The following flash fiction story was inspired by something I actually saw in the real world that started my imagination to humming. While walking to the Metro library to record our latest podcast, I happened upon a plywood box on the sidewalk with the curious words “Please don’t let out the snakes. MGMT” written on top. I discovered later that the city was working on installing new traffic signals and that these boxes hide the ugly wires that protrude from the sidewalk, but I’m a writer and suddenly my mind started whirring. Here is what it produced:
Gerald was late for his appointment at the metro library.
He parked along an oval loop in the street between some white lines just outside the Oklahoma City court house and then paid the credit card meter for fifteen minutes, all that was left in the business day. His OCD nature told him that he could possibly get a ticket even though they stop writing them after six. After sticking the 75 cent pass in his window with the supplied adhesive tab, he grabbed his gray and blue Targus backpack, shouldered one of the straps and moved quickly along the sidewalk toward the library.
Just before the intersection, the streets now cleared of people and cars due to an impending Thunder game, he spotted a plywood box.
It sat in the center of the sidewalk, nailed together somewhat hastily, the top panel about a quarter inch too large which caused one of the side panels to be offset just enough to allow a half inch crack along one edge.
Written on top of the box, letters written officially yet not engraved in the wood, was the following message:
Please do not let it out. MGMT.
Gerald stopped when he saw the words, focusing in on the word “it”.
What was “it”?
He looked toward the library just across the intersection, the front wall of the building made up of panels of curved glass, his tiny reflection staring back at him like a clone, and he lowered his Targus bag to the ground carefully.
Something in the box made a sound, something like the purring of a cat but deeper, yet somehow mechanical, echoing inside the small confines of the plywood container. Perhaps someone was playing a joke on him.
He looked across the street and a woman was walking a very small dog, not sure the breed, her yoga pants skin tight, her blue and orange Thunder shirt one size too big, her bright orange sun visor over her white Oakley shades.
She didn’t notice him, only jogged on by, her tiny dog trying to keep up.
Please do not let it out. MGMT.
What was “it”? And “please”. Why “please”?
He knelt down by the box, his face getting closer to the small crack on one side, his squinting eyes peering into the darkness beyond, and then he thought he heard a smacking sound, the sound of a wet mouth and…breathing?
It caused him to jump, stand upright.
Just go meet Ryan. Just leave here and go meet Ryan. Don’t be late. Who cares what “it” is?
Something is alive in there.
He wondered why someone would put a cat or an animal in a box and leave it on a sidewalk in downtown Oklahoma City, or any city for that matter, or anywhere.
Gerald sat by the box, cross legged, his Targus backpack discarded, and wondered what was beyond the plywood.
Can’t be too bad. Plywood after all. If it was that dangerous, it would be steel or titanium and… and not on a sidewalk in the middle of town. Right?
He reached out, his hand trembling, his eyes widening, and a horn honked somewhere, causing him to start backward. When he did, his leg jerked, an involuntary action, and his foot collided with the plywood box.
Whatever it was it was not a cat.
Gerald’s final word was “please”, but it escaped his quivering lips in the form of a scream.