It was a wedding present and personally, Will never saw its appeal. However, Olive, his wife of eight months (such short yet sweet months), loved it. “Creepy vintage charm,” She would say, followed by her trademark throaty laugh.
But his wife was no longer here, not with him, not in this world. Definitely not in this house.
In the background, the television was turned on. The late night anchorwoman was saying something about how the police have finally caught the town’s serial killer. Will barely heard what was being said. That jack-in-the-box, ugly as hell, was too distracting. He was afraid that if he even so much as blinked, it would spring out at him, its mechanical teeth pointed and razor sharp. Somewhere in the foggy recess of his mind, a tidbit of information buzzed, but only for a second or so. That serial killer’s murder spree ended a month ago.
A month ago.
Will let out a loud, deep sigh. Had it been a month already? He really needed to pack all of Olive’s things. It would do him no good clinging to memories while letting dust fall and settle on her belongings. She hated it when their house was not immaculately clean. Will could only imagine her horrified face if she saw how unkempt the house was ever since she was gone.
Amidst the living room, beneath the hazy glow of the lone lamp standing by the sofa, boxes and boxes were strewn across the floor. Some even sat on the couch. Most of them were taped shut, except for this one remaining… thing.
Will stared at the jack-in-the-box’s ridiculously pale porcelain face, hating its dark and beady glassy eyes, its small and pointed nose, those ketchup-colored lips stretched into a grin. A sudden crash behind him made him jerk and when he looked at the direction where the noise came from, he saw their black fluffy cat, Midnight. It had just come in through the window and went hurtling straight to the coffee table, where it had knocked down his (thankfully empty) coffee mug. Will laughed and laughed. He could not stop it. Maybe the pain of losing Olive was finally loosening the screws around his head. He had not shed a tear after last month’s funeral, after all. He remembered and remembered and then remembered some more — the good times, the happy times, the bad times, the rocky times — but had been dry-eyed the whole time.
“Midnight, you fat rascal,” He chortled out. “Don’t you dare pull that stunt again.” Will turned around to finish boxing up the jack-in-the-box. His hands seized on empty air instead. Will could do nothing but stare at the space where the toy was sitting just a couple of seconds ago.
Will looked around wildly. Where is that damn ugly toy? His eyes combed the living room from corner to corner. He spotted the framed picture of him and Olive on one of their fishing trips. They were both sitting at the hood of their car, a black Jeep Cherokee. The same vehicle that Olive died in a month ago. She was on her way home from the supermarket when her car had mysteriously crashed against one of the oak trees that lined the winding road. No trace of any other vehicle or stray animals that could have caused her to veer off the road and slam viciously against the tree. Will tried to push away that grisly playback. He stood up, his knees shaking. That jack-in-the-box. He should go find it. Yes, find that jack-in-the-box and get things over with.
The anchorwoman, much to Will’s oblivion, was now saying, “The serial killer, Frederick Monroe, pleaded not guilty. He said he is no longer Fred ‘The Carnivore’ Monroe. The killer claims that his last memory was being inside a car, trapped and injured. While this may get him the ticket to being acquitted in an asylum instead of serving lifetime imprisonment…”
Somewhere near him, Will heard a low, maniacal laugh. Followed by the sound of movement of something rusty.