Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Box

Somewhere that was once called Europe, in what was once a city, a dirty black box was blaring sounds, remote and quiet sounds of speech and song.

The only ears that had heard it for eons had belonged to birds and beasts, but it had blared almost forever. From time immemorial, this box made its strange sounds without interruption, nigt and day. Could any of these creatures recount ancient knowledge, they would not have been able to recall the time when this box was quiet.

So much time had passed since the humans who built the box had dwelt in that place.

There were few signs left of the millions of individuals that had occupied this space, their bustling construction and ceaseless activity older than memories, barely attested by occasional geometric shapes, out-cropping metal structures that had rusted and crumbled until they were hardly recognizable signs of civilization.

A deer, noticing the box for the first time, approached it warily, ears raised. It regarded it for an alert moment, listening, then it resumed grazing on the lush grass that surrounded the depression in the earth where the box had always sat, so far as anything living knew.

Even the most ancient of trees was not yet a seed when the box had made its first sound.

The grazing deer raised its head awhile later, noticing a nearby scent or sound that was unfamiliar. It looked around, chewing, ears swiveling slightly, until a wooden shaft zipped past its flank.

At this the creature bounded gracefully in the opposite direction from which the shaft had come, narrowly avoiding the next.

A few moments later, a man stepped heavily into the grassy clearing. He regarded the wind, regarded the sound made by the as yet unseen box. It seemed safe to enter the clearing, but such a sound he had never encountered in all his years as a hunter.

Ever careful of the unfamiliar, especially when it could be magic, Eket ventured closer, frightened by this unusual noise, but curious. Something about it seemed human, yet there were no words he could understand, and a strange muted quality pervaded all sounds.

Coming closer, he could see the black box, rectangular in shape, black but caked with dirt. Gingerly, he dared to move closer, listening for a long period. He looked at the knobs and saw a light, realizing that the device was something quite strange.

After a time, the sounds changed: there was still an unfamiliar voice, whic maybe resembled language of tribes far to the south, but there was music. The instruments were unfamiliar, and the way it was played was foreign to his ear, but it was unmistakably music.

Music was only made by men and Gods. This frightened Eket. Had he found a device of the gods? Some magic music box, which played itself at their behest?

Then why was it discarded so? Perhaps Zedhut was testing him, and it was meant only to appear discarded. The God of Temptation surely tested men in such a way, at times. Or perhaps some spirits had been imprisoned within this box for attempting to deceive Pa'Lisi Truthsayer. There were many such tales.

Great magic seemed to surround this object, and Eket, upon realizing what that could mean, quickly left that place. He warned his people of venturing to this distant clearing, and the Shaman's visions soon confirmed that it had indeed been Thyljak the Slayer's doing. It was giants who had displeased him by creating this music box which failed to win him the love of Yila'sa, and he slew them and all their kin under the earth, only to capture their souls in the box.

Their torment was to repeat forever their failure by playing the strange, unskillful music that had disappointed the Slayer.

Eket and his people sometimes told the tale of the box in the years that ensued, but the location of the box was forgotten, and after a time the people had left that land because of a great drought, and the fires that it brought.

The box was again forgotten for many a year after that.

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