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One More Soul
“But Mama, it's just a box!”
“It's not any old box, sweetheart. It's a magic box.”
Max frowned, still not believing his mother's tale. He glanced down at the box. It was smaller than her hand but larger than his own tiny hand. The box was a light brown, a shade that reminded him of chocolate, and was decorated with plant-like etches on the sides. The top of the box had a circle in the center-vines with bulbs at the ends were surrounding it.
“What's in it?” Max asked, taking it from her.
“Why not see for yourself?” she said with a smile.
The little boy blinked at her then pushed the top of the wooden box up. He pouted at its empty interior of red velvet.
“Aww! There's nothing in it!” he cried angrily and shoved it back into her hands. “It's just a dumb box!”
“This is a magic box, sweetheart,” the woman said, picking up her son and pulling him into her lap. “Your daddy gave me this box before he passed away. He had a witch enchant it so that whoever holds this box can talk to him.”
“I don't hear nothing!”
“That's because you're not listening, Max.”
The little boy pouted up at her. She giggled, putting the box in his hands and standing up.
“Time for bed,” she said.
The young mother carried her son to his room. Max didn't wait, for as soon as she set him on the bed, he fell over and went snoring away. She smiled and decided to leave the box in his arms. She pulled the covers over him, turned off his lamp, then walked out of the room.
Hours passed. Soon, the clock hands of each clock in the house met at twelve. Max awoke with a yawn, crawling out of bed and waddling to the bathroom. The box lay underneath the mess of blankets. The chiseled designs slowly began glowing. The box started to rise into the air, spinning. Max walked in, adjusting his pants. He glanced up a the spinning box, his eyes widening.
“Mama!” he screamed. “Mama, Mama!”
The box box became engulfed in light and shined so brightly, it blinded Max. When his sight came back, a man was standing in the middle of his room, the box in his hands. Though he looked normal, his shaggy hair was floating in the air as if he were underwater.
“Max, my baby boy... my son...” the man spoke softly and with a smile. “Come give your daddy a hug.”
“Daddy?” Max asked, blinking.
Before he could answer, Max's mother came rushing in.
“Max, sweetheart, what's wrong?”
She immediately knelt down, not even noticing the strange man. She held her son and stroked his hair comfortingly.
“What's wrong, Max?” she asked.
“That man, Mama. He says he's my daddy.”
The mother looked up at the man and stared at him – in reality, she stared right through him. Looking back at her son, she smiled and picked him up.
“There's no one there, honey,” she said. “You must have had a dream.”
“B-but Mama! He's right there! Holding the box!”
“But I thought you just thought it was a dumb old box.”
Max pouted at his mother's teasing as she set him on his bed. She tucked him in and kissed his forehead.
“I love you.”
“Love you too, Mama.”
She left her son's room once again, shutting the door behind her. The man watched the door click shut, his body glowing slightly and giving a dim light to the room. He turned back to Max.
“She can't see me, Max. Only you can,” he said, sitting on the edge of his bed.
Max frowned at him. He crossed his arms.
“I don't believe you,” he said.
“I didn't expect you to.”
The man got up and handed him back the box.
“I guess I should go back, then. You don't believe me so I can't take you to see my home.”
“I thought you were dead and in heaven,” Max said.
“And I thought you didn't believe I'm your daddy,” the man teased, just as Max's mother had done moments before.
“I changed my mind! Where's your home, Daddy?”
“You're just like your mother, always changing your mind on important things,” he chuckled and pulled the boy into his lap. “My home is a magical land. It has dragons flying in the sky-”
“Dragons? Really?” Max asked, his eyes shining in wonder.
“Yes, and there are robots-”
“Max, you keep interrupting me,” his daddy said then laughed.
“I wanna see your home, Daddy!” the little boy cried, bouncing in excitement. “I wanna see it now!”
The man started to glow more. Max nodded and grinned broadly. His daddy stood up.
“Then we can leave now,” his daddy said.
Max still smiled, but then frowned.
“What about Mama?” he asked.
“Mama will be with us soon, I promise,” the man whispered then kissed his son's forehead. “Now close your eyes and we'll go there.”
Max nodded and closed his eyes for a few seconds. When he opened them, he stared in awe as he gazed at fields of green. A futuristic city sat on the horizon, flying cars zooming around it. A roar caught the little boy's attention and he looked up in time to see an emerald green dragon soar over him. He let out a cry of happiness and pointed up at it, tugging his daddy's hand. His daddy laughed and lead him away to the city.
Meanwhile, Max's mother was crying and sobbing, calling an ambulance while clutching her child's ice cold hand. The boy was pale, the only color being the blue tinge on his lips. His chest did not move as he did not breathe. On the floor lay the box, locked shut with another successful taking of a soul.