The Box on the Porch
It was Saturday morning when the doorbell chimed.
“Who the heck would that be?” I was in the kitchen nursing my cup of coffee. I put it down, walked through the living room and answered the door. There was no one there but a two-foot high box was sitting there. I looked outside and could see a van driving off down the street.
The box did not have a label on it. I wondered who had ordered something. Gina had taken the kids skating so I was alone in the house not counting Rufus or Fluff, our dog and cat, respectively.
I tried to pick it up. It was quite heavy to lift. I pushed the door wide open, first checking to make sure the cat did not use the opportunity to escape. She was asleep on the top of the couch. Rufus was outside in the back yard chasing squirrels. I took the box inside and pushed the door shut with my foot.
I set it on the living room floor and looked at it. There was an odour coming from the box. It was an unwashed animal smell. I am quite familiar with that. Rufus, being a dog, loves to roll around in anything he can find to enhance his perceived chances with the lady pooches.
‘What could be causing that smell?’ I wondered. A plant with fresh fertilizer sprinkled on top of the soil? Possibly.
The box was sealed with strong tape and rope around it. Rope? Why would they need rope? What was inside that would need rope to hold the box closed? Then I heard movement inside the box. Shuffling and then silence and I got the feeling that whatever it was listening to me as if it was gauging my movements.
I went back into the kitchen to get a knife to cut the rope and open the box. I was not sure I wanted to open it in the living room. Perhaps the basement? Garage? Outside in the back yard? I had to remember that Rufus was there and that was his domain. He was a part-shepherd, part Labrador mix. Usually he was friendly with people. With animals, it depended. If it was another creature in the box, he would instantly either love it or try to kill it.
It didn’t sound like a bird or a snake. I was really curious as to what it was, who had sent it, and why?
After considering all my options, and considering the smell, I decided it would have to be opened outside. That smell seemed to be one that might linger if allowed to infest the house interior. Outside it would be. Rufus would be my assistant and protector.
Then a brainwave hit me. I had a ‘Rufus cage’ in the garage in case we went on long trips or flights. Was it big enough that I could get the box inside it and still be able to lock the cage? I was trying to remember the dimensions.
First I took the cage outside. Rufus immediately thought we were going somewhere and started to get all excited and run around the yard.
“Sorry, Rufus. We’re not going anywhere. Wait till I bring the box outside. That will take your mind off of a possible trip.
I carried the box out into the yard, trying to keep it upright. Rufus came right up and sniffed it. Then he went to the end of the yard and was swinging his head back and forth, obviously trying to get the smell out of his sensitive nose. He sat as far away from it as the yard would allow. He wanted nothing to do with it. That was not a good sign.
According to my measurements, the box should ‘just’ fit. It might be tight but it should go in.
I opened the cage. Rufus looked over, wondering whether he should come over and get inside. His nose told him to stay where he was.
It took a little massaging of the edges but I managed to get to box fully inside the cage. Once the lock was on and the cage secure, I set about cutting through the rope with a small saw, then the tape, then a corner of the top.
Eventually, one of the top flaps came free. Then another, and another. Finally the fourth one came loose. I had been bent over trying to cut the box and free whatever was inside.
I stood up and looked over the top of the box. The smell was nauseating. Rufus could smell it from where he was. He lay down, put his head in the grass and tried to cover his nose with his paws. I had never seen him do that before – even with a skunk.
Suddenly, the top of the box erupted and was split apart by short feet and arms. What was inside the box was definitely alive. It was also alien. Green and brownish. Covered in hideous growths. The head was mostly eyes and mouth and the smell was terrible.
It tore the box into shreds and threw the bits through the bars of the cage. Then it started to attack the cage. It was trying to get at me. I backed up a few feet.
Rufus came charging forward and lunged at the cage, his teeth bared. He recognized the threat and that overrode the obnoxious smell.
As the dog opened his mouth to bark and growl at the thing in the cage, the creature looked at the dog then spat vile-looking saliva at Rufus. As soon as it touched Rufus, the dog howled in pain and tried to get rid of it.
Smoke came out of his mouth where the saliva had entered and the hair in his face started to smoke and burn as well.
I ran for the hose, turned it on and sprayed Rufus and the cage. The thing went wild, trying to get away from the water. The way it was howling, showed that it was obviously in pain. It looked at me, as though pleading with me to turn the water off. I did not turn it off but I turned it away from the cage and gave Rufus a good soak. It helped him and he finally stopped shaking. Then he lay down on the ground and did not move, ever again. The saliva from the alien in the cage had killed my dog. I was ready to put the hose back on the cage but hesitated.
It was holding onto the side of the cage and looking at me. It looked at Rufus, then back at me. A sound came out of its mouth. I figured it was saying it was sorry. It hadn’t meant to kill my dog.
Although I could not understand the sound, I felt the remorse in my body.
It sat down, short little legs straight out in front of it and arms by its side. It put one hand on its head, looked at Rufus’s body and pleaded with me to understand that it had been afraid. Again, I sensed the message it was trying to communicate to me. I tried to tell it that I understood and asked it where it had come from.
It answered but I did not understand. It beckoned me to come closer. I was hesitant to do that. I did not want to be covered in its acidic saliva and die a horrible death as Rufus had.
It held out its hands palms out to show it would be all right. It stood up, as much as it could in the cage although it was not much taller. It beckoned me again. This time I remembered I had a sheet of acrylic in the garage so I went and fetched it. Then, I felt a little safer approaching the cage. I sat down on the grass a couple of feet away from the steel bars, behind the acrylic. I figured that even if it spat at me, the acrylic would slow it down enough for me to get away. I had the hose across my lap but turned off.
Although I was not happy that it had killed Rufus, I understood that it was merely acting in self-preservation more under extremely unknown circumstances. The dog had charged the cage and was bigger than the creature. I didn’t know whether to call it an alien or a creature. It was intelligent so I settled on ‘alien’.
I felt more than heard a sensation in my mind. It was a word like ‘nettak’ or something thereabouts.
The alien suddenly jumped up and down and pointed at itself. It said, ‘Nettak’.
Communication with an alien species!
Still, I did not trust it. There was something inside me that said I should be careful. It was looking around. Possibly seeking an avenue of escape after it disposed of me? It moved its arms to the right. It wanted me to move the acrylic screen.
‘No, I don’t think so.’ I said to myself. Its features suddenly changed. It was as though it was used to getting its own way. Perhaps it was not full grown. Maybe it was only a child. That seemed a possibility, the way it was beginning to act.
I made a decision about what I should do. Normally, I would make a different decision but I was getting fed up with it. I knew I had some large unused packing boxes in the basement. So, I left the creature alone for a few minutes while I retrieved one, taped it and also brought up a good length of nice strong rope.
The problem was going to be how to get in back into a box. It obviously did not like water. Could I use that as a threat?
I looked over and it was asleep in the cage. Kids need naps, right?
I moved the box closer and opened the cage door. As I was doing that, I keep checking to be sure the alien creature was not faking sleep to catch me off guard. It wasn’t. I was actually able to reach into the cage, lift it up and move it into the box, which I sealed as quickly as I could and taped the top shut. Then, I secured it with the rope and carried it around the side of the house and put it back on the front porch where I had found it.
I went back inside to call the police and tell them about the box and the creature inside it. But as I reached for the phone, I heard footsteps on my porch. Quickly, I put the phone down and watched out the window as two young guys carried the box down my driveway. The put it into the open side door of a van, closed it quickly, got in and drove off with it.
“Well now, I never thought I would be happy to see thieves stealing something off my front porch. But this time, I am delighted and I wish them their own moments of terror when they discover what they have acquired.
“Be careful what you open, guys!”
I had no idea what I would tell Gina and the kids about Rufus.
©May 2021 Robert W. F. Taylor