The Lullaby

Don’t tell my mother, but I’m the reason the box is gone: the pine box without seams, bigger than a brick. Heavy too. It came over from the old country; my nana got it when her nana died. Then it was my mother’s, and it sat over the mantle on the fireplace like a crown jewel.

No one ever got it open. Mother said so. Whoever solved it could keep whatever was inside. Gold. Jewelry. No one knew. No one ever saw it.

But I heard it. To this day, I swear it: the box would sing. 

A dry, throaty lullaby with words too garbled to understand, so low and muffled that, at first, I convinced myself I’d dreamt it. It wouldn’t sing every night, no, it was sporadic. Sometimes it’d stay quiet a month, other times a year, but it would always start again like a promise. Always at night.

Each time, I crept out of bed and waited at the hall’s end, my back pressed to the wall. I held my breath and listened to that scratchy song. But the moment I turned the corner to look, its song would stop so sharply I swear it’d bleed.

Except for the night it didn’t.

It continued its strange song as I crept toward it, one step, two steps, three…

Before I knew it, it loomed over me on the mantle just above my head. Gently, I took the box down and balanced it across both palms. And then, with my ear against the weathered wood, it stopped as if I struck it with a knife.

Don’t tell my mother, but I’m the reason it’s gone. Sometimes I can still hear it, even in the day if it’s quiet, but always from so far away.

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