OURS WAS A DARK GREEN BOX, CLOSED WITH RED TAPE, WRAPPED IN DARK GREEN WRAPPING PAPER.
I’m gonna tell you what happened to us when we found ours, and if you find one and still wanna take the chance, then that’s on you.
My family has gotten big enough to the point where everyone celebrating on Christmas Day just isn’t feasible anymore. This year, we celebrated at a large American Legion Post on the 22nd, just a few days ago. After eating the buffet of food everyone contributed to and visiting family we only see at most twice a year, it was time for presents. Midway through, a gift was picked up by our family friend dressed as Santa, a gift with no to/from tag on it.
It was covered in a green wrapping paper so dark that at first I thought it was black. “Santa” had a bunch of excited children clawing at him for more presents, so he set it aside for the time being, until all the other presents had been gifted. Finally, while all the kids played with their new toys and whined about not being able to open the ones that would be better suited to opening at home, he picked up the dark green box and made a plea for anyone who might have brought it and to whom it might be intended to go to.
After some time and everyone claiming they hadn’t brought the box, it was decided that we’d simply open the box, and if whatever it contained interested anyone, then they’d be the lucky one to get a surprise present this year. Most of my family was indifferent about the mystery present either way, and thus mingled while the few of us whose curiosity had been sufficiently piqued congregated a few feet away from the tree.
My cousin Danny was the one who tore away that dark green paper. Beneath it was a cardboard box of the very same color, itself held closed by tape that was a deep, dark red. He pulled the tape from the box and lifted the flaps. From within, he pulled out a small box of markers.
This is where things get…strange. I’m going to tell you what happened as per my recollection and from my perspective, after which time I will explain why I refer to it as “strange”.
My cousin Danny’s six-year-old son was amongst the six of us who wanted to see what was inside the box. Upon seeing what was pulled from the box, his first words were ”What is it?”, which in retrospect is not something I would expect a perfectly intelligent child to say when looking at a dime-a-dozen 12-pack of markers.
But by that point it had already started.
I, as much as anyone else, was in a trance. Anyone else, that is, save for the kids. If I remember correctly, the youngest person that was…affected…was my 11-year-old cousin Hailey. All the other kids, all my little cousins, were still running around playing while all of us (ostensibly) 11 years of age and up all stood straight up and faced the western wall. The last thing I saw before I unwillingly turned towards the wall was my cousin Danny set the markers onto a chair next to the one in which he was sitting when he opened the box and stand up.
We all stood there, transfixed on nothing, about 40 of us. Even my 86-year-old great aunt who has been confined to a wheelchair for nearly two decades, stood straight up as if she wasn’t paralyzed in a fall down the stairs so many years ago. Even though I was under this…spell, hypnosis, whatever it was, I was still completely lucid, I was aware of everything going on around me in my field of vision.
On the very edge of my periphery I saw something. A man, a man in a black suit and black pork pie hat. He was whispering into my cousin Jackie’s ear just before she dislocated both of her shoulders and started spider-walking around the large room like the deleted scene from *The Exorcist*. Then he walked further into my line of sight, but…I can’t remember a single detail about his face.
He walked up to my uncle Steve and whispered in his ear, after which point Steve walked to the wall, which was textured and coarse, and began scratching at it with all of his energy. The eggshell white color soon had streaks of red where his fingernails had broken and torn from his fingers.
Next was my 15-year-old cousin Hailey, who after hearing whatever the man said began to bite into her own forearms as hard as she could. Before long blood began dripping to the linoleum floor. Though all three of them were doing things that would cause any normal person intense pain, none of them reacted to it. They were like robots.
At this point, the kids knew something was wrong. They’d stopped playing, stopped running around, a few of them were crying, trying to get the attention of their parents, who were still stuck in a trance, seemingly incapable of addressing them. I can say for myself that I wanted to move but I couldn’t. It didn’t feel like I was being held in place, but almost like I had no muscles with which to move.
The man moved to the front of the room and faced us. He spoke to us, but I can’t remember what he said. In my memory it sounds like what adults sound like in Charlie Brown. What I do remember is our responses. All of us, in perfect unison. We said three things:
”To you, we bow. We are nothing, you are all.”
After we said this, he spoke more words that for the life of me I can’t remember. By now all the kids were screaming and crying but their noise was drowned out by the man’s voice.
”You control us. This we see. I am no more. There is no me.”
At this point, my body felt like it was starting to be pulled. It felt like someone was pulling another me…from me. I can’t really explain it. It was like my life force was being pulled from me, but once it was completely out of me I wouldn’t have been dead….like I said, I don’t know how to explain it. He spoke again, more of the same ”waump wuamp wuamp” that plays over in my head when I try to remember it.
Then we tried to respond.
”Thank you Father, for this night. You give us all, please take my–”
And then I heard an ear-shattering crash from my right, and looking back, I can see my cousin Danny’s six-year-old son with the pack of markers in his hand, hitting his father, who was as still as a statue, repeatedly in the leg and hip, trying desperately to get his attention. Then, in the midst of his fit, he threw the markers to the ground, and the sound they made when they hit wasn’t what they should’ve. The sound was deafening.
And just like that, everyone came to. Of course, panic ensued immediately. I myself was still frozen in shock. I just stood there, unable to move, unable to think, just observe. People were comforting their terrified children, helping Jackie with her dislocated shoulders, helping Steve wrap his mangled fingertips, helping Hailey with her arm where her teeth had torn away the skin, helping my paraplegic great aunt, who had toppled to the ground after whatever it was that was inexplicably keeping her standing had gone away.
All of this was going on while I was just standing in that same spot, dumbfounded. Then, Danny’s son asked something that snapped me back. The following will serve to explain why I referred to the situation as “strange” when I did.
”What happened to the thing?”
I looked to the floor at my right, wondering why a pack of markers had made such a noise as it did. But there were no markers on the floor. I looked to Danny and said ”Where did the markers go?”
Still in a state of shock, Danny asked ”What markers?”*, to which I replied ”…the ones from the box…?”
Danny looked at me in confusion. ”From the box…? You mean the vase Mason shattered? I don’t–where is it?”
I didn’t know what to say to that, though our cousin Adam, who had also been with us when Danny opened the mystery present, chimed in. ”What the fuck are you guys talking about? The box had ping pong paddles…Dan, you pulled out ping pong paddles.”
My cousin looked down to his son. ”Mason, what were you hitting against my leg?”
The six-year-old replied through sobs with ”I thought…if I broke the cup thing…you would answer.”
None of us knew what to say, but the next realization hit us all simultaneously. There was nothing on the floor. Not a pack of markers, not a shattered vase, no ping pong paddles, no “cup thing”. No dark green wrapping paper, no red tape, no green box. Nothing. It was as though there had never been a mystery present at all.
We eventually snapped out of our confusion and went to help the various members of our family who needed it most. Ambulances came, the Legion Post closed early, and everyone in my family went home that night terrified and addled beyond belief, myself included.
That night I awoke in a cold sweat around 3 AM, and I was able to recall perfectly the nightmare that had awakened me. It was from my perspective, and I was back at the Legion Post, entranced like I had been earlier that evening. Only this time, the man in the black suit and black pork pie hat was standing next to me, whispering in my ear, and I still couldn’t hear him but when I woke up, I knew what he had told me.
There are more presents, more trees, more unsuspecting people, and no one is safe.
So if you find a gift under your tree that you don’t remember putting there, don’t take a chance, don’t tell yourself you must have just forgotten about it, DO NOT OPEN IT.
Throw it off a bridge into a body of water, or into a trash compactor, or a wood chipper (if you happen to have either one just laying around today).
Just please…DO NOT OPEN IT.
Whoever he is, whatever the present is, it’s nothing good, and you might not be as lucky as we were.