The gentlemen of the boxes
Though the perpetual snow covered everyone and everything in a magical flurry, some homes escaped the gingerbread icing of the winter dusting. Though treacherous at times, the snow that fell in the area of Ravensbrook was mostly welcomed. The small village itself was well known for its snow festivals which would be held often during the year. While the borders of the county were at the whim of the regular weather patterns, Ravensbrook enjoyed the snowfall of the mountain passes more than anywhere nearby. But not everyone was happy with the snow, and one in particular made sure to be out of it as much as they could.
He had once had a large cabin on the other side of the woods which backed on to the small cottage by the stream. His was a stern roughly built cabin, reeking of ash fires and masculinity. It’s coarsely built structure was a testament of his own strength, having built the place himself. But it did not appeal to the eye and was poorly landscaped. Fresh animal kills were strewn around, the bones of which would be stacked sometimes by an outhouse. He lived there alone, stuffing small woodland animals with sawdust and brooding over a life that was slipping away from him. That is to say, lived there, for now the gentlemen of the boxes lived underground.
One day, on a particularly snowy afternoon whilst trudging back to his cabin, he’d stopped with his fresh kill slung over his shoulders. The snow had covered his face and was blotting out the view of the track he was following home. He’d stood there, a human snowman for much longer than an idle man should in the cold snow, thinking and pondering and wondering over the incessant weather. Raising his fist in the air, he cursed the sky and the lady who lived in that small little cottage, telling tales and playing god.
He stormed home and packed the few possession he could into a duffle bag and set off into the depths of the woods. Thick in thorns and thistles, the snow drifts piled high in the dark and gloomy woodland. But soon enough, he’d found what he was looking for. A small opening in the ground marked by two huge boulders which led down underneath the earth. He’d found this long ago, chasing a fox that had sought shelter from his murderous hands. The opening expanded deeper underground; a vast cave backed up with many little recesses built into the earth. Here he intended to live and be away from that infernal snow and cold which stung his bones.
Over time, his little cave house filled with things and skeletons. The shells of the creatures that he didn’t keep in his boxes. He would stuff them with sawdust and set them into little boxes and crates, depending on the size. He would mark them all and catalogue what he had. In his noahistic mind, he would covert two of each creature, stripping one of the fleshy casings where he could peak at the ivory bones underneath, and stuff and box the other. His collection grew in time, and much of his cave was taken over by the boxes that he would stack high to the roof.
One day, when he was in town selling some animal meet, he happened to notice the traveling cart man who’d stopped in the small village square. The man would peddle, in all weathers, around the villages with a huge caravan of objects pushed and slotted onto the back of his trailer. This travelling circus of curiosities was much welcomed where it went, for he was always known to bring treasures and wonders to that little part of the world.
The gentlemen of the boxes never usually bothered himself with that sort of thing, but something that day seemed to call to him, picking at his mind and heart. He’d trundled over to the cart, impossibly piled high that day with brass lamps, copper kettles, crystal glasses and books. One book in particular stood out to him; a purple bound one the size of a bible. He slid it out from between a jewellery box and iron fire grate and looked at the cover.
The image on the front was nothing new to him, he’d seen the real thing a hundred times, but the way it was drawn unsettled something inside him. Dislodging some idleness and bringing forth some action. The skull of a creature, that of a deer, stared back at him. The eye sockets glowing with a purple like flame tickled the hairs on the back of his neck. He’d just begun to open the book when the seller called over to him.
“Ah, I see you’re interested in the Lunamaji.” He came around the side of the cart and up to the man.
“Maybe. How much for the book?” He replied, gruffly.
“Ten Quartz to you good sir, anyone interested in such deep allurement deserves to get a good price.” The man held out his hand in a kindly way. The gentlemen of the boxes huffed, thinking it was still too much for a book.
He furrowed his brow and grumbled some more before tumbling some coins into the man’s outstretched hand. It was a steep price he thought, but he had the money. There was something interesting about the book, something he couldn’t explain, a gravity only he could feel and had never felt before. He had to have it, so he paid the price, which was reasonable considering what it offered. As he turned to walk away, the old man grabbed at his arm suddenly.
“Be warned though, this is not for the faint of heart or weak of conscience. There are many things in there that need to remain within those pages, and just to reside in the mind.” He’d said, hastening a smile to take the edge off his warning.
“Nothing about me has ever been weak.” The man replied and stormed off with the book under his arm.