Mary's hands shook as she unlocked the door and led them in. She turned on the lights.
"I turned all of the mirrors in the house over, as you can see. Anybody want something to drink?" No one answered.
"What about your bathroom mirror?" Asked Dan.
"That's the only one I can't control. It's also the one where this. . person. . .appears to me the most."
"What about the box?" Asked Jack. Mary blew a hesitant breath out. She shivered slightly.
"Right. The box."
"Before you bring the box out, tell us more about it. What do you think it is?" Asked Dan sitting down on the couch.
"Sort of like a Pandora's Box."
"What happens if you open the box?"
"That's the thing. I'm not exactly sure. I just know from what other people have said that once you open it, some contract goes into effect."
"You said someone was stalking you after you got the box."
"Yeah. Like they expected me to open it immediately. And when I didn't that's when I noticed the feeling of being watched."
"And harassed," finished Dan. She nodded.
"You said the box was supposed to fix problems. Can I ask what kind of problems you were having? Or is that too personal?" Asked Dan. Mary's face paled.
"Alright, don't tell us. That's fine."
"No, no. It's ok. It's just that it's hard to talk about right now. I'll go get the box." She left down the hall. Jack stretched out and leaned against the wall.
"A box that fixes things. First time I've heard about that. I never had anyone offer me anything like that.
"I think they approach each person differently." Said Dan.
"It reminds me of those people that go to the crossroads and make a deal with the devil for some power or success for a certain amount of time."
"It does sort of have that vibe. Like if you open it, it steals your soul or something. Except we aren't dealing with devils and magic. Something else is going on here."
"I once heard someone say that technology that is sufficiently advanced looks like magic."
"I think that's true." Mary came out with a deep red, small, lacquered box and she set it on the table as if it were radioactive.
"Did you ever shake it?"
"Yes. There's nothing in there as far as I know without opening it." Dan took it up and turned it around in his hands. It felt slightly too heavy for its size.
"I wonder what would happen if we burned it."
"Burn it?" They both asked.
"I'm thinking if this isn't magic, and I don't believe in magic, it's a device that allows them access to you personally somehow, or allows them to enter your mind, or. . something."
"But they already have access to us. They're here," she said.
"Yes but there is something more they want. Or else why give you this thing? What's the point? They need you to open it Mary. It's like a drug dealer on the street corner or even a cartel." Dan's thoughts were racing now.
"If no one took drugs they don't have business. They need people willing to take them I order to get them hooked and to make money. A steady supply. What if these aliens needed more from us than just our planet? What if they needed something from us?"
"Like what?" They asked.
"I don't know. What if they needed our permission to control us? They can watch us sure. They can send people to persecute us or kill us but those of us who can see them, like we can, what if they needed mental and emotional control over us in order to really do what they want to do?"
"And by controlling those of us with special powers they can have easy control over the entire population?" Asked Mary. Dan nodded.
"That's like when a nation colonizes another nation they use certain people from the conquered nation and recruit them as allies either by giving them some power or some other trinket. Finding some way to control and work through them they can, in turn, have power over the rest of the population. What if that is what they need? The last key? I'm not saying that is the answer. But it could be."
"Good thinking, Jack! I wonder what would happen if one of us came into the bathroom with you, Mary. If this person would appear again while we're with you."
"I doubt it."
"Well, we'll worry about that person later. I say we take this thing outside and burn it. See what happens. What do you guys think?"
"Let's burn it." Said Jack.
"Yeah. Let's burn it." Said Mary. They all went outside after sundown to the back parking lot of Mary's apartment building.
"Are you sure we won't get reported by somebody?" Asked Jack.
"The assistant manager is gone for the day. He doesn't live on the premises. We shouldn't have too much trouble. The night monitor gets here kind of late and he's kind of lazy."
"We just need to work quickly. Besides I have a theory. . ." Said Dan."
"What theory?" Asked Mary.
'Shh!" He balled up the stack of newspapers they took from the stand out front and some torn pieces of cloth Mary gave him. Jack took the bottle of whisky and poured this over the pile. Dan lit the match and after the pile of papers and cloth had brightened into bloom of fire, Mary put the box in the fire. she added a few pieces of twigs to feed it. The wood from the box crackled and popped and they all stood around watching it closely when they felt something like a small quake shaking the street.
"What was that?" Said Jake. It caught them completely off guard. And then there was a keening, blaring sound. An alarm was going off.
"Fire alarm?" Asked Dan.
"That's not the fire alarm." Said Mary. Then she pointed to the box in horror. The thing had burned quite quickly into ash and widening crack was forming in the ground around it. The ashes of the burnt box were seeping into this crack and the crack grew like a widening wound in the earth.
"I think. . I think that box did this!"
"You think?" Said Jack. "Look at that?" He pointed. The ashes were turning blacker than black, like some live substance slinking away out of sight. As this substance disappeared into the crack, smoke rose up from it along with an acrid, metallic smell. The air took on the scent of noxious fumes.
"Let's get out of here!" Said Dan. Neighbors and other apartment dwellers were stirring from their rooms to see what the commotion was. The alarm gradually became so loud that they thought their eardrums would burst and then. . it stopped, as suddenly as it had come. The hole in the ground had engulfed the ashes of the box along with the substance left behind.
"So this box turns into black goo when burned. That's like nothing I know of on earth." Said Jack.
"I think the goo was in the box and it served a specific purpose. a directed virus, maybe?" Asked Dan.
'Or some kind of biologic implant or device." Said Mary.
Mary led them back inside as sirens began to call in the distance. Her bathroom lights were flickering on and off. Dan could tell she was nervous. They were all shaken. She started toward the bathroom door but Dan put a hand on her shoulder.
"You don't have to go in there alone."
"I'm not," she said. "We started something. Kicked off an alarm." She went to the bathroom and closed the door and then sat on the couch.
"So, my theory was half way right. I was thinking that if we destroyed that box especially within the circle of stations, that something weird would happen. I didn't think it would happen so quickly. But that box was mighty important if alarms were going off and the ground is opening up to swallow it."
"I think you might be on to something about a biological or living device. I think it was designed to infiltrate the human body," Said Jack. "Now I've got an idea."
"What is it?" Asked Dan.
"Before we check out some of those "hotspots" you mentioned earlier, I say we go find Mr Fix-It and have a talk with him."
"And why would we want to do that?" Mary asked.
"We need answers. I want to know who this guy really is. Maybe I'll go alone. Case out his place for a while before I approach. You know?"
"I don't think it's good to confront The Others alone, Jack."
"We can't all be together all of the time. Osme of this work will have to be done when we are by ourselves. I want to know who this guy is. What he is. What if he's like us? An adept but for their side?"
"Either way, Fix-It guy is dangerous if he's giving out things like that red box. He's giving The Others access to humans." Said Dan. Suddenly there was a strange sound in the bathroom. It sounded like live wires and electricity, untamed. Under the door they could see electrical lights flashing and blinking.
"Oh my God." Whispered Mary.
"Mary, I suspect your apartment building is connected to a power source of theirs. Remember the map? That box might somehow be related to that power source and when we destroyed it we alerted them to its destruction and perhaps cut off a line of power or even communication they had. Not only do they not have access to you but they don't have access to this device any longer. if it can even be called that. I'm thinking on the fly, so this may sound off the wall." Said Dan.
"It makes sense considering what we're up against." Said Mary.
"Jack, maybe you should check out this Mr. Fix-It guy who gave her the box. Perhaps Mary and I will investigate the power source I suspect might around this area. Let me know what you find."
"Will do," murmured Jack, more determined than ever now. They all three stared at the blinking lights under the bathroom door. Jack turned to Mary. "Give me his location. I'm convinced now that he has some information we need."