The Box

Black. Pitch black it was. Everything went black. The lid of the box slammed down hard and shut tight, right above my head.
‘Aagghh!’ I exclaimed, as I ducked my head and shoulders. I couldn’t help it. It was just a reaction. I felt daft after I’d shouted out but there it was. The sound waves floating off and up into the air. If it wasn’t so dark in there I probably would have seen them leave. A pathetic little scream which I couldn’t recall, no matter how hard I tried. I really wanted to take it back, of course I did, but that’s the thing about words, isn’t it? Once you’ve said them you can’t unsay them can you?
Even the bit about watching sound waves disappear into the air, I mean that’s just bloody stupid, isn’t it? Nobody can see sound waves, can they? But there you go, I’ve said it now and I can’t take it back. It was just in my head when I thought about it and now it’s been said. I do that a lot. I just come out with stuff.
So where were we then? Oh yeah, the story. Right. So there I was alone in the box and the lid had just shut. I waited for a second or two. There was an eerie silence.
‘Come on, eh?’ I shouted. ‘I could suffocate in here, you know?’
There was no reply from anybody outside.
‘Come ‘ed lads! I can smell my own feet in here it’s that small!’
‘Bloody muppets!’
Now I had the hump.
I could really smell my own feet, too. They were a wee bit stinky to be fair, as was the rest of me if I’m honest. What smelled worse though was the dog-poo that I’d obviously trodden in. Great. I’ve gone and stood in bleeding dog-poo again, I thought. They’re supposed to pick it up aren’t they? The owners, I mean. Lazy bleeders. That really cheeses me off when they just leave it there. You know it’s not hard, is it? To pick it up? Just carry a few little bags with you and throw it away when you get back home. Just don’t give a toss some people, do they?
I sat down on the floor of the box. It was made out of wood and I got a splinter as I slid down to sit. I tried to bite it out but I couldn’t see a thing in there. It was too dark.
I know, I’ll just hang on a minute until my eyes get used to the light, I thought. Yeah, it’ll just take a minute or so.
I’ve got pretty good eyesight as it happens, and I always feel that once you look at the dark then it’s not really that dark, is it? You just think it is until you get used to it. It’s just varying shades of light or varying shades of dark, depending on how you look at it.
I slowly began to see where I was. The cracks of light poking through from in-between the planks helped the situation. I looked around.
When they had dropped me in there a few minutes earlier I had never really paid much attention to what was actually in the box but now it was plain to see. It was full of posters. Well, I say posters, well yeah they were posters but they somehow looked a bit weird. They had loads of writing on some of them, slogans and stuff. Sentences that made no sense.
The big one in front of me had a drawing of a horse’s head on it and a slogan underneath that said, ‘Equine discomfort issues are not to be overlooked.’
There was another one next to it that just said, ‘Screw you and your ordinary world.’
Weird, I thought.
I pressed my face up to a few of the cracks in the side of the box and looked out. I couldn’t really see much though. The wood smelled damp, very damp. I turned back to the posters.
There were loads of pictures of cats. That was ok by me, I like cats. I like most animals actually. Except rats. I hate rats. Everyone hates rats, don’t they? None more so than cats. Rats are just no use to anyone, are they? Horrible little bleeders. Yeah, cats hate rats too. Cats are alright by me.
I heard a noise from outside. It was a door being closed and locked.
‘Eh, you, are you gonna let me out or what?’ I shouted.
There was another noise. It was the sound of a bank of lights being switched off at the wall and then another door being closed and locked. Then that was it. Silence. I was on my own. In fact, I was on my own inside a wooden box inside a locked room at night.
It suddenly got a bit darker. Shit! I thought.
I arched up and pushed as hard as I could on the lid of the box but it wouldn’t budge.
‘Aaaghh, you bunch of idiots! I’m gonna bloody kill you when I get out of here!’ I shouted. But who was I shouting to? No-one that’s who, coz they’d all pissed off home and left me there. The morons.
I sat down again angrily. At least I had a drink of water with me, I thought. I took a swig. And at least I’ve got some light in here now too, I thought again, as my eyes started to become accustomed to the gloom. Even though it wasn’t the brightest in there, I could see; just about.
‘You are all horrible human beings and I hope you all suffer horrible things!’ I shouted. Even though I knew nobody was listening. ‘Bastards!’ I added. That made me feel a bit better.
My lips were starting to get a little dry. I had some more water.
I continued to look around at the posters.
‘He that has been lost must first be found. What the hell is that supposed to mean?’ There was a picture of a football next to that one. Why someone would couple a picture of a football with that statement, I do not know. Probably lost his football team somewhere. If that is at all possible. I mean you’ve got to be pretty stupid to be having a game of footy one minute, and next minute you go to pick the ball up coz it’s gone over someone’s fence, only to find that when you turn around again you discover that you’ve lost your entire team. It doesn’t happen very often, does it? Just strange.
‘The Greatest Show on Earth.’ Wasn’t that a book? I’m pretty sure it was. Or was it, ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told?’ Something like that anyway. I came across it once in my old house. It had been slung underneath the bed with a load of other books. I remember rummaging through them one day.
I looked up. There was a poster of a movie star on the lid of the box. Daisy someone? She was nice looking. I’d seen her in a movie on the telly. She looked a bit like my mate Gwen. She was nice looking too. I wish that Gwen was in here with me now, I thought. At least I’d have someone to talk to.
I sighed. ‘Ugh!’
Then I suddenly realised that I was going to have to spend all night in there. All night stuck in a box with Daisy, some cats and a horse.
‘Bleeding morons!’
I decided that if I was going to have to spend the foreseeable future in a box then I might as well get comfortable. I laid down. I could just about fit if I hooked my legs back. There wasn’t much room to spare, however.
I started to try and think about what it was that had actually made them lock me in a box. What had I done to deserve it? It was just another normal day as far as I was concerned. I don’t think I had done anything out of the ordinary. Or had I? I racked my brains. No, I can’t remember anything specific, I thought. Although I did have a bit of a run in with Jonesy, I admit, but surely they’re not gonna lock me in a box all night just for that? And anyway, he bloody deserved that, didn’t he? But, no can’t be that. If this was their idea of a practical joke then it wasn’t funny. And that’s the thing about practical jokes in any case, isn’t it? They’re just not funny. Well, at least not to the recipient of said joke, anyway. But the person who generally comes up with the idea thinks that it’s bleeding hilarious.
I looked up at Daisy. ‘Well it looks like I’m going to have to talk to you then, Daisy,’ I said. ‘Not that I expect any response, mind you. Or maybe the equine fella over the there. Perhaps we should give him a name. What d’you reckon a good name for a horse is then, Daisy?’
Daisy predictably never replied.
‘Ah, you don’t know?’ I said. ‘Well, how about Colin? Colin is a good name for a horse, I reckon. Yeah, that’s what we’ll call him. Colin the horse.’
I looked over at Colin. ‘Hello Colin, do you like your new name?’ I said.
Colin never replied either.
‘Ah, good. I knew you’d like it,’ I said. ‘And if it were up to me then I wouldn’t overlook any of your equine discomfort issues either, Colin. I’d be right behind you, Son! Right behind you all the way, in fact. A big strapping fella like yourself, Colin, I’m well on your side mate! And Daisy is, aren’t you Daisy?’
I looked back up to the lid of the box to see Daisy still staring down at me. I turned back towards Colin. ‘I’m afraid you’ll have to excuse young Daisy here, Colin, she’s a lady of few words is our Daisy. Still, I don’t suppose you mind that, do you Colin? As you are also a little on the quiet side.’
Colin said nothing but his expression didn’t change so he must have agreed with me, I thought. I looked around at some of the cats. There was a great big ginger one looking right at me.
‘And what about you, big man?’ I said. ‘Have you got a name?’
The ginger cat didn’t say anything.
‘Well, I think I’ll call you…’ I paused for a moment. What would be a good name for a cat? ‘Er… I think I’m going to call you, er, Priest.
Priest? I hear you say, Colin? Well, yes I do agree that Priest is an unusual name for a cat but, nevertheless, a nice one, don’t you think?’
Colin didn’t reply but again his expression never changed and by this time I was now beginning to get to know Colin the horse a little better, and I had worked out that when his expression stayed the same then it meant that he agreed with me.
‘Yes. Daisy, Colin, Priest and me,’ I said. ‘I think we’re all going to get on well’
I stopped for a moment and thought about what I was doing. I was stuck in a box talking to posters of animals to which I had made up names for. But it was only to pass the time, wasn’t it? I had to do something or I would go mad in there. Or had I already gone mad? Some would say that I had.
But I was scared. I was alone and it was dark. I had to try and keep my mind active but all the time I couldn’t help feeling angry towards the idiots who put me in there. Yeah it was all their fault. I didn’t deserve to be treated like this, no matter what I had done.
But sometimes you have to think, don’t you? About the situations that you find yourself in. I mean, you can’t always be in control of these things, can you? And sometimes you think that you’re in control but you’re not. Folk just play on you, don’t they? Manipulate you. Make you do things that you don’t really want to do.
Take Jonesy, for instance. Sometimes he goads me and taunts me and pushes my buttons until I get wound up and angry and then the next minute I don’t really know what I’m doing. I always seem to come off worse, though. I’ve got a few scars to prove it. But Jonesy is nothing but a big bully. He likes fighting, doesn’t he? I don’t. Never really seen the point of it.
‘What about you, Priest? I bet you’ve had some scraps, haven’t you? A big tom cat like you, spreading yourself around the neighbourhood at night, sewing your wild oats with all the lovely ladies. Yeah, I bet you’ve ruffled a few feathers over territory rights in your street. I bet there’s a few ginger kittens looking for their long lost daddy around your way mate!
Sorry, you what, Daisy? You don’t approve? Well I’m just having a boys chat with Priest, here about the wonderful ways of the world, didn’t mean to cause you any offence, like. Only just trying to pass the time before they let me out of here, that’s all.’
Daisy’s expression never changed, but I knew she understood.
‘Thanks, Daisy,’ I said.
I turned around a couple of times to try and get myself a bit more comfortable in there. It was struggle though.
Priest looked at me with a knowing look in his eyes. Maybe I was right about him; maybe he was the King of his street. It certainly looked that way form the size of him. ‘Wouldn’t wanna meet you in a dark alley one night, Priest, eh?’ I said.
I think Colin was starting to become interested in Priest’s story. He seemed to prick up his ears a bit.
‘Now I wonder whether you two would be friends if you knew each other, Colin. You and Priest, I mean. Say if Priest happened to be out on a bit of a jolly one night and he lost track of time; ended up losing his way. He might end up on your farm. Pop into your nice, warm stable for a kip, like. Would you be ok with that?’
Colin seemed to ponder this question for a second or two. Maybe horses and cats can’t be friends, I thought. I turned to look at Priest. ‘What about you, Priest? Would you be…?’
Priest interrupted me in mid-flow.
‘Ah, I’m sorry, Priest,’ I said. ‘I forgot. Cats don’t get lost, do they? Always know where you’re going you lot, don’t you? It’s to do with circles, isn’t it?’
Priest never answered but the way he looked at me made me thing that I was right.
‘Yeah, though so,’ I said. ‘You wander around in little circles so you don’t get lost. Then gradually your circles get bigger and bigger so you always know how to get home. Clever that, like. Perhaps humans should work like that as well; would certainly improve things no end.’
Suddenly I felt the piercing gaze of Colin the horse. He was a little upset because I hadn’t let him speak.
‘Sorry, Colin. I apologise profusely. How rude of me go ahead.’
Colin stared at me again, but we were firm friends by now, and I knew exactly what he was thinking.
‘Yes, Colin, I know exactly what you’re saying, Son. Anybody is most welcome in your stable, especially Priest here. I bet you get all sorts of animals wandering into your cosy stable for a kip at night. Probably the place to be on your farm, I reckon. Mind you, I hope you don’t let any rats in there, like. Horrible little bleeders…’
I looked up at the source of the interruption. It was Daisy. She was less than impressed with me.
‘Daisy, I’m so sorry. I know, I know, sometimes my language is a little too colourful, I admit it. But once you’ve said these things they’re out there, aren’t they? It’s just coz me and all my mates, well, we use language like that all the time. It doesn’t make it acceptable, I know, but that’s the reason for it. I suppose when you grew up in a place like I did then you sort of get used to it. You hear it every day, like.’
I stopped to think about the place where I grew up. A run down house in a rough part of the city. Maybe that’s the reason why I have so much of a temper these days, because of my upbringing, I thought.
‘Sorry, Daisy, what did you say? My upbringing?’
I looked around in the box and it seemed that all three of my new friends wanted to hear more about my story. Well, how more insane can this day get, I thought. I’m locked inside a bloody box talking to pictures of a film star and two strange animals that have suddenly become my best friends. If anyone were to catch me then they’d lock me up inside a bloody looney bin for this type of behaviour, never mind inside a box. But in for a penny, in for a pound.
‘Well, I don’t suppose it would do any harm if I told you, would it? I mean you’re all my friends now, aren’t you?’
The three of them gave me a friendly stare.
I got comfortable again.
‘Well, I was born in Kempton Street, do you know it? No? Well, I don’t suppose you would know it, Colin, there’s no farms anywhere near Kempton Street, let me tell you. And you, Daisy, well I’m sure that you come from a much nicer part of town. Too good for Kempton Street, you. Oh, please don’t think that I’m being patronising there either, Daisy. It was meant as a compliment, honestly. You probably come from Bench Row, Castle Street, Clayborn Place or somewhere like that. Somewhere where film stars would live, yes that’s what I reckon. Mind you, Priest, there were a few ginger cats knocking about Kempton Street as I recall, so maybe you’ve been there on your travels! Ha, yeah, probably, Son!
Anyway, yeah, where was I? Ah yeah, so I was born in the back room of the house. No doctors and nurses around in those days for us, no way. We did everything the old fashioned way in our house. Yeah get mother on the bed with a few towels, a bowl of warm water and Bob’s your uncle. Hello world! My mother was alright though. She looked after us really well at first. There were a few of us like, so she certainly had a lot on her plate with us lot. There were seven of us in total. Four boys and three girls. The boys were called Kenny, Davey, Eddie and me, of course. Then the girls were called Peggy, Ella and Kim. I was the youngest of them all, so by the time I came along my mother had already worked out who her favourites were but that didn’t bother me really. It was obvious that I was the runt of the litter. The sprog that they never really planned for. And I sort of realised that early on and just came to terms with it. No big deal, is it? But our Kim, she was great, she sort of looked after me, you see. Took care of me. And she needed to and all, coz our Kenny, well he was horrible to me. Used to beat me up, he did. We were always fighting, me and our Kenny, and not by my choice either. It was him, our Kenny, he always had it in for me. Trip me up and stuff. He used to get me on the sly when nobody was looking and pick on me. He used to break things as well, and then blame it on me. My mother always used to take his word for it too coz he was the oldest, our Kenny, so she thought that he would have no reason to lie. Consequently I got the blame for it all, and she sort of stopped caring about me did my mother. But it was ok like, coz our Kim was there to look after me and it was ok.
But that’s sort of when it all changed. Suddenly things got bad. One day there was a knock at the front door; I remember it really well even though I was only young. There was some man standing there, someone who I’d never seen before. My mother was there too and so was our Davey and the man was talking to them all friendly, like. The next minute I knew, they had called our Kim over to them and then the man took her away. He gave something to my mother, maybe it was exchange for our Kim, I’m not sure, but that was the last time I ever saw my sister. This man, whoever he was, just took her. I cried and cried when she left and I asked my mother why she had sent my sister away from me but she just ignored me as if it didn’t matter what I thought.
Of course, our Kenny was happy about it because after that point he started to pick on me and fight me all over again. It was horrible. Every day he would beat me up and laugh at me. Then another strange thing happened. Just like when our Kim had left, there was another knock at the door, this time it was a different man who was there. It was Jonesy. I didn’t know it then but yeah that was his name, Jonesy. And before I knew what was happening, Jonesy took me away from home, just like the other man did to our Kim. They never game me any explanation or anything like that, I was just told that I was going to have a new home. At first I was pleased, because I would’ve done anything to get away from Kenny, and I didn’t care too much for my mother by that time either. But it soon got bad. Jonesy likes to fight you see. And he kept making me fight. He would take me to places and tell me I had to fight all these other guys my age, some even older than me. It was horrible.
What could I do? It was either kill or be killed as Jonesy would say. I didn’t like doing it, honest I didn’t, but if I refused to fight then they would just beat me up anyway so I just did it to try and stop myself from getting hurt. I’m even quite good at fighting now, not that I like fighting but if I don’t then Jonesy himself beats me up. He hits me with his belt if I don’t do as I am told. I don’t like Jonesy at all, but he says he’ll throw me out on the street if I don’t do as he says, then I’ll be all alone with nothing and I’ll have to fend for myself. I’ve often thought about just running away, but where would I go? At least it’s warm and cosy in our house, and I eat very well, I must admit.
Anyway, you must be bored of hearing about me, what about you guys? What’s your story like? Oh no, none of you can talk can you? I forgot. Maybe I’ll just have a kip. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. If those divvies have locked me inside a box all night then I may as well just try and get some sleep eh?
Maybe they’ll let me out in the morning when they’ve all had a good laugh at little old me locked inside a box all night. Yeah, I expect it’ll all look better in the morning, it always does, doesn’t it?’
None of the other three replied but I knew that they agreed with me. I got myself in the most comfortable position that I could and closed my eyes.
‘Goodnight Daisy. Goodnight Colin, and goodnight Priest,’ I said.
They didn’t answer. I fell asleep.
The next morning I awoke to the sound of voices.
‘Right, what’s this we’ve got here then?’ said one of the voices. It was a man’s voice.
The other voice was a woman’s. ‘Came in late last night,’ said the woman.
‘Must be a dangerous fella if they’ve locked him in there all night,’ said the first man again.
I started to shout to them. ‘Oh thank heavens someone is there. Let me out, let me out. Please let me out!’
They just ignored me and carried on with their own conversation.
‘Yes, apparently he turned on his owner yesterday and ripped him half to pieces. He’s a fighting dog you see, they don’t know any better,’ said the woman.
‘I feel sorry for them, poor little things. They’re bred into it you know? They don’t know any different. Mind you, I’m not sorry for the bugger who owned him. Deserves everything he gets, if you ask me.’
‘I agree,’ said the second one again. ‘No sympathy whatsoever. They reckon he’s critical. Might not pull through. What a waste of a life. In fact, what a waste of two lives.’
‘Couldn’t agree more.’
‘Right then, I’ll hold him and you can administer the needle. Are you ready? One, two, three, go!’
Suddenly the lid of the box flew open and there was a bright light which blinded me for a second. Then it went dark again.

Written by Mark Murphy Copyright 15th December 2014.

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