The Box with No Soul – by PhoenixWolf – narrated by Asclepius
Here is another great story from PhoenixWolf, entitled
The Box with No Soul
Background music by Smartsound
Destiny tapped her pen mindlessly while she talked on the phone. One of the residents of the mental institution had run away just over a day ago, causing quite a stir. George, the escapee, wasn’t a difficult person. He took his medications without complaint, did everything he was asked to do, and never caused trouble with the other patients.
It was a shock to his orderlies and doctor when he managed to escape and got stopped by police over 100 miles away.
“Okay, I’m sending someone there to pick him up. He should be there in about two hours. Will that be okay?”
She continued to tap the pen, an anxious gesture. She wanted to spread the good news that they found George, and that he was coming home safely.
“Okay, thank you, sir. Please call me if anything comes up. Yep, you too. Goodbye.”
She pressed the receiver button to end the call, then immediately dialed George’s doctor.
“Dr. Steele, this is Destiny. I just got off with the police officer who has George.”
“He’s not hurt, though he’s a little out of it, and may be going through withdrawals from his meds. Otherwise, he’s not hurt and is being cared for until we can get him picked up.”
“Yep, I’ll call you when he gets here. You’re welcome, doctor.”
George sat on the shady bench, his hands wrapped around a tiny brown paper wrapped box and held close to his chest. He hadn’t said much to the police officer, Sgt. Lee. He was finishing a phone conversation with someone at the mental institution. He knew he would have to go back. The thought of that fact made him shudder.
“Hey, are you hungry?” Sgt. Lee said. “Some people are coming to get you, so we have some time.”
“Yes,” George said, looking cautiously at the officer’s equipment belt. “Are you going to put me in handcuffs?”
“That’s up to you. Are you going to run away or fight me?”
“No. Can I have a real hamburger?”
“Okay, we can do that,” the officer said, gesturing toward his car.
An hour later, George finished the last of his meal. The diner was nice, quiet, and cool. He still held the small box carefully. Sgt. Lee watched George stare intently at the box.
“That box must be really important to you,” Sgt. Lee said.
“What’s in it?”
“My soul.” George said, hesitation drawing the words out a little.
Sgt. Lee raised his eyebrows. “What’s it doing in a box?”
George looked him in the eye, “It’s there for safe keeping.”
The sergeant thoughtfully considered George before he spoke again.
“It’s wrapped like a gift. Were you wanting to give it to someone?”
“An angel,” George said, a little sadness showing in his eyes. “But I couldn’t find him.”
“Angels can look like anyone, how would you know who to look for?”
“This angel carries a sword and a shield.”
Sgt. Lee took a sip of his water and settled back into his bench. “There aren’t many people that walk around with swords and shields,” he said.
George looked back down at the small box. It felt heavy in his hands, but it was also very warm and comforting. He felt tired. His efforts to keep the package safe had been difficult, especially after leaving the institution. He had met plenty of people over the last 36 hours, none of which had looked right. Now, his time seemed to have run out.
He looked at Sgt. Lee, his badge looked a little like a shield, but it was so small, and he didn’t carry a sword. Did he miss something? Were his prayers in vain, causing his search to be fruitless? Doubt gnawed at him.
Sgt. Lee sniffed and wiped his hands on his napkin. “It looks like your ride is here.”
George suppressed another shudder, but still stood up from his bench and walked out of the diner as Sgt. Lee walked behind him. The orderly who came for him opened the car door for George. He got in without saying a word, his actions felt heavy and final as the door closed. The orderly exchanged information with the police officer for a few minutes, then got into the car and began driving toward the highway. George looked back toward the police officer, but he was already gone.
Destiny was still working at her desk when George walked through the doors, escorted by the orderly. He kept his eyes down, but made quick glances at the other residents who were in the foyer. He looked like he carried a heavy burden on his shoulders.
“It’s good to see you’re okay, George.”
He nodded, his eyes focused on a little scuff mark on the desk where Destiny tapped her pen.
“He does have something that needs to be checked in,” the orderly said.
George tensed visibly, but shook his head jerkily. “It’s just an empty little box,” he said with a sheepish expression.
“Well, we still have to inspect any packages that come through, even little ones,” she said apologetically. “It will only take a minute, then you can have it back.”
He shook his head again. “No, no. It’s okay, it’s empty! See?” He said, shaking the little box for her to see.
“I wish I could just let you keep it, but I have to follow the rules and make sure nothing is in there,” she said.
George took a step back and cupped the box in both hands. “No, I can’t let you open it. It’ll get away!”
The orderly spoke calmly as he closed a little space between George and him. “George, it will be alright. She just needs to make sure there isn’t anything that can hurt someone.”
George backed away a few more steps, the orderly followed him slowly.
“That’s all I need to do. It will be quick, and I promise to put it back together again,” Destiny said.
“No, you can’t, I’ll die!” George said.
George’s expression became more frightened when a second orderly approached him from behind and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Come on George, we’re here to help you. We’re not going to let you get hurt or die,” the second orderly said, his voice warm and relaxed.
“You can’t help me anymore.”
Without warning, George threw his shoulder against the second orderly, knocking him off balance. He turned to run back toward the entrance doors when the first orderly wrapped his arm around George’s waist, stopping his escape before it even began.
George’s screams of protest rang through the foyer and halls, echoed by the other residents. A male resident who was sitting in the foyer dropped to his knees, his face turned upward and babbling as if toward heaven. Two other residents began crying with their faces buried in their hands.
One of the orderlies wrestling George tossed the brown box, now slightly smashed on one side, onto Destiny’s desk. Relieved slightly by the distraction of the box, Destiny took it and began to untie the string holding it.
As more orderlies arrived to help, George continued to cry out and fight like his life depended on it.
“No! No! No! Don’t open it!” Destiny could hear George yell over the cacophony.
“I’m going to die! Don’t open it!” She heard him yell one last time before he was buried under the collective weight of the orderlies.
She could still hear George clearly when he was half dragged, half carried away from the foyer, but the noise from the other residents hadn’t abated. She tried to focus on just the box, unwrapping the brown paper to reveal a plain white gift box, something a ring case could fit in.
George’s screams became even more frantic as he was pulled down the hall, answered with equal intensity by the residents all around.
She pulled the dented lid from the box, and stared, perplexed at its empty contents. At nearly the same moment, the screaming stopped. The sudden silence felt deafening to the noise before it. Destiny looked down the hallway, the orderlies now standing around the still form of George. His face was twisted into a frozen, silent scream. His skin had turned ashen white and seemed to stretch across gaunt features that weren’t there moments before.
Her blood turned cold when she saw the other residents. Each one, whether in the halls behind the thresholds of their rooms, had their hands pressed together in front of bowed heads, as if in prayer. An eternity of stunned quiet filled the building, the only sound to be heard was the ticking clock on the wall.