The Package

Submitted into Contest #212 in response to: Set your story in a post office.... view prompt

8 comments

Contemporary Urban Fantasy

“Next.”


The girl behind the counter flashes a smile. Kyanna. My stomach flips. God, she’s even cute in a baggy postal uniform. Am I imagining it or is that smile a bit brighter than the one she gave the last customer?


I tug the hood of my sweatshirt lower over my eyes, and then fold and unfold the paper in my hand, pretending to read it while holding up my index finger.


“Sorry. I’m not quite ready.” I gesture to the guy in line behind me. “You go ahead.”


I continue to stare at the paper, occasionally looking up to the station next to Kyanna’s. The old guy who never smiles. Cecil. That’s the clerk I want.


No, Kyanna is the clerk I want, but Cecil is the one I need.


I can still feel Kyanna glaring at me. I’ve known her since high school when we were band geeks together. I couldn’t talk to her back then either.


Cecil finishes with his customer and beckons me over without even looking up from his computer.


“Hi, I need to pick up a package?” I hold out the slip of paper.


Kyanna clicks her tongue.


Cecil snatches the paper from my hand, reads it, and then looks at me over the rims of his glasses. His eyes are mismatched, like an Alaskan husky. Mahogany and ice blue. He turns and ambles to the back room.


“I could’ve helped you with that,” says Kyanna, brushing a hand over her hair. It’s a thick black weave that flows down her back. “Just saying.”


My mouth goes dry. I try to swallow. “I…just wasn’t ready.”


“Whatever.” She scowls, but I notice the corner of her lip twitching.


I’ve just said three semi-coherent sentences to her. It has to be a new record. Of course, that’s if you count “sorry” as a sentence.


Cecil comes back and drops a repurposed Amazon box on the counter. The logo smiles up at me.


I weigh it in my hand. It’s heavier than most of the other ones. “So, how much do I…?”


“It’s paid for, boss,” says Cecil. “The person who sent it did that. You oughta’ know how the Post Office works by now. You're here almost every day.”


Kyanna giggles and my face turns hot.


“Thanks.” I snatch up the package and stride out the door.


“Bye, Orion.” She’s still laughing as she says it.


Sitting in my car, I pull my hood back and break the tape on the package with the tip of a ballpoint pen. Inside the box there’s a handwritten note:


You’ll know what to do.


It’s such a messy scrawl that most people wouldn’t be able to read it, but it’s not a problem for me.


Under that, wrapped with crumpled newspaper, is a ball-peen hammer and a box cutter. I shift the newspaper aside. There’s one more thing.


A baby pacifier, still in its packaging. Too weird.


So I do what I always do after getting one of these little presents. I just go about my day, like it never happened.


Today that means starting the car and heading to my crappy job at Target. Could be worse. They have me in the back moving stock. At least I don’t have to talk to anyone.


Thanks to my post office visit, I’m cutting it close. I can’t be late again. My boss has been all over my butt as it is. Up ahead I see the stoplight at the intersection of Live Oak and Delta. It’s green now, but if I get caught by a red, I’ll never make it on time.


The light turns yellow, so I punch the accelerator. If the Hyundai in front of me goes through, I can cut right behind it.


But the brake lights flash and now I’m trapped behind the little red car, pounding the steering wheel as every curse word I know throws tantrums in my head. I take a deep breath and slowly exhale. I do it again. And again. Dr. Silverstein recommends this when the stress gets too much. It’s not working today.


The light turns green, and the Hyundai moves forward. I’m about to follow when there’s a flash of cobalt blue, a needle-sharp screech of tires, and a sickening concussion of metal on metal. A speeding SUV just blew through the stoplight from the left, bowling into the rear of the smaller car and sending it spinning once, twice across the intersection before careering into a streetlight. The SUV stutters forward another hundred yards or so, its engine knocking. It grinds to a halt just after bouncing up a curb and straddling the sidewalk.


Pulling my sweatshirt hood up, I leap out of my car, running toward the Hyundai with the box cradled under my arm. About seven other Good Samaritans are ahead of me. A lady wearing a track jacket and black leggings is already there, a guy in a grey business suit right behind her. Smoke starts to rise from the hood. Then flames. They yank open the driver’s door and a young woman tumbles out, bleeding from her forehead. The man in the suit throws her arm over his shoulder and drags her away.


“Get back!” the workout lady shrieks. “There’s gas everywhere!”


“My baby!” The young driver is holding a hand to her forehead and scarlet pours from between her fingers. Her other hand stretches toward the car. Her eyes are feral. “My baby’s in there!”


The crowd in front of me hesitates, unable to leave an infant to the flames, unwilling to risk immolation themselves. The workout lady runs to the other side of the car and tugs on the door. It’s locked. Or jammed. Either way, it won’t open.


One of the other Samaritans, this big guy in a plaid shirt, runs up and grabs her from behind. “Get away from there! It’s gonna blow!” He lifts her off the ground and carries her away. She’s crying, kicking and thrashing as the rest of them fall back.


But I shoulder my way past them and head straight for it, my hand reaching into the box.


The smell of gasoline is noxious, and it splashes as I run through it. I feel the heat from the flames on my face. I raise the hammer and bring it down on the passenger side rear window and it shatters, spilling into the street like a hundred uncut diamonds. From inside the car, I hear strident mewling. Flicking open the box cutter, I lean inside, slit the nylon restraints of the car seat, close the cutter, and lift out an infant in a pink onesie.


And then I run like hell.


“My baby!” The young driver is hysterical. Eyes wide and unseeing. Blood running down her face. She looks like Sissy Spacek at the end of Carrie. It takes three people to keep her from dashing back to the burning car. Without a word, I place the baby into her arms.


She sobs and drops to her knees. “Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Thank you. Thank you.”


The baby’s eyes screw tight. Her fists clench. She begins to wail. I fish the pacifier out of the box, remove the packaging, and pop it into her mouth just as there’s a hiss and a roar behind me. An orange glow lights up the woman’s face, the baby, the crowd. It warms my back, even through my sweatshirt.


The people gasp.


“Look at that fireball," says Business Suit.


But I can’t take my eyes off the baby. She’s snuggled into the bloody blouse, sound asleep, the mother cooing at her.


I drop the hammer and retractable knife into the box, tug my hood lower, and push my way through the crowd back to my car. They’re too enthralled by the spectacle to even notice me. The howl of a distant siren drifts through the intersection as I drive away.


When I get to work, my boss says, “You’re late. And you smell like gasoline.”


I breathe in. I breathe out. Then I just nod and start moving stock.


#


The next day, I’m back in line at the post office, clutching the same cardboard box. It’s holding the same hammer and box cutter. I had to buy a new pacifier at the baby section at work.


“Hi, Orion,” says Kyanna.


I look at the ground.


“I can help you here, or are you waiting for your man Cecil again?”


“Um…I’m not ready.” I gesture to the next person in line to go ahead of me.


“What’s the matter? Why don’t you ever want to talk to me?” Her eyes are sparkling, so I think she’s only pretending to be mad.


“I’d love to.” I try to swallow the panic in my throat. I'll never be able to talk to her. “It’s…hard to explain.”


Cecil wordlessly beckons me toward him.


Kyanna takes a package from her new customer, who seems as amused by my embarrassment as she is. “You can explain it to me later. I get off at five-thirty.”


My head snaps up. What did she say? I can’t tell if she’s messing with me.


Cecil takes the box. “Sending it back, boss?”


I pull my gaze back to him. “Yeah.”


“How did it work for you?”


“Did everything it was supposed to.”


He winks an eye at me—the blue one—as he puts the box on the scale and taps his keyboard a few times. Then he turns the screen toward me. “Address right?”


I peer at it. Yup. That’s my P.O. box. I nod.


Kyanna shakes her head. “You could just keep it at home. Wouldn’t that save you some trouble?” I reach for my wallet. “And cash?”


Cecil looks at me over his glasses. “When do you need it to get there?”


I glance over at Kyanna and then back at Cecil.


“Yesterday would be fine,” I whisper.


Kyanna snorts. “God, you’re so funny!”


She heard me. And she thinks I’m kidding.


After paying, I turn to go, but Cecil’s voice stops me. “Hey boss, wait, I got another one for you. I’ll save you a trip back here.”


It’s long and skinny. And light. I tuck it under my arm and head toward the door.


“Bye, Orion. See you at five-thirty. Right here.”


Wait. She’s serious? She’s giving me one of her cute sideways smiles.


Yes. She is.


“Yeah,” I say. “Five-thirty.”


On my way across the parking lot, I breathe in. Hold it. Breathe out.


Again. And again. My heart batters against my ribcage.


My God, I’m going to be with Kyanna. Alone. In…I look at my phone…seven hours. Deep breathing doesn’t help at all.


Back in my car, I cut the tape on the box with my ballpoint pen with trembling hands. I could tell her I'm sick. That I just came down with something. Like Covid. That's going around again, right?


Inside the box is a plastic wand with a string tied to it. On the end of the string is a feather. There’s also a handwritten note. Most people would have a hard time reading it due to its messy scrawl.


But I can read it easily. After all, the handwriting is mine. My heart eases up on the accelerator. Just a little bit.


The note says Kyanna has a cat. You’ll know what to do.



August 22, 2023 18:38

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8 comments

Honey Perez
19:23 Aug 31, 2023

This was such a cool story. Would love to see a sequel :)

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Jonathan Shiller
02:34 Aug 30, 2023

I like the drama of the accident and the strange coincidence of Orion having everything they needed to save the baby. I was curious what Orion looks like.

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KD Weinert
16:51 Aug 30, 2023

Great question! I hoped from his voice you got the impression that he doesn't like to be seen. How did you picture him? Thank you for reading!

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S Fevre
18:18 Aug 28, 2023

Really fun and eery, I enjoyed the suspense and pace of the story. Thanks for sharing!

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Shawna Burge
15:41 Aug 26, 2023

That is a really neat idea and I like the way you are using it. A follow up of this would be a great deal of fun

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KD Weinert
22:30 Aug 26, 2023

Thank you for reading it! I'll think about a sequel :)

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Hannah Lynn
13:14 Aug 26, 2023

I really enjoyed your story! Great concept. I could see this as a TV series. It would be fun to watch episodes to see more situations that Orion finds himself in.

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KD Weinert
22:32 Aug 26, 2023

Thank you! I like that idea. You wouldn't happen to know a producer? :) Who would you see in the cast?

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