A short story based on the image shown
from a prompt from Writers Unite! – November 2019
The Old Trunk
A short story by Lynn Miclea
My body swam with a combination of excitement and dread. Wiping my sweaty palms on my jeans, I realized I had always been both curious and scared of what was in that old trunk.
Now it was time to go out to the shed behind the garage and find out. My stomach tightened at the thought. For years, my father had always emphatically insisted that I was never to either go in the shed or open that trunk under any circumstances. He forbid it. I had never seen him that severe or unyielding.
He never gave an explanation, but I didn’t need one. I respected him and, feeling intimidated and frightened, I honored his demand. But I was always curious.
Even after my mother passed away, he again insisted that I was never to open it. “Rhea, if I die before I can safely get rid of that trunk,” he had told me one day, “you need to burn it. Just whatever you do, do not open it. Please. Promise me.”
And now that he had passed away, I was free to open it. I knew I had promised not to, but what harm could there be to just take a quick peek? And there was no one to stop me.
For a few minutes, I simply stood on the walkway behind the garage. It felt like a betrayal to even consider going into the shed and open the trunk. But now I had to. I had to clear out the entire house and yard so I could put it on the market for sale. And I had to finally know what was in there.
I wracked my brain trying to remember why I was not allowed to open it. I knew my father’s job was something secret with the government that he did not discuss. Did that have anything to do with this? I had no idea.
Maybe the trunk was simply filled with something personal. Or some secret he didn’t want getting out. Or some treasure that I was supposed to discover after his death. I had no idea.
Staring at the door to the shed, my mouth was dry and it was hard to swallow past the lump in my throat. My legs felt heavy as I slowly trudged forward. This was it.
My hands shook as I reached toward the deadbolt, the key in my hand. A tremor went through me as I slipped the key into the lock, turned it, and opened the door. The interior of the shed was dim, and I waited while my eyes adjusted. Pale light came through a small, square window, giving me enough light to see. There was not much there. A few old boxes, a few bags, some books and notebooks on a shelf, and lots of cobwebs.
And the old trunk. The trunk my father had told me never to open. Why? What could be in it? It could be anything or nothing at all. And now I would finally find out what it was.
I slowly stumbled toward the old trunk. The shed felt warm and stuffy, but as I approached the trunk, I started feeling cold. An icy tingle went down my spine.
The trunk was locked. Was there a key? There — a key hung on a string from a hook on the wall just behind it. Hand shaking, I grasped the key and removed it from the hook, almost dropping it. My fingers were cold, almost numb.
The key slipped into the lock on the trunk. Did I want to do this? Yes. I had to. I twisted the key. At first it didn’t move. I jiggled it, and then I heard the click as it opened. My hand trembled as I removed the key.
Inch by inch, I slowly opened the curved lid. A strange, putrid smell reached me. At first it was too dark to see anything. It looked like a jumble of cloth and something leathery. What was it? It almost looked like a dead body. But that couldn’t be. I had been watching too many movies.
Something in the trunk suddenly moved. I gasped and stepped back. That was not possible. I must have been mistaken.
I eased forward again and squinted, trying to see what was inside. I was sure whatever I thought I saw was just a combination of the lighting and my imagination.
Cloth. Long, leathery, bony rods, fingers — No! It was something not human. What the—
It clearly moved this time. Gray, bony fingers grasped the edge of the open trunk, making a clunking noise. Something rattled. A wrinkled, scaly gray face with large red eyes peered out and looked right at me.
Terror flooded my entire body, and a strange squeal escaped my lips. I backed up until my back hit the wall behind me.
A bluish glow emanated from the alien creature and filled the small room.
I turned and scrambled toward the door to leave, but my rubbery legs gave way and I crashed to the floor.
I scurried backward as the alien creature approached me and a fetid odor filled the shed.
It studied me and hissed as its thoughts echoed in my head. Your father should have killed me when he had the chance.
Paralyzed with absolute terror, I could not move. My throat constricted and I struggled to breathe.
Its voice rasped in my head. Now it is too late.
Copyright © 2019 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.
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