THE WAY IT WENT DOWN: LIFE IN A BOX
We went out in the desert, after the old man told me where to go. The group called me, and he was the one that showed up, and that was good enough for me. In a parking lot at a Cash & Carry he got out of his old T-Bird, and stepped to my car.
He was old, but alive, and packing. His face was fat, but it didn't carry down to his body, which looked like a picked clean skeleton. The smell hit me when he settled in, and brought back memories of my mom. Chemotherapy.
We drove for a long time.
The site was new. Some energy concern was putting up a grid of huge, lumbering fans in the middle of the desert outside of Inland Empire. Things the size of hi-rises. A place no one ever thought they'd put anything. Yet here it was; a pilot site for a huge complex, hundreds of millions of dollars, thousands of eyes and hands working the ground every day.
The old man had buried something there, a long time ago. Something the group didn't want found.
We arrived at dusk, and tooled around for fifty minutes, lights on for the last twenty, looking. Finally, with a grunt, he signaled we should stop. There, at the edge of boulders the size of houses that the earth had spat out a hundred million years before Inland Empire, was a capped, small well.
We got the shovels and went over. The old man considered the well. One white stone, the size of a brick, pointed to the southwest.
"There," was all he said, pointing about five feet out from the well on the side of the rock. I told him to sit. I told him I'd dig. He sat, which was good. It took a long time. When I finally struck the box, it let out a hollow booming sound. It was only a foot or two down, but the ground was hard.
"Get out of the hole," the old man said and I did. That's when I heard a noise from in the hole.
The box was something like a PVC coffin. Pearlescent plastic of green and light green. On its lid was a scraped sigil. Something like an eye, or flame or tree. Dirt slid in the cuts on the surface, coloring them red.
"Carl? Carl is that you?" The voice from the box said, muffled, but clear. Then, a stream of panicked words.
"Don't listen to it," the old man said, and pulled out a cylinder from his pocket. An old-looking incendiary grenade.
Inside the box, the thing begged us to let it out.
"Get the kerosene. I should have done this a long time ago," his steroid-fat face gave me an apologetic shrug.