Headlights shine in Sara’s rearview mirror, forcing her to squint on her Friday night commute home from work. Grumbling over November’s early darkness and persistent glare in the mirror, she reaches up to adjust it. The driver follows unusually close and puts her on edge. Her grip tightens around the steering wheel, and she accelerates, then switches lanes. But the dark truck keeps pace and sticks to her tail through every change.
Sara’s heart races and her eyes dart back and forth between the road ahead and the rearview mirror. Turning off the main road onto a back road, the other vehicle’s headlights vanish from her view. After scanning around and failing to locate the truck, Sara releases a long exhale. Just another driver stuck in this Friday night madness–like me. She massages the back of her neck and continues on.
Sara pulls into her residential community and stops at the cluster mailboxes to fetch her mail. Distracted, Sara riffles through her mail laden with Black Friday ads and coupons, unaware of the resident who parked behind her hasn’t approached their mailbox yet. She flinches when he clears his throat a short distance to her right.
She jerks her head in his direction and looks up several feet to glimpse his face. The man, dressed in a hooded overcoat, gazes down at her. Her heart skips a beat. The hood conceals most of his facial features, except a gruesome scar on his cheek. Her eyes shift toward his vehicle. Unsure if he’s the pursuer, she presses a hand to her throat and struggles to speak. “Uhhh…c-can I help you?”
He sizes her up, then slides a hand out from his pocket and points it at her. In a whisper, he begins to speak. “You can’t live…,” he pauses to look around, then looks back into her face. He moves his pointed finger to direct it at her temple, then continues to whisper. “…a positive life with a negative mind.”
Sara shudders and steps away. “Are…are you the one who followed me on the freeway?” She searches for nearby neighbors, sure she’s going to be attacked.
The man tucks his hand inside his pocket, and turns to walk toward his vehicle, but stops halfway to look at Sara. “And,” his whisper turns to a hiss. “Sara, don’t judge what you don’t understand.” He stares through narrowed eyes before walking back to his car. The scar-faced man then hops inside his vehicle and drives away.
Frozen, Sara cowers on the sidewalk, hugging herself. The wind picks up and whips her body, forcing a chill inside the core of her bones. She scans her surroundings and zips up her cardigan before rushing back to her car.
Pulling into her driveway, Sara ponders the scarred man and considers what he said. Is someone in the neighborhood pissed at me? Maybe someone from work? Perhaps a distant relative? She gives the area around her car a once-over before she gets out and rushes to her front door. After locking her door, she hurries around the house to check all windows and doors to be sure they’re secured as well.
Trying to settle her nerves, Sara pours a glass of wine, grabs a favorite book, and settles under a blanket on her couch. Unable to maintain much focus, she gives up and heads into her bedroom to slip into a pair of pajamas. Without watching her favorite TV shows, Sara heads off to bed and leaves on more lights than usual. Falling asleep proves difficult, and she suffers a series of disturbing dreams throughout the night. She awakens before sunrise, far too early for a Saturday morning.
Sara brews a cup of coffee, then heads into the living room to open her shutters. She gasps and cowers away from the window. A hooded man, hunched over on her porch, is placing a Cornucopia at her front door. Her body stiffens and her heart races, but she forces herself to peek through a small slit in the shutters to keep a watch on him. Convinced it’s the same man from the night before, Sara clutches her chest.
Her eyes follow him as he walks back to his vehicle, reaches inside and pulls out more Cornucopias. The hooded man then carries them to each of her neighbors’ porches and places one in front of their doors as well. Why the hell is he doing this?
She edges the shutters open a bit more to gain a better visual of the Cornucopia sitting on her porch. Sara squints to sharpen her vision and sees a rolled up note sticking out from amongst the leaves in the decorative horn. I am NOT opening my door. A creep like that cannot be trusted! She contemplates calling the police but decides to wait and see what happens when her neighbors retrieve theirs.
The prior night’s fretful sleep wears on her, and she nods off while waiting and watching her neighbor’s houses. Sara wakes to find her neighbors have retrieved their Cornucopias. Damn it! Angry with herself for falling asleep, she texts several of them to see what’s up with the mysterious delivery. She sinks into the couch and jiggles her foot while waiting for a response.
Three hours come and go without a single word from any neighbor. Sara’s paranoia builds. She’s too frightened to open her door to retrieve her Cornucopia, but she can’t take her eyes off it. Staring at the decorative horn through her parted shutters, movement captures her attention. She looks toward the street and spots an approaching vehicle. Her stomach sinks when she realizes it’s the scar-faced man cruising through her neighborhood. He slows in front of her house before continuing on.
Sara releases a long breath, and again contemplates calling the police but decides against it, for the time being, fearful of sounding like a paranoid person.
Nightfall arrives, and Sara turns on all lights to illuminate the inside and outside of her house. She passes the time by chatting with a few friends and watching some sitcoms. After several hours, Sara heads into the living room to peek out from the shutters and regrets doing so. She catches a glimpse of movement and sees the man passing by her house on foot before disappearing from view. What does that creep want?
Unsuccessful at focusing on any more TV shows, Sara heads to bed and suffers another fretful sleep. She wakes Sunday morning and rushes to her front window for another peek. The Cornucopia, still perched on her porch, taunts her. A sharp breath escapes her lips, and she heads into her bedroom to grab her cell phone. She texts her neighbors again in hopes of hearing from someone but is met with no response.
Sara spends the day cleaning, washing dishes, and getting caught up with laundry. Sunday night approaches and daylight begins to fade, forcing her to ponder what she’ll do in the morning. Maybe instead of walking past the Cornucopia, I’ll go out the back door and walk around to get in my car.
She instead decides to call her friend, Jenny, and asks her to come over and have a look at the Cornucopia with her instead of suffering through another night of the unknown. Jenny agrees to come by at 7:00 pm.
Sara sits at her dining table and eats a turkey sandwich and tomato soup. She hears a commotion outside and assumes it’s Jenny’s arrival, but checks her watch and sees it’s only 6:00 pm. She gets up to peek through the living room shutters and sees a group of people walking up to her door.
Sara’s body tenses and she clenches her fists into balls. With hesitation, she opens her front door.
“Hello,” a woman wearing a warm smile begins. “Sara? Sara Miller?”
“Uhhh…yes. How can I help you?”
“Ma’am,” the smiling lady continues. “My name is Rachael, and I’m from a new television game show called ‘Spread Some Kindness.’ It turns out that your neighborhood was chosen to receive a generous act of kindness from one of our sponsors.”
“Ohhh…” Sara interrupts. “The Cornucopia! How thoughtful!” Relief floods her.
“Well, yes. But there’s more.”
Sara raises an eyebrow and gapes at the group in front of her. “What do you mean?”
Rachael bends down and plucks the note from the decorative horn then hands it to Sara. “Here, read this.”
Sara unrolls the note and reads the contents.
On behalf of the television show ‘Spread Some Kindness’ and its sponsors – Congratulations on retrieving the Cornucopia from your entranceway! You now qualify for a chance at winning $5,000!
Rule One – ALL Cornucopias within the residential community must be retrieved by 6:00 pm Sunday evening.
Rule Two – Residents are not allowed to be informed of the contest by any persons, or the prize offer is voided. (Cameras are set up throughout the neighborhood, and all phones will be checked for calls and text messages.)
The note is signed and includes a phone number for residents to call for additional information.
Sara’s jaw drops, and she lowers her head. “So, I don’t win because I didn’t grab mine from the porch by the given time?”
Rachael’s expression turns solemn. “Correct.”
“Well, at least everyone else wins.” Sara lifts a shoulder in a half shrug.
“Actually,” Rachael begins. “The rule was for all residents to retrieve the Cornucopia by the time, so no one wins. The prize offering is voided for all. I’m so sorry. But, the Cornucopia is yours to keep. And we do hope that the hint we gave, by Mr. Stevens at the mailboxes, didn’t frighten you too much.”
Sara’s stomach sinks, and visions of the scar-faced man pop into her head. You can’t live a positive life with a negative mind, and, don’t judge what you don’t understand. “I did exactly what he told me not to do,” Sara mutters. She sighs and shakes her head. Lesson learned.