I found a UPS notice on my front door. When I picked up the package, the return address was in Greek, so I had no idea who sent it. It was about the size of a shoebox. Everything about the package, except the Greek return address, was normal until I put it on the couch. The package jerked a couple of times. That got my attention.
"What the hell?"
The box jerked around until it rolled off onto the floor. That's when I heard the little voice,
"Hey! Anybody? Let me out!" English with an accent. "Hey! Come on!"
I sat on my one chair, away from the couch. What the hell? Boxes don't talk. They don't yell at people. Take it back. No, throw it away. Burn it. But, what if there really is somebody in there yelling his head off? Oh yeah, right.
I thought about calling the police. Please, come quick, there's somebody in a little box screaming at me. I decided to throw it into the dumpster out back.
The box was still shaking and yelling – "Hey! Anybody?" It wriggled in my hands, when I got up the nerve to pick it up. "Who's that? Hey you!"
I dropped the box back on the couch. "Watch it!" it said.
"Watch yourself!" I yelled back. "Is somebody in there?" I'm talking to a box.
The box stopped jerking around.
"Maybe I'll get a hammer and bust you to pieces," I said, trying to scare it like it scared me.
"Please don't do that." The voice was small and pleading. "Please—"
"Well, who are you then?" I said.
The box rocked a little, "Koalemos," the voice said.
"I'm a Greek god."
"A Greek god."
"Okay, I'll play along," I said. "What are you doing in a box, then?"
"It's a long story. I'll tell you if you let me out."
"I have to think about that," I said.
The box got angry again. "Look, are you stupid or something? – Ooops, forget that – look, I told you, I'm a Greek god. I can give you a wish."
"Sure," I said. "I'll go along, what kind of wish?"
"Any kind. You name it."
"I'm supposed to believe this? Is this some sort of reality show thing?"
"Let me out and I'll give you a wish, simple as that," the box answered back. "Come on, fella, I been in here a long time."
"Who put you in—?"
"Never mind that, let me out and get your wish. Besides, you wouldn't get it; it's a Greek god thing. This god gets pissed at that god; god A is jealous of god B and that's the way it goes. So let me out. You get a wish."
"Money?" I said.
"Money," the box answered.
"Easy, nothing to it," the box said. "You'll never sleep alone again, guaranteed."
Okay, what did I have to lose at that point? I'd already been talking to a Greek god in a box for ten minutes. How could it get any worse?
I popped open the box. What came out was no prize. And it didn't just come out, it exploded out. I fell against the couch, the box flew up to the ceiling, and when the flash and bang were over, and my apartment stopped shaking, there was a man standing in front of me.
He was the shortest and ugliest man I ever saw. He was three feet tall and bald, with a bushy mustache that looked like the hair on his head slid down to his upper lip. You had to look down at him and his head shone like a polished tabletop. And he was ugly. His face looked like it had been set on fire and put out with a logging chain.
"My name's Koalemos," he said.
"Greek gods have mustaches?" I said.
"This one does. It's my new look, a disguise. People find out you're a Greek god and they won't leave you alone, you know what I saying? Right away they want something. It's a hassle."
"Ok, yeah, looks great," I said. Play it safe.
"So what do you want?" he said.
"Huh?" I said.
"For letting me out, what do you want?"
"Oh, the wish. Can you really do that?"
"Yes, but one to a customer. Take your pick."
"Anything. But hurry up, I'm on a schedule."
"How can you be on a schedule? You've been in a box," I said. I kept looking around for a hidden camera.
"Hey! Money, fame, women, whatever, but let's get on with it, I've got to get back to Olympus, ok?"
"Gee, such a rush," I said.
To make a long story short, I picked women. Or, rather, one woman. I told Koalemos I wanted the most beautiful woman in the world.
"You sure about that?" Koalemos said. "I've got lots of other goodies in the bag," he said.
"Give me the most gorgeous woman in the world," I said, "The hottest babe on the planet."
"Okay, you got it. But you got to sign a waiver," Koalemos said.
"A waiver. You know, The Party of the First Part shall not hold the party of the second part liable . . . That sort of thing. Nothing really," he said.
He pulled a piece of paper out of the air.
"It's not English. I can't read it," I said.
"You want the hot babe or not? And you get to keep her as long as you want, that's a promise," he said.
"So long," Koalemos said when he left, "enjoy."
I waited up, watching Nick-at-Night and biting my nails to the quick. I knew I was nuts and none of it could really happen but, my God, what if it was real? I was dozing when I heard a woman's voice.
"My name is Helen," she said. "They usually call me Helen of Troy, but I'm not Trojan at all, I'm Greek. I come from Sparta, that's in Greece, you know."
I opened my eyes. She was gorgeous. I mean, you would kick Angelina Jolie out of bed and down the stairs and then run down the stairs and stomp on her face for this woman. I couldn't take my eyes off her.
"Koalemos told me to come," she said. "That's what I've sunk to now, the face that launched a thousand ships at the beck and fetch of every third-rate god on Olympus. So, what do you want? As if I didn't know."
Oh my God! I made cooing sounds, like a baby.
"Aren't you a funny one," she said.
It had been a while, you know what I mean? I was divorced for two years and the ladies weren't exactly lining up to take my ex-wife's place.
"Can't you speak? Koalemos told me to speak English. Don't you understand English?"
"Uh huh," was all I could manage.
"What does that mean?" she said.
"It means you are the most beautiful woman I've ever seen," I said.
"Like I've never heard that before." She looked around my apartment, "Is this where you live?" she said.
"Yes, it's kind of small, but—"
"You got any gum?" she said.
"Chewing gum, you got any? I love that stuff, we never had anything like that in Greece."
"No, sorry. Didn't Koalemos explain it to you?" I was getting my courage back. "He said I could keep you forever."
"You're kidding! That little pip-squeak? He may be a god but if he pushes me too far he's going to get a snutfull. Nothing doing," she said. Her face was red. She looked at me hard, crossed her arms like a shield across her chest and said, "I was treated like a queen. They started a war over me, you know."
"Geez, I didn't mean any harm." I was begging.
"So what did you ask the little louse-fart to do for you?" she said.
"Give me the most beautiful woman in the world," I said. I was embarrassed. It sounded so juvenile. "I could have you forever. I'm pretty sure he said that."
"You'll be lucky to get one minute, and you've already had it," she said. "You got one of those talking things?" she said. "A telephone, I mean. I've got to call somebody."
"Sure," I gave her my cell phone. "Do you know how?—"
"Of course I know how. I'm practically a god myself," she said.
She went into the bathroom and closed the door. I didn't listen. All these gods and practically gods running around had me spooked.
She yelled, but I couldn't understand what she said. Then she came out of the bathroom. She sat on the couch. "I can't get out of it," she said. She looked like a little girl that just got a spanking. Imagine a beautiful woman – the most beautiful woman in the world – acting like spending time with you is worse than a wallow in pig shit.
"There will be rules," she said.
"One year. That's all you get, one year."
"But Koalemos said—"
"I don't care what he said. One year and that's it."
"Ok,ok. But it's going to be a hell of a year." Little did I know. I rubbed my hands together and hopped up and down like an excited kid.
"Rule number two," she said.
"Once a week."
I stopped jumping up and down. "What?" I said. I figured it out, fifty-two times. A long way from as long as you want. "Now, wait—"
"You heard me," she said. "You try to put your hands on me more than once a week and I'll turn you into a frog."
"Can you do that? I mean, you're not a god, are you?"
"You want to risk it?" she said.
"Well, shit. Maybe I ought to have a little talk with Koalemos," I said.
"Take it or leave it," she said.
I took it.
There were other rules, too – "No kinky stuff and I'm not a dog," she said. But hell, once a week with the most beautiful woman in the world, what could be wrong with that? Right?
"Wednesday," she said. "I'll come on Wednesday."
"You're disgusting," she said, and left.
She was back, as promised, on Wednesday, bright and early. I was a nervous wreck by then. You can imagine. Three days I waited, trying not to think about it. And I sure as hell didn't tell anybody. If they didn't believe me, they would put me away. If they did believe me, every guy in Portland would show up at my door on Wednesday.
And there she was. But she wasn't alone. There were three guys with her, wearing armor and carrying shields and swords.
"They're going to make sure you obey all the rules," she said. "They'll wait in case I need them. Girl's got to have bodyguards these days, you know."
I didn't say anything. What do you say to guys wearing armor and carrying swords to slice off parts of you if you break a rule? – No kinky stuff. Are loud noises ok?
"Let's get it over with," she said. "Wait here boys. Come on little man," she crooked her finger at me.
We went into the bedroom while the soldiers clanked down on the couch.
It was a disaster. I kept thinking about swords and my sword might as well have been a cooked spaghetti noodle.
"There, wasn't that fun?" she said.
"What do you expect?" I said, "With Attila the Hun's pals waiting in the other room?"
"See you next Wednesday," she said as they left.
After seven Wednesdays, my apartment was a wreck. Helen's boys took it apart. Swords can do a lot of damage. "I'm going to call the cops," I said once, and one of the guys hacked my telephone to plastic shards. But, I was getting what I asked for. I got used to it, the little squad of Greek hoplites poking their swords into chairs, walls, and slashing everything to tatters.
In between, I sat and waited in the ruins of my apartment for another Wednesday to roll around. I lived like a refugee in a bombed-out city, but I didn't care, at least not yet.
After a year there wasn't anything left of my apartment but broken glass, ripped upholstery, punctured plaster, and even a little blood where the boys got tired of re-hacking the same stuff and started on each other.
"They can't help it," Helen said, "They're Heroes."
But the sex! My God, the sex! Let apartments fall to the ground and nations crumble and who cares? All I had left in one piece was a mattress on the floor amidst the wreckage of what had once been a bed, and that was all I needed. I didn't eat and I didn't sleep. I sat on that mattress and waited for Wednesday.
Don't ask me how I paid rent or anything else, because I don't remember. No one came to my door, no one called, no one texted, no one emailed, and, as far as I know, no one Googled. There was just me, the mattress, Helen of Troy, and Little Anthony and the Imperials dressed in armor. And sex, after I got the hang of the situation, that could blow the top off Vesuvius. It was great.
Until this guy, Menelaus, showed up. The lady's husband. I'm not a Greek scholar, so how was I to know? Seems like he'd been through this kind of thing before, and he was pissed. He was a very unpleasant person, with Donald Trump's personality in Arnold Swarzenegger's body.
"Where is she?" he said. He was wearing armor too, and a helmet with a red crest on top.
"Well? Can't you speak?" he said.
"Menelaus of Sparta," he said, "Koalemos says you have my wife?"
"I'm waiting you dung-eating dog, where is my wife?"
"It's only Monday," I said.
"It's good to know the last day of one's life," he said, raising his sword up across his chest. "Bring me my wife or the ravening vultures shall enshroud you with the flapping of their dark wings and devour you while the dogs shall work their will upon you." This Greek was a fancy talker, but there was nothing fancy about the way he held that sword at my chest.
"Where is my wife? I will send you down to the house of Hades." he yelled and came toward me. He backed me into a corner of the living room.
"So there you are." It was her.
The sword tip was lightly perched on the bridge of my nose and my eyes were locked on it like it was a cobra.
"Hi, sweetie." She was chewing gum.
He turned around, lowering his sword.
"Hi, baby," she said.
"That's just the way they talk around here," she said. "I've missed you," she said, popping her chewing gum.
My knees were shaking.
"Did this son of a dog hurt you?" he said.
"Oh no, he was ok, sort of," she said.
Thank you. I sat down on what was left of the couch.
"I want to go home," she said, tears shinning in her eyes. "Take me home, baby," she said. "I miss Sparta."
"What about him?" he said, pointing his sword at me again. "I've got to kill him first," he said. "I'll take off his head and then I shall eat his liver."
"I'll take care of it, sweetie, and you won't have to eat any old liver," she said. "Look what I have," she said.
It was a box. About the size of a shoebox. "I'll take care of it," she said again, looking at me. . . .
Well, I got what I wanted for a while. After all, you've never been on a mattress with the hottest babe in history.
But, you could be, if you let me out of this box. Hey, come on, will ya? I been in here a long time. . . .
Image Courtesy: Flickr
Biography: Gene Hines lives in the mountains of Tennessee. One of his stories was nominated for a Pushcart. It didn't get it. Another story was, on good authority, liked by horror-master Harlan Ellison, who recommended it for publication in an annual horror anthology by St. Martin's Press. St. Martin's Press stopped publishing the annual horror anthology so soon afterward that it coudn't have been a coincidence.