by Eric J. Krause
The doorbell rang. Jerry abandoned his fried chicken frozen dinner, and walked to the door. A smiling man, probably in his mid-40s, balding, and wearing a cheap brown suit greeted him. "May I help you?" Jerry asked.
The man smiled, showing a row of perfect but fake-looking teeth. "Hello, Mr. Reed, I'm happy to inform you that you've won the raffle. If you just hand me your ticket, I'll leave you with your prize and let you get back to your dinner."
"What raffle are you talking about? I haven't . . ."
"Oh, but you have. I remember you quite clearly. Outside Food Shopper's Paradise last week. Tuesday, if I'm not mistaken."
Jerry rumpled his brow and thought back. Last Tuesday he'd done a quick grocery shop after work. As he left, a few kids in some sort of organizational uniform asked him to join the raffle. He had a five in his pocket from lunch and handed it over. He never won those sorts of things, so he didn't listen to the sales pitch. He was just happy to do a bit for charity.
"I remember, but I don't know what I did with my ticket. Anyway, I was just happy to make a donation. What organization was it again?"
"The Kid Scouts," the man said, his smile bigger than before. The guy definitely wore dentures.
"Kid Scouts? Never heard of it. Is it affiliated with the Boy or Girl Scouts?"
"No, we're our own group. But back to the raffle. I think you'll want to find your ticket, Mr. Reed. You'll really enjoy the prize."
Jerry shook his head. "Just give it to the runner up. I have no idea where I put it." Jerry paused. "Hey, how do you know my name and where I live? I didn't leave any of my information."
"Oh, but you did, Mr. Reed, you did." The guy gave one of those creepy, serial killer smiles, and Jerry wanted nothing more than for him to leave.
"I didn't." Jerry inched the door closed. "I remember handing over five bucks and getting a ticket. That was it. I put it in my pocket and left."
The stranger gave an exaggerated sigh of relief. "At least we know where your ticket is. Check your pocket."
Jerry shook his head. "Different pants."
The man winked at him. "Humor me, will you?"
Jerry reached into his right pocket. He didn't feel anything at first, but then his knuckles brushed the edge of something. "What the . . . ?" He pulled it out and found the raffle ticket. He had no idea if it was his or not, as he'd never bothered to check the numbers. It couldn't be, though. The guy was pulling something on him.
"Excellent, you found it. Now you can claim your prize." He pulled a small wooden box out from behind his back.
"What is it?" Jerry asked.
"You need to open it to find out." The man blinked. Not his eyes, but his entire body, right out of existence. Just for an instant, but long enough for Jerry to notice. The man stood there, smiling as if it hadn't happened.
Jerry shook his head. "I'm not taking that thing unless you tell me what's inside. I don't want a bomb to blow up or a dozen scorpions to fall out at my feet or something."
The man laughed. "I doubt the thing you want most in life is for something to hurt or kill you." His face melted, the skin bleeding off his skull as if made of wax. Jerry clenched his eyes shut and then opened them. The man stood smiling, holding the box.
Jerry didn't say anything else. He slammed the door shut and locked it. He turned to head back to the kitchen, prepared to ignore any knocks or doorbell rings, when he found himself nose to nose with the stranger. He let out a scream and stumbled backwards into the front door.
"Sir, I don't know what's got you so spooked. This prize is a good thing. Anything your heart desires."
Jerry's heart beat so hard his chest hurt. There was no possible way this man, or whatever he was, could get in the house so fast. "I just want you out of here. I want you to leave me alone."
The stranger laughed. Jerry noticed his teeth again. The dentures must've slipped because this time they looked neither fake nor perfect. This time they looked like animal (or monster) teeth, sharp and ready for tearing.
"That can't be your heart's desire," the stranger said. "Most men want an unlimited supply of money or the undying love of a supermodel. Open the box and see what you really want."
Jerry shook his head and fumbled behind him for the doorknob. "Please, just go."
The stranger held up the box. "I'll tell you what. Usually the winner has to open it, but I guess we can bend the rules just this once."
He pulled the top off. Jerry winced, expecting the worst, but nothing happened. The man looked down into it. "Hmm, I guess you were right. You do want me to leave. Peculiar wish, but it's my command." The stranger vanished, and the box dropped to the floor.
Jerry waited a minute or two, but nothing happened. He looked out the peephole in the front door and saw no sign of the man outside. Finally, he turned to the box. He picked it up, tensed for anything, and looked inside.
A perfect tiny replica of the man stood inside. It waved at him and disappeared. A few seconds later, the little man came back, only to wave at him again and disappear. This cycle went on for about a minute until the little man didn't reappear. Then the box popped out of existence. It, too, didn't come back.