"But where does it lead?" Alice inquired.
"He doesn't know," the Crane replied.
"Well I don't like it."
The ruins seem endless, their forms evocative
of something he cannot quite pin down;
the scale varies bewilderingly;
he stumbles over pebbles with the form of buildings
and is dwarfed by formless lumps.
And yet, amid the weathered stones he finds
a cardboard box. It has no
insignia; nothing printed on the side.
Joel climbs into the box, seals it from inside,
mails himself home.
OUTSIDE THE BOX: bodiless observer
watches from uncertain vantage point
watches with curiosity as pink digits manipulate flaps
into an overlapping pattern of
simulated security; observing, it adjusts vision
from three dimensions to four, peers
inside the box, inside the boy
observes how he is composed of wet layers of cavities
now filling up their adopted shell
AROUND THE BOX: the ruins seethe and sway
too slowly for a human eye to notice
INSIDE THE BOX: the rasp of cardboard
against his palms feels comforting yet strange;
the heat inside swiftly becomes stifling,
but this too provides a cramped wombspace reassurance.
It's larger, in here, than he expected, and
he presses his ear against the wall,
listening for something moving outside.
Whatever is there makes no noise,
it steps carefully over loose fragments of sandstone,
over the cardboard box.
AROUND THE BOX: heat shimmer veils Heisenberg
details—the expected can never happen here,
but sometimes it just might.
OUTSIDE THE BOX: the observer clears its light-sensing organs
records its impressions of events, shuffles through
reference frames, seeking an unobstructed view.
It seems the box exists only where it cannot
be clearly seen, is occupied only where its occupant
can no longer be observed. Any number of loci
in which a corporeal being steps into the box
lead to confusion and Brownian change.
INSIDE THE BOY: A new watcher
opens a hyperdimensional eye.
INSIDE THE BOX: Joel cannot remember
how he came to this place.
Joel recalls the crash, the inner scream
of finding Mom and Dad dead in their stasis booths.
Joel recalls the rough landing, leaving Mom
to tend more injured Dad, to look for—
Joel cannot remember how he came to this place.
A Joel struggles against the unyielding flaps,
begins to suffocate. A Joel peers through the gap
his fingers make, sensing something watching.
A Joel huddles unharmed in the still-closed box,
sensing something watching. All is
potential energy. All is possibility.
OUTSIDE THE BOX: A foot might fall,
An appendage of indeterminate form might grasp the box,
might bear it away to a place not usually
accessible from the ruined city.
Observers might register consternation.
Something might need to be done.
INSIDE THE BOY: samples are collected, analyzed in real time
(whatever that might be in a given frame of reference);
decisions are made and acted upon.
AROUND THE BOX: probabilities collapse into
determinate states. Heated air shimmers above
stone, brick, and ceramic, transiently taking forms
that resemble what might once have been.
What might be again, or always have been.
INSIDE THE BOX: Joel thinks of his cat,
wonders if it is alive or dead and if
he will ever see it again, had always wanted
a cat, preferred dogs, really, but the cat was free,
free like Joel wanted to be, not inside this box.
Not any more.