Thanks For Nothing
The day after Penny's birthday, a stranger came to the front door of her family's little house. The stranger introduced himself to Penny's mother as Mr. Alder and said he had been sent by Penny's uncle Lewis to deliver her birthday present, with apologies that he (the uncle) had always been overseas and unable to come in person. Mother was a little confused (Penny's father did not, as a rule, discuss his own family, but she thought he must have mentioned a Lewis once or twice) but thanked Mr. Alder, and invited him in for a drink, which he said he regrettably had to decline, having many more errands to run for his employer.
Penny was excited; she had already felt the excitement for the presents from yesterday grow, reach the peak, and begin to decline. But now there was an unexpected gift surrounded by mysterious circumstances and an air of the exotic. She took the box from her mother's hands and ran up the stairs to her bedroom before Mother could stop her and make sure it was alright.
She rushed to tear the paper and open the box, and found a card lying atop the other contents. Penny was seven and very proud of how well she could read inside her head. The card said:Dear Penny,
Happy birthday! I thought I should give you two presents—something and nothing. Your parents will want to see what you got; show them the something, but keep the nothing for yourself!
Your uncle Lewis
There was one more line, which Penny almost missed in her rush to see what her uncle meant by "something and nothing". It read:Be careful with the nothing! It is far more fun to look at than to touch. Never pick at it, or it will grow, and it may be hard to stop it from growing very big indeed.
Normally, Penny would have been delighted at the silver necklace that constituted the "something" of the gift, and she did dimly think that it was nice and that she would show it to her mother. But she was positively mesmerized by what sat beside it: not the kind of nothing that just isn't something else, like an otherwise empty box. No, it was different. It was rather like a hole in the box that didn't go anywhere, and that light somehow wasn't shining into. And when she tipped the box to get a better look at it, it rolled down to the corner of the box, but stayed somehow both physically present and real, but also empty and dark.
"More fun to look at than to touch," the card had said. But Penny was so very curious. Surely nothing too bad could happen if she just reached out a single finger to touch it. Surely not.