The Wooden Box

I never noticed the zipper
hidden over my chest bone
until after you died.

It’s funny how things like that
go unnoticed, unused
for so long.

Now I grasp the pull,
drag it down,
reach into my chest cavity,

spread the ribs, just a bit,
dig among soft organs,
and pull out a box.

It’s a wooden box,
ornately carved, beautifully
stained a dark mahogany.

It’s dry as I lift it up
and gently slide out the
tongue-and-groove top.

             The first thing that reaches me is the scent—
             that perfect mix of baby powder, sawdust,
             coffee, and laundry soap.

             Then I hear the whisper of an echo
             of your familiar voice
             calling me once again.

              I close my eyes against the tears
             and feel a hug, the best hug in the entire world:
             comfortable and strong.

              Before I can slide the antique lid
              back into its waiting grooves,
              I see your bright, genuine smile flicker before me
                           like a ghost.

(Editors’ Note: “The Wooden Box” is read by Erika Ensign on the Uncanny Magazine Podcast, Episode 31B.)

Annie Neugebauer

Annie Neugebauer is a two-time Bram Stoker Award-nominated author with work appearing and forthcoming in more than a hundred publications, including magazines such as Cemetery Dance, Apex, and Black Static, as well as anthologies such as Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Volumes 3 and 4 and #1 Amazon bestsellers Killing It Softly and Fire. She’s a member of the Horror Writers Association and a columnist for Writer Unboxed and LitReactor. She lives in Texas with two crazy cute cats and a husband who’s exceptionally well-prepared for the zombie apocalypse. You can visit her at www.AnnieNeugebauer.com.

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