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Anthology One: Boxes

By Martin MacInnes, art by Carrie Crow.

1. A newly-wed couple goes up in a hot-air balloon, and as it lands two different people get out, with no knowledge of how they got there.

2. A family of four returns from a ten-day holiday in southern Spain: their home is no longer there, the ground is levelled, the neighbours have not noticed anything change.

3. A courier travels from Ecuador to Siberia with a USB stick containing a thorough description of his journey; he reads this, reads about his reading, and closes his eyes.

4. A 400-person Boeing 767 lands routinely on a Heathrow runway; nobody gets out. 16 minutes later security opens the doors, and the aircraft is empty.

5. A girl reported missing aged 11 returns nine years later. The community, having presumed her dead, assigns a new name and imposes sanctions on any reference to her past identity.

6. A pre-fab hanger is dropped over a beached cruise-ship. A watchman visits the hanger daily, entering through the single small door. Eleven years later an inspector notes the hanger is empty, though the watchman has observed no difference day-to-day.

7. A coach carrying 47 passengers in south-west Algeria stops by a cave-formation featuring pre-historic art. On returning, the driver sees the door to the coach has locked. New security software shuts down the engine if the windows are smashed; they cannot enter the vehicle. After three days the passengers and the driver decide to walk in different directions in the hope of finding a village or a small town. 11 days later the first of the bodies is found, skinless. When all the bodies are discovered, and the sites marked onto a map, the chief of police sees that a perfect circle has been traced, the empty vehicle set at the precise centre.

8. A small cruise-ship drifts unscheduled into a shipping-lane off Cape Town; coastguards discover a single passenger on board, locked in a cabin on the bottom deck. No crew are present. The passenger recalls nothing, and appears to have been sedated. Cameras found throughout the ship contain monochrome stills and short-films from the journey to Antarctica, the passengers set into stock poses, wearing blank expressions. Every passenger listed on the manifest is identified by relatives in the photographs, except for the one anonymous figure remaining, who maintains he recalls nothing.

9. A seven year old child in Shaanxi province determines not to grow any bigger, and sleeps every night in a compact, lid-less steel container. During the day she monitors herself for any signs of growth, relaxing each evening when she fits back into the same steel box.

10. A Chicago born architect has a tall glass box installed in her living room, the box measuring two-feet by nine-feet by two-feet. Every morning the box is filled to the brim with sea-water and the architect climbs the steps and drops in. The water that overflows is equal in volume to her body-mass, and is collected in a large surrounding bowl beneath. This is the total amount of water that she permits herself to use daily in cooking, drinking, and washing.

11. A first-time mother photographs her child at 11:11am daily, and continues to do so as the child ages. Concessions are made at the child’s nursery and then at school, the doctor specifying ‘a nervous ailment’, and the child is allowed to record herself every morning. The printed photographs are held in a box made from the tree felled in their garden, and locked in the drawer disguised in the side of the mother’s bed.

12. A 36-year old German man presents himself as a missing 11 year-old boy, and is eagerly welcomed home by the Spanish family. He lives with them for six years; every night they eat together and reminisce. The German is eventually detained by police after arriving at the station with a shovel and a sealed wooden-crate smeared in mud. The crate had been dug from the family garden, and inside are the bones of the boy.
Two years later psychiatric profilers arrive from Virginia to interview him, but the prison guards cannot find him. Studying video-footage, the profilers see the prisoner engaged in long muted conversations with the guards, and then, with no apparent transition, they see him dressed like the guards and behaving like them. Each of the guards is subsequently interviewed, and asked A: why he has fraternised with the German man, and B: whether he is in fact the German man.

13. 11 men and women are lifted separately in airplanes to the edge of the exosphere, beyond which is considered space. The pilots circle while hostesses administer sedatives to each of the passengers, who are encouraged to dream. Upon waking, wearing eye-masks and still many miles above earth, each passenger recounts his dreams at length, the results recorded onto dictaphones.
The pilots return to ground and the dream data is analysed for deep and surface level symmetry. The next stage is to strip each dream of superfluous content, leaving only spine. Condensed, the dream-core is transferred to the organising company’s research departments in physics and economics, and there converted into speculative equations. The equations are applied in diverse areas, predicting global financial patterns and the rate and shape of species extinction.
The 11 dreamers are monitored remotely and obliged to submit to full medical reviews each month. Common symptoms include nausea, headache, blinding deja-vu, distorted time-sense, failing spatial navigation and ineffective immunity. 34% of the dreamers report suicidal urges, while an overwhelming desire to visit birthplaces is general. Instances of divorce among the dreamers is significantly above national average for their socioeconomic type.
Though no physical records of the experiment are retained, rumours grow about occult government and multinational corporate malpractice. The identity of the eleven is never satisfactorily confirmed. Fanatics claim the equation is repeated several million times in the junk regions of the human genome. The most avid of the enthusiasts launches his investigative dossier on balloons rising to the height of the original aircrafts. Followers claim the subsequent period of unusual tropical storms is directly contingent on this launch, the expressed ideas, alluding to the equation, compressing the air and making something burst.

14. A team of commercial geo-thermal experts directs three months of deep-drilling in the south-Nevada desert. Three miles beneath the earth-surface a single black leather suitcase is discovered, locked. The suitcase appears marginally heavier than would be expected empty, but it remains possible it holds only itself. X-rays reveal nothing conclusive, muffled shadows and echoes. Temporary administrative workers are hired in shifts to try combinations beginning at 000000, ascending.
As the years pass many claims are made as to the contents of the suitcase. Some groups believe it contains blueprints, instructions, future history. A new piece of technology that will cause humanity to leap forward into something else. A source of unlimited energy. Devotees of several religions are united in believing the suitcase contains the true name of God, and campaign for the restoration of the locked suitcase to the ground. Rumours suggest the suitcase has in fact been opened, that what it contains are instructions on how to reach a certain point in space, a journey that will take thousands of years and that will result, finally, in some kind of meeting, a revelation. Cynics believe the case was planted by global corporations in league with various governments, with the successful intention of distracting billions of people from injustices that are going on daily. It is possible, one physicist said, apparently earnestly, that the suitcase actually contains itself, as well as everything else, every object and organism on the earth, every star and planet, the whole universe, in fact. It is imperative, he said, that we do not open the box.


Martin MacInnes won a 2014 New Writers Award from the Scottish Book Trust and the 2014 Manchester Fiction Prize.

Carrie Crow is a fine art, performance,and horse racing photographer, whose work has been exhibited internationally at the Queens Museuem of art, Newspace Center for Photography, Kunst Altonale,and Galleria Perela, during the 20011 Venice Biennale. Her work has also appeared in the New York Times, The New York Post, Time Out New York, and North Sea Jazz Fest. Born and raised in Los Angeles and a long time resident of New York City, Carrie frequently travels and works in Paris, France.

Using pay-telescopes at tourist sites around the world  Observatorio isolates micro-landscapes within the vast panorama, creating a possibility for quiet observation in the midst of oftentimes dense congestion.  Typically positioned in the outdoors, the pay-telescopes have weathered the ravages of time and each lends its unique properties to the image—light leaks, vignetting, dust and scratches—which register not only the subject at hand, but the history of the device and the conditions at the moment of seeing.  By using a pay-per-use medium alongside a digital camera, Crow aims to slow down my own photographic process and arrive at a method that is both traditional and modern.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Wednesday, November 19th, 2014.