The Blinkin’ Box


I peer out, my eyes pressed to the cold metal slit. The brick wall opposite often forms a landscape scarred with shadows, but today it is nothing but a red blur. It stings my eyes as I watch a beetle scuttle across, willing it on with silent words. When it reaches the other side, I leap for joy. Well I would, if I had the room.

Early every morning, patches of deep blue trudge by. Then come the greys and blacks, hastening in a sole direction. But it is the flutter of colours filling the remaining daylight hours that delights me most, bringing with it delicate scents and whispered voices. Then, finally, as night falls, the whole ballet rewinds, ready to repeat again.

Not all is routine. From time to time, thin wedges of paper get shoved into my face through the narrow slit. Only yesterday, I got one in my ear. Damn sharp it was. Can’t complain though; they bring welcome sustenance, something I can chew on for hours.

It is time for the colours. My breath comes in short, sharp bursts and my mouth goes dry. I shift to squint out, biting my lip as I do, but the slit is obscured. Blast! A long drawn-out groan close to my feet, like metal straining against metal, has me scrambling to get away. But there is nowhere to go.

“‘Ere give us a ‘and with them bolts,” a rough voice calls out. It is so close, it could be in my head. “Pillar boxes ain’t no blinkin’ use any rate. Who’d be postin’ flippin’ letters these days.”

The shifting of metal on metal takes up again. Once, twice, three times in steady succession, only to stop, then start again. When it finally ceases, a metal object clatters to the ground and the voice calls out, “Right yer go! Lift ‘er up. Steady as she goes.”

The walls around me tremble and the unthinkable happens. Light streams in at my feet. I clench my eyes, wrap my arms tight around my chest and hold my breath, every muscle tensed to flee. But fleeing is no option.

Air swirls about me, setting my hairs on end as a stark light probes my every inch. I sway sightless. Exposed. Vulnerable. Seeking reassurance, I crack open my eyes. The world stretches away in every direction. Its sheer immensity has me blinking in amazement. People of all shapes and sizes stand frozen like grotesque statues, ogling. Their expressions shift from disbelief to distain to disgust. Then the muttering begins.

With no box left to sustain me, I sag, then sink slowly, till I am but a formless mess that flows out across the pavement, lost and bewildered, like spilt water far from its cup.

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