The Storage Papers is a fiction horror podcast.
Discretion is advised.
WRITTEN BY JEREMY ENFINGER
Times were tough that Christmas. Thomas Wright worked a seasonal job to help his family pay the bills. He was 16 years old and his parents each worked two jobs to support him and his two younger sisters, but his mother had fallen to illness in recent months. His father tried to pick up extra work, but found that keeping a second job was very difficult to do with chronic back pain he experienced from years of manual labor. So this year, Thomas decided to start helping out.
He eagerly went to work in hopes to make a contribution to help his family afford the necessities, but after three weeks, he found his contributions were meager at best. He planned to be the first in his family to attend college and he knew his dreams would be threatened if his family couldn’t afford to pay the ever-increasing rent prices in San Diego.
He wondered if he was going to be able to make things work. His mind struggled to focus on other possible ways to make more money using less time and effort.
SOUND: CHRISTMAS MUSIC AND CHATTER ARE IN THE BACKGROUND WITH ADULTS AND CHILDREN ENJOYING THE ATTRACTION.
After his shift one night, he found himself so immersed in thought about this, he didn’t notice that he sat down on a bench in front of an elaborate seasonal attraction until a small girl started crying near him after spilling her hot cocoa and parents promising her they’d go purchase another. That’s when Thomas began taking in his surroundings, now distracted by its grandiosity.
It was truly a sight to behold. There were bubbles on the ground simulating snow, candy cane fences and gingerbread houses with people dressed in elf costumes. In the center of it all was a small structure with a hand-painted sign that said, “Santa’s Workshop”. On either side of that structure stood two of the largest Christmas trees he’d ever seen, elaborately decorated with vibrant lights, reflective globes of various colors, and life-like ornaments that looked like actual peoples’ faces, which he thought was very peculiar, but brushed it off since they all had smiles and cheeks painted red similarly to the elves in costume.
Though it was late, Thomas decided to spend some time thinking about possibilities for earning more income, and that’s when he thought of it. He’d heard a local crime-stopper report about how some of these local charities had spent very little of the money they actually earned through donations toward the people they claim to serve. Something like less than five percent. All that money with pure intention was going to the very few at the top of those organizations. People who didn’t need it, who already lived lavish lifestyles, greedily feeding off the good will of hard-working people like parasites. Yes, that’s how he would make ends meet. After all, his family needed charity more than those people.
He needed to devise a plan for how he was going to intercept those donations, but his time was spent rationalizing the morality of his idea. He told himself he’d make sure a large portion of it actually goes to the people it was intended for, which just happened to include his family. He mentally justified it before he began thinking of a plan. He found himself sitting on that bench longer than he anticipated.
SOUND: BACKGROUND NOISES FADE, AND THE SOUND OF FAINT BREEZE IS HEARD.
Still lost in thought, his concentration was broken when all of the lights from the attraction began shutting down, one by one, except for one of the Christmas trees. He looked at his watch and it was nearly midnight, and he realized how cold he was becoming.
Thomas stood up with every intention of walking to his car and driving home. But movement caught his eye just beyond the Christmas tree with the lights on. Two separate lights, about 4 feet off the ground and slightly dimmer than the lights on the tree, yet separated from the rest of them by considerable distance, reflected green and red and gold. It wasn’t the colors that made them stand out though. It was the odd pattern of horizontal swaying back and forth that drew his attention. But they would frequently blink off and blink back on again, which ultimately led to the realization that they weren’t actually lights. They were reflections of the lights on the tree from a pair of eyes in the darkness, staring at him.
When Thomas realized this, he saw even more faint reflections below them, as if whoever was standing in the shadows had smiled and teeth reflected the nearby lights as well.
Shivers sent up Thomas’s spine and he looked around to find no other person in sight. It’s as if he was entranced somehow, so deep in thought that he didn’t realize everyone around him had gone… except the person staring at him from the dark.
When Thomas turned his gaze back to that person, the eyes were gone, which made him more uncomfortable. Then the final remaining lights from the Christmas tree were shut off and Thomas found himself in darkness.
He turned to walk toward the parking lot and to his astonishment, a small person was perched on the armrest of the bench he had been sitting on. He had pointed ears and a long, thin bleach-white beard that he was twirling in his fingers. A smile adorned his face as he sat staring at Thomas.
Still overcome with surprise, Thomas asked the small person, “How the hell did you get here without making a noise?”
They replied, “Christmas magic, of course! Something tells me you’re troubled.”
Thomas took a step back, hesitant to interact with the thing. “Who are you?” He asked.
It stood up on the armrest of the bench as Thomas stepped away. “You can call me Cain” it replied.
Thomas took a moment to take in some details. It was wearing what looked like durable work clothes with a few holes in it, and its hands were calloused. The thing was covered in hair and never seemed to stop smiling.
“So uh… Do you work here? I mean with the decorations and lights and all?” Thomas asked.
Cain replied, “You could say I contribute to it… but that’s not why I’m here.”
In a blur, the thing went from standing on the armrest of the bench to behind Thomas’s right shoulder, suspended in the air, to whisper, “I’m so glad you stayed for a while. I have a proposition for you.”
Thomas jumped and turned around to face Cain.
“How the hell are you moving so fast?” Thomas exclaimed.
Cain said, “I told you… Christmas magic. For all of the mockeries of elves, fictitious characters and magical beings everyone seems to enjoy every year around this time, why does it amaze people so much when the notion of real magic comes into question?”
Thomas said, “I guess I see your point. What’s this about a proposition?”
“Yes,” said Cain. “I noticed you seem a little glum… perhaps financial troubles have you down?”
“How did you know that?” Thomas replied. “Were you watching me this whole time?”
Cain said, “Not necessarily. I just happen to know many things… Things that normal people don’t know… I know your intentions and I agree with you. The rich often take advantage of the poor in so many ways… and they always seem to get away with it. My proposition has two options, but you’ll need to choose.”
Thomas said, “Choose? What do you mean?”
“Well, the universe doesn’t allow me to go everywhere I’d like to go, so I need your help to acquire something for me. You’ll be rewarded handsomely for your time and effort, of course.”
Thomas was apprehensive, but asked, “How much are we talking about… for the reward, I mean?”
Cane’s eyes became narrow and his smile widened. He said, “Oh, let’s just say you won’t need to worry about finances any longer if you do this for me.”
In his heart, Thomas knew this was too good to be true, but he also considered the timing of this offer and perhaps fate, or karma, or luck just happened to be on his side for once, and he did not have the strength nor the knowledge to resist such an offer.
“What do you need me to get?” Thomas asked.
Cain explained, “It’s simple, really. I need two things, but you need only to retrieve one for me. But don’t worry, they’re both nearby.”
Thomas said, “You mean right now?”
“Oh yes,” Cain replied. “It must be now while the opportunity still remains. Walk away and the opportunity will be gone forever.”
Thomas looked at his watch, which said twenty past midnight. “Okay,” he said. “I’ll do it.”
Cain held up his right fist, then opened it revealing a silver key in his palm and said, “There’s an office building about two miles from here. On the third floor, the southeast corner office has a locked cabinet adjacent the window overlooking the harbor. There’s a small box on the top shelf of that cabinet. This key will grant you entrance to the building, the office door, and the cabinet.”
“Okay, that sounds simple enough,” Thomas said as he reached for the silver key.
Cain retracted and closed his fist, saying “Or…”
Thomas lowered his hand and waited.
Cain lifted his left fist and opened it, revealing a gold key and said, “There’s a small storage unit just north of here that contains only one item… another small box. This key will grant you entrance into the main gate and the storage unit itself.”
Thomas thought carefully for a moment, then said, “What’s in these boxes? And why can’t you get them?”
Cain replied, “Nothing of value to you, of course, but each contains something of considerable value to me. And my reasons for wanting them are mine, and mine alone.”
Thomas hesitated. “What’s the catch?” he said.
Cain replied, “No catch. My offer only requires you to retrieve one of them for me… But know this: Acquiring the box from the office building using the silver key will negatively influence one of the corrupt charitable organizations that you were previously thinking about.”
“And the gold key?” Thomas Asked.
“If you use the gold key to retrieve the box from the storage unit, your family will be rewarded.”
Cain then held both keys in his open palms in front of Thomas and said, “So, will you take the silver key and influence the corrupt charity? Or will you take the gold key and provide good fortune to your kin?”
“Simple as that?” Thomas said.
“Simple as that.” Cain replied. “I’ll meet you here on this bench when you return.”
Cain took a step closer to Thomas as he contemplated which key to take.