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Herman and the Mysterious Box

     Herman recoiled in surprise as the ancient wooden door of the old abandoned house that he had been pulling on finally gave way and opened. Peering inside the opening, he could faintly see stacks of dusty wooden crates and piles of rotting paper. The musty odor of mouse droppings was in the air, as well as what seemed to be a ton of dust that had been disturbed by his opening the door.

     Dust particles floated in the beams of sunlight that streamed in through the doorway, but they were blotted out momentarily as Herman strode into the room. Finding the light in the room too dim to see by, he pulled his small flashlight out of his pocket and switching it on, surveyed the rest of the room in the bright light from the flashlight.

     Over to his left was a crate with a small metal box on it. Herman became curious and decided to see if he could open the box, maybe there was something of value inside, or at least something really cool that he could take home with him.  Picking up the box, he noticed that it was actually very light; it did not feel like metal-it was something else, but what? It was like nothing he had ever touched before, a strange, cool sensation on his fingers.

     Herman fumbled with the clasp on the box, but trying to open it with only one hand was not working. Sighing in frustration, he turned and walked back outside, turning off the flashlight and placing it back in his pocket. Holding the box in one hand, he tried once more to open it. The latch seemed to be stuck fast, and he could see that it was covered in grime and rust.

     Herman began looking about the weed infested yard of the deserted house to see if he could find something to open the box with. He needed some sort of tool that could break the rust and grime on the latch and then enable him to open the box, but what could be found to do this with?

     He kept on looking and looking, pawing though piles of trash and weeds here and there in the yard. He was about ready to give up when he spied a small hammer on the ground, the handle broken in half, and then tossed carelessly away by someone in the past. Herman chuckled, knowing that with this he would be able to break open the box.

     Grabbing the hammer, he struck the latch several times, until it popped free, dangling loosely from its pin. Herman dropped the hammer and pulled at the lid of the box, hearing the screeching sound of the rusty hinges as they were forced into moving after so many years. Looking inside, he saw several items. There was a yellowed, folded piece of paper in one corner, partially covered by a short stack of coins. The rest of the box was filled with an assortment of stones, a comb, two tie clasps, and a small jade figurine.

     Herman pawed through the objects with curiosity, holding them up to the light and turning them around trying to figure out what he had found. Finally, everything had been taken out of the box and laid on the steps. Herman started picking up the coins and examining them one by one, trying to see the dates on them and what condition the coins were in. Most of the coins were dated before 1879, so he knew that some of them had to be made out or silver and could perhaps be of value.

     Setting the coins aside, he picked up the yellowed piece of paper and gingerly pried it apart. It was one piece of paper that had been folded in half and then in half again, and moving very slowly Herman was able to unfold it and spread it out on the step beside him.

     The writing was very faint after all these years, but he could make out some words here and there, such as “tag”, and “abend”, as well as “sehr gut”. From this, he deduced that it was written in German, but since he knew only a few words, he would have to take it to his friend the librarian and see if she could translate it for him. The comb was made out of some metal, and the stones Herman had no idea what kind they were.

     The jade figurine was that of an elephant, with small carved ivory tusks, and the trunk delicately carved in an upright position. He picked up one of the tie clasps and looked at it, it was a plain and simple bar of metal with a hinged piece in the back that could be opened and then would close to hold the tie and itself in place. Herman sat looking at the pile for a few minutes, then swept everything back into the box and closed the lid.

     Standing up, he walked down the path and out the gate, and then turning left began walking back to his home. He had only gone about a hundred yards when he spied a stranger riding a bicycle down the road in his direction.

     Herman watched warily as the stranger grew closer and closer. The man on the bicycle appeared to be rather tall, with a long flowing beard that had streaks of grey in it, and an old leather hat perched on top of his long blond hair.

     The man rode slowly past Herman, not saying a word but staring at him with cold, piercing eyes of cobalt blue, a look that Herman felt was stabbing deep into his soul, examining every part of him to see what he was made of. Evidently satisfied, the man glanced away and rode on. Herman took a deep breath and shuddered, it felt like he was coming up for air after being underwater.

     Shaking his head, he glanced over his shoulder at the old man, who by now was a distance down the street, and continued on his way home, thinking that his closest friend, Sam, would probably not believe his story when he told him of his adventure.

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