a tale of two boxes

somewhere in this vast universe, there lives a world filled with boxes. there are many many many boxes in this world, and they come in all shapes and sizes and colors. when you open them, without fail, the boxes have many different objects and mysteries inside of them. there are no promises made about what boxes contain—you cannot let yourself expect anything of boxes, for they are vast and unending, the kinds of boxes that exist. this is the world of boxes.

in one part of this world, there once lived a box. in your measuring system it would be about two meters tall, but the world of boxes does not use measuring systems. boxes do not need such things. they feel no duty to numbers, no sense of obligation to units of measurement, no desire for the relief you might associate with mathematical exactness. why would they?

all boxes are special, but this box was also very special. i’m sorry to say that you do not have all of the perceptual faculties needed for me to convey just quite why this box was very special with any honesty or conviction, but i can tell you that it smelled very good when you opened it up, such that the the air would fill with a freshness, certainly the sense of adventure, but also a scent not unlike that of peppermint, and the crisp musk of old books that keep dusty secrets in them they have promised never to tell.

this box had a definite volume, but like many boxes, it did not like to retain a particular shape. it would stretch this way and that, folding into this configuration and dancing into that possibility space. it felt happiest on the sunny afternoons by the seaside, when it could run and play and feel the warmth of the entire world of boxes.

this box also had its sorrows, and while i don’t like to think of it, i am permitted to tell you that inside of the box there was a pit and a hole and a tangle, a darkness that was very old and hard to look at with any precision, for it did not like to be seen, preferring instead to twist and turn and wobble, moving into the little crevices of the box and sneaking out of the way of any pesky observers who might witness it in all its old sadness and pain and confusion.

this pit of darkness did not diminish in the slightest the specialness of the box, or its warm complexion, or the smell of peppermint you could nose-glimpse when it would walk in a room. in fact, truth be told, this shifty tangle of blackened suffering was somehow paramount for the formation of that peculiar hopeful aroma, the sense of minty-possibility and scroll-wisdom.

unfortunately, this fact, that its suffering was intimately enmeshed with its glory and beauty, did not diminish in the slightest the depth of despair this box felt when it had occasion to remember the tangle buried within it.

in another part of the world, very far away, lived another box. yes, this box was also quite special, and no, i can’t tell you with any degree of plausibility exactly why. i must admit that i don’t have very much faith at all that your kind can understand boxes very well. you humans seem much too preoccupied with straight lines, and narrowly-defined concepts, and material things and their nature, to have any sense of the poetry and soul afforded by the miracle of boxes in general, or the remarkable nature of each individual box in this world. i don’t mean to insult you—you seem very bright, actually—but perhaps it’s a bit like asking a tree in your world to do trigonometry, or what you call a cat to write an essay on Homeric Verse or even a love letter. trees and cats have better things to do, really, or at least things more proper to their nature.

well, that’s not quite right, because it would be good if you had a sense of these boxes, a real sense of it. i think that would be quite nice for you, even healing, but it does seem hard for you to grasp. i’m not convinced that you can, exactly. i’m so sorry about that.

in any case, this other box was a very nice box, a very nice box indeed. it had a very different volume—volume is something that i know that you can readily conceive of, well done with that. the spectrum of vision works quite a bit differently in this world, but for our purposes you could say squarely enough that this was a very colorful box, with something that is approximately like a fern green, and an olive brown, and a very handsome black.

however it decided to shape-shift itself on a given morning or evening, this box was invariably folded into a very pleasing spatial pattern. you would like to see it. whatever shape it chose had a kind of aesthetic economy, an optical grace of unknown geometry, that you might call musical or even… devotional. i do apologize that it’s so hard to make sense of all of this.

there were many other lovely qualities of this box and its nature. all of the other boxes loved it very much, you see, for many reasons that are hard for me to point you at, but were very obvious to all the boxes who met it. to use a metaphor you might follow, it was a very friendly box, and the other boxes felt safe around it, as if they had just woken from a good night’s sleep and were lucky enough to be able to remember a very pleasant dream in elaborate detail, a dream whose symbols and archetypes happened to pertain to the significance of their character and even the very universe. of course it wasn’t like that at all in the slightest, not exactly, but this explanation will have to do for now.

amongst many other things, this second box held within it something like a key, a golden key, of a very reasonable size and utterly charming to look at. the box had never known what to do with this key, for this key had always been there, and the box had grown accustomed to its presence. truth be told, the box did not make much of the key, not at all. you humans are like this, too, i suppose.

the most important thing to tell you about this key, which our hero the second box did not know at all of course, but i can divulge briefly to you, is that this key, were you to bring it close to our first box’s deep hole, would cause that very same hole to politely present itself in the form of a keyhole, and offer itself in all humility to the key and the second box, and the whole mess would resolve itself nicely.

the problem, of course, was that these two boxes were very, very far away from each other, and had no sense of the fact of their fates being intertwined. even if, through divine intervention or some peculiar happenstance, they were to meet, it might not become clear that the second box’s key was meant to unlock the first box’s dark hole, that it might be untangled once and for all.

i am not allowed to tell you what happened next. the worst of it is that i feel quite confident that you would understand it, actually, but i am under strict orders on this matter. i will be permitted to tell you, one day, but in the meantime you must find a way to summon the greatest patience you can manage, and wait until you hear the end of this saga. if you find that you can’t wait, i will say that you can instead invoke a modicum of imagination, and decide your own ending—but i’m afraid you’ll be left with a lurking sense of dissatisfaction, wondering how it really ended, this tale of two boxes.

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