The Little Black Box

“What’s that?” I asked Annie. She smiled at me. “I have a secret. Do you promise not to tell?” I solemnly nodded. Annie is my twin. We are ten years old. I am Frannie. The Smith twins, we are called. We live in a rural south Georgia town. Pelham. Barely on the map, but it is there. As we are. Annie is always getting into trouble. She does not mean to. She is so curious, brave and adventurous. I often am amazed at her strength. She never backs down. I do. I try to be careful. I try to be wise. I think Annie needs that from me. She does not agree, though. She loves to explore. We are in bed early tonight. Punishment. Annie went somewhere after school a few days ago. I could not find her and came home alone. My dad asked me where she was. I had no idea. Of course, as usual, he suspects that I am always covering for Annie. I usually am not. She does what she wants. I do what I am told. That is how I am. My widowed dad has lots of not too nice names for Annie. Stubborn, hardheaded, reckless, uncaring, he has many more. The list is long. I just look at it like Annie is Annie. I hear the teachers talk, though. The good twin and the bad twin, they call us. I don’t think I am all that good. I am just afraid to get into trouble. Annie isn’t. She likes to do what she pleases and she does. She means no harm. I have tried to tell everyone that, but they think I am born to be her protector, her guardian, her back up. I just get put there. It is my place, I suppose. I don’t really mind. She is my other half. My fun sister. I love her.

Well, she did finally come home from school, that day. It was after six. My dad flipped out. He screamed. Annie just looked at him. He sent her to bed without supper. I brought her some cake that night. She still did not tell me where she went, though I asked. A few days went by and dad thinks I know where Annie was. I don’t. We retire at nine instead of ten now. I don’t care. It has been a few days and now, I turned over in my twin bed, right beside Annie’s and see the little black box. Annie is holding it and grinning. Yes, I bit. I asked “What is that?” I was sworn to secrecy. No problem. Everything is a secret with Annie, lately. She looks older than me, these past few days. I can’t explain that. “Frannie, get into my bed with me.” she says. I do. She places the little black box on her chest. I stare. It is so small, shiny, black, glossy and sort of like a tiny jewelry box. “Do you ever wish you could go anywhere that you wanted?” she asked me. “Sure.” I replied. “I have always wanted to go to Disney World.” Annie started laughing. “Let’s go there, then.” she said. I was quite shocked by that reply and said nothing. Had my twin gone crazy? I was debating this. Annie took my hand and said “Just go to sleep.” I was tired and I did. I vaguely remember Annie muttering “Disney World it is.” The black box opened. I peeped through a half closed eye, thinking, I am asleep, how can I be seeing this? A bright and blinding light shot out of the box. I opened my mouth to scream, but before I could, I was standing in the sunshine holding hands with Annie. Asphalt beneath my feet. We were both dressed in matching black tops and black shorts with black flip flops on. I looked around. Rides and children laughing everywhere. We were in Disney World. Annie was dragging me towards a ride. We rode. Oh, we rode so many rides, I can’t even remember them all. But, I do remember Goofy. He came up to me and gave me a hug. I smiled.

My dad was shaking me. I shook my head and said “No!” I was in my own bed. It was morning and school time. “Some dream, Frannie.” my dad said, laughing. Annie sat up in bed and said “Daddy, I am so sorry for being bad. I will do better.” My dad grinned. “Well, that’s the right attitude, Annie, my sweet girl.” he said. Annie gave him an angelic smile. I almost started laughing, but somehow managed to hold it in. “You two get ready and get to school.” dad said. We scrambled and soon were walking to school. “So, did you have fun at Disney World last night?” Annie asked me. I almost dropped my books. “That was a dream, Annie.” I said. Annie smiled. “I bet you have a bruise on your right arm.” Annie stated calmly. I looked. Sure enough, I did have a bruise. “How’d that happen?” I asked her. “I grabbed you while we were riding through space mountain. I almost fell out. Don’t you remember?” I didn’t. I shrugged. I felt goose bumps on my arms. I ignored them. We went to school and came home, had dinner and when we went to bed, Annie again asked me to join her, in her bed. She had the little black box resting on her chest again. “Where did you get that?” I asked. She told me this story. This strangely dressed man came up to me while I was waiting for you, after school, a few days ago. He seemed nice and he said he had something to show me. He told me if I was scared, I didn’t have to go with him. I could tell he was nice, I don’t know why, I just knew. I followed him to this side street, by the school. He had a house that was brown and cute, really cozy looking. He told me to wait on the front porch. He brought me this little box. Then he asked me “If you could go anywhere, where would you go?” Well, I couldn’t help it, I told him that I would go up to heaven and be with mom. He smiled. He handed the box to me and told me that it would take me where ever I wanted to go. Then, he told me to be sure, before I went anywhere. To think it over. I promised him that I would. Then, I walked home. Dad was sure mad because I was late. I hid the box in my school bag.

I couldn’t help it. I shuddered. I suddenly felt cold all over. “I don’t want to go anywhere, Annie, unless it is with dad.” I told her. I got out of Annie’s bed and went back to mine. “Annie, I don’t think you should use that box anymore. It is not good. It is not real. You know that, right?” “Of course it is real, Frannie. Look at that bruise on your arm. That is real.” she replied. I tried to tell her that since I did not remember it happening, I was not so sure. We both got really quiet. I was falling asleep when I thought I heard Annie say “I love you, Frannie.” I woke up to dad screaming at me. “Where is Annie?” he yelled. “I don’t know!” I shouted. He ran out of our bedroom and I soon heard him on the phone with police. Describing Annie. Annie was gone. She went to be with mom is all I could think. I endured weeks of questioning. From dad, from relatives, from friends, from police. I searched our room. No little black box. I hid what I knew. Who would believe me, anyway? They would think that I did something wrong. But I didn’t. Annie was Annie. She always will be. Annie, say hello to mom for me, and I love you both very much. I did go by that brown house that Annie described to me, near the school. It is vacant. Looks like it has been that way for many years. Dad is doing better these days and he tells me almost every day “I have got you, Frannie. At least, I have got you.” I know just what he means.

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