Collaborative Flash: The Red Box

One day, an anonymous bright red box finds its way by the front door of every household. Inside is a simple item or message for each person in the household, relevant only to them.
This is a collaborative flash fiction exercise for the Protagonize's Flash Fiction group, but is open to all to enjoy and add.

The nightmares are more subtle to him than any of his other dreams but he knows that they are there, behind his eyes. They tear at his vulnerable brain unbidden while he sleeps, memories of a life he had once upon a time known but now forgets. In darkness, he bolts from his bed. Cold sweat beads on his brow. It has been two years since he had first awoken, unaware of his past, but it was the same every morning.

He makes his bed in the attic and pulls out a box, containing trinkets he treasures though he knows not why. He reveals the articles, pours over each one, and seeks to spark a vital part of his past:  a key, a brief birthday card, a weather-worn receipt. When he was found, the militsiya had cataloged everything, and were sad to report that they could not determine any nature of who he was or where he was from or why he had been found off a country road in a land whose language he could not even speak. 

From behind the folded attic door he hears a muffled shout, "Zabtraku slujat!"

He replaces the trinkets and shoves the box under his bed frame and heads down to the kukhnya for breakfast. He disdains these moments for these are the times when, for only four hours of work a day, he sits and eats their good food and uses their warm home to sleep in, and they remind him that he can not even give them a courtesy by offering his own name. Times have become even harder now for the family that brought him into their home and it took great will to accept their hospitality in spite of his own embarrassment. Two years.

A dark-haired woman in her mid-thirties addresses him with a warm smile and questions how he slept. She is a widow, he has come to realize of late. The matron of the home shuffles from the oven to the table and rubs her son's brown hair before dishing out blini from a cast iron pan. The boy smiles as he places a heaping serving of sour cream on them.

He prays with them, eats some of the sweet pancakes, and empties his jar of tea before going out to cut wood with the family's rusty axe. It is hard work, but necessary in these wintry climes. As the hour turns, he hears the front door slam shut and figures it must be the time that the matron goes to the city for her work. But he does not see her leave the house and after a long moment hears an exasperated cry. "O, moi Bog na Hebesakh!"

Brandishing the axe, he runs into the house and squares himself into the door way. Inside the matron of the household holds a handful of rubli. He lets out a long winded sigh of relief and then puzzles at the large amount of money in her small hands. Her young son pulls a small package from the box and says to him, "Ya ne mogu prochitatb ztot."

"You can't read it? Let me see." He grasped a small red envelope and inspected it, on the outside were written the words, 'To his own stranger.' He opens it but no letter can be seen from the flap, so he flips it over and shakes the package and a small identification card falls into his open hand.

The End

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