A noise pulsed from it, as regular as the ticking of a clock, but more similar to the bubbling of boiling water than the clean sound of a clock hand. A noise that seemed to shake the box back and forth with each throb, so that it crackled as it rocked on the wet cement. But there didn’t seem to be anything in the box that made it move, no evidence of internal force, a bend or a lump to say, “Hey, I’m full. Go away.”
What’s more, there didn’t seem to be any join to the box. Every cardboard box usually has a join, where the folded sheet meets itself at a corner, but this just seemed to be constructed as a cube, no staples stinging fingertips, or brown packing sticky tap to irritate hair. No, just unmarked cardboard tipping back and forth, emitting a noise like a baby burbling.
And what is it doing outside our house? The box is just an inch higher than my wife, who stands with her hand held before it like an unwilling sacrifice to the box, afraid to move closer to touch. I had heard no noise of a delivery van, no rustling of feet or squeal of kids playing a joke. But it is just noon, and the box wasn’t here and hour ago when I got the paper. “Come on,” I say, “lets take it inside.”
We move to either side of the box, and I check out the street to see if anyone is watching but there is no one, even now, with the sun just out. So, we grab it and I count.
“3… 2… 1.”
But as we lift, the box pops off the ground with our combined effort, like it jumped, and my wife steps away from it with shock. It is empty. When it lands lightly back on the cement, it had stopped rocking completely.
My wife is locked to the box, her eyes wide, the corners of her mouth turned down, her lips twisted.
She blinks. And again. Her eyes twirl to look at me, but the rest of her body remains in the same tense stance.
“Open the door. I’ll carry it inside.”
And she makes for the front door, rolling her eyes at the box once to make sure it didn’t move. When I have it inside, she already has cleared an area in the sitting room for it.