Box (a short story)

Written in the mid 1990s, I found this in a pile of papers and transcribed it here.


I sit alone in my box.

I have always been in the box. Enclosed in a few cubic metres of air.

I can feel the pressure of my breathing, in and out. My pulse beats, I can hear the rhythm of the blood thrumming in my ears. It’s a soothing noise.

The dream people will tell you differently. They will claim that I am not in a box, merely a bed, in a white room. Sometimes I believe them. I can seem so real, this illusion of a bed and room, but I always end up back in reality, in my box.

My breath catches and I blink, my eyes are dried from the quick rushing of air as I leave my dream.

Back in my box. Comfortable, home. Colours, no white. Outside my box it is always white, crisp, antiseptic.

I asked them once, the dream people, “What’s it like to live in your world?”
They said to me, “You live here too.”

Silly people.

“Me? No”.

“You are in a hospital”.

I have dreamed that word before.

“You are dreaming now. You are delusional. We want to help you.”
I pondered this. They must believe they are correct. I felt sorry for them. I wanted to help them. What else had I to do other than speak to my dream people?

“You are my dream.”
“We are reality. You must learn to face us.”

White faces, white clothes, white wall.

“Why do I dream you every night?”
“You do not dream us. We are real.”

“I have to go back to my box now.”

“There is no box”

No box? This was not pleasant this dream. I wished the white dream people to leave me alone. But there were relentless.

“Do you remember what we spoke about yesterday?”

“I don’t remember my dreams.”
One of them laughed. I’d not heard a laugh for a long time. I smiled at the laugh. A face, distinct, blue eyes in a white face.

My box colours merged with my dream white. Only when colour ermeated my dreams did the two worlds mingle. Blue eyes in a white room.

A flash of another face. A dream face? No, one who was with me before the box.

Before the box.

But the box had always been there, as far back as I could remember. Then whose face has I seen?

“I like it when you have colour,” I said.

“Have colour? How so?”
“White is a dream. I can almost believe you are real when you have colour”.

“What colour do you like best?”

“All colour.”

“Do you have a favourite colour?”

“I don’t know.”

“Why do you dream in white?”
“You are white.”
“We are not a dream”
“You are not self aware.

“We are self aware. Do you remember what we spoke about yesterday.”
“I dreamed we spoke.”
“Try to remember. We asked you how you got into your box.”
“I have always been in my box.”

“We agreed that wasn’t true, yesterday.”

Go away, white dream, Go away. You deceive me.

“Why would I agree to that. It’s untrue.”

“You said you had built the box about yourself.”

Flash of the face, smiling, laughing, no box. The other face. I held my hand to touch it. I could almost feel her soft skin. Laughing eyes. No face. I lower my hand.

“You try to scare me,” I said.

“You know that’s not true. We cant to help you.”
“Leave me alone then! Let me back into my box! Go away!”
“We have run out of time. We need to know why you built yourself into that box.”
“It was there!” I cried. I remember the face, now. How can I remember a dream so vividly?


“It didn’t happen!” I said, desperate.

“What didn’t happen?”

“The box, the box, I want it, go away!”

“Do you know what this is?”
A glowing metal instrument, held up to my face.

“it destroys boxes. You must come out now.”
Touch of cold against my forehead.

I screamed. My box shattered. I grasped at the flying fragments but they slid from my hands. My box, like old plaster, peeling and flaking away. I cold feel the echoing of my breath in the large room. I sobbed. My box lay in shreds on the floor of the white room.

I saw the face. Jane. I remembered Jane. Where was she now? Why had she left me to sit in the box without her? Why was I alone?
“Jane!” I cried. “Jane!”
“I’m here,” she whispered. “You must be quiet or they’ll hear us too soon.”

They? Where was I? I looked around inside my memories; tropical vegetation. Alien colours under an alien sky. A fedid odour. Jane, next to me, crouched behind a bush. Excited.

“They look friendly,” she had said, turning to me, eyes brilliant against the unknown stellar sky, clear blue.

“Oh think of it! Us, discovering the first non-human sentient life!”
Ohgodohgodoh godoh god oh god

Let me into my box oh god don’t let me remember I hate you let me away

“You must tell us what you saw.”

“You can’t hide forever.”
“What happened to Jane?”
“What did you see?”

“Why did they return you to us?”
box box box box oh help me it’s gone

Jane’s eyes. The fear of mine mirrored in hers. The aliens, so white, no colour, no colour, their ship so white, glimmering I need my box

I must have dreamed so much white

I must have dreamed so much blood. So brilliant red against the white! Screams of Jane, they dissected her, studying, meticulous. Guttural clicking that was their speech oh god oh god oh god

“Why did they let you go?”
To warn you, don’t you understand, they don’t want us to bother them oh god, they know us now, our insides, our outsides, our technology. They don’t want us around them.

Oh Jane oh god Oh Jane, bleeding, dying, dead, against the white walls, white aliens

“Don’t come near us they wanted us to know. Jane was a warning. Avoid them, leave them alone, I have to tell you that, do you understand, oh Jane, my Jane”

I can hear her scream still

I can hear my scream still

The dream people spoke to each other.
“Have we heard anything from the second contact expedition?”
“No nothing, the communications have stopped.”

I screamed.

I sit alone in my box. Colours everywhere, no one to bother me.

Every now and then, I dream. I dream of white rooms and people who feed me, takt to me. I don’t understand their words. They leave again.
I sit alone in my box.

Box (a short story)

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