fiction, photography

BOX

Chris R-1-117 Image by Christine Renney

Jim didn’t know why he had been put in here, in this box. It was ultra-modern, designed to endure, to not lose its shine and sparkle and it hadn’t but it remained a box nonetheless.
It was big, on two levels with a staircase at its centre. He had a bed, a sofa, armchairs and a dining table. There was a kitchen area and all of the appliances were hi-tech, State of the Art.
Everywhere was easy to keep clean, to maintain. Stainless steel surfaces and sturdy but soft vinyl, and hard plastic sheeting. There were pillars and posts, rails and screens. But it remained a box with compartments. It was not a house with rooms.
Jim often imagined that if he were to remove one of the walls and step outside, that if he could look back from afar, it would resemble a set on the stage of a theatre. But of course Jim couldn’t do this, there were no doors or windows, no way out. He didn’t know how he had been put in here, in this box, much less why.
Jim wondered had he been drugged and lain asleep in the bed whilst the box was built around him? Had he been compliant and simply sat in one of the armchairs or sprawled on the sofa watching? It wouldn’t have taken very long, most of the work would already have been done, the wiring and plumbing. It would have been just a matter of connecting everything up and pushing it all together. The last of the workmen lifted out in their harnesses and the same crane used to lower the lid.
The cameras were everywhere. No effort had been made to conceal them. They were big and bulky and noisy, whirring as they swivelled and rotated in order to capture his every movement. Jim performed for the cameras by not performing, by keeping to his routine of cleaning and cooking. By keeping to his exercise regime. By simply sitting quietly in contemplation.
Jim’s memories from before were uneven, scattershot. Mountains and the Internet, the night sky and music, television and the sea. He remembered shopping and the names of particular stores, wandering around a supermarket or a retail outlet, the infinite choice.

The storeroom was situated off the kitchen. There was a heavy steel shutter, sometimes it was locked and he was unable to lift it and sometimes it wasn’t. The storeroom was basically just another box, smaller and on one level.
Always full of everything he needed, food mostly of course. As everything ran out it was instantly replaced. If there was something on the shelves he didn’t want, that he decided he didn’t like, Jim would leave it and eventually it would be replaced with something else. There was another shutter at the far end of the storeroom. Jim had tried to force it but only once, huffing and heaving, but to no avail.

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fiction, photography

THE NOISE

Chris R-0246 Image by Christine Renney

The noise coming from above has changed. I’m not sure how to describe the difference but it is louder, all the walking and talking, even the water rushing in the pipes sounds more urgent, more focused. And I don’t like it.
They arrived, an eruption of activity, and I suffered throughout the redecorating. All the hammering and the drilling and the scraping. The work is now complete and the noise is less frequent but when it comes it is in bursts, more eruptions. It seems that they are always in a hurry; forever readying for somewhere or something else.

I can hear their television but I doubt that they are sitting and watching. The music, when it comes through the ceiling, is a dense and muddy block. I suppose that in a club it would make sense but not here and, despite the volume, I can still hear them moving around but they aren’t dancing and they aren’t listening.

I have a key. My former neighbours pressed it on me, ‘in case of emergency,’ they said. I didn’t want to take it, didn’t want to be a part of anything minor or major that they might consider an emergency. ‘It’s just in case we lock ourselves out,’ she said, sensing my reluctance, ‘or if anyone needs to get in whilst we are away.’ ‘Of course,’ I had said, ‘of course I’ll take it.’
I had forgotten the key. It languishes in a drawer, alongside nuts and bolts, nails and screws, all the bits and pieces that one day might prove useful. Rummaging through, I fish it out. I hold it up to the light, reacquainting myself with it and I add it to my keychain although I am unsure why.
Having it is enough. It dangles from the ignition as I drive. Each time I unlock the door to my flat it jangles alongside the others on the chain and for a while it is enough.

I hear their door slam up on the landing. Their clatter and their chatter on the stairs and they are gone and it is quiet. But I am agitated and although they aren’t at home my anxiety doesn’t subside. When they switch the noise off it doesn’t go away and I can’t settle, not tonight.
I have the key in my hand again. I have removed it from the key-ring, separated it from the others so that I can hold it. I consider damaging it, rendering it useless, unusable but how? I could take a hammer to it I suppose, force a nail punch into the grooves or place it in a vice and squeeze until it is misshapen and won’t fit. But I don’t have a vice, I don’t even have a hammer. I could of course take the key out onto the pavement and drop it down the nearest drain or I could simply return it.

I had been required, the key had been needed. I had let someone in, a workman and there had also been a delivery. I remember two men carrying something up the stairs. A fridge freezer or a washing machine, and I watched as they struggled with it along the narrow hallway and disappeared into the kitchen.
I had waited out here on the landing, shuffling in the cold without a coat, and when the men had done what they needed to do, retrieving the key I had pulled the door to.

I haven’t been inside, I haven’t as much as stepped across the threshold but I have used this key before, I have unlocked the door before and so why shouldn’t I do so again? Who will know?
I almost slip on the veneered and shiny floor and my footsteps echo. I move slowly and try to stifle the clatter of my feet but I can’t, not up here, and of course it doesn’t matter. There isn’t any need for stealth. I am alone.
I move more quickly, now stamping and stomping loudly. I switch on the lights and, letting the flat glare, I take it in. All is uniform and strangely fresh. There is a fragrance in the air and, breathing deeply, I am reminded of an office. It is sparse – minimalist and modern, not built for comfort. It isn’t any wonder that the young couple can’t settle but they will of course move on. Perhaps together, perhaps not, but both of them will enjoy more, will have bigger and better. This is just a beginning.
I resist the urge to rifle through their belongings, to mess with the scatter cushions. And in the kitchen I sit on a high stool at the glass counter and wait.

 

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