You have a new job now. Every day except Sunday, you drive out into the sand wastes and there you find two trucks. You move wooden crates from one truck to another while a man in a suit silently watches. It is a different man each time. Sometimes the crates tick. Mostly, they do not. When you are done, the man in the suit hands you an amount of cash, also different each time, and you go home. It is the best job you’ve ever had.
Except, today, it was different. You moved the crates. The man in the suit, a stranger, watched. But then, as had never happened before, the man in the suit received a phone call. He walked off at some distance to take it. “Yes, sir!” he said, and “No, sir!” Also he made hawk shrieking sounds. It wasn’t terribly interesting. You moved crates. But then, an impulse, an awful impulse, came over you, and for no other reason than that you are trapped by the freedom to do anything in this life, you took one of the crates, and put it in your trunk.
By the time the man came back from his phone call, you were done with your job. He gave you the money – it was nearly five hundred dollars today, the second highest it had ever been – and you drove home with the crate in your trunk.
When you got home, you took the crate into your trailer and left it in the kitchen. The crate did not make a ticking sound. It made no sound at all. Nothing made a sound except you, breathing in and breathing out. You cooked dinner – you always cooked dinner – and the red light on the tower blinked on and off in your peripheral vision, a message that was there and then wasn’t, and that you could never quite read. You wondered how long it would take them to miss the crate. You did not wonder who they were. Some mysteries aren’t questions to be answered, but just the kind of opaque fact, a thing which exists to be not known.
Which brings us to now, to this story, this story about you. You are listening to the radio. The announcer is talking about you. And then you hear something else, a guttural howl out of the desert distance, and you know that the crate’s absence has been discovered. The crate. Well, it sits, that’s all, on the kitchen floor. That’s all. It’s warm, warmer than the air around it. It smells sharp and earthy, like freshly ground cinnamon. And when you put your ear against the rough warm wood, you hear a soft humming, an indistinct melody. It does not appear to be difficult to open. All you would need to do is remove a few nails.
You do not open it.