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The Crate

The Crate

Many events conspired, and so many more coincidences manifested to get us to this place. Translations of translations, whispers and half truths, folklore and exaggerations. But finally a sense has been made. An agreement of such. And we are here now.

It is a crate in the distance. Looks abandoned. They will be along to collect it shortly.


The crate was large and secured to a pallet with old frayed dusty reed rope. The tan canvas was coming away from the base in places revealing markings on the side of the aged box. Text and lettering, possibly an address, a description of some sort, an instruction, details of content, a warning, but it was now faded and melded into the stains and damp of the box. Illegible.

They were not hieroglyphs, Arabic nor Roman, Greek, Latin or numerical symbols, none could have been mistakenly thought to be these markings. The case had been journeying for some considerable time by the looks, and it would seem at each port somebody recognised the marking at least enough to stamp an official approval and process it. And so it proceeded. Unopened through customs and on to the next port of call, just journeying, unchallenged, uncollected, unopened. Until now that is. At this point in our story, in your life, now, the crate is opened.


The bindings are cut away. Stumpy short blunt blades scuff away at the aged rope until it unfurls and snaps. Spit and tears as faces too close with protruding tongues to magnify concentration and strength get full impact of the mini explosions of dust and fragments as the old bindings finally snap.

The rope was all that had been holding the canvas cover together and it falls as the ropes give way, solid and firm like walls, like guardians with body shields and spears in hand toppling, their ankles shattered, ligaments severed. Six feet of canvas tall, four sheets wide plus the covering from the top in all its acquired dust and age slide to the ground in a pyroclastic flow. The aged canvas and dust alone make a ferocious noise as they spill and fall and for the first time in ages hit the ground. A cloud engulfs the place. Like a stone circle the mushroom cloud swallows up the crate for a time, swallows up the whole hanger in opaque. It is a while before the dust settles. It is sometime before the crate in all its decrepit splendor is visible.

Strange markings. Each undecipherable from the dirt and mold. Is it patterned, is it coloured in splendid detail, is it rank. The old reed rope, the canvas and all the description of knocks, bangs and weather it endured on its travels through the ages, although extensive and old, antiquated, still all familiar. The crate though, not a mere crate. A box. An exquisite box. Container. Vessel. Object. Single piece object. Complete, without joins, without parts, one complete six sided block.

On removing the last of the rope and canvas covering from under the crate, the pallet beneath gave way, disintegrated. This prompted all to scurry and run for cover but there was not a peep from the crate. Nothing. Not a movement. It just hung there. Above the ground. Motionless, all be it askew, but only ever so slightly. While in the cargo hold, on docks or warehouses wrapped its bindings surrounded by freight and cargo it resembled such. Now in the warmth of day surrounded by human persons it resembles something very different indeed, something familiar, something laudable.


Slowly, almost unnoticeable slow, the slight markings and textures moved across and over the body of the box. The shafts of light that illuminate the object in this vast hanger occasionally pick out a face in the shifting surfaces, smiling faces, pleasant and still sleeping profiles tumble into pink gossamer granite and cobweb structures. Laughing children are enveloped by cascading waterfalls only to re-emerge from same water as smoke and petals. One witness described over the course of some hours what appeared to be a volcano spew Dervishes into clouds with colts running free through them, and all set to a single sustained bass note from a harp which another witness seen dive into a fractal pool of thunder storms and re-emerge as a school of shimmering rainbow dolphin absorbing each other to become Jupiter.


On the journey to learn more about the origins of the crate I have traveled long and far. Tracing each port, visiting each pier, examining ledgers in warehouses from Saigon to Singapore, hangars and runways from Mombasa to Miami, Beirut to Bangladesh.

Surprisingly some still remember the crate. The way it would creek they all said, a hum, like a children’s choir, but old and deep, forlorn but reassuring, and too loud to ignore. ‘When is just another box not just another box. You move boxes then you drink. Before moving boxes again you drink again, you do this and at some stage I presume you will die and there the circle of life ends. But one afternoon late 12, bright sun, long shadows and cold air – a whisper from a consignment, a peculiar creaking, a fragility snapped through the docks deafening commotion. The crane was suspended and I went to investigate. The crate lead me to it with the occasional whimper and hummed melody. Then there was the lights, prisms scurried toward it, always just a glimpse away, off around corners before I could be sure I seen them. But when I reached the crate, and put my hand on it, I knew then.’ Another reported after seeing the crate ‘I never minded since’. One young dock hand said he had handled the crate twice through the same port. He also said he was a much older man then.

The descriptions of the sound it made on its travels and the reoccurring  themes, people still remembering the melodies and still humming them to this day, and on hearing their melodies now and from so many different people of all ages from so many different continents, cities, towns and ports, the melody is always consistent and follows through. It is a continuous piece with only fragments heard by individuals over some considerable time, decades and decades. Piecing together these remembered notes from random individuals it becomes clear that this is a narrative. A constant. It is a symphony of sorts. Perhaps it the most intriguing element of the story. This is its voice, it is sharing. The hum it gives off now in the hangar and for the past twenty years is a dull flat tone, it underscores the melodies collected from around the globe from all those humans it touched on its extensive travels. The notes and melody, tempo and pace are delightful, but the sound, the actual sound its self is beyond description. It is the blue whale and the old barn door, it is the felled tree and an ass in a gorge, it is too a four stroke engine biplane and a balloon full of bees buried an inch underground, it is the sound of stretching after a full sleep, it is a meadow, it is tranquility bay, it is the voice of angels, it is the supernatural personified, is all the elements succumbing to a vortex, it is the colours of a supernova in hyper Technicolor in all encompassing surround sound, it’s a baby’s ‘a-goo’.

The block is on display. You can go visit it. You too can stand and watch the images and suggested happenings move across its faces. You can succumb too to the mighty hum. There is nothing secretive about this. The box is what it is. We may not know what it is and that is a mystery, but the box itself is no secret. Thousands have passed through the hanger in the last twenty years and seen for themselves the slow motion wonders. They have been well documented and publicised all around the globe. Curiously the marvel of what it does far exceeds the wonder at what it might be. The stories of fact and witnessed actions it has portrayed in its own bizarre and abstract way eclipse to the extent it has obliterated any question or pondering of what it is or where it came from, why it came or what’s more so, what it is going to do next…


BD 2012


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