by George Morse
I snuck out for a walk.
A sign down the block read, ‘Smitty’s Self-Storage’.
Hmm… ‘Self-storage’. What’s that mean? … Maybe Smitty’s locked himself away… Or maybe a guy in a white coat told him he’s been ‘withholding’.
I needed to understand, so I hurried that way.
Smitty’s office was furnished with metal chairs, a Formica-topped counter, a computer with a bulky monitor, a bank of surveillance screens, and two vending machines. No Smitty.
I stepped through a back door onto a driveway that ran between two long rows of metal storage units.
“Smitty?” I shouted. “Smitty?”
Hearing no answer, I went to the nearest of the garage-style doors and gave the handle a tug.
I tried door number two.
I stopped at door number three. It came up with a hard pull and a nails-on-a-chalkboard screech.
I stepped inside.
Behind me, the door suddenly slid down its track and landed with an enormous crash. Something flew by my face and hit the door with a clang. I was in the dark.
Literally and figuratively. How often does that happen?
I felt for a light switch and turned it on. Overhead, fluorescents flickered to life with a loud buzz. I gazed around and saw boxes lining the walls. Big ones, little ones, some neatly stacked, some jumbled, some cardboard, some wood, some metal.
I stepped along one wall and came to a medium-sized box labelled, ‘Schrödinger’. I knew the contents of that box. It had to be the cat.
Not the midnight-memories kind of cat, but the quantum physics kind. The kind where you ask, “Is the cat in the box alive or dead?” and get the answer,
I’ll leave the box alone. My curiosity might kill him, if he’s not already dead.
Next to the cat’s abode, I spotted a pile of really tiny boxes. There was a green one and a pink one and a blue one and yellow one…but they all looked the same.
I poked a hole in one, set it atop the pile, and turned it at an angle to the others.
A battered cardboard cube sat along the rear wall. I opened it and found a black, shriveled banana and an ancient reel-to-reel tape.
Maybe it’s some old guy yammering about his life…Maybe it’s not. Maybe it explains what’s going on here. How would I know? There’s no tape player…What is this place?…. Maybe I’m being punk’d…
I looked for a camera, but couldn’t spot one.
Maybe this is some government thing. Be just like them. Try to drive people crazy.
A big wooden crate lurking in a corner said, ‘Property of U.S. Government’.
Proof? Maybe. The crate reminds me of something in that Indiana Jones movie…
I tore at the crate, bloodied my hands, but couldn’t pull it apart. It had to be fastened with titanium bolts, or something.
The bastards! The sneaky bastards! They convinced everybody they’d hidden it in some giant warehouse, with a million other crates just like it. But could it really be here, in a forlorn little storage unit in the middle of nowhere? … God!
I need to get out of here!
I tried the door, but it wouldn’t budge. I pounded and screamed, “Help! Help!” but got no response. I thought I heard strains of Hotel California, but maybe that was just in my head.
I’ve been banging on that door and screaming for days now, but nobody’s answered. The lights keep flickering and buzzing and driving me crazy. On the other hand, when I turn off the lights, I’m in scary, inky darkness, and I can’t sleep.
One day, I found a box labelled, ‘Whitman’.
Oh, good! Something to read!
I was wrong–it was a box of chocolates. I tried to make them last. Picking the right one was unbearably hard, though, because, you know, you never know … Sometimes it took me hours to decide, but in any case, the chocolates are all gone now.
Have been for days.
I’ve been drinking bottled water I found in a box labelled, ‘Eau Canada’. I pee in the empty bottles, and as for the other, well…there are lots of boxes.
I’m hungry. Very, very hungry.
Could eat the cat. But, if I open the box, will I find a stinking, decaying corpse, or will a deranged little creature leap out and claw at my eyes?
I think I’m beginning to hallucinate.
How would I know?
I’ve realized, after all these days, that I’m in a box, and you, on the outside, don’t know if I’m alive or dead. Of course, for you, the answer is always,”Yes”.
But—what about…for me? Because here’s the real question, the one that’s been clawing at my brain…
Does the cat know?
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George Morse lives in Hamburg, New York. He enjoys thinking outside the box.