Tom stared at the words on the card. 'Be careful what you wish for...' it said, followed by a text number. He turned the card over. Blank.
Tom scratched his head and tried to think of any friends who might be playing a joke on him. Then he realized he had no friends. Enemies then? He had more than a few of those. That thought made him step slightly away from the strange box at his feet. Then he peered suspiciously each way down the street of his shabby suburban home on the outskirts of Chicago. There was no one around, just rows of similarly shabby homes that stretched away into the distance on either side of him. All were festooned with Christmas lights and decorations. Idiots, Tom thought.
He kicked the box tentatively and ducked back in case it exploded. But it didn't, it just skittered away and lay there invitingly. Not very heavy then, Tom thought. He picked it up and was surprised by it's lightness. He shook it a little but nothing rattled. He placed the box back on the ground and looked again at the card then stuffed it inside a pocket. Nobody gives me presents, he thought. This is some sort of gag I'm not falling for. Bloody Christmas. He wished it and the season and all the stupid festivities were over and done with. He noticed the box shudder slightly. The wind must be picking up, Tom thought and took it inside.
He placed the box in the middle of his room and sat down to consider this strange box. It looked weird and out of place, the bright ribbons and garish wrapping incongruous in his bare undecorated house. Tom didn't like it. All brash and colourful; not his taste at all.
He fished out the card from his pocket and stabbed the text number into his phone. A message immediately appeared:
'Congratulations! You have received a gift brought to you by Old Nick, we are sure you will find it the perfect antidote to the horrible commercial overindulgence that is Christmas! No charge! Free your soul! If you like your gift, just text back YES or NO!'
Tom scratched his head again but he decided he liked the 'no charge bit' very much. Putting the phone down he torn open the gift. A plain cardboard box stared back at him. Pulling the flaps aside he looked inside. Nothing. Empty. No wonder it was light. So this IS a joke! What mean-spirited bastard had decided to do this to him? He kicked the empty box into a corner and switched the TV on.
Strange, there was no colour. He banged the set on the side. Still it remained in black and white. He watched the commercials desultory, bracing himself for the constant Christmas Carols and all the rest. But there was nothing of the sort. Only adverts for haemorrhoid creams, constipation pills and extortionate money loans. Tom brightened noticeably and glanced at the empty box. Then he walked outside. There was not a sign of Christmas to be seen. Not a house was decorated. Tom closed his gaping mouth and walked back inside, sat down, and stared at the box. Then stared at the dull black and white TV and thought about the drab houses.
Tom picked up the phone and smiled as he started texting his reply.