The Void (In a Box)

I was in the clean room doing some tests. Everyone is in white gowns. The place feels like a science lab. My ears hum with the ubiquitous noise of the air handlers. The place tastes like plastic, and smells the same.

The tool I’m testing needs a new razor blade. I ask the foreman, and he points me to a drawer. Striding confidently over, blue fabric covered shoes scuffing on the white tile underfoot, I grasp the cold stainless steel handle. Everything in the clean room is cold. Cold and bright like a winter’s day.

Pulling the drawer open, I observe a number of miscellaneous objects. White rubber gloves lie limply languid. A few spare nuts and bolts. Several long, narrow, unmarked brown boxes. A couple black markers. Some discarded marking tape. Hmm. The razor blades must be in the box, I reason to myself. I pick one up. It is heavy, but strangely flexible, as if it were full of mercury. I open the brown cardboard lid.

Inside there is a thin layer of brown paper, lightly waxed. It has been formed over the edges of the bottom of the box, crushed into place by the lid. This is becoming annoying. All this trouble, and this might not even be the box I’m looking for. I’ve got tests to do! I set the lid aside and carefully lift the paper.

Inside the box there is nothing.

Not razor blades. Not an empty box full of air that smells of paper and plastic. Not anything recognizable. Not anything at all. What I see (or fail to see) in the box is the black void of the deepest interstellar space. Not a shred of light escapes. If a hole were cut from reality (and gently folded into a normal cardboard box) this is what it would look like. This is the black of the deepest pit, the darkest night, resting heavily in my hand here in the bright cold clean room.

I slowly lower the brown paper back into place. Then I blink and look around.

I’ve not gone blind. No one has been sucked into the enigma here in my hand. No terrors have issued forth (except directly into my brain). I put the box back and close the drawer. I must be looking in the wrong place. I did ask for “razor blades” didn’t I? Perhaps the clean room administrator heard “condensed nothingness” instead. Better be sure.

I walk back, and ask a second time where the razor blades are. When my tests are done I can leave this place. All I want is to finish my task. The overseer is a busy man. He is not pleased to be bothered with this a second time. He clarifies the drawer, and I confirm. Then I walk back. It is the same drawer. The drawer with the long narrow boxes, each containing a cavity in existence, a portal to nullity itself.

Perhaps I imagined it. I open a different box, and carefully lift the paper once again.

The void remains. Black does it no justice. When we say black, we mean like black paint, or oil, or soot. This black renders all such comparisons absurd. What is in the box is the absence of light. The incarnation of “darkness” itself, congealed, refined, distilled, and boxed in cardboard. I tilt the box this way and that. What manner of object am I holding? Is this, perhaps (at last) a new thing?

I can see faint flecks in the void. Like stars, perhaps, glistening in the depths. They seem near, as if they rest on a membrane within the spatial confines of the container I hold. They move with the box when I move my hand.

“Yeah, that’s it.” the overseer says. He is standing at my side now, and carefully takes the box from me. Tilting it sideways, he deftly plucks a razor blade from the darkness. “Never seen that before?” he asks me, placing the single blade on the edge of the stainless steel table. It glints with metallic malice. The box is as empty as before, but now I can discern a slight serration along the edges of the void. Sharp points, like teeth, reaching down before being swallowed in utter blackness.

What I observed, is an unintentional “Beam Dump” where the high angle of the razor blades traps and absorbs incoming light. The blades were stacked, edge up, in the box to avoid dulling during transport. The flecks of light were individual pieces of dust and wax (quite rare in a clean room, carried in with the packaging) resting on the edges of the blades.

Yet, at the back of my mind, the experience had formed a new idea. Though it was disproved, the shock of the void in the box lingered. Once I understood it, the box was simply another box of razor blades, and I went back to my tests. But the void remained in my mind, to this day.

EDIT: Just to be clear, this is an actual experience I had. It is not embellished in any way. It is poured out pure, from my mind to yours. I have also done a reading of this post here:

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One Response to The Void (In a Box)

  1. Leah and Charlette says:

    I think the boy was trying to find blades so that he could build something.
    You just have to be brave and figure things out! Then you can find things. You weren’t very brave, that’s why you had trouble finding the blades.

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