Dr. Phillip Kent visits a young woman in a mental institution to try and understand more about her fantastical story of an evil wish box; by Ray J Robbio.
But this day was different from the others. Someone had, incredibly, come to see her. And, to Piper's surprise, wanted to hear her story! The nurse led the man down the long hallway past the solid white walls and locked doors.
"Now Mr. Kent," the nurse said while they walked, "remember, I am only a hallway away. Miss Johansson is deeply disturbed, as you well know, and I don't need her getting agitated. The last time that happened, it sent one of my nurses to the infirmary with a broken wrist."
"I understand," said Phillip.
They continued down the hall until they reached Piper's room. Phillip couldn't imagine being kept in a place like this. No color, no personality. Only the occasional moans of the other patients could be heard. Hardly a place for rehabilitation, he thought.
"Sir, I need your belt, your shoes, and any metal objects you may have," the nurse said holding out a metal container to him.
"Can I keep this folder with me?" he asked holding it up.
"Yes, just keep it away from her," the nurse said as she lifted the latch on the steel covered window in the center of the door. Phillip looked in the room. There Piper sat, facing the light spilling into the white room through small window on the far wall. She sat in her rocking chair moving it back and forth with her slipper covered feet.
"You ready sir?" the nurse asked as she unlocked the door.
"Um, yeah," Phillip responded. He stood up, cleared his throat, straightened his tie and gripped the folder with both hands.
The door creaked loudly as she swung it open, echoing down the hallway. Phillip stepped in the room, just beyond the threshold of the doorway. The nurse pushed past him and approached Piper.
"You have a visitor dear," she said. She waited a moment for a response, which she never received.
"She's all yours Dr. Kent." The nurse pointed out the buzzer on the wall. "Press this if you need anything." Phillip heard her close the door behind him. For some reason, the sound of the door slamming sent a chill down his spine. He turned his attention to the woman sitting before him.
According to the reports, Piper was twenty two years old. He could see her long, black hair draping over her shoulders and down the back of the chair. As he moved closer, he noticed her face was incredibly beautiful, with not a blemish or a wrinkle to be found. Phillip sat quietly on her bed and cleared his throat again.
"Miss Johansson?" he asked, "Piper?"
She turned her head towards him.
"Hi," she said, with an amazing amount of happiness in her voice for someone living under such conditions.
Phillip smiled. "My name is Dr. Kent. I'm from the Rhode Island Organization of Paranormal Studies. I was wondering if I could talk to you about the box."
Piper looked at him curiously, as if she didn't believe his intentions.
"If you're going to ask me where it is, you're wasting your time, I have no idea."
"Oh, no. I'm more interested in its history, not its whereabouts," he said, trying to be reassuring.
"I've told this story a thousand times, you can just read about it. Why come see me in person?" she asked.
"Well, Piper, I have read everything there is to read about it, but somehow I feel that I'm not getting the full picture. I was hoping you could shed some light on it for me."
Piper sighed, and turned to look out the window again.
"Where would you like me to start?" she said begrudgingly.
Phillip smiled, "How about at the beginning?"
"Have you ever been to Wickford, Mr. Kent?" she asked.
"Yes, I have. We used to have a boat down there. It's a beautiful place."
"Well, I loved it there. My mom and I would drive down from Coventry at least once a month and sit by the docks, walk around, and venture into the many mom and pop stores. Most of the buildings were old, giving it a historical look, and we loved to mingle with the tourists walking down the stone sidewalks.
"In the center of town was an antique shop, I think it's still there. It was my favorite place to stop. Walking through the door, I felt like I was stepping back in time."
She stopped and looked at Phillip.
"Tell me about it," he said smiling. Piper leaned back in the chair and closed her eyes.
"It was an assault on the senses. There were items in every available space. I would look right and see books piled from floor to ceiling, from all different years. I would pick up each one, all the time wondering who had read them a hundred years before. I would flip through their tattered pages, take in the inscriptions, and get lost in the living history. On my left were pictures and photographs. It was amazing to sift through them, even more amazing to imagine who these people were, and where they lived. My senses would go wild. I could feel what they felt, see what they saw, and hear what they heard. I know it sounds crazy, but just touching these items made me feel like I knew about them."
She turned her head towards Phillip, looking for the skepticism on his face, but found none.
"Please, go on," Phillip said.
"Further into the store, they had trinkets and furniture of all kinds. Silverware, dishes, glasses, pots, pans, you name it. All had a used look to them, as if they had been unearthed from some archeological dig site somewhere. There were old dressers, vanities, and hutches. I would open each drawer, hoping to find some previously unknown hidden treasure from years before. My mom was very patient, knowing that I loved spending time there, and usually I would find one or two items that I was attracted to in some way. We didn't have much money, so usually I would stash the items I liked under one of the hutches, hoping no one would see them. On this particular day I made my way back to the hutch and reached under it to view the collection I had accumulated, and that's when I found it."
"The box?" Phillip asked.
"Yes, the box. I didn't remember putting it under there, and I assumed someone had mistakenly kicked it under the hutch. It wasn't until later that I realized I didn't find the box, it found me."
She again looked at Phillip, waiting for some sign that he didn't believe her. Instead he sat there, wrapped up in what she was saying.
"It was a normal, wooden box, probably six inches across and four inches deep. There was a simple metal latch that kept it closed, and small, leather straps on either side. I felt a warmth inside just by touching it. It was empty, but I was drawn to it by its beauty and simplicity. In an instant I knew I had to have it. I begged my mom to spend the ten dollars it cost, but it wasn't until the owner said that the ten dollars included whatever I could fill it with, that my mom agreed. I was thrilled! I filled it with some postcards from the eighteen hundreds and a couple of old spoons. Well worth the ten dollars, I thought. Well, I was wrong."
"Tell me about the wishes, Piper," Phillip said.
"That night, I was in my room with my new antiques. I was playing with the spoons and pretending to mail the postcards. I could feel what it must have been like to be alive so many years ago. Somehow, I accidentally knocked the box onto the floor. When I went to pick it up, I noticed a small compartment had opened up on the bottom of the box. Inside was a small slip of paper:
I'm a wish box filled with treasures
Make a wish and see
All your wishes will be granted
But wishes are not free
I read it over and over again, intrigued by what it was telling me."
"How old were you, Piper?" Phillip asked.
"I was ten at the time. Needless to say I was excited about the possibility of having my very own Aladdin's lamp. I decided to start small. I wrote a wish for a quarter. Yup, just a quarter. I put the wish in the box and went to bed. It was like the night before Christmas! I hardly slept a wink, and when I woke up the next morning I ran to the box and opened it."
"And?" Phillip asked, "Was there a quarter in there?"
"No. The note was gone, and the box was empty. I was crushed. I figured it must have been some kind of joke from centuries ago. To my amazement, however, I did get a quarter that very day. My granddad came over and put me on his knee as he always did. However this time he pulled a quarter out from behind my ear, pretending it was magic. Well, for me, it was. The wish box worked! Unfortunately, that was the last time I saw Granddad, as he passed away that afternoon. He had a heart attack in our living room. My grandma was devastated. It was hard to watch her at the funeral. I had never seen her cry before. It made me cry."
"Is that when you made your second wish?" Phillip asked.
"Yes. The night after the funeral, I wished for my grandma to not be sad anymore. Once again, I wrote it down and placed it in the box. The next morning, the note was gone. I could sense that nothing much had changed when I went downstairs. My mom was still crying. I walked over to her and gave her a hug. I told her, 'Don't worry, everything is going to be ok, mom. Grandma won't be sad anymore.' She looked at me with a startled look on her face. It was then that I learned that grandma had died overnight. Years later I would learn that she took her own life."
"Is that when you started to figure out that there was something wrong with the box?"
"Well, I was young and I hadn't put all of the pieces together. I put the box in my closet where it sat for a couple of years. I next used it when I was in eighth grade. A boy named Joe Comley had asked me to the winter ball. I was thrilled, as any young girl would be. I went to the store and picked out the dress, got my nails done and mom helped me to get ready. That night I got in a fight with Ashley Domico in the bathroom and she stuck my head in the sink, ruining my hair. I ran out of the bathroom crying, my hair soaking wet. Ashley then took Joey by the hand and started kissing him right in front of me. Everyone was laughing at me. I called my mom and she picked me up. I laid on my bed crushed by the events that night. Then I remembered about the wish box. I dug in my closet until I found it."
Piper paused, looked at me, and smiled. "Never use the box out of anger."
"I wished that Ashley would go away. Well, she did. That night she was kidnapped down the road from her house as she walked home from the dance. I remember being in the assembly at school the next day where they talked about safety, all the while knowing that it was my fault that she was gone."
"Could have been just a coincidence," Phillip surmised.
"Trust me, I knew it wasn't. That night I decided to right the wrong. I wished her to return. The next morning they found her dead in a ditch a half mile away from her house."
"You could be reading too much into this, Piper."
"Mr. Kent, you don't understand. Where some people see coincidence, I see reality. That box is evil. That is why I am here."
"According to your file," Phillip said opening it up and putting his glasses on, "you were admitted here after you confessed to killing your mother, then blaming it on the box."
Piper looked visibly shaken by what he was saying. "I didn't kill my mom."
"So, what happened?"
"My mom's boyfriend was abusive, both physically and mentally. I used to hear the fights from my bedroom. The last night, in particular, was really bad. I heard glass breaking, my mom screaming, her boyfriend yelling. I think he punched the wall or something, because my closet door opened and there sat the box. It was taunting me. It wanted me to use it. The top was opened already, almost like it was inviting me to make a wish. Well, I wasn't going to let that happen this time. I had seen what it had done before so I took the box out of the closet and wrote down my last wish:
"I wish to never see this box again
"I closed the box, opened my window and threw it out."
Piper turned and looked at Phillip again, tears streaming down her eyes. "Well, as you can see, I got my wish."
"So you didn't kill your mom?" Phillip asked.
"No. I didn't. I realized that I needed to bury the box so someone else wouldn't find it. I ran downstairs to get it, and saw my mom lying on the floor with a knife in her chest. I ran over to her and pulled the knife out just as the police burst through the door. I kept yelling to them that they needed to find the box. That it was evil. I told them that the boyfriend had killed her. They didn't listen to anything I said. That's how I ended up here."
"Piper, do you know if they ever found the box?" Phillip asked.
"I don't know. They never said anything to me."
"Piper, I found the box."
Piper looked at Phillip in horror. "You found it?" she said nervously.
"I did. I found it in an antique shop in Connecticut."
"You... you didn't bring it with you, did you?" she cried.
"No, but I think you know what I found in it."
"Was my wish still in it?" she asked.
"It was. But it's not the wish you told me, Piper," Phillip said calmly pulling a scrap of paper out of his pocket and handing it to her.
She slowly unfolded the paper and looked at her own handwriting:
I wish my mom was dead
She stared at the note in horror as Phillip stood up to leave. He hit the buzzer and the nurse opened the door, letting him out. As they walked back down the hallway, all they could hear was Piper screaming:
"It's the box! It's evil! I didn't do anything! You have to believe me!"
"It's a shame, ya know," Phillip said to the nurse as they were walking, "what the mind can convince us of if given enough motivation to do so. I guess it's easier to blame others for our actions, even if it's only a wooden box."