This weekend I was sick, both from my seasonal allergies and the horror show that the Man in Red showed me of how he was to ruin the world with the replica thing he had Ben Tobias building in my library. And with myself and my cousin Ilene “Imp” Banned helping in the construction.
Each night I saw the box shrouded in red mist and pulsing with a deep, slow hum. Ben leaned over it and moved his hands over the rough stone-like surface and chanted in a dark language.
Of course I was also out of town, meeting with my parents and my sister and her family for the holidays. We met early this year because we all live so far apart now it just seemed better to have one big meeting rather than a dozen. I told them about what was happening, about the dreams, but my mother shrugged it off.
“It should be fine,” she said, “Your cousin Ilene's always been high strung. Bet that’s just flaking off on you, like a bad rash. Is the man paying you?”
I told her he was not, at least not yet, and she was less enthused. Still, again, no one but me seemed concerned. I vowed that as soon as I got back into town I would get that thing out of my library.
I arrived early this morning to find Imp banging on the front door.
“What the hell are you doing?” I asked her.
“He… he’s in there,” she said.
“Ben. He went nuts, Evan. He was fine all weekend. We even went out to the Tonk and had some fun,” she said, “But this morning we got in the library and you weren't here. He went nuts, wouldn't go with me to the diner to get coffee.”
She handed me a cup of lukewarm coffee. I took it and threw it down.
“How the hell did he get in my library, Ilene?”
Imp looked startled, “The window,” she said, pointing.
One of the smaller windows on the side of the building had been broken and blood was on the sill and glass. I walked over to it and heard the first scream.
“I wouldn't,” Imp said, “I tried to poke my head in and he threw a chair at me. He’s not a very good shot.”
“Why didn't you get the cops? Or call me?”
She shrugged, “I thought you’d be here soon. And I don’t like cops.”
“Dammit,” I said, bringing out my keys. I opened the front door to the library and swung it open wide. A red mist rolled out.
I stared at the mist and almost wet my pants. Terror, bright and furious ripped into my chest. I wanted to run.
Instead, I walked inside.
Ben stood over the black box just as he had in my dream. His hands caressed the thing, his machine and he mumbled something over it. The pile of iron we had gathered from the scrapyard sat nearby. Ben Tobias, a small man with quick hands, picked up a lump of pig iron that must have weighed fifty pounds with one hand and dropped it onto the black box. The box pulsed and the iron vanished.
“This is fuckin nuts,” Imp said, now standing at my side.
I moved forward, “Ben, Ben you gotta get away from that thing.”
He raised his head and looked at me and the teeth in the smile seemed to enlarge. His face twisted and bent and I was then looking into the face of the Man in Red.
“Do I?” he said, and picked up another lump of iron. He held it like a baseball as his arm rolled in its socket. I heard the bone and tendons crack with the effort as he threw it at me.
Imp and I dived out of the way as the metal sailed past us and out the open door. I heard glass break.
“What the fuck?” I said.
“Keep him talking,” Imp said.
She said it, but I did not notice because Ben thrust his hand into the box. His hand sunk deep into the material as if it were water and he grinned at me. Then he started screaming.
I ran forward and grabbed his arm. He looked at me then, not as the evil with a mask, but as the man I had met last week. He was terrified and his arm trapped.
“How’s this for comfy?” Imp said and swung the comfy chair at his head.
I noticed her at the last minute and dropped down below the circulation desk. I heard the wood of the chair splinter and a shock went through the desk. The noise of Ben Tobias’s screams stopped as suddenly as they had started.
A piece of fluff from the chair floated in the air next to me.
Rising from behind the desk, I met Imp face to face. She held the legs of the chair, the rest of it broken across the black box.
“Where’s Ben?” I asked her.
She dropped the chair, “Gone.”
“Vanished. I went to hit him and…” she looked at me and my brash and impish cousin started to cry, “Evan, what the fuck is this?”
I told her I had no idea.
I still do not. The box still sits on the circulation desk, too heavy for Imp and I to move on our own. Ben filled it with the iron somehow without opening it. We know because we looked for a way to get into the son of a bitch all afternoon.
As for Ben, there is nothing. We went to his hotel room and found nothing. We called the office number Imp had for him and it was a shipping company that had never heard of a Ben Tobias. All dead ends. The man had vanished.
I do not know what to do with the box. That is not the same is not knowing what I am going to do, though. I’m gonna bury the evil thing. In general, I do not believe in the concepts of good or evil. Of there being evil things.
But the goddamn thing does not open and does not burn. Imp tried burning it, too, with gasoline. Just to see. Nothing happened. So I’m putting dirt on it.
I already have the hole dug outside. I got an old mattress and put it under the circulation desk and Imp and I pushed the box off onto it. We tied a rope to the mattress and the other end to my truck and we are going to pull the damn thing out of the library. I do not want it here anymore, do not want to see it.
I am gonna bury the box and then open a bottle and crawl inside.