He was in a black box. A coffin? Was he buried alive?
‘The Black Box’
God it was dark! Where was he? The place was small, cramped and confined. He was in a prone position. That’s all he knew at first. Soft silk or satin surrounded him. Why couldn’t he see? The smooth material seemed to be padded. Beyond the padding was a hard surface – Panic! He imagined himself trapped - In a box? – A coffin? - Was he buried alive? Why couldn’t he see? Where was he? What had happened?
He tried to control himself. That’s right, think! What happened? He couldn’t remember. His eyes were now getting used to the darkness inside this box. The lid was firmly shut.
His mind drifted back into a deep, coma-like sleep. It was hardly a restful sleep. A vivid kaleidoscope of pictures started to parade through his mind. One was of a group of people dressed as goblins, witches, vampires, ghosts and demon-like characters. Were they real? Was it fancy dress? They were drinking, dancing, sitting, and lounging in a drunken or drugged stupor.
Another scene presented a bedroom containing an enormous round-shaped bed. Lying in a state of semi dress or undress, depending upon who was looking, was a woman with long blonde hair, dressed up as a witch. Her broom was propped up beside the bed.
The next scene was a dark, cold street, lined with trees. He was walking, or rather, weaving his way between them. Where was he? Where was he going?
In the final scene he was lying in the gutter, in an alleyway. Everything was blurred. His head was spinning. He was free, dancing, laughing, singing, hysterical, crying, sobbing, and screaming –then – he was falling down an endless pit into the ground. Next there was – nothing – blackness – and sleep.
What did these pictures mean? He tried to work his way through them again.
A party? Yes, it was a fancy dress party at his flat. He was dressed as a mortician. He even hired a coffin from a funeral parlour, especially for the event. He’d put the coffin down in his cellar, which he had decorated with lilies in vases, like a real parlour. Dozens of candles replaced the normal electric lighting. The bar was in the corner. Everyone said that the basement was the best part of the evening! As the host, he was the life of the party. He’d called the coffin the ‘black box’. They’d all danced next to the ‘black box’ during the evening. Jokes were cracked about its contents. He’d kept it shut. It was meant to be part of the ‘mystery’ of the evening. Their costumes had completed the effect. It was a macabre display of the unnatural, of gloom and foreboding – of death.
His friends from Uni were all there, dressed in the appropriate Gothic gear. Kate, was there too. The infamous, sexy, seductive Kate dressed as a witch. She had the reputation of the best ‘bike-ride’ in the campus. So it was rumoured anyway. He was the only one to his knowledge that had not had a ‘ride’ on her. His party would change that! She wouldn’t be able to resist! She always said that she loved the ‘macabre’.
By midnight, the house had a combination of smells from alcohol, vomit, spilt food, and smouldering ashtrays with remnants of marijuana stubs. Some guests had opened small packets containing the familiar white powder, which had been inhaled through small straws. The owners of the abused noses were now lounging around with mixed looks of stupor, bliss, or pleasure.
He took Kate to his bedroom upstairs for a ‘ride’. It was the wildest that he had experienced for years. She was a real wildcat, and even managed to leave scratch marks down his back. She wanted a fix. She was starting to shake. He opened the toilet flush and retrieved a small packet of heroin. He mixed the compound into a liquid on a spoon over a candle then retrieved a syringe from the bedside table. He watched as she sank back into the pillow with a sigh of pleasure. He needed some too. He was drunk. His hands fumbled. He dropped the syringe onto the floor. He staggered out of bed and retrieved it. She offered to help. Nah, he was capable of giving his own fix. She backed away and watched. He sat transfixed at the small droplet, dripping off the end of the needle. It had been four, or was it five miss-hits before he found a vein that hadn’t collapsed from the constant abuse of his habit. He groaned with pleasure as the liquid entered his arm. As the smack took effect, a far off voice spoke to him.
‘Hey, do you normally inject that much?’
It was Kate. Silly Kate, what would she know? She’s only started using last month. He felt awesome, invincible, the best ever. He’d then told her to get decent and go downstairs.
He followed her downstairs. People were starting to leave.
‘Beaut party mate.’
‘Blimey, what’ve you two been up to?’
‘See ya Monday.’
The few people left weren’t capable of walking out. They would be there for breakfast. Breakfast! He went to the nearest twenty-four hour supermarket to get some eggs, cereal and bread. It took him ages to weave his way through the aisles. They gave him a strange look, when he paid, dressed in his pinstriped suit with his top hat perched at a jaunty angle on his head.
He made it outside. Some of his friends met him in the alleyway near to his house. He felt weird. The smack injected earlier with Kate was making him nauseous and light headed. His head was spinning – darkness – nothing.
He could see the ‘black box’. His friends were there, standing around, looking at it. A stranger was screwing down the last section on the lid. He called out,
‘Hey! What are you doing to my ‘black box?’
No-one heard him. No-one looked at him. Their heads were bowed. Kate was there. She was crying. Everyone was crying. Why?
‘Hey guys, speak to me!’
Nothing! There was no response. It was as if he wasn’t there. Kate turned and faced him. He reached out to her. She walked towards him – then straight by him as if he were invisible. So where was he? Was he dreaming? Was this some sort of horrible nightmare?
‘I shouldn’t have let him go.’
‘Kate said that he’d used too much.’
He looked around. The room was dimly lit. It was the funeral parlour where he’d hired the coffin for the party. Why was it back here?
‘Good idea of yours to use the ‘black box’.
‘It could have been someone else. Others were pumped up at the party.’
‘Yeah. But it wasn’t.’
He cried out to them again. Nobody seemed to hear him. He wanted to believe that it was some sort of joke. A stupid mistake. He started to cry as they all filed out of the darkened room. The mortician’s assistant slowly wheeled the ‘black box’ out to the chapel next door where everyone was waiting. Quiet music was playing. The celebrant talked. He talked about him! He was saying something about the pity of a wasted life. He had the world at his feet. Everything had been lost, destroyed, for the sake of a moment of ecstasy. Stupidity! It was a pointless waste. Everyone started to pray. Pray for whom? Why didn’t anyone acknowledge his presence? Why was he now outside the ‘black box’? Had he been alive when he first found himself inside it? He put his hand out to make a statement to all those gathered. He was now ‘floating up near the ceiling. Weird. He couldn’t see his hands. They were invisible. He was invisible! Was this a nightmare? Was he now only a disturbed, bodiless soul?
His mind was full of a myriad of images - goblins, witches, vampires, ghosts, drugs, food, laughter, drink, friends, pot, dope, coke, seductive Kate, witches’ brooms, ecstasy, bright crazy colours, spinning trees, fuzzy head, singing, crying, sobbing, and screaming, falling, falling into nothing, nothing – blackness, the blackness of the ‘back box’.
It disappeared behind the curtain. Everyone left. The invisible, bodiless spirit stayed, watching, then went behind the curtain into the backroom. The mortician’s assistant unscrewed the brass handles. Rollers creaked as the ‘black box’ crossed them and entered the furnace’s cauldron of fire into infinity. Everything turned red, hot and insane.
He screamed – a long silent airless scream.
Wendy Laing © 1999
Site: Wendy Laing
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