I love writing fiction. As much as possible I try to let my gift flourish in my off times and times I set aside specifically for writing. And it always seems like I’m writing about things that could, or should already be put into a movie, or at least a TV show like Black Mirror or Twilight Zone, or maybe even Creepshow. But to join with those guys is unthinkable. I think that I would have to drink baby blood or something to be let into the Hollywood front doors, so that’s a hard pass. I’m not selling my soul to sell a book. YHVH loves me too much and I, Him. So there’s a teensy bit of moral obligation there. But I continue writing, nonetheless; I will endeavor to try to fill my own private library collection with a mish-mash of hokum and sardoodledom to at least keep my pensive hands busy.
When I first wrote this story, it all came out in a rush. An incessant pounding away at the keys until every last stroke was done. When I came back to it, I brushed it up a little, but I could never add anything. It seemed perfect. I hope you enjoy it… I enjoyed writing it.
by Pauly Hart
“The Supreme Nibbler Conservatory of Wellston Park Limited” was printed on the outside of the box in very fancy cursive letters and it was addressed to my daughter. “To the most noteworthy of children, Brixallyn Maeve Charlington, on this, the tenth anniversary of her birth.” The box was massive. Cream colored plasticine glued and sealed around the actual outer lining of the box inside. Setting it all up was pretty easy, for inside of the large box was a clear box and instructions on which end was down. In large font, it simply said: “Place on floor, in a clear area, prominently displayed, where it will remain undisturbed for the rest of your life.”
That was alarming. We had just moved into our new home. Only just – last week, that is. It was a very strange and awkward gift. We only had one child and she was a miracle. She wasn’t even really ours, to tell the truth. She had been laid on our doorstep with a note: “Please take care of me.” The note said, so we did, no questions.
My wife Cheryl and I had always wanted children. The doctors had told us that there was no way this could ever be achieved, but we prayed every day for it. And, one rainy night there was a knock on the door and there she was. That was ten years ago today.
It took all of my strength and that of Gallifrey, our slave, to move the box into the house. Gallifrey was a Gray man, but that was alright, it wasn’t like they were actually men or anything. Gallifrey helped me install it as well. To give him credit, it was his eye that found the perfect spot in the dining room for the box. Grays were skilled at some things and not with others. Gallifrey was good with spaces and problems. He was the one who supervised the movers to get us here.
It was up, one-two-three and done. The box we put up against the wall and hit the “GO” button that was illuminated there on the front in bright blue. The entire box wobbled, measured, shot out lasers and then raised itself up on skinny legs about seven feet above the ground, right to where an adult could easily reach it, but not bump your head. There was a loud thumping as it tested the walls, found the anchors, and installed itself. It beeped politely and the blue “GO” went dead. The lasers shut off, the legs retracted, and there was a FOOSH as the lightweight box popped off and fell to the floor. Where there was once a kerfuffle of noise, now there was the silence of furniture. An antique wall unit, part cupboard, part curio.
Gallifrey scooped up what remained of the lightweight outer packaging and took it away to be folded into our compactor, leaving me to stare at the new installation. It was something akin to an enclosed floating wall shelf. If I were to have to guess at the design, I would have to say that Nineteenth Century French Woodworkers hand carved it all, but I would most probably be mistaken. It was a hanging shelf console of curious design, for it did not have any of the ugly brackets that usually stick out of the bottom of wall shelves, but rather they were on top, as book ends, in the shape of towers. It was very beautiful woodwork, and there was not an imperfection to be seen. It was jet black.
Just then, a tiny panel near the top middle flipped open and I half expected a coo-coo to pop out and tell me the time. Instead however, a horizontal laser scanned the room, then a vertical one. It beeped a long tone and popped and the panel closed. Then the color began to change. Growing lighter, it became a deep reddish-brown and then lighter even still. Slowly it lit itself until it resembled a mid-range sandy ivory, which complimented the room marvelously. The recesses in the inlaid carved patterns were a touch darker to give it a shabby chic appeal. It was quite beautiful and it matched the carpet, walls and all the other furniture.
Quite precisely then, my wife arrived home. The transponder dinged and its door slid open. She was clad in shopping clothes and walked in, said hello and started charging the groceries into the modpod.
“Need a hand?” I offered.
“No thanks doll, I’ll just have Gallifrey unload it. Where is he?”
“He’s out back,” I said. “Come take a look at this would you?”
She came out from the kitchen and took a look at the box. “Oh!” She exclaimed, “what is it?”
I handed her the pamphlet that came with the box. “I have no idea but I installed it and there it is.” I told her.
She read the manual, including the welcome letter that came with it, which I had not seen.
“It says that she is the proud new owner of a Nibbler, one out of a set of ten will be with her for every ten years until she is one hundred and ten years old and that she will never lack for comfort or ever be sick or ever be impoverished. That she will be part of an elite club of young people whom she will meet tomorrow and that is that.” She put the letter back on the table slowly, hands shaking. There was a long pause.
I blubbered out finally: “That’s fucking brilliant!” and hugged her.
Still speechless she muttered out the words: “One hundred and ten?”
Our eyes met. “One hundred and ten?” we said together and both started laughing.
Brixie arrived home from school an hour later. Still supported by the bus service, she was on a route that dropped her off right at the front door. We had been so excited about her gift that we had promptly forgotten the cake or the other presents that we had gotten her. Our dining room set off to one side, and that was where the big event was to take place. We had been in the living room, now seated on chairs, looking up at the wall unit and talking. Gallifrey had been in and out, I supposed he was going about his daily routine… Until the front door slid open and she walked in.
The little girl that lived in our hearts as our princess and our daughter had arrived. As usual, she plopped her book-bag on the couch, and walked into the kitchen, opened the fridge and said: “I’m hungry.”
We were seated on kitchen chairs. Our expressions were priceless. We had not gotten ready and now all was ruined. It had been a surprise party, after all. She was not a big people person and so we had only invited Glenda, her best friend, who was to arrive very…
The doorbell rang. With panicked looks to one another, we shot up out of our chairs.
“You get the door and I’ll…” my wife pointed towards the den.
“Alright. I’ll stall everyone.”
“Ten minutes?” Cheryl asked.
“That’s pushing it. Five?” I responded.
“Done.” she said and I headed toward the door.
Brixie was already at the front door, and gabbing away with them, curious as to why Glenda was there with her mother and why Glenda was trying to give her a present.
“For your party.” She exclaimed. And I had a lot of explaining to do suddenly. Brixie wasn’t having any of it.
“I told you Da, I wanted to not have a party.” Her arms stretched out in disgust. “I wanted this to be a specia…”
But her words never finished, for at that time, a most majestic tone of trumpet and organ sounds filled the room. The wall unit had begun to play music, then a melodic and booming voice followed directly after.
“Be it known that the most honorable Brixallyn Maeve Charlington has hereby today received from The Supreme Nibbler Conservatory of Wellston Park Limited, the most coveted of all gifts that a little girl may receive, her first Nibbler.” The voice was still and the music stopped. Then there was a little hiss and the panel on the farthest left of the box slid upward and was silent.
My wife, Cheryl took my hand. She had come in from the dining area. She gave it a little squeeze. No one moved. Glenda’s mother, breaking the silence uttered a “Well?” To which I responded: “I don’t know.”
And then it came out. Soft green eyes and squeaked like a toy. It wasn’t white, it wasn’t brown, or black, or even gray. It was all of those colors with a dash of red and it looked like a chinchilla, a ferret and a sugar glider had some sort of contest to see who could make the weirdest offspring. It didn’t look like anything I’d ever seen before but it was cuter than any of them.
“Meep?” it called and climbed and danced to the top of the top of the cabinet it had come out of and meeped again. Brixie immediately went up to it and it hopped into her hand. And then it disappeared. Literally disappeared. Ceased to be seen. Gone. Vanished.
And then suddenly, it was back. Not even a shimmer or a special effect. No sounds or flickering lights. Not even a tremor in the house. Just one second, not there, and one second back. She looked up at me with a sadness in her eyes, and held out her new pet. It was dead.
My wife fainted.
Glenda and her entire family had moved away very soon after. Still to this day we can’t find out where they went or where they are. We don’t know how they changed their name or how they relocated so completely, but even the school has no record now of Glenda ever attending there and the people who live at their house refuse to talk to me. At first my wife and I tried to get Brixie to talk to us about what had happened, but she couldn’t seem to remember. She says that she remembers coming home from school and then waking up the next day, but nothing in between. We tried everything that we could think of. Counselors and doctors told us that nothing was wrong with her and that everything would be alright if we just established a “normal life” for her. Whatever that meant.
In the meanwhile, we received the news that she had been accepted into a “Magnet School” for Chemical Volcanology and that we needed to act on the offer quickly. The school was out in the countryside and it was top rated. So top rated that I had never even heard of it. Heppler Winkley was a school of only two hundred. “Training and educating the brightest and most talented children in the land” was their credo and they meant business.
She was gone almost every day of the year at school. She got to come home four days a year, and these were at her disposal. We could not visit her at school, as parents were not allowed on school grounds, so we waited for her to come to us. She chose only to use one of those days each year. Her birthday.
And every birthday was the same. We sat around waiting for the box to sing to her. We gather around the cabinet to see if anything will happen. Every birthday nothing happened and she asks to be driven back to school.
She accepted the teacher’s aide position at school and stayed past graduation until she was twenty. The day of her birthday, around five in the morning our doorbell rang, and it was her with all of her belongings.
“I’m hungry,” she said, and went to the fridge.
Just then a most majestic tone of trumpet and organ sounds filled the room. The box had begun to play music, and then a voice followed directly after.
“Be it known that the most honorable Brixallyn Maeve Charlington has hereby today received from The Supreme Nibbler Conservatory of Wellston Park Limited, the most coveted of all gifts that a young woman may receive, her second Nibbler.” The voice was still and the music stopped. Then there was a little hiss and the second panel from the left end of the box slid upward and was silent.
We all waited for what would happen next.