMW at the corner of the lot washed over him. Tim slowly approached the car, opening the door and looking inside. His identification badge from Luxten sat in the passenger seat. He almost began to laugh as he sat down behind the wheel, pressing the key into the ignition. The engine came to life and he picked up his badge, noticing it now read “Senior Vice President”.

Laughter mixed with the blaring of his radio as Tim sped back home to tell his wife the good news. All of their financial problems had been solved by a mysterious box, he thought as he pulled into the driveway of his meager three-bedroom home. He rushed to the door, ready to surprise his entire family. He was thinking of things he would buy his two children. Brian had been wanting a new bike and Sarah had pointed out a pair of shoes that all her friends had been getting lately. He wanted to give it all to them and more. He was so swept up in his dream that he fumbled his keys while trying to unlock the door. When he composed himself and attempted to push the key into the door lock he noticed it did not fit. He knew things had been bad up until now but not bad enough for his wife to lock him out.

“Helen!” he yelled while knocking on the door, “Let me in! I have good news!”

After a few moments, the door unlatched and opened slowly to reveal a robust man in his pajamas. Tim stumbled back a bit at the sight at first but stepped forward, “Who are you and why are you in my house?”

“Your house?” the man mimicked, “You beat on my door and accuse me of being in your house? Pal, I have lived here for four years, Lord knows I got the mortgage to prove it!”

Tim took a step back, “T-that c-can’t be…,” his voice trailed off as he looked up at the house.

“It can and it is, so get off my property you freak,” the man said as he slammed the door.

Once back within his car, Tim pulled out his wallet and slid the driver’s license from the slot that held it. The address read, “1157 Monticello Ave, Apt. 631”. He shook his head, unsure of what he was reading. He knew Monticello Avenue was on the other side of town. He had watched from his office window as the well-to-do stepped from their cars and were escorted inside a large high-rise by a doorman. His fear quickly became excitement as he started the car again and headed toward the highway. He began imagining what his new home might look like and only approaching the building snapped him from that dream.

Tim stared up at the endless floors above him as the man at the door greeted him and opened the door. He entered the expansive lobby where he was welcomed again by the front desk clerk. His feet quickly made way for the elevator and pressed the button for the sixth floor. As the doors opened, he stepped out and looked each direction before seeing a sign on the wall that indicated the direction of his apartment. He took a left and read each intricate number on each beautiful door. When he came to a stop at the one marked “631” he paused for a moment, looking through his keys. He had no idea which one would unlock it and after a few failed attempts he simply knocked on his own door. After a few moments, the door pulled open, revealing a very beautiful tan-skinned woman with flowing dark hair. Tim’s jaw dropped in awe at the sight and hoped this was not one of his wife’s friends.

“Did you lose your key again, Tim?” the woman questioned.

“Um…, yeah…I guess,” he fumbled with his words.

She took his hand gently and pulled him inside, “Well get in here silly,” before kissing him on the cheek.

Tim had no words, the woman acted as if they were a couple but he had never met this woman before.

“I love how after a year together you can still look at me like that,” she smiled while pressing her lips against his.

She exited the room and returned with a glass of scotch, handing it to him before returning to the kitchen. A wonderful aroma erupted from the room and when he asked what was for dinner she simply told him to finish his drink and get comfortable. With a wink, she promised that she would reveal the surprise soon enough. He placed the box on the living room coffee table and paced the room, his hands running across the furnishings, still feeling as though he were dreaming. The ice clanked each time he took a drink and soon he had emptied the glass. The smells from the adjacent room were heavy and he was growing hungry.

His curiosity got the better of him and he decided to peek into the kitchen. He witnessed a gourmet meal being prepped by this woman who, at any point earlier in his life, he would have thought to be unattainable. She scoffed and made a comment about him ruining the surprise and she quickly refilled his glass and gestured for him to leave the kitchen. Tim did as he was asked and found a place at their dining room table. He had never even had a dining room table before this. Tim took a seat at the head of the table, finishing his drink and admiring his new life.

His mouth watered at the juicy sirloin that occupied most of the plate. He could not remember the last time he had a good steak.  Tim carved into it quickly as his partner asked about his day. Since he had no memory of it, he just brushed it off as a regular day. She spoke and he listened, unsure of how to respond. Any conversation he might come up with involved a life and a family that no longer existed. So, he just listened and after almost an hour she realized he had nothing to really say. Tim could feel it the exact moment she stopped talking and became disappointed and tried to save himself.

“The dinner was great honey, thanks for cooking,” he quickly spouted out.

She sighed, “Of course and you’re welcome,” as she stood from the table and cleared the plates.

She exited the room and soon after Tim could hear water running where she prepared to wash the dirty dishes. He felt horrible but was not sure how to fix the problem. He shuffled into the kitchen and opened his mouth to apologize but she turned slowly, revealing her tear filled eyes. Her makeup had smeared across her face during her fit of sobs and when she saw him, she shook her head with a look of disgust. Tim’s words tried to form and make sense of why he was acting the way he had but she quickly held up her hand in a gesture to stop him.

“No,” she growled, “you have been acting like this for some time now and I did all of this trying to get some kind of reaction out of you. Did you even notice my haircut or this sexy dress I bought for you?”

Tim watched as she twirled about in a tiny red number that revealed all of her finest features, “Y-yes, it’s beautiful…you are beautiful.”

“Yeah right,” she scoffed, “you hardly even say my name anymore.”

His eyes grew wide at the thought, he didn’t even know her name, “Uh…”

“Can you even remember my name?” she yelled, “Is it that hard to keep track with all the women you run around with?”

Tim had no idea what to say and his silence only served to make her angrier. She stomped past him and down the hallway, cursing him the entire way. At one point she screamed something about wishing she had slept with his brother at New Years. Within thirty minutes she emerged with a suitcase in hand. The door swung open and she cut her eyes to him once more before slamming it shut. Tim was left holding his glass of scotch in an empty apartment, more confused than he had ever been in his entire life. He wondered if he had really become a playboy that ran around on his woman and expected her to treat him like a king anyway. He started to wonder if he had become that much of an asshole in this life that he had wished for. Tim’s eyes fell on the box, the dials were still moving on the clock.

The clock was the only sound he could hear and that was when he realized that he was alone in a place that he was completely foreign to. He had no idea which room was his bedroom or bathroom. He would have to search every cabinet for food or basic needs. The next few hours were spent answering those questions, before collecting the box and retiring to the bedroom. He placed the box by his king-sized bed and slid under the crimson silk sheets that were upon it. He laid in the dark, staring at the ceiling and thinking about how strange this whole day had been and what might lay in store tomorrow. A sense of unease fell over him, feeling lost and alone in this life and suddenly he began to miss his real wife and two children. He wondered what happened to them if he had never come into their lives.

The following day Tim made his way to work, his car pulling into his old space. As he exited, one of his co-workers stopped and gave him an odd look before pointing out his reserved parking near the front door. With a quick smirk, he hopped back into the BMW and took his rightful place in the lot. As he entered the door, the secretary gave him a quick smile and addressed him as “Mr. Shinholster”. He could not keep his goofy grin hidden. He knew it would be an odd question but he asked the young lady to point him toward his office. She did, even though the query confused her. Tim made his way down the hall and found himself standing at a large elevator. Beside the doors was a plaque that detailed what floors where whose. It looked like his was on the fifth floor. He pressed the lighted button within and began his ascent.

Within seconds the elevator gave a ding and the doors opened to a large room with offices on each side. It appeared that all of the upper management resided here. Tim made his way down the hall and turned into a door that had his name emblazoned upon it. There was a small desk as he immediately entered with another secretary, his secretary. The woman reminded him of upcoming appointments as she followed him back to another door which led to his actual office. When he entered, he was in awe of the size. It was larger than the apartment he had in college. He approached the large window at the other end, staring out to the city below. He laughed a bit to himself and the secretary paused to ask if he was alright. He dismissed her question with a nod.

Once the secretary had left the room Tim plopped in his cushy office chair and propped his feet up on the large desk before him. His world had become so much bigger in a single night but something was missing and the longer he sat in the silence the more he felt it. Tim reached for his wallet and let it fall open, the slots where family pictures once rested had been replaced with credit cards. He sat the wallet down and opened the drawers of his desk, trying to get a grasp on what exactly he should be doing during the day here. Most of it was normal things like office supplies but the bottom drawer had a bottle of scotch and a glass. He lifted it from its resting place and sat it on the desk. Beneath it was a small black ledger which he took into his hands out of curiosity. Once opened it revealed countless names and phone numbers of women he had supposedly dated in the last few years, with silly notes about their appearance and sexual ability. This wasn’t who he was, how could he have become such a person?

Tim’s inner thoughts were interrupted by the secretary entering the room and the audible click of the lock being engaged on the door. He watched as she drew the blinds at the window that faced the hallway and made her way to Tim’s desk. Her hand raised to remove a hair tie from her long blonde hair as she removed her thin-rimmed glasses. She crawled over top of the desk and Tim watched wide-eyed as she began undoing her blouse, revealing the black lacy bra beneath. Her lips were almost upon him when Tim realized what was going on. He backed away, asking her to please get dressed and return to her desk. The young woman seemed very confused and rather upset as she clutched at her blouse. How long had all of this been going on, he thought.

The entire day was a struggle, being lost at every task. Tim’s boss suggested he go home around five o’clock and get some rest for the big meeting in the morning. He did not hesitate, grabbing his coat and rushing for the elevator.  He exited the building and headed toward his car, the parking lot lights were humming to life. As he fumbled with his keys he felt someone tap him on the shoulder. Without really looking he turned slightly and a woman stood before him with her head hung low. She was begging for money, anything to get some food. Tim had always hated being cornered by panhandlers. So, he had intended on just making an excuse to get out of the situation but when he took the time to really look, he noticed who stood before him with her hand held out for help. Despite the wrinkled features, she was hard to mistake.

“Helen?” he said with disbelief.

Her eyes looked to his with tears in them but confused, “Do I know you mister?”

Tim reached out to hug her but she leaned away, “It’s me, Tim.”

“Sorry, I think you have mistaken me for someone else,” she said, appearing to fear him.

Tim shook his head, “No, I’m sorry...I frightened you,” he said before pulling out his wallet and handing her all the bills within.

She stared at what had to be at least three hundred dollars and began crying, “Thank you so much!”

Tim watched as she ran for the corner of the building and something in him broke. He had been so caught up in his financial success he had forgotten what he had lost. Tears formed in his eyes as he began running after Helen. When he rounded the corner he was shocked to see Helen handing a hooded figure a large wad of the money he had given her. In return, the man handed her a hand full of bags containing what Tim could only assume was narcotics. He found himself yelling obscenities at the man, who shoved Helen aside before running away. Helen fell to the asphalt, dropping both the remaining money and her drugs. Tim approached, leaned down and attempted to help her up but she slapped at his hands and screamed for him to leave her alone. That was when Tim noticed what she had purchased. He had not been around that sort of thing in his life but he had watched enough shows about it to identify heroin.

Helen gathered her things and disappeared down the alley as Tim watched. He thought of all the horrible things that he probably caused by making that wish and how many lives his selfishness had destroyed. Tim wiped at his tears as he returned to his car and simply sat in the driver’s seat thinking about his mistake. It was not long before he whipped out of the parking lot and headed for his apartment. He did not even bother to shut the door to his car as he bounded up the steps to his building. He was at his door in minutes and heading toward his bedroom. He grabbed the box from his nightstand and ran back to the elevator. He had pressed the button to call it back when he noticed the janitor mopping the tile floor down the hall. The man was staring at him intently, which caused Tim to look closer. It took a minute to recognize him without his clean-cut hair and high dollar suite but it was Mr. Black, there was no mistaking it.

“HEY!” Tim yelled as he broke into a sprint toward the janitor.

The mop hit the floor as John started running as well. Tim picked up the pace but his target bounded through the door to the stairwell. Their footsteps and Tim’s pleas for Black to stop echoed through the chamber of stairs. When they reached the landing for the third floor Tim dove, shoving his shoulder into the man. Black was forced against the wall as Tim gasped for air and attempted to pin the man in place. They struggled for a moment, causing Tim to drop the box to the floor. They both stopped immediately, almost holding their breath as the wooden container collided with the floor. Tim winced at the thought of the box shattering on the tile. Black simply watched it land with a loud thud, almost as if it were a cement block instead of wood. The sound caused Tim to jump and look down at the unharmed object.

“What the hell is going on Black?” Tim screamed into the man’s face.

“HEY!” Tim yelled, his voice trailing off down the stairs, “Snap out of it and answer me!”

The man’s eyes shot toward Tim, “It’s the Hellbox.”

“The what?” Tim’s voice calming and his grasp loosened.

“The Hellbox, it always turns your world to Hell, destroying everything in its path and when you want out it makes you pay for it,” he sniveled, snot dripping from his nose.

“Pay for it? How?” Tim quizzed.

The janitor knelt down and pointed at the moving arms of the clock, “I told you it is not a clock, it does not tell time. It keeps track of time. The amount of time you have been here in your new world. If you want out you have to make another wish and turn the handle but then the clock starts counting back.”

Tim looked at the clock, trying to remember exactly how long he had been here, “Back to what?”

“If you have not found someone else to take the Hellbox before it gets back to the time it started on, then your soul will be trapped in Hell,” the janitor’s eyes were intent on Tim’s as he said this.

“Hell? You mean like the whole fire and brimstone pointed headed demon?” Tim shook his head in disbelief not wanting to believe a word of it.

“No, no fire or Devil,” John paused and seemed to get lost in a memory, “When the time runs out, your new life becomes distorted. The things you changed for the better will turn on you. If you got a better job, a nicer car, or more money it would be taken from you. If you wished for a beautiful woman, she would either die or leave you. It will be as if you have had the worst day of your entire life and all of it will happen within a day.”

“That doesn’t sound like Hell to me,” Tim scoffed.

John grabbed Tim’s shoulders and stared him dead in the eye, his body shaking, “It wouldn’t be if you only had to live through it once. It plays on repeat. Each day you wake up to your worst day again and again.”

“For how long?” Time quizzed as he looked down at the object.

“Until you can find someone to take it,” Mr. Black replied

Tim picked up the Hellbox and stared at it for a moment, “You did this to me,” he said before shoving the box into the janitor’s hands.

The man shoved it back, “Oh no, I have seen my Hell,” he said as he stepped backward, “I used that damned thing to wish my life back to how it was before my wife died and I have spent the last two months watching her get run over by a city bus every morning on her way to the market and I won’t do it another day!”

At that moment Tim was shoved to the ground unaware and the man disappeared down the stairs. The Hellbox landed firmly against his chest, forcing the air from his lungs. He struggled to regain his composure and get to his feet. The box sat ominously on the landing as if waiting to be picked up. Tim had no idea what else to do, so he collected the trinket and made his way down the stairs. As he exited his building he stared out into the night sky, almost as if he were listening for an answer to his problem. His concentration was broken by the sound of laughter and music. Down the street, a local club had a line of people waiting to get in. Tim looked down at the box and started walking toward the commotion. He found his way inside and waited by the bar. All he needed to find was someone with a sob story. Tim gripped the handle and turned it, wishing for his life back and the clock began ticking backward.

Written by L0CKED334
Content is available under CC BY-SA