's 2015 Horror Write-off:

City Diaries: The Shoebox Incident [edited ending]

Submitted by Luna Raydue

I live on Long Island, where nothing out of the ordinary really happens. But several times a month I commute to New York City, and there always seems to be some sort of unusual occurrence around every bend. I figure it's a city thing. I've decided to record some of my experiences, in hopes that someone might relate. Maybe somebody will be able to tell me how to avoid these strange encounters.

This is, perhaps, the most mundane story of all I've told, and yet it sticks with me as one of the strangest.

I had an appointment at 2pm, on 8th avenue. It's right down the street, not a long walk from Penn station, but I wasn't sure exactly how far down it was and my train was late. So I ended up grabbing some food to eat on the go. When I was closer to my destination and still had extra time, I figured I'd pause and eat my croissant without rushing. I stepped to the side of the sidewalk, around the corner of 8th and 22nd, and began eating at leisure. The traffic flow was normal, plenty of people out and about, a slightly cloudy day, but nothing was out of the ordinary. I thought I might avoid the mysterious for once. I was wrong.

The first thing to happen was that a man walked by. He was talking, but I'm not quite sure if he was speaking on the phone or to himself. He had earbuds in, but his words were half muttered, and given what happened next I couldn't be sure he was talking to anyone. As he passed by me, I overheard the words “It's not like I have a choice.” They weren't said in an upset or defeated or bitter way as one might expect from such a phrase; just sort of a conversational statement.

He carried on past me, and I didn't think much about it, until four older men walked up from the other direction. They were all fairly well dressed, and had white or gray hair. The one in front had a dark hat and trenchcoat. The muttering man had a bag slung over his shoulder, and as the four old men walked passed, the man with the hat reached out and slipped the bag off his shoulder. My first thought was that a crime was occurring before my eyes, but the muttering man seemed to notice and whirled around, eyes wide. However, when he saw who had taken the bag from him, he simply turned back around and continued muttering.

The old men formed a sort of circle around the bag, standing in the middle of the sidewalk, and the muttering man continued to pace around the area, not looking at them. Passerby continued to walk around the group, unperturbed.

From my angle, there appeared to be only one thing in the bag-- a red shoebox, which the four old men proceeded to pull out and hold between them. They then opened the shoebox, revealing a pair of bright blue sneakers with orange markings. I believe they were Nikes, but I don't know sneaker brands very well.

The man with the hat and trenchcoat took one shoe out of the box, holding it delicately and turning it in his hand. The four men looked at the shoe with what seemed almost like reverence, passing it between them with the care of a parent holding a newborn child.

I thought the scene was quite odd, but I had to get going if I wanted to reach my appointment in time. I walked slowly past, curiously trying to get a better look at the situation. From my new angle, I could see that there was something written inside of the shoebox; a word in messy black pen, something starting with a K. There was another indecipherable scribble of pen, further down and to the left.

Before I crossed the street, I focused on the sneaker still in the box, trying to understand what was special about it. I thought I saw the orange marking shift and change shape, but someone passed my view, and when I could see the sneaker again it was back to normal. I crossed the street and continued on my way, but I couldn't get the strange sight out of my mind.

While it might be unrelated, for a few days afterwards my right ankle was rather itchy.