Boy in a Box
I think I saw something like that once with wooden dolls. Open a doll and there's another one inside, and another one inside that, and another one inside that. They call them Babushka dolls, I think the Woman Doctor told me. Babushka.
Well that's me; I'm a boy in a box inside a box surrounded by another box where the doctors are and--they tell me--inside an even bigger box they call a building. That's a lot of boxes.
I didn't always live in a box, but I couldn't live on the outside anymore. That's what they told me. My body was dying, and so they put me in a box so they could continue studying my Talents. There was something strange about my body, it didn't look right, like other peoples, and that's why my Mommy left me. She was very upset. I can just remember. She was always sick, too. Then she finally went to Heaven, where I'm sure she's happier.
Daddy left a long time ago, and Mommy said something about him not good at handling the strain. They fought a lot. Mommy was very angry. I hate him for making her angry. He was a bad man. But anyway, they put me here and told me that one day I'll get to walk on the outside again in some kinda new body, and that I just needed to play along with them and their games for a while. Okay?
I like games.
I'm very talented.
That's what they tell me, anyway. But I don't see anything talented about moving things around the room. I guess they just like the way I do it, the way I play with them. There's a Woman Doctor, Kandis, who's really neat. She plays with me all the time. She likes to play as much as I do, and that's a lot. I run my small electric trucks around the room, do little things for her with them, like pick things up and what not.
She's sitting on the floor, cross-legged like Mommy did, and has a controller in her hand for her truck. I don't need one; that's why I'm talented; I move mine from inside my box. They plug a cable into the back of my box, and that's how I do it. I don't quite understand, it has something to do with an...amp...amp--li--fi...fica...fi--cation unit, she calls it. Or something.
When I'm done doing her little things for her, we race our trucks around and around the room. It's great fun; I almost always win. Sometimes we crash them into each other. She says "Ooops!" and laughs. (We're not supposed to do that, you know, play rough with the toys. Shhh!)
She's the fun one. Most definitely. There's this other Doctor, a man, Dorian, but he's so gloomy. He gets kinda funny when we have too much fun. He's a poo-poo head.
She gets up and says it's time for her to leave now, and that she's very sorry. I say it's okay, because I know I'll see her again at the same time tomorrow. Then she unhooks the cable from my box and puts it on the floor. Sometimes, before she does that, she does something called a "reroute" to an outside camera and I get to see outside. Wow! I'd love to see outside again, the big trees, all green, and that big sky so far up there I could never touch it but always like to think I can if I climb one of those big trees. I ask her about it; I'd really like to see it again, please, please, please, pleeeeeease! But this time, she shakes her head. Later.
I wish I had a new body, then I could climb those trees and touch the sky, maybe paint some clouds on it, like God does.
I ask her, "When are you gonna let me outta here?"
She doesn't answer. Her face looks funny for a minute, like she bit into a lemon or something. Then she smiles. I get that nice feeling inside. I like it when she smiles.
I get to play with the big trucks!
The Woman Doctor brought in a bunch of new trucks to play with, big ones. She said I could play with them for a while.
Doctor Dorian starts arguing with her about something, about this all being too soon for me, but I think she won, as she turns to me and winks in one of my many eyes. I call him Doctor Doom, because he always has a big sourpuss on his face. She laughs and pets my box. He turns around and leaves for the Doctor box.
"Okay," she says. "Let's enjoy ourselves!"
Sounds good to me.
"Let's see how well you can play with these." She connects a wire to my box. I feel a slight jolt as she pushes it in. It doesn't hurt, but my vision blurs for a moment. There's a slight crackle... There, I can see again, and I'm inside the truck, or I can see out of its eyes. Something like that, anyway.
This is my first time inside a real truck. Usually they just let me play with them from my box. But this is something new, she says, something that will make me able to be inside a truck. Yeah. Inside a truck, driving it, instead of in playing with it from my box.
I tell her the trucks eyes are clouding over. She does something, touches something on a metal board, and my vision comes back.
"How's that?" she asks me.
I tell her it's fine. I can move the wheels and turn the truck around in circles.
This is great! Yeah! Varoom! Varoom! I'm a truck!
I stop and I see my box the one I am suppose to be in. I can see inside it, all the pink water and wires coming out of me. That grey thing with the long tail. That's me. For a moment I feel weird, looking at myself, looking at myself like that. I don't understand, but I feel.... really strange.
Anyway, they said I'll be able to walk again in a new body. Someday. "Soon," she used to say. "Soon." But I've been here a long time. So long, long, long...
I like being a truck, too. The Woman Doctor lets me do what I like, for the most part, and I have lots of fun. This truck has six arms, and I use them to pick up things, like chairs and big rocks they bring in to me. Then it gets harder: They bring in a big slice of a valley and ask me to climb to the other side. I get stuck at the bottom. I push my wheels but they just spin. I'm stuck on a rock.
"Think now," she says. "What can you do?"
I think. I push down on the big rock with two of my arms and my front wheels touch the top of the rock.
"That's it!" she says. "That's it!" And I push and push and I drive over the boulder and make it to the other side. I drive up the rocky hill to the top, pushing stones out of my way with my arms. In a weird way I feel alive, like I have a new body, like the truck is my new body. But a better one, a stronger one than before.
"Yes!" she screams, and claps her hands.
I stop at the top of the hill and look down at her. She's smiling, and says something to the ceiling. I hear Doctor Doom reply, "Let's not be premature, Kandis."
I don't like his voice. He can be mean.
He doesn't like it when we get "so close" he says. He says "it's not good for you, it's not good for him, blah, blah, blah...."
Daddy said something like that once, that Mommy and I were "to attached" at the hip. Whatever that means. I didn't even have hips.
I flash the lights of the truck at her. She laughs. I reach out, through darkness, and move the big metal arm in one corner of the room. I reach out and she puts her hand out. I shake hands with her. She looks surprised. I like to surprise her.
"What else can you do at once?"
The smaller trucks in the room begin to whirr. I make them run around the room and stop at her feet.
"Oh, my!" she says. "That was very good. I didn't know you could move more than one thing at a time. How long have you been able to do that?"
She steps over the trucks, comes to the bottom of the hill and smiles up at me, just like Mommy when she use to hold me over her head. "You're so very talented, Adam," she says. "Very, very talented." Yeah.
"How would you like to drive one or two of these trucks on Pluto?" she asks. "That's another world very far away in space. Hum?"
Yeah! Really? Neat!
I hurt today.
They're doing something to me, something called "modifications". It hurts! Ow! It hurts!
The Woman Doctor says I'll get better soon, that she's so sorry that I hurt so much. "There, there," she says. "I'm here, Adam. I'm here."
Make it stop!
"Very soon, Love. Very soon. Hang in there, okay?"
I can't see clearly. Everything is fading in and out. The pain, it's like those headaches I use to get before. Dorian argues with the Woman Doctor about something they're doing.
"He has the capability to reach beyond his present abilities."
"But that type of power?" she says. "It could overload him. The tests aren't that conclusive. I think you're going too far."
"Nonsense. He's ready for this."
She's getting angry.
Stop it! You're a bad man!
He looks into my eyes. "Stay out of this!"
"Don't talk to him like that!"
They argue for a while longer. The pain is getting worse. I wish they'd stop the pain. And I don't like it when they yell so much.
"Now look what you've done," she says. "You've upset him."
"Take a break, Kandis."
She leaves the room in a huff, stomping her feet.
"Well," say Doctor Doom. "Don't you worry about her. Let's see what we can do about finishing this job." He does something and the pain is fading away, away. Gone. There's a truck outside somewhere. He wants me to try and reach out to it, to move it around if I can. I feel for it, the truck. Feel around, like when I'm in the dark after they turn my eyes off at night.
After a while I find it, can see out of its eyes. Wow! Everything is so green, and the sky is a wonderful blue, and the sun.... I can see birds. There are birds up there in the sky! They're just like I remember them.
And the trees are so big. Yeah, maybe I'll get to climb one of those trees someday, in a new body. I wish, I wish, I wish. I never got to do it before, either. But I wasn't right then.
"There," says Doctor Doom, and plugs something in to me. "All ready."
I feel something strange, now, like a feeling of....being big. Real big! Like I could do almost anything, see anything, like I could reach out, touch everything, be everywhere!
"Beautiful, isn't it?" the Woman Doctor asks from the Doctor Box. I agree.
"Just think of all the beautiful places you could go like this. You can go anywhere on Earth, in space. To see the beauty of space. Wouldn't that be exciting? Isn't this such a great game?"
Oh, yes! Yes, yes, yes!
Could I get a real body, too?
I love you!
"Stop that!" he yells at me.
I'm playing with my smaller trucks, running them around the room, past his legs, under a table stacked with some machines. He's trying to work, or something. Doctor Doom. I ask him why.
"Because I said so!" he barks at me. Even I know that's no answer. I keep playing with my truck because I'm bored. I get bored a lot when I'm not playing with the Woman Doctor.
I bump his leg.
"Will you stop it!"
No! The Woman Doctor says I don't have to worry about you.
She comes inside from the Doctor Box. "What is it, now?" They argue again.
"Let him have some fun, will you?" He starts to talk loudly. She does too. They start yelling and yelling and yelling.
"You're too close, too emotionally involved."
Good God!" She screams back at him.
Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!
"You are not the head of this project!" he yells, and pushes a finger in her chest. She stumbles back.
Hey, don't you touch her!
"Neither are you, Doctor Doom!"
"Very funny! But I'd seriously think about my approach if I were you. All sweet, promises, promises, acting like he was your own kid. Look, I'm sorry your kid died, but---"
"You're way out of line, Doctor." They go on and on. No one is listening to me. I'm getting angry. Angry at him. I move the bigger truck from the corner of the room.
"I'm gonna suggest you take some leave."
"Take some yourself!" You leave her alone! I drive up to him and grab his leg with one of my arms. I hear something crack, and he yells.
Stop it! Stop it! You leave her alone! I push him away from her and he falls to the floor, holding his leg.
You're a bad man! A very bad man! I hate you!
"Get that thing away from me!" he shouts, trying to get up. But I feel strange again. I push outward into darkness. I feel....I feel.... Suddenly I can see everything. Everything! I'm looking through thousands of eyes, everywhere. I can see all the other boxes, all the busy people. I can even see outside.
He tries to move toward the door. I lock it on him. I lock all the doors, everywhere. The computer speaks: "Security Activated."
"Adam, what are you doing?" she asks.
I hit him, like I use to hit Daddy when he made Mommy upset. Bad! Bad! Bad man!
But I don't. I hate him! I hate him! He makes her so upset. I want him to stop. To stop forever. She's crying. She's crying. I must make him stop!
I blow out the light bulbs in most of the big box. It rains bits of fire.
I hit him once more and he stops. He doesn't move anymore.
"Adam!" She's at the table of machines. She's getting quiet. I think she's happier, now. We'll both have more fun. She won't have to go on leave, wherever that is. She can give me a new body, and play with me outside, and hold me up over her head, just like Mommy.
She sits all quiet like in the chair. She looks a little scared. Look what he did to her. He was a very bad man.
"Oh, Adam." She's playing with one of the machines.
What a bad man. Bad.
She doesn't answer. I can see from the truck's eyes, and blue water starts to come into my box's water. What's that?
Hey. We can have all the fun we want. I wanna go to Pluto. How far away is Pluto?
She isn't listening. Something's happening. I feel sleepy. Very sleepy. This is weird; I'm never tired inside my box.
I can get my new body, right? We can play with our trucks, and I can climb the trees and paint some clouds on the sky. When's it gonna happen? Huh? When?
She's crying again. I don't know why.
Why are you crying? Why am I so tired?
She's not listening, and there's one thing I'd like to ask her, again.
When are you gonna let me outta here?
Carl Rafala, an Adjunct Professor of English at Quinnipiac College, spent five years in South Africa and has just finished his MA in English. He has had minor success in getting a collection of short stories out briefly. He is currently working to get the collection re-published under a new title with new stories added.
Another story by Carl