Sabrina Orah Mark

The Box

For one whole year Walter B. could not stop, as Beatrice put it, “pulling the fish over the eyes,” and so she decided to discuss it with the others. Three days later, after a series of invitations, Walter B.’s Extraordinary Cousin, The Healer, and The Collector were sprawled on the rug. Beatrice paced the room. “I have asked you here,” she began, “because for one whole year Walter B. has not stopped pulling the fish over the eyes.” “Don’t you mean,” asked The Healer, raising his hand, “the wool?” Beatrice squinted and carried on. “It began innocently enough: first the war cries, then the wires he looped through my sleeves – these were fabrications I could live with. Even when,” she said looking at The Collector, “he swore the stones he brought home were children he rescued from an abandoned airfield, I trusted him. I fed them even. I rocked the stones to sleep.” Beatrice stopped. “Can someone please wake Walter B.’s Extraordinary Cousin up.” The Healer shook him roughly, but Walter B.’s Extraordinary Cousin was, as always, too far gone. “Never mind,” said Beatrice, gathering back her thoughts. “Even the mice Walter B. arranged in the vase and called flowers. Even this I accepted. I plucked their ears. Once I even blew on the fur and made a wish.” Tears began to stream down The Collector’s face. “But when he began calling me Abigail,” said Beatrice wringing her hands, “I could not answer. And so I have asked you here because Walter B. has glossed my last dish. He has thrown off every scent in the house.” The Healer sniffed at the air. Whether it smelled of trains or of clocks or of hats he could not decide. “Incredible,” thought The Healer. “And so I have asked you here,” said Beatrice now shaking, “because you must teach me…” She scratched at her birthmarks, and then she whispered the words she had feared all along: “You must teach me how to answer to Abigail.” The Collector gasped. Walter B.’s Extraordinary Cousin shouted “Beatrice” in his sleep. The Healer leapt up: “I have for you, my Beatrice, my Beatrice, never my Abigail, a solution!” He reached into his pocket and pulled out the plans for the machine he had spent his entire life building. “I call it,” he said beaming, “The Reality Testing Booth.” Beatrice stared at the beautiful dark lines on the page. Her heart fell. “All this is,” she said desperately, “is a box.” “How childish of me,” said The Healer, dropping the plans and disappearing in anger out the door. The Collector followed. He carried Walter B.’s Extraordinary Cousin in his arms. Beatrice looked around. Everyone was gone. “We’re finally,” whispered Beatrice, “alone.” “We’re finally,” whispered Abigail back, “alone.”