Short Stories 366:293 — “The Box,” by Stephen Gallagher

Hammer Chillers, an audio collection from Bafflegab, of six short audio horror performances, was recommended to me by a friend who knows my scaredy-cat level of enjoyment of horror, and it’s off to a really strong start with “The Box.” We meet a former military man who teaches safety courses to future workers on offshore oil-rigs, and this includes a course on how to escape a helicopter if it has to “ditch” into the ocean. They get into their suits, climb into “the Box” (a frame on a crane that’s like a helicopter cabin), get dunked into a massive tank of saltwater, and escape.

Only.

One of the men refuses to come back after the exercise, saying someone tried to stop him—that’s untrue, there’s only the rescue divers there, making sure the people in the box get out okay—and when something similar happens again, the trainer decides to test out the box himself, in case there’s something wrong. The former military man, who has losses in his own history, realizes that’s the common thread: the men freaking out about the box? They’ve all survived something where others didn’t.

I think the thing I liked the most about this story was the different take on the hauntings. The story takes the “this thing is haunted” trope and turns it a few twists to the left, instead, and the last few lines of the story, when the military man is explaining just what he thinks has happened? They left a real shiver up my spine.

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