A cold winter rain sheeted down from a smooth gray sky. Dave bolted out of the Destiny Boulevard subway station and ran down the street through waves of heavy rain, becoming completely soaked by the time he got under the shelter of the entrance to his apartment building.
Inside, he shook himself off a bit, then headed for the mailboxes on his way toward the elevators. The mailbox contained a letter from Bert's brother in Los Angeles, two letters from charitable organizations wanting money, a mail order catalog from an adult videotape company, the phone bill, and a small package addressed to Dave.
The package was strange.
It was a small box, about the size of a paperback novel, though thicker. It was wrapped entirely in jet black paper. His name and address were written on the package in wite-out. It lacked a return address. The postmark, being black printing on a black surface, was unreadable, so he couldn't even tell where the package originated from.
Dave rode the elevator up to his apartment, pondering the black package. He couldn't even guess at who might have sent it to him. When he got inside the apartment, he tossed it onto a table in the hallway with the rest of the mail and went into his bedroom to change out of his freezing, wet clothing.
After this, Dave made himself some tea and examined the mail. He tore open the charity plea letters, looked them over, then threw them away. He opened the phone bill, studied it, and then attached it to the refrigerator with a magnet for his roommates to inspect. He flipped through the catalog. But he carefully avoided the package. Dave suddenly discovered, to his surprise, that he was afraid of it. After all, he didn't know what it was, or who had sent it to him, or even what city it had come from. It could be anything, a bomb, for example. Its strange black wrapping had an ominous feel to it.
Finally he overcame his fears and opened the package. Inside the black wrapping was a smooth high gloss black plastic box. Dave removed the lid. Inside was a note, written on black note paper in wite-out, and an object of some kind, wrapped in black cloth.
The note said:
- DEAR SIR:
- THE ENCLOSED ITEMS ARE ENTRUSTED TO YOU.
- PLEASE STORE THEM SAFELY.
- WE WILL CONTACT YOU WHEN WE NEED THEM BACK.
- WE MUST DEPEND ON YOU TO SAFEGUARD THEM.
- IF ANYTHING HAPPENS TO THEM, YOU WILL COME TO REGRET IT.
- WE RECOMMEND THAT YOU NOT TELL ANYONE ABOUT THIS.
A series of strange symbols graced the bottom of the note, resembling a signature of sorts.
Wrapped up in the cloth was a small cube, of some sort of heavy black metal, and also seven black metal tubes, like straws, only shorter, and also a thin disk of black plastic. Dave studied these items for a long while, but failed to reach any conclusion about them.
Then he became very annoyed. Who sent him this crap? Who did they think they were, that they could tell him to hold onto some junk of theirs and keep it safe until they were ready to take it back? Where did they get off with threatening him to keep this stuff for them without even telling him why, or for how long, or even who they were? Screw that, Dave thought. He took the weird items, rolled them up in the cloth, and shoved the whole thing back into the black plastic box. Then he went down the hall to the trash room and tossed it into the garbage chute. He heard it smash, 9 floors down.
He went back into the apartment and called the Martian Princess.
That evening they had dinner together and went to a movie, and Dave spent the night at her apartment. He completely forgot about the strange black package.