Boxed In

This story was originally submitted to this writing prompt on reddit.

When I had chosen my desired form of a small wooden box to sit within the castle’s storage room, I did not anticipate the kingdom to fall so swiftly. Just the month after I had assumed the form my potential prey had been either killed or captured and when the raiding began only the treasures and riches had been taken, leaving me all alone in the castle’s storage with nothing but dust and rotting food. When a decade passed after the fall of my chosen hunting grounds I began to reflect upon the advice given to me by my fellow mimics. The first piece of advice: always assume something attractive, whether it be treasure, a throne, or even a woman in peril. My brother had taken the form of many treasure chests full of riches and even devoured men upon the grace of their kiss as an imitation of a missing princess. Meanwhile, I’ve chosen the form of a box, a neglected box sitting in the corner of an abandoned storage room, unable to change form until I consume the flesh of an unsuspecting forager. Such is the drawback of being born into this line of work.

Five decades have passed now and the food within the storage room had long rotten and turned to dust, or has been devoured by rats, the rank smell of fresh compost now faded to a solemn earthy scent of the forest floor. The dust now settled covering everything in a layer of gray silt. Only the scurrying of little critters disturbs it from time to time. The space between me and the wall has become a home to some of these critters. A spider’s web dangles between one side and the wall, waiting in patience for an unsuspecting gnat or fly to land within its trap. Time and boredom have made me grow attuned to the minuscule twitches of the web whenever a new meal has been captured by the spider’s trap. On the other side of me, within a larger gap between the wall and me, a family of rats had built a nest. They bustle around the tight space occasionally bumping into me sending small tremors across my wooden structure towards the spider’s web, giving my eight-legged companion false hope of a new meal. They are the noisy neighbors to my spider’s more introverted and secluded tendencies, but their antics are welcomed and keep me entertained from time to time. Like the spider, I lie here in patience waiting for my next meal. Unlike the spider, I cannot pack up camp and move elsewhere if no food comes my way.

A century has passed now. The walls have begun to crumble. The castle’s structure has begun to shift leading to fractures through the foundation and into the walls. Sometimes I hear the loud sound of something clattering across the building. At first, these sounds would excite me and fill me with anticipation, mistaking them for the footsteps of curious adventurers. But now I’ve grown too jaded and cynical to care. Many spiders have come and gone filling the gaps between my edges and the walls with a blanket of cobwebs, and the rats have long moved on, hardly ever passing through the storage room either. My time here is a lonely one.

Five centuries. Five centuries and nobody has come! The halfway point between my idiotic decision and the known record for the most centuries a mimic has lied in wait. A record that told as a tale of warning rather than a worthy piece of advice. The previous record holder thought she was so brilliant for taking the form of a sacred object in an even more holier sight. Apparently, she didn’t get the memo that the object had been so revered that it had become taboo to even touch it. She finally broke free of her form after a rebellious teen decided to go against the social norms. A lackluster meal for so many centuries in disguise. Speaking of food, I’ve begun to dream of food. My dream world and reality warping together. Just a few years ago I woke up convinced that a group of young adventurers had opened me. As soon as they lifted the top off my teeth sprung from the edges of my top and my tendril of a tongue shot forward pulling the greedy rogue that had opened my top into my mouth and swallowing him whole. I then began to feast upon the rest of the party while they attacked me, each of them too inexperienced to know how to handle my might. And the more terrified and helpless they grew the more satisfying they tasted. But alas, a dream is a dream and I woke up hungry. I think it’s time for another centuries-long nap, better things come from dreams now.

Today marks my millennial anniversary. Making me the longest record holder and the biggest imbecile among my kind. The shame weighs more than the collapsed ruins that have now caved into the storage room, pressing against my top trying to shatter me with all its weight. I don’t even know if I’ll ever be able to show my face among my kind after this ordeal, assuming I ever escape this prison of time I’ve sealed myself into. I now dream of the castle crumbling down and shattering my wooden facade into a thousand pieces, but that would never happen. We mimics can only be killed by enchanted weapons, something I used to tout as something to be proud of, now I wish time or blunt force could put me out of this misery.

Five thousand years and the castle around me is now nothing more than a pile of stone pressing against me. The pressure causes my mimic instincts an overstimulation that prevents me from getting a good decade’s sleep. I’m trapped in a state of unbroken consciousness. At this rate my only hope is that an enchanted blade left behind from the raid so long ago slips through the cracks and descends upon me, forever putting me out of this misery. I also wonder if my family is still alive. Is my father still devouring parties as they seek the treasure within his favorite cavern? Do my mother and brother still hunt together by taking on the form of chained princesses trapped in dark and dangerous dungeons? Do they even think of me anymore or will I forever be seen as an embarrassment that they avoid talking about with their friends? Condensation forms within the cracks of my wooden facade as a proxy for tears.

The stones above me quake and I hear the sounds of murmured voices accompanied by a loud chiming, unlike anything I’ve ever heard coming from above. By god, my sleepless insanity has grown too much. Five thousand more years of no rest has erased any semblance of a line between reality and my delusions. After so many waking dreams, I’ve learned to embrace them as a form of entertainment. I feel the ground above me rumble. The shifting of dirt as it drizzles down through the cracks in the stone and falls upon the old floor. The weight on top of me lightens and the chiming and talking grow louder. And then a ray of light descends from above and hits my top. For the first time in ten millennia, I feel warmth. Perhaps this isn’t that bad of a delusion. The debris clears and my top is exposed, I soak in the comforting sunlight like a plant after a long freezing night. And then the voices. My brain must have forgotten what humans sound like because their language is indiscernible. Nasally and full of “aa” “ing” and “uh” sounds, I cannot make sense of their words. And then one touches me.

The moment the human’s warm foreign-yet-familiar hand touches my facade I feel my stomach churn. The touch awakens something within me that grants me a moment of lucidity. The sprawl of their palm and the five appendages that make up the fingers lays against my top, the softness of the skin, and the pulsing of their veins send a bolt of excitement through my form. At that moment I realize that I am no longer hallucinating, this is real. I wait in patience for the human’s natural curiosity to pry open my boards and free me from my self-imposed prison. But they don’t open me, instead, their hand is withdrawn taking with them the heat of their skin. The sun’s rays are so much colder in comparison. My stomach growls and I begin to sulk in defeat.

I’ve been taken to a new room. One composed of white tiling and sterile metallic tables. The room is aliens to me. I do not recognize the equipment that beeps and emits its own lighting displaying words and images across it in a script I cannot decipher, but at least I can rest now. I nap whenever the humans leave switching off the magical tubes of light that are embedded within the ceiling, and I wake the next morning whenever they come in to poke and prod me with strange metal devices. I’ve been able to pick up a few words here and now such as “archeologist” and “relic”. Occasionally they’ll place an object between my top and the rest of my body which usually results in the human saying “unknown substance.” Every time one touches me or even stick a device near my surface my stomach grows even more hungry. Right now the humans appear to be cautious-yet-curious with me, resigning me to patience once again. But I am not worried, because between the two of them a human’s curiosity will always take over. And I have plenty of experience in patience. When the human shut off the light and leaves for the day I drift away into a happy dream of devouring every person within the facility whole. It’s the best sleep I’ve had in five thousand years.

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