Tell A Tale — Gothic Fiction

The Dreadful Box By Emma Middleton

As Irene squeezed the tea trolley through her miniscule flat, she noticed the dreadful box staring at her from the table. The package had arrived yesterday with a note that read ‘Something to bring you into the 21st century.’ Irene had refused to open the box at first, fearing its contents. But today curiosity had gotten the better of her. Inside she found a queer cylindrical object, completely smooth and black. There appeared to be no markings on it, save a small button almost imperceptibly indented onto the side. Feeling bold, Irene pressed the button, and an orange light flashed. Then, nothing happened at all. She picked up the object, shook it, and then put it back down.

“I’ll see what’s on the telly.” She said to herself, turning her back on the wretched thing. A red light blinked on the object behind her, and just like that the TV switched on by itself. Irene was shocked to say the least, but quickly became distracted by her favourite soap.

“It’s chilly in here, I should light the fire.” She told herself a while later.

Again the red light blinked. It wasn’t until she felt the heat licking her right arm that she realised the fire had been lit! This confusing turn of events sent Irene into a panic. Was her mind playing tricks on her?

A few hours later, Irene felt her eyes becoming heavy and she sleepily announced “Should be turning in soon” before dosing off. The red light continued to flicker menacingly, as the lamps dimmed around her, the fire died in the hearth and the TV turned off. It became silent and deathly cold.

During the night Irene woke with a chill that had settled into her bones. Why am I still in my chair? She thought, unable to find the strength to prise herself up. Why is it so dark? She hadn’t remembered turning anything off. It didn’t make any sense. The world didn’t make any sense anymore. All these new gadgets and whatsits taking over everything. Why can’t people just do things for themselves like before? The cold was unbearable, it penetrated deep into Irene’s body. Our Ralph doesn’t come to visit me anymore, she thought despairingly he only sends silly packages with things in I don’t understand.

Her eyes became heavy again, and she struggled with her last strength to see in the overwhelming blackness.

The two policemen looked down pityingly upon the body of the old woman.

“She’s been in her chair for days.” Said one, covering his nose.

“Lived on her own. Started showing signs of dementia, the neighbours said.” Continued the other.

“Forgot to pay her bills it looks like, nothing on. Freezing in here.” He moved away from the chair and picked up the black, cylindrical object. “What’s this?”

“Looks like one of those monitoring devices.” Replied the first. “It’s supposed to keep track of things around the house, a sort of memory aid.”

“I think the battery must’ve died.”

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