On his lunch hour away from his menial, soul-sucking job, Alex blundered upon a downtown store which didn't seem to fit into the 21st century. Drawn like a moth to the flame, Alex ventured into the small establishment, wondering why he had never noticed it before. A weathered door creaked on its hinges and a small bell jangled as Alex entered.

The old curiosity shop bore the air of a treasure trove, peddling antique miracles. Within, the slightly musty air smelled of old books. Dust floated through the weak light that fought its way through the dirt on the windows. Trinkets, curios, and old books crammed the many shelves and cabinets within the establishment. Gazing around the store, Alex beheld a statue of the Egyptian God Anubis. He could almost feel the weight of history pressing down on him.

After a few moments, an old man shuffled out into the shop from behind a ragged curtain that hung behind a sales counter. "Is there anything I can get you, Sir?," asked the store owner, peering out at Alex from over a pair of thick glasses.

"No, just browsing," admitted Alex. "Afraid I couldn't afford anything that you have here, anyways."

The store owner seemed to intuitively understand and empathize with his new customer. "I could give you advice, but it isn't advice that you need. Here, why don't you take this, a gift from me! He held out to Alex an elaborately carved antique wooden box that appeared to be made of ebony.

Taking and opening the box, Alex recoiled to behold the body of a mummified fox within it. "What is this, some kind of a sick joke?," he asked.

"Not at all," assured the old storekeeper with a faint smile. "This box and its contents are worth more than you can imagine," he explained. "But take it...you need it more than I do!"

Unsure what to say or how to react, Alex thanked the storekeeper and departed the store with the box. He returned to his office, and slid the item under his desk. The hours of the afternoon passed slowly as always, and finally Alex was able to start his commute home.

Carrying his strange lunch hour acquisition under his arm, Alex boarded the subway, entering a car whose only other occupants were three grungy-looking toughs. The subway pulled away from the station, entering the strange and dark underground world which ran beneath the city. The car shook and bumped, its interior lights flickering out from time to time as it rushed through the utterly black tunnels.

One of the toughs sharing Alex's car elbowed another, and the three rose to walk closer to Alex, who cowered uncomfortably in his seat. "Hey man," asked one of the trio, "What's in the box?"

"It's nothing," replied Alex nervously. "Just some old taxidermy animal."

"Well, show us!," demanded another of the trio, grabbing at the box by Alex's side. A brief struggle ensued with Alex trying to maintain possession of the box while the younger man wrenched at it. After a moment the lid of the box was torn open, and the mummified fox within tumbled to the floor.

"What the f***?," marveled the tough, his reflections cut short when the lights within the car went out.

Flickering feebly, the lights sputtered back on a few moments later, revealing a black cowled figure which seemed to float in the space between Alex and his three tormentors. It was impossible to see the figure's face, which was hooded and so dark that all light seemed to be drawn into it. In the deep recesses of the hood, however, glowed two silvery-white eyes that seemed pools of otherworldly energy. The eyes lifted to fixate on the trio of young toughs, who recoiled from the spectral presence.

One of the trio pulled a handgun from the waistband of his pants, and began firing at the cowled figure from point-blank range, screaming as he did so. The slugs passed harmlessly through the dark entity, who cocked his hooded head slightly and projected a spectral voice inside the heads of everyone present:

"Fools, you can't kill me...I'm already dead!"

With that declaration, glowing ectoplasmic tentacles emanated from the sides of the hovering cloaked figure, extending to wrap themselves tightly around the body of the gunman. Having attached themselves, the tentacles then ripped the body they had enveloped asunder, tearing apart arms, ribs, organ systems, and bone in a bloody spray. The two remaining thugs bolted and tried to pry apart the nearest doors of the subway car, drawing the attention of the dark hooded figure. He extended a heavily draped limb in their direction, blue currents of electricity crackling from the end of it. The bolts arced across the distance between the apparition and the duo, striking the nearer of the two. There was a sickening aroma of burning flesh as the man danced a grotesque jig under the current before collapsing. The remaining assailant clawed frantically at the closed door as the cowled figure regarded him, his silvery-white eyes seeming to glow intensely. A ring of flames surrounded the remaining man, consuming him alive. Smoke and an aroma like burnt pork wafted from his smoldering remains.

"This phantom is rough on roughnecks," commented the apparition in a voice again telepathically communicated.

Alex was screaming loudly at this point, as if losing his grasp on sanity. Drifting almost serenely towards him, the spirit stopped in close proximity.

"Fear not, Master," intoned the entity from somewhere within Alex's head. "I will never harm him under whose bed I sleep. My actions were protective...was I a bit over the top?," he inquired.

"What...are you?," asked Alex in a fearful quavering voice.

"In life, I was a fox," answered his dark savior telepathically. "I still am, but now I inhabit the sarcophagus of eternity!"

"But you're... dead!," stammered Alex.

"Well, excuse me for not living!," replied the otherworldly figure with some annoyance from within Alex's head. "But just because I'm playing on another field doesn't mean that I'm not still in the game!," he corrected. "Actually, we who are dead feel rather sorry for you walking slabs of meat!"

Alex looked down at his own body with a slight measure of revulsion. "Alright then, can I still take you home with me?," he asked.

"Depends," answered the dead fox telepathically. "Do you have cookies?"

"Err...yes," admitted Alex.

"Then I think we'll get along famously!," pronounced the late fox. "I have such things to show you!" The form of the cowled figure then dematerialized into a mist which flowed into the mummified fox corpse. Alex gently gathered the small body back into the ebony box and closed the lid on it.

...and when the subway train pulled into the next stop and Alex embarked, few people gave the unremarkable young man carrying the antique ebony box a second glance, unaware of the awesome power that it contained...