Friday the 13th

“Try to keep your mind off of it, dear,” Vivian said as Sandra kicked off her shoes and leaned back on the couch. Her right hand held a wine glass while she clutched the phone to her left ear.

“You’re right.You’re absolutely right,” Sandra replied. Yet keeping her mind off of it was easier said than done. The suspense was maddening, because while it had been a couple of days since the package had arrived, Sandra couldn’t open it.

The package came wrapped in plain brown paper. Attached to the top was a curious looking envelope which was fastened with narrow twine. Inside the envelope, instructions for the contents were scrawled on dog-eared paper. The instructions sounded ominous, but even more troubling was Uncle Joe’s phone call a few days ago.

“Do not open the package until the 13th, Sandra . . . very important,” he said over the broken telephone connection. “No matter what happens, what you see, or what you hear, DO NOT OPEN the package before 12:00:01 am on the 13th. Do you understand? . . .  Please tell me you understand.”

Sandra stammered, “Ye-ye-ye-yes, Joe. I understand.” Her stunned reply was immediately followed by a long burst of static. Uncle Joe was gone. That call was on the 9th and the package arrived the very next day.

“I really didn’t know him well,” Sandra said, still on the phone with Vivian. “But I’m sure there’s a good reason he said what he said. He certainly sounded convincing!” Sandra said, twirling a lock of hair around her fingers. “Of course, I’m going to wait. I want to help my uncle. But I really am dying to know what’s inside.”

Despite her casual tone, what Sandra failed to mention were the odd occurrences since the package arrived. Things that likely had a scientific explanation, but to her, were unexplainable.

First, there was a tension in the air that had never existed before. It was like a strange electricity. Then, there was the creepiness. It was a “rotten” feeling that seemed to be overtaking the house. To explain it would be impossible, but it was almost as if her home was molding. The package had only been there a day, but her home had changed overnight.

During her daily routine this morning, she had closed the spare room door behind her. She had never decorated that room, and keeping the door closed made the house look neater. And Sandra liked “neat.” That meant the spare room door was nearly always closed. But this morning when she entered the hallway, not only was the door ajar, it was swinging open on its own!

This evening, she was in her kitchen making dinner. She turned on the light to chase away the approaching darkness. As she stood at the counter, the lights began to flicker. Immediately, she got the distinct feeling that something was seeking her attention. She glanced up and in response, the frantic flickering ceased.

Sandra’s mind drifted to her childhood as Vivian chattered in her ear. Admittedly, Uncle Joe was an eccentric who’d spent his life touring the world, exploring the odd, the peculiar. The family had always regarded Joe as weird and a couple of times, rumors of occult involvement circulated.

But Sandra had always liked and admired Joe. As a child, she and Joe had enjoyed a special relationship. Unlike cynical members of the family, she liked his uniqueness. She thought he was exciting and would listen to his stories for hours. She was always intrigued by what he was researching and interested in what he was all about.

Over the years, they had stayed in touch, but with time, the relationship grew to be superficial. When she got the phone call a few days ago that Joe needed her help, she was obliged—no, compelled—to help him. “Follow my instructions,” he had said. “It is imperative that you NOT open the package until the 13th.”

Sandra bid goodnight to Vivian and headed to bed. Sleep was slow to come. She was definitely unsettled about the strange events, but she had one more day before she could open the package. It was at that point that Sandra realized that the 13th was on Friday. “Friday the 13th! . . . oh great!” Sandra said aloud as she tossed a pillow behind her head and fluffed it. “Now get THAT out of your head, or you’ll never get to sleep.”

Next day, things got very strange. Her cell phone went off 20-30 times, but when she answered, there was nobody there. When the doorbell rang, Sandra nearly jumped out of her skin, but when she answered the door, again, nobody was there.

In the afternoon, Sandra heard a growl come from the closet and peered in bravely to check it out. Everything looked normal, but when she drew her hand away from the door jam, it was covered with a red ooze.

Staring at it her hand in disbelief, fear crystallized to anger. What the hell was her uncle up to? Why would he do this to her?

. . .

At 10 pm on Thursday, Sandra’s house literally began to shift and shake. Sandra called up Vivian, who reported no abnormal occurrences on her end, but gladly ran over to help her friend.

When Vivian arrived, Sandra was standing in the living room. There was a white, smoky haze in the air. It produced a horrid stench.

“Sandra! Are you smoking???” Vivian asked.

“You kidding? My God no. It’s that thing!” Sandra exclaimed, pointing at the box on the coffee table.

A tendril of white smoke unfurled in front of them. The box let out an unearthly crackle and the room filled with smells of sulfur and ash. Sandra began to cough and covered her mouth.

Vivian was aghast. She stood back while Sandra leaned forward, hand over mouth as she cocked her ear and attempted to decipher the noise inside. Judging by the sounds, there was a lot going on inside–bumping and scratching and whining. It sounded like whatever was in there really wanted out. And whatever it was appeared to be a living thing, probably an animal!

The thought of an animal being trapped inside alarmed Sandra. The poor thing had gone without food or water for days and there were no holes on the box for air. Sandra’s compassion almost got the best of her as she reflexively reached to  let the poor thing out.

“No, Sandra!! Don’t let it out! Remember your uncle!” cried Vivian from behind.

Suddenly, energy roiled forward and began to materialize. As the gauzy stream of smoke gathered itself, a form began to manifest. Eventually, what rose before Sandra was a scowling grimace on a head that was distorted in weird proportions. It had hollow eyes, pocked skin, and a wide, black mouth. The ghastly face lurched forward and Sandra could smell hot breath on her face. The thing was terrifying and foul.

After a moment, the impulse towards self-preservation took over. Sandra grabbed the fireplace poker intending to smash it to bits, but just as the thing was about to climb out, the clock on the wall struck midnight. In the blink of an eye, the foul thing retreated and vanished into thin air.

. . .

Sandra collapsed on the floor, exhausted and heaving. For a long time, Vivian stood there, stunned. After Sandra slowly rose up off the floor and approached the box, she tapped it and nothing happened. It was after midnight, and she opened the box. Inside, she found a note.

It read:

“Thank you for obliging me. You have been a good servant. The deed has been done. You have helped me slay the spirit. Thank you. – Uncle Joe”

. . .

The next day, Sandra was in the kitchen putting away dishes while the radio droned on as she worked. When the news break came on,  the announcer captured Sandra’s attention. She turned up the volume:

“Renowned paranormal researcher, Joseph Reynolds was found dead in his apartment today,” squawked the news anchor over the radio. “Neighbors speculated that if his recent behavior was any indication, Mr. Reynolds seemed to have been working on something quite mysterious. Upon entering the apartment, authorities found numerous books and tomes about a supernatural creature called ‘The Djinn.’  Mr. Reynolds had recently returned from a tour of the Middle East where he was said to be researching the origins of this supernaural creature. Ed Lawler, a lifelong friend of Mr. Reynolds, humorously suggested that the djinn had gotten the best of him. The police are refusing to comment.”



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