There’s a box in the corner of my bedroom, made of scarred, black metal and inscribed in a language I don’t know how to read. I’m not sure it’s a language anyone reads anymore, it looks like something long dead, and best forgotten. But I don’t know that for certain. I’ve never shown the box to anyone with knowledge of ancient languages. I’ve never shown the box to anyone at all.
I will never show the box to anyone.
Every night, while I’m trying to sleep, I hear a strange, low, half choked whisper of a voice that I think must be coming from the box. It isn’t whispering in a language I understand, and I think whatever it is whispering knows that, but that knowledge doesn’t stop it’s whispering, sometimes it whispers all night long. It makes it hard to sleep.
I haven’t slept in days.
Sometimes I can’t remember the last time I slept.
Sometimes I wonder if I ever have.
But I must have slept at some point, right? I mean, a man goes mad without sleep. He dies. I’m not mad, I’m not dead, so at some point I must have slept. It stands to reason. Still, the whispering makes it hard. But I’m not mad and I’m not dead. Yes. Yes, I must be sleeping at least a little.
I’m not mad.
I’m not dead.
Still, it’s a distraction. I’ve spent whole nights curled up foetal on the floor of my bedroom, ear pressed against the box’s lid, straining to make out a word or phrase I understand from the whisperings. Other nights I’m in my bed, pillow pressed over my ears, covers pulled over me as though they could protect me. Weeping. Trying to keep from hearing it. Either way the result is the same.
I always hear. I never understand.
There have been moments of weakness where I’ve wondered if a linguist or translator of some kind might be able to tell me what the box is whispering. But I shut those thoughts out of my mind. I will never show the box to anyone.
I know that much at least.
I bought the box downtown, in a little shop down an empty alley near a busy street. I have no idea how long ago it was that I bought it. It’s funny, I’ve had a hard time with time of late, it always seems to… elude me nowadays. Time’s a funny thing…
I’d never been to the shop before that day because I’d never seen it, never knew it so much as existed. And I’ll never go back because I hate it, hate every part of it. I hate the faded wooden sign hanging over the door, a relic of a bygone era in a modern downtown core. I hate the bolts of raw cloth hanging from the walls and the rows of tarnished silver jewellery in a badly-lit case by the antique cash register. I hate the dim, flickering lights, and the long shadows they cast over the walls. And most of all, I hate the ancient-looking man who owns the shop. I hate his stooped back, hate his wispy, sagging white moustache, hate his flowing silk clothes the long, oddly-shaped pipe he smokes, and hate the way he was watching me as I looked over a strangely inscribed little box laying loose on the counter of his wretched little shop.
How dare he stare like that? No matter where I went in the store, he watched me, kept watching me with wide, wise, pitying eyes. That decrepit old bastard. How dare he pity me? How dare he leave the box laying out on the counter like that, when he must surely have known what it was? And when I asked to buy the box, and then begged, how dare he sell it?
He could have warned me more forcefully.
He could have kept it hidden.
I keep it hidden.
I will always keep it hidden.
But I suppose there’s no use in hating the ancient man, as what’s done is done. I bought the box, I paid for it, and it’s mine. My possession, my artefact, my responsibility. Just as I am it’s. So I keep it in the corner of the room, push my bedding against the opposite corner, and alternate between spending my nights huddled, whimpering, as far from the thing as I can push myself and curling up next to it, trying desperately to discern what it is the box has to say.
Some nights I scream at it until my voice is gone and my throat torn to rags, begging it to release it’s secrets, but I suspect it never will. I simply have to learn to accept that this is what life is for me now. It’s me, and a box, and a room, and that’s all it ever will be. And it’s a burden I must bear alone.
Because I will never show the box to anyone.
And I will never tell anyone about the box.
And I will never, ever open the box.
This is my constant, my last reservoir of strength. No mater how long I go without sleep, how many secrets the box keeps just outside my realm of understanding, I will not open the box. It will whisper, and hum, and I will go nearly deaf from the sound of the whispering, and the humming, and my own doomed screaming, but I will not open the box. Even when the walls of my bedroom start to bleed and the world outside recedes into an inky-black void of nothingness, I will not open the box.
Because I know that so long as the box remains unopened, I will be the only one whatever is inside it can reach, and touch, and torment.
And I know that once the box is opened, all bets are off.