The front door letter box rattled, and I heard a dull thud as something hit the mat. I rushed and picked up the small parcel. Turning it over a few times, I read my name and address, but there was no return address.
Inside the packet, I found a rectangular block of a polished piece of oak. There was no obvious lid, and I wondered if it was a musical box or a curiosity toy. I tried turning and twisting it. It seemed to be a solid wooden brick, so I gave it a shake, then dropped it onto the kitchen table. I drummed on it with by fingers and then knocked with my knuckles to see if it was hollow; I heard something shift inside.
‘Stop!’ shouted a voice. ‘Oh, please stop.’
I looked around. Did I just imagine the wood speak? I turned it over and tapped it on the table.
‘That’s enough,’ screamed the voice, then it whimpered. ‘Please help me.’
I gave it another good shake and put it down on the table, really not knowing what to expect.
‘Stop, stop, please just stop,’ it cried, ‘you’re making me dizzy.’
‘What’s going on?’ I said, looking around and out the window just in case I was being observed.
‘Please let me out.’
‘How?’ I felt ridiculous. ‘Where’s the lid?’ Some prankster was probably listening, and I played along. ‘If you tell me how to open it, then I’ll get you out.’ I wasn’t sure what the point of the joke was, or where it was leading to.
‘Once I am free,’ it said, ‘your every wish will come true.’
‘Ah! So, you are a Genie trapped in a box,’ I said, still sceptical and looking around for some trickster. ‘It’s just my imagination.’ I muttered.
‘Ah, very good,’ said the voice, ‘you are getting close.’
‘I’m going mad, I must be delirious,’ I felt a moment of rising panic. ‘I’ve no idea what’s happening here.’
‘Think, think of an idea. Use your imagination and soon, we will be free.’
‘We! Is there someone else with you?’
‘No. I mean us, you and me. Please, get those grey cells working, procrastination is not an option.’
I gave the shiny oak another good shake and heard it giggle. It started knocking from inside the wooden block.
‘Stop it. Please release me,’ it cried. ‘Remember, I am the secret to your future; your fortune.’
‘That’s it, I’m getting my saw,’
‘Wait!’ shouted the voice. ‘For a hundred years I’ve waited, but if you damage the wood, you destroy the spell. A curse will fall on anyone who damages this box. The secret to your future will be lost forever.’
‘Then how can I open it. Where is the catch to release a lid?’
‘Oh, why do you want to come into the box? Trust me, there is no way out.’
‘So, what is the secret to my future, tell me.’ I grabbed the box and shook it. ‘Tell me. I’ll get a chisel and split you.’
‘No use,’ the voice coughed. ‘Destroying me breaks your chance of any good fortune.’
‘This is ridiculous.’ I said, ‘I’ve no idea how to get you out.’ I was becoming frustrated and bored with the dilemma. Was I talking to myself again? It had been going on for weeks, and every day I struggled to maintain my sanity.
‘You know the answer,’ said the box, and it laughed. ‘Ha, ha. Time is running out. Find an idea. Think, just think.’
I sat for hours admiring the perfect sheen of the polished oak, and its dark and light hues along the grain. It would make a great paper weight or door stopper, but then it would mock me each time I looked at it. My future, my good fortune apparently my sanity, all depended on an idea of freeing the Genie trapped in a knotted wooden block. How ridiculous.
I threw the wood into the fire and watched as it burned; the flames were a crystal blue and dazzling white. I decided the responsibility for my future and fortune would be my making and independent from some magical idea trapped in a box.
That night I went to bed feeling frustrated and angry at my impatience for not solving the problem that may have freed the Genie. Would he really fulfil my fantasies and dreams? Perhaps it was a missed opportunity.
Regardless, I slept well and in the morning the rattle of the letter box woke me with a jolt. I fell out of bed and hit the floor with a dull thud on the carpet. I tried to get up, but knocked my head on a wooden ceiling. It was dark. I felt as if I was being carried and shaken, then I realised I was in a box.
Suddenly the answer to my future and fortune was clear; if only I was wise enough, if only I could “think outside the box”. Was it too late?