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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Episode 33: The Thing Inside the Box

What has gone before: Andrew Weazle, the owner of a failing coffee shop on the University of Alberta campus trades what he believes to be the final Friday night deposit in return for 'magic coffee beans' from a homeless man. After dumping the coffee made by the magic beans into a potted bonsai tree, a massive ash tree mysteriously grows overnight inside the shop. Following a series of dark adventures culminating in the near destruction of the shop, a group of leprechauns arrive, with the enigmatic request to travel the Tree to rescue the Easter Bunny...

Originally published at MagikBeans.com March 29, 2007.

In his dreams Andrew was back in the shop; Lara was mouthing words and pointing at the great wooden box the Leprechauns were manhandling up into the Tree. Finn was replying, but his face turned to a mask of surprise and horror as the box slipped free of Coll's grip and tumbled to the hard tile floor. One of the corners struck the floor, but the workmanship was sound; it held together. Finn glared up at Coll, who simply shook his head.

Then the box moved. It shuddered and jumped, as if something were inside. The wood bent and bowed against an inner force that sought escape. Curses were spoken in a language Andrew knew, but couldn't immediately place. Then, the repetition of "du" and "ich" placed the language. German. Whatever was inside was cursing in German.

Finn yelled something--it was difficult to make sense of his words--he must have been shouting in Gaelic. Several of the Leprechauns, including James threw themselves on the box and held it in place while Coll jumped down from the Tree and approached the box with a slim metal rod attached to a control box. He inserted the rod into the box through one of the gaps in the wood and there was the sound of a high voltage current, a scream, and the box became still.

Finn's countenance was dark. The leprechauns quickly picked up the box and hoisted it into the tree. In this dream Andrew never even thought about accompanying the Leprechauns into the Tree.

In others, the Leprechauns came but Lara was not present. In some, she was present, but her hair and clothes changed color and style. In some, there was no Tree, and no leprechauns. Others were more ludicrous; Lump appeared, dressed in a Santa suit. In one, he was a girl, and found himself in the basement talking to three women who stood amongst the roots of the Tree.

In one, the box shattered, and Andrew caught a glimpse of white fur before he heard a scream, and turned to see Finn pulling out one of his guns and yelling orders in Gaelic. He saw the muzzle flash, and then darkness.

* * * * * * *

He awoke with a start. The fire had died down. The sounds of snoring mixed with the pop of the coals in the darkness. The embers from the fire cast a low, orange glow over the whole scene. He sat up, slowly, the memories of the dreams fading save for a general disquiet in his demeanor. In his youth when he'd woken up from such dreams, he'd wondered if he'd received a message from God. He'd seen a Billy Graham film in his youth where a man had woke in the middle of the night and set to prayer immediately, believing his waking to be a revelation.

He sat up, and glimpsed movement in the trees beyond the edge of the fire. James' words about staying out of the deep dark woods returned to him.

The Tree is good. But not everything in the Tree is.

"It's the Thing in the Box," a voice whispered, close to his ear. He jumped, and turned around, but all he could see was a form, shrouded in darkness, the embers of the fire too weak to spread light across its features.

"Who are you?" Andrew asked in a whisper.

"Your shadow at morning striding behind you," the figure replied.

The phrase seemed familiar. The figure could tell Andrew was trying to place the phrase.

"The Wasteland," it said. "Better yet, do you remember Borges?"

"The Garden of Forking Paths...it's one of my favorite works by him."

"Ts'ui Pen was right...there is no such thing as absolute time. But the labyrinth wasn't a book...it's the Tree."

Andrew nodded. It made sense in a dreamlike way. In The Garden of Forking Paths, Borges imagined an infinite series of times, that forked and broke off, much like the boughs of a tree, some crossing over each other, some never touching.

"I've come to tell you that Finn lied to you," the figure continued. "The Thing inside the Box is not a weapon. And the elves didn't kidnap Eostre."

"What? So what's in the box?"

The figure said something. Andrew heard it, and understood it, but seemed to be having trouble remembering it.

"I didn't catch that," he said. "Could you say it again?"

This time Andrew heard and understood. His eyes went wide.

"So...this whole thing's a farce?" He looked back at the sleeping Leprechauns. "You need to help me get out of here."

"I can't do that," the figure replied. "I'm only a mistake, a ghost."

And in that moment, the figure shifted his position enough for Andrew to look into his own eyes.


* * * * * * *

He awoke with a start. The fire had died down. The sounds of snoring mixed with the pop of the coals in the darkness. The embers from the fire cast a low, orange glow over the whole scene. He sat up, slowly, the memories of the dreams fading save for a general disquiet in his demeanor. In his youth when he'd woken up from such dreams, he'd wondered if he'd received a message from God. He'd seen a Billy Graham film in his youth where a man had woke in the middle of the night and set to prayer immediately, believing his waking to be a revelation.

Unable to shake the feeling, and remembering the image of white fur amidst the shattered fragments of the box, Andrew slid from the sleeping bag and raised himself to a crouch.

Whoever was supposed to be on watch was among the sleeping. None of the Leprechauns had their eyes open. He stood up and waved tentatively. No response.

His chest felt tight and his stomach was in a knot as he took his first step, carefully placing his foot like he'd learned to in a Tai Chi class he'd taken at the University. Then he distributed all his weight forward onto that foot before moving again, raising his leg and slowly moving it forward, keeping his weight all on the planted foot. Wash, rinse, repeat.

The moments passed like hours. It seemed like an eternity he was slowly moving across the little clearing, moving agonizingly, deliberately, toward the box.

He was so intent upon keeping his movements silent he almost stepped on top of it. He pulled his raised foot back from stepping on top of the boards, which were sure to creak. Lowering himself to a crouch, he placed his ear to the side of the box. In the dead silence, the sound was unmistakable.

Something was breathing inside the box.

4 comments:

Gotthammer said...

A thousand apologies for a late episode. It's my first. I had a wild and crazy week filled with great news but lots of paperwork to go along with it, so my Thursday was a wash.

Last night I read "The Garden of Forking Paths" by Jorge Luis Borges and was struck with the idea of having Andrew from another parallel time visit Andrew in this time to warn him that the Leprechauns are up to no good. The phrase that decided it was when Stephen Albert tells Yu Tsun:

"...your ancestor did not believe in a uniform, absolute time. He believed in an infinite series of times, in a growing, dizzying net of divergent, convergent and parallel times. This network of times which approached one another, forked, broke off, or were unaware of one another for centuries, embraces all possibilities of time. We do not exist in the majority of these times; in some you exist, and not I; in others I, and not you; in others, both of us. In the present one, which a favorable fate has granted me, you have arrived at my house; in another, while crossing the garden, you found me dead; in still another, I utter these same words, but I am a mistake, a ghost."

I combined the idea with Morton Kelsey's theories about being able to access the Jungian collective human unconscious to imagine that in dreaming, one does "Travel the Tree", free of the constraints of consciousness. So Andrew can visit Andrew, etc., in the Tree, but only in dream.

Big Deet said...

Well for an author a parallel universe opens a whole lot of possibilities. Nice move. And that ending, proves you've watched to many episodes of 24.

Gotthammer said...

Nah, I ran out of time. I really didn't want to end it there, but I needed to get to work on more pressing things. I'm finding that now that the story is underway, it's taking much longer to get through the episode action than I'd anticipated. Andrew was supposed to have been at this point LAST week, but I just couldn't see my way to him messing with the box. A week's ruminations fixes that.

Sir Lunch-a-lot said...

Schweet. That was a fun episode. It feels like it reminded me of a dream which I cannot quite remember... strange... Anyway, that was a really interesting episode. Looking forward to your next.