Unboxing9 min read


Lavie Tidhar
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Video #237: Riley Opens A Mysterious Package SURPRISE Fun Play!!!!


‘So this box just mysteriously showed up!’ Riley’s mom says brightly.

You can’t see Riley’s mom, she’s the one holding the camera.

‘Go on and open it, Riley!’

Riley smiles wide and he has such a lovely smile.

Evie stares transfixed. Evie’s crazy about Riley’s Toy Reviews.

She watches him streaming on the big TV in the living room.

Evie’s mommy sits on her laptop at the dinner table. She has a spreadsheet in front of her full of figures and charts.

‘Mommy,’ Evie says, ‘Riley is going to open the mysterious package!’

‘Hmmm? Ok, aha, sure,’ Evie’s mommy says.

Today Riley is wearing green trousers and a black striped vest. He smiles for the camera.

‘Here I go!’ he says.

Evie sits cross-legged on the carpet, glued to the screen.

She loves Riley.

Everyone loves Riley.

Well, everyone in first grade.

Riley picks up scissors. The box is square and black and looks a little like a coffin if a coffin came wrapped in ribbon. Riley cuts the ribbon. Riley dives right in.

‘Careful not to point the sharp end, Riley!’ Riley’s mom says.

‘I know already!’ Riley says. He cuts the cardboard. He cuts and cuts. He rips the wrapping paper.

‘Here we goooo!’

He lifts the cover. Evie strains forward to see. Riley lifts up a—what is that?

‘What is that?’ Riley’s mom says.

‘It’s a doll!’ Riley says. He beams to the camera. He is five years old, just like Evie, and he’s so adorable.

‘It’s looks a little—’

‘I love it!’ Riley says. He lifts the doll up for the camera to see. For his twenty million subscribers to see.

Evie strains to look.

It’s a weird sort of stuffed yarn doll with black crosses for eyes and a mouth sewn shut. It has very crude stitching.

‘Riley, scissors!’ Riley’s mom says.

‘I know already!’ Riley says crossly. He puts the scissors down and looks in the box.

‘What’s this?’ he says.

‘What is it!’ Evie says.

‘What’s what?’ Evie’s mommy says.

‘Riley found something in the box and—’

‘Aha, ok, yeah,’ Evie’s mommy says.

Evie watches mesmerised as Riley lifts a small clear plastic bag from the box. It’s filled with—

‘Are those needles?’ Riley’s mom says.

‘Don’t worry!’ Riley says brightly. ‘I know already!’

He opens the plastic. He takes out a needle. He stares at it, fascinated.

Evie stares at the screen, fascinated.

She knows about needles. Evie’s other mommy fixes her clothes sometimes in the evening in front of the TV.

‘Did it come with instructions?’ Riley’s mom says.

Riley looks at the needle. Then he sticks it right into the doll’s stomach.

‘Ow!’ Evie’s mommy says.


‘That was weird,’ Evie’s mommy says. ‘I had a terrible pain in my stomach just now. Must be something I ate earlier.’

Riley picks up another needle. He shoves it into the doll’s eye.

‘Oww!’ Evie’s mommy screams. She drops her pen and it falls on her keyboard and onto the floor. ‘My eye!’

Evie stares at the screen.

Riley picks up a needle. He smiles. He raises it just above where the doll’s heart would be. He’s about to push it through …

‘Dinner time!’ Riley’s mom calls. ‘Say goodbye, Riley, to all your friends!’

Riley lets the needle drop. He smiles and waves to the camera.

‘Goodbye, friends! See you all soon!’

The screen fades to black. Evie stares at the TV.

Evie says, ‘Mommy, I have got to get one of those.’

Video #351: EDUCATIONAL Science Fun SURPRISE With Riley And Maurice!!!!


‘Hi there, Riley!’ Riley’s mom says.

Riley smiles and waves to the camera.

‘Hi, everyone!’ he says.

‘What have you got there today, Riley?’ Riley’s mom says.

Riley beams. Riley shrugs. Riley mugs for the camera.

‘I don’t know!’ he says. ‘It’s a—’

‘Surprise!’ Evie says. She stares at the TV. Today Riley is wearing a white lab coat and a black bow tie.

He looks so adorable.

‘Hmmm?’ Evie’s momma says. Evie’s momma is cleaning the stove in the kitchen. ‘Did you say something, Evie?’

But Evie’s glued to the screen, where Riley in his lab coat has an unopened box in front of him. It looks very scientific and has writing all around it and it’s quite big.

‘Go on and open it, Riley!’ Riley’s mom says.

‘Here I go!’ Riley says.

He tears the paper off. He cuts the plastic strips.

He dives in.

‘What is it, Riley?’

Riley lifts up a large, medical-looking toy out of the box.

Evie stares.

It has a tiny bed to put a patient on, and machines all around it, and some sort of metal ball above the patient’s bed …

‘It needs batteries, Mom!’ Riley says.

The screen blacks out for a moment. Then it’s back and the toy is switched on.

Lights flash all over the machine banks around the patient’s bed. And the metal ball above the empty patient’s bed is swirling like a disco ball, flashing with electricity.

‘What are you watching, Evie!’ Evie’s momma says. ‘I told Mommy you need to play outside more!’

‘But it’s Riley,’ Evie says, like that explains everything. ‘Look, he’s got a friend!’

Evie’s momma stares at the screen. ‘That’s a rat,’ she says, disgusted.

‘It’s Maurice, he’s Riley’s pet!’ Evie says. ‘Don’t you know anything!’

‘Whatever,’ Evie’s momma says. Then she goes back in the kitchen and soon Evie can hear her on her phone.

She stares at the TV, fascinated. Riley holds Maurice in his hands, but Maurice isn’t moving.

Why isn’t Maurice moving?

‘Maurice died yesterday,’ Riley says.

Evie wells up.

Poor Riley, she thinks.

Poor Maurice.

Riley places the pet rat gently on the toy patient bed in the toy machine. The metal ball spins and spins and spins.

‘Look!’ Riley says. He smiles. There’s a big black lever on the toy machine.

Riley reaches for the lever.

Riley pulls.

The metal ball hums.

The metal ball fizzes.

Sparks fly everywhere.

‘What is that horrible thing?’ Evie’s momma says, popping her head out from the kitchen. ‘Is that safe? What is wrong with that rat?’

‘It’s dead,’ Evie says.

But lightning flashes out of the metal ball.

It hits the rat on the tiny patient bed.

The rat jumps.

The machine blinks and hums.

Maurice blinks. Maurice sniffs. Maurice stares at the camera with crazed little rat’s eyes.

Maurice runs on its tiny legs and dashes out of the room.

Riley raises his arms. His hair’s standing on end. He smiles and smiles for the camera.

‘It’s alive!’ he screams. ‘It’s alive!’

Evie’s momma shakes her head. ‘You have to stop watching this sh … sugar,’ she says.

Evie says, ‘Momma, you’ve got to get me one of those things.’

Video #427: BOX surprise FUN play with Riley!!!!


‘It’s stuck on adverts,’ Evie complains. Some clown on the TV is asking if she wants a balloon. She hits skip.

‘But I like the adverts,’ Benjie complains. Benjie’s in Evie’s class. They’re having a play date. Benjie’s mom is in the kitchen with Evie’s mommy. They’re talking about fundraising at school.

‘I got a pair of those glasses Riley reviewed the other day and now I can make people do what I want!’ Benjie says.

‘Mine broke,’ Evie says. ‘Shhh, it’s starting!’

Riley comes on the TV. He’s living in a new house now with his family. The new house has eight bedrooms and a swimming pool.

Today there’s only a small package on the floor.

‘Go on, Riley!’

Riley grins for the camera. He has one wobbly tooth.

‘I’m going in!’

Riley tears the wrapping paper.

He opens the box.

Inside the box is a smaller box with nothing but a big button on it.

Riley presses the button.

Evie and Benjie watch, mesmerised.

But nothing happens.

Riley makes a sad face.

‘Try it again, Riley,’ Riley’s mom says.

Riley presses the button. Then he presses it again.

Then one more time.

Something drops softly in the kitchen where Evie’s mommy and Benjie’s mom sit.

‘Sofia?’ Evie’s mommy says. ‘Sofia, are you all right?’

Evie steals a look into the kitchen. Benjie’s mom is on the floor.

She isn’t moving.

She isn’t breathing.


Benjie is glued to the TV.

‘Say goodbye to your friends, Riley!’ Riley’s mom says.

‘Goodbye, friends!’

Riley presses the button a few more times before the screen goes black.

Video #483: Riley Pretend Play With Giant Goo Thing FUN!!!!


‘What is it, Riley?’

Riley makes a face.

‘I don’t know.’

‘Is it Play-Doh?’


‘Is it putty?’

‘Don’t think so.’

‘Is it slime?’

Sort of?’ Riley says dubiously.

He reaches into the box.

He pulls something out of the box.

Or something comes out.

Evie stares transfixed at the TV.

Riley plays with the goo. It keeps sliding through his fingers.

‘It’s sort of, like, just … a thing?’ he says.

The thing keeps sliding away. It keeps trying to make shapes.

‘What can you make it do?’ Riley’s mom says brightly.

Do? I don’t know.’

Riley seems to lose interest. The thing grows arms and legs. It slides and slips. The camera zooms in and the thing sort of melts and then it passes through the TV screen and stands in Evie’s room.

‘Huh,’ Evie says.

The thing grows tall and grows fingers and nails. It makes a head and the head grows hair and finally it forms a face.

It has Benjie’s mom’s face.

‘Hello, Evie,’ the thing says.

‘Hello, Benjie’s mom.’

Benjie’s mom only has four fingers on her hands, not five like she’s supposed to, but Evie’s too polite to say anything.

‘Is Benjie here?’


‘Alright, I’ll see you, Evie,’ Benjie’s mom says, and she goes out.

The TV screen fades to black.

Video #713: Riley Birthday Box FUN SURPRISE!!!!


Evie’s sitting on the carpet watching TV. Momma and mommy are having a nap in the bedroom. Evie’s toys are scattered all around her. There are the wind-up jiangshi that keep hopping about and a blue-eyed, knife-wielding doll. There’s a claw hand but one of the claws is already broken. There’s a music box that plays the same tune over and over. There was also a clown toy but it got stuck in the drain.

‘Hi, Riley!’

‘Hi, everyone!’

Riley smiles and waves to the camera.

‘It’s my birthday!’ he says.

Evie claps.

‘I’m six years old!’

Behind Riley his room is floor to ceiling wrapped birthday presents. So many things to unwrap. So many things to unbox for his friends.

‘What is it, Riley?’

‘I don’t know …’

Riley opens a box. A small man in a black suit climbs out of the box and stands next to Riley. He has a black pointed beard. He has very red eyes.

Evie’s not sure but she thinks he has horns.

‘Hello, everyone!’ the man in the black suit says.

‘Who are you?’ Riley’s mom says.

‘I’m from corporate,’ the man says. ‘Corporate loves what you do here. Did you like all the new presents?’

‘Loved them,’ Riley’s mom says.

‘Well …’ Riley says.

‘We just want to enter a more permanent, mutually beneficial arrangement,’ the man with the black pointed beard says. ‘So what do you want, kid? I can give you money.’

‘I have lots of money already,’ Riley says. ‘Duh!’

He grins to the camera. Evie grins back.

‘I can give you fame!’

‘I have twenty million subscribers and over thirty billion views,’ Riley says.

Like he’s memorised those numbers long ago.

Evie reaches for the remote.

She clicks like.

The man with the pointed beard says, ‘So what do you want?’

Riley smiles. Riley grins. Riley mugs for the camera, like he’s about to tell a really good joke.

‘I just want my childhood, man!’ he says. ‘Can you give me that?’

And Evie doesn’t think he sounds so young anymore when he says it. She thinks in disquiet that he almost sounds old.

The man in the black suit howls in frustration and vanishes in a puff of smoke.

In his place is a new box covered in gift wrap.

Evie stares, transfixed, at the screen.

Riley rips the paper.

Riley opens the box.

Evie cranes her neck to look.

But the box is empty.

‘Turn in tomorrow!’ Riley says. ‘See you, friends!’

‘See you, Riley! Happy birthday!’ Evie says, and the screen fades to black, but only for a moment, and then the next video plays.


  • Lavie Tidhar

    Lavie Tidhar is author of Osama, The Violent Century, A Man Lies Dreaming, Central Station, Unholy Land, By Force Alone, The Hood and The Escapement. His latest novels are Maror and Neom. His awards include the World Fantasy and British Fantasy Awards, the John W. Campbell Award, the Neukom Prize and the Jerwood Prize, and he has been shortlisted for the Clarke Award and the Philip K. Dick Award.

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