It feels like a fiction sort of morning, so here’s some fiction for you. If you like it, maybe I’ll continue the story…
It was lightly misting on the day I saw the man with the box. I was on my way to the post office, thinking about nothing in particular and hoping that there would be a package, when I passed him. He was an ordinary man, so very undistinguished that he was almost distinctive, but it was the box that interested me. I can’t quite finger the reason why. It was just a box, nothing special.
“What’s in the box,” I wanted to say, except that it would have been a stupid question, and I don’t talk to strange men in the street, even when they do have intriguing boxes.
I want to blame the man with the box for running into the utility pole, but that wouldn’t be entirely fair. After all, the electric company is just as much to blame, for putting the pole there, instead of somewhere else, and if I had been looking forward instead of looking at the box, I would have seen the pole. In any case, I collided hard enough to fall to the ground, inevitably attracting a crowd of curious onlookers, and the man with the box carefully put the box down and came over to see if I needed help.
I tried to sit up, to brush myself off, to disappear back into the anonymous people walking down the street, but the man with the box stopped me.
“You hit that pole pretty hard,” he said. “Why don’t you lie down for a minute.”
The man with the box looked at me thoughtfully as I sprawled on the sidewalk, and I wished that I could shrink into the ground and disappear. The event attracted a great deal of attention, as these things always do, and eventually an ambulance pulled up, called by an overzealous passerby, no doubt. The paramedics moved briskly through the crowd, pushing people back, and ignoring the man with the box.
“I’m fine, really,” I said.
The older paramedic looked doubtful, and then a policeman arrived. The paramedics talked to the policeman, and then each other, and then finally the man with the box, and the younger paramedic talked to me while she examined me, against my insistence that everything was fine. The policeman shooed the crowd away, scattering them like a fox in a flock of chickens.
It was then that I noticed that the box had started to move, by inches, the top flaps quivering like something was inside.
“The box,” I said, and the younger paramedic shushed me while she listened to my heart. The policeman and the man with the box glanced at the box, which was still, and then went back to talking to each other. The box moved again, and a small green tendril emerged from the opening to wave cheerily at me. I tried to say something again, and the tendril disappeared.
The paramedics decided that I should go to the hospital, because as it turned out there was a rather large bump on my head, and it was bleeding, and they clearly thought I was in an altered state of consciousness, muttering about the box. I tried to insist that it wasn’t necessary, that I really just wanted to go to the post office.
“I don’t have insurance,” I said.
The paramedics ignored me as they prepared to take me to the hospital, talking to each other about CT scans and other things I suspected would be very expensive. If I was going to be taken to the hospital, I wanted to stand, to walk to the ambulance, but I was told to lie still while they strapped me to a back board, in case my neck was broken. I thought that if my neck was broken, I would probably notice, but apparently this is not always the case. As the paramedics lifted me up, I saw the tendril again, and I tried to signal to the man with the box, as the backboard had somehow made it impossible to speak.
“It’s fine, really,” he said to the policeman. “I just thought I should call, you know, to be sure,” and then I realized that he was the overzealous member of the crowd. The tendril waved at me when the man with the box did, as I was loaded into the ambulance. I saw the tendril grab the policeman’s leg and yank, hard, sending him toppling onto the sidewalk, but the paramedics didn’t notice, and we drove away.