“You had them put it in the basement?” asked Janet Winters, rolling her eyes like a reptile preparing to strike. “That’s what I said” spewed back her husband, Frank. He placed the coffee pot on the stove and shook his head in disgust. He couldn’t remember when he had traded his wife in for a snake. “The realtor said we could keep whatever we want, why don’t you just bring the trunk back upstairs and we’ll go through it together?”
Frank felt his blood pressure rising. “Thanksgiving is right around the corner. I thought the plan was to clean this place up not start taking out more junk?”
“If you didn’t have them, put the trunk in the basement, we could be going through it right now.”
Frank let out a sigh “Fine, I’ll go get the trunk”.
Seconds later he found himself stumbling against the cold wall of the basement, feeling as if his over-worked heart was about to explode. He reached the bottom and felt near collapse, hands fumbling inside his pants in search of heart medication; this woman really will be the death of me, he thought. Frank popped two pills and counted to twenty. He pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and dabbed the sweat off his brow.
“Honey, the trunk is six feet long and must weigh 200 pounds, we should go through it down here.”
“It will have to wait until after Thanksgiving then, I have a lunch date with Joyce this afternoon.”
He could hear her high heels spinning around on the floor up above him. He imagined a Succubus twirling on a pair of cloven hooves.
“That’s fine, I have plenty to do here.” replied Frank.
The heels above stopped.
“Keep your stress level down Frank, I don’t want to come home later and find you dead!”
Janet’s tone was more of a warning than a concern.
If you weren’t a nagging bitch, I could live a stress-free life he thought but called out “I will, promise!”
“I’ll help you unpack when I get back!” she responded.
“I doubt that!” he replied in a voice not quite his own, his eyes glued to the strange trunk.
I wonder what’s in there, he thought.
Frank sat on the stairwell and listened to his wife start the Mercedes and drive away.
Relief began to spill over him. A year ago, these kinds of things would have never gotten to me.
Now, I want to choke her over the garbage disposal. Heart disease had made him constantly irritable.
“Maybe the answer to my problems is in here” he said out loud, kicking the case with his foot.
Something inside shifted position, it was a scraping wet sound that took several seconds.
“What in the hell?” said Frank as he walked around the enormous piece of luggage.
There were no signs of damage but he did notice the trunk had strange locking mechanisms on both sides and held the markings of many overseas trips. It has obviously been around, he thought as he kicked the trunk again.
Something inside the container moved, more urgently this time, scrambling along one side of the container. Probably just a rat, Frank thought. He had heard stories about rats able to squeeze themselves into a hole the size of a quarter. “There’s probably an opening I’m not seeing” he said to himself. The sound of his own voice was reassuring, although, the concrete basement created an echo making him feel like he wasn’t entirely alone….
As if on cue, the trunk started making noise, a lot of noise. It sounded like hundreds of tiny creatures had all awoken at once and were now all attempting to scratch their way out. At least, that’s what it sounded like to Frank as he took a frightened step back, his hands once again fumbled into his pants looking for medication. “Sweet Jesus, not now!” He managed to stammer as tiny tentacles began to push their way out of the trunk! Frank felt himself falling backwards, a rush of air then sensation of floating, followed by an indescribable stimulus which tingled his entire body.
Frank woke up the next morning and found himself upstairs in bed.
“Glad to see you’re up sweetheart!” said a pleasant voice. It was Janet and she sounded more vibrant than she had in years. Frank turned his eyes in the direction of her voice. Janet looked better too. Her features seemed sharper, more colorful. It was as if he was seeing her with renewed vision. Frank rubbed his eyes half expecting her to return to her regular form but it was not to be.
Janet danced around the room putting away clothes and tossing out boxes.
“How was your lunch with Joyce?” asked Frank. He was surprised he was able to sit up so easily, his tendonitis had been ailing him lately but there was no sign of it now.
“Oh! It was fine dear, you know Joyce, always something going on.”
Frank nodded. He hopped out of bed with ease and began to dress.
“I feel great, I guess I needed to rest,” he said, buttoning a pair of pants.
“You’ve been running yourself ragged lately” answered Janet, stepping out of the room with some dirty laundry.
“Well, I feel great today!” he replied. “You still want to go through that old trunk?”
“What old trunk?” called out Janet from another room, her words seemed to hang in the air.
Frank stopped dressing and sat down on the bed. “The trunk from yesterday afternoon, don’t you remember? You wanted me to carry it upstairs and I told you it was too big?”
“Doesn’t ring any bells dear,” said Janet cheerfully “Probably just a dream.”
Frank sat shell-shocked, am I crazy he thought, I could have sworn it was real.
“You’re probably right!” he called back as a thought came to him, a terrible thought. What had been moving in the trunk and how did he get upstairs? Something was wrong here, very wrong. Hundreds of ideas exploded in Frank’s head simultaneously: Did the trunk hold a doorway to another reality and Frank fell through it? Had the house itself changed, and in the process transformed everything living inside, hence Janet’s pleasant disposition and Frank’s newfound strength? The ideas dazzled him but his head told him they were not true. Frank got up off his bed and finished getting dressed. He knew the only way to find out for sure what happened to the trunk was to go downstairs, and look for it.
Frank went downstairs into the kitchen and found everything as he had left it yesterday. A few boxes still littered the floor and the dishes he took out for Thanksgiving dinner were still in the dishwasher. Even the coffee pot he had put out for Janet before she left yesterday was still visible. He headed for the door to the basement steps only to find it locked. He quickly determined it was somehow jammed from the inside. “Honey! Why is the basement door locked?”
“Don’t you remember?” said Joyce coming down the stairs. “You told me last night it was unsafe. You said a pipe exploded down there or something.”
Frank took a seat at the kitchen table. “Did I say I was calling a plumber? What else did I say last night?”
Janet grabbed the coffee pot and remade it.
“Honey, I honestly don’t know, I was kind of half in the bag. Joyce and I went to this Spanish Restaurant and they made the most wonderful Margaritas! I was tipsy when I returned and really wasn’t paying attention to you.”
She handed him a fresh cup of coffee. “You’re not mad are you Frank?”
A simple “No,” was all he could muster. He couldn’t help but wonder what happened to him and why the basement door was locked now. He didn’t remember locking it, hell, he couldn’t even remember coming upstairs yesterday afternoon and he certainly didn’t recall talking to Janet last night. The answer was behind the door, in the trunk.
“I guess I should go take a look at the damage” said Frank getting up.
“What are you going to do?” Janet asked. “Get some tools to get that door opened.” He replied. “Don’t you want to wait for the plumber?” Janet asked; the blood seemed to drain from her face.
“I need to find out what’s wrong first.” Frank replied. He went out to the garage, found his toolbox, and returned to the basement door. In no time, he was working on the hinges with a hammer and chisel. “I don’t think that’s a good idea Frank.” said Janet, she was hovering over him, eyes darting from the cellar door back to the toolbox. She was making him nervous, why the hell does she care what I’m doing anyway? Frank thought. He could hear his own blood pounding inside his veins. His anger was rapidly beginning to grow. “I don’t care what you think!” He hissed. It was the only thing he could do to keep himself from turning around and bashing her head in with a hammer.
“Fine!!!” Janet screamed into the back of his head. She quickly shot out of the room. He heard a door slam. Relieved, Frank took the cellar door off and leaned it up against a wall in the kitchen. That’s when he noticed the coat hanger tied around the handle. Someone had locked the door intentionally. Intrigued, he turned back to the stairwell leading down to the cellar; no sign of damage, but the area was obstructed by darkness. He tried the cellar light switch, nothing.
“Power must be shorted out” Frank mumbled to himself as he dug through the toolbox looking for a flashlight. While he was pre-occupied, Janet slipped past him down the stairs and into the darkness.
Finally locating a flashlight, Frank pointed it down the stairwell, just catching a glimpse of Janet moving off somewhere in the darkness. He heard a noise from down below. “Janet! Is that you?” She must have slipped past me when I was getting the flashlight he thought. What was she protecting? Frank walked down the stairs and immediately found himself up to his ankles in water. Maybe I called a plumber after all he thought. He panned the area with his flashlight, there was no sign of Janet or the trunk but the water was definitely coming out from behind an old rotting door that he could have sworn was not there yesterday. Frank tried to handle the door, locked. He pressed his hands up against the rotting wood. The whole door was drenched. He could feel it weaken beneath his fingers. Only the locking mechanism was holding the door in place, a couple of good pushes and he was sure he could break it down. Frank moved back, ready to put his weight into it when he was attacked by Janet! She wacked him hard in the back of the head with a mallet! Frank stumbled against the door, his vision, a mesh of blackness and shooting stars.
“You shouldn’t have come down here Frank, we’re not ready yet” said Janet in a gurgling sea-like voice. Frank turned around and watched Janet closing in on him. Her face was all distorted, somehow evil; she dropped the mallet and now carried a sickle in her right hand. Frank caught the hand with the sickle before she could strike him. It took nearly every ounce of his strength just to hold the woman off. She was determined, stronger than before. Janet dropped the weapon in water and went after Frank with her bare hands, she grabbed him by the head and began to squeeze. Her hands were like vice-grips. Frank could hear, the blood pounding in his head, his skull nearly cracking under the force. His hands reached down into the water searching for the weapon, searching for anything to save himself with. Frank pulled the sickle out of the water and brought it down in one quick swoop! The rusty sickle connected with Janet’s arm, tearing it from her body like a piece of string cheese. “EEEEEAHHHHHHH!” the woman gurgled out a scream of terror. It sounded like multiple voices crying out in unison. He saw her severed arm floating in the water. It unexpectedly broke into hundreds of tiny strands and became a dark green color. The strands, looking very much like tiny tentacles, began to swim away! They escaped underneath the door that held the trunk. Frank was unable to comprehend what he had just seen, instead he used the moment to propel Janet up the stairs and out of the room; he slammed the cellar door behind him and used a nearby piece of wood to set a prop against it. He thought that would hold her, at least for the time being. Frank sat on the basement steps exhausted thanking god he had the foresight to reassemble the door.
He expected her to come after him right away but nearly an hour had gone by before he heard from Janet again. At first, she attacked him mentally. She began crying softly on the other side of the door, tapping on it and begging him to let her in. “Frank, honey, you’re going to catch a cold in all that water. Open the door and I’ll make you some tea.” He tried his best to ignore her, determined to gather his strength and continue on. He felt fine this morning, even better than fine. He realized he hadn’t reached for his stress pills once but their confrontation had left him weak, really weak, and now he didn’t even have the strength to stand. Once the initial adrenaline rush had been spent he found himself literally gasping for air. He was recovering now, but not nearly as fast as he would have liked. His eyes stayed on the door the whole time. That’s what kept him going. It was the door he longed to enter. He knew behind the door was the trunk. Frank openly wondered what the squid-like creatures were, why they had taken Janet, and what they wanted from him. He wondered how long they had been sleeping, waiting, inside…..
Eventually, Frank regained his strength and got to his feet. As he had begun to feel better Janet had become more urgent. It was as if she was somehow in touch with his physiology and knew a final confrontation was brewing. About five minutes ago she had gone into a literal frenzy pounding, clawing, even scratching at the door with her one good arm. Her gentle suggestions quickly gave way to murderous threats. “FRANK!! Open this door or I’ll be picking my teeth with your BONES!!!”
He ignored these cries of rage. He knew that beast was not his wife.
With Janet pulling the basement door off the hinges, Frank made a run at his own door, the one holding the trunk. In one quick rush he was through the waterlogged wood, the momentum carried him into the darkness where he promptly fell into a large, dark pool of water.
Janet became suddenly silent.
Frank scrambled to his feet. He wanted to get away from the dark pool, which seemed to hold him. He scanned the area. Sitting in the center of the black water was the trunk. It was exactly as he had remembered it. Strange metal clasps on either side, stamps from around the world. Quickly overcoming his initial fear, Frank decided to kick the trunk as hard as he could. Nothing stirred inside. Propelled by powers unfamiliar, Frank moved to open the trunk just as Janet tore the cellar door off!
“Frank Stop! Don’t do it! Believe me when I say, you don’t want to know what’s in there.”
He stopped and turned towards his wife. Her blood-soaked face smiled beamingly back at him.
Janet held out her bloody stump, “Watch this Frank.” Suddenly hundreds of squid-like tentacles shot out of the stump. At an inhuman speed they rebuilt the arm bone, muscle, tendon, even skin!
In seconds, Frank found himself watching Janet lick the bloody fingers of her new hand!
“They make things, bigger, stronger, if you know what I mean,” she said, winking playfully at her husband.
A horrified Frank turned his back to her and quickly opened the trunk, where he got the shock of his life. In the trunk lay the decomposing corpse of Frank Winters! The head of the corpse was open and there was no brain visible inside. Shocked, the Frank Winters we have come to know began to stumble backwards. He reached into his pocket for his pills.
“We told you Frank. You didn’t want to know.” said a strange voice inside his head.
Frank fell backwards into the black pool of water and felt his body begin to unravel. He looked at his arms and legs and saw that the squid-like creatures peeling themselves off his body at a high rate of speed. The sensation was overwhelming. Slowly, he began to comprehend, much too late, the literal horror of it all. He was now the creature. The creature was him. His mind went blank.
A few minutes later Janet came into the room and plucked Frank’s floating brain out of the black water. The last squid-like creature unwrapped itself from the brain and swam away. Janet held up the brain and spoke to it. “Too bad you couldn’t listen, Frank. We told you not to open the trunk, now you’re going to miss our Thanksgiving dinner.” \m/