Early one morning even before the first light of the sun dared to show themselves down the empty streets of Paradise grove, a lone grey van slowly rolled along. The windows tinted into blackness gave no clue to who was behind the driver's seat. Along the side were painted the letters P. P. S., in thick block style. The van slowly coasted along, making not a sound as it traveled down the cul-de-sac.
Inside, Manny sat behind the drivers seat. His hands barely touched the wheel as the van slowly rolled along. He only had to stay behind the wheel to be sure the auto-pilot did not malfunction and the van stopped where it was supposed to. The computer had randomly chosen to stop before number fourteen Paradise court. Even now the van began to slow down and finally stop.
Sighing softly as he felt the vehicle come to a complete stop, Manny bent over and picked up his cargo from the seat beside him. To anyone else, it was only a simple cardboard box. But Manny knew exactly what it was or at least in theory, what it was. Carefully, he took the box in his hands and opened the door. He padded up to the porch of number fourteen and gingerly placed the box down upon it. From his pocket he took a printed door-hanger and hooked it around the brass knob. With that final gesture, he turned and walked back to the van. He got inside and started the van back up with a twist of the keys. Once again, the van drove down the street, turning around and driving out of sight.
Louis awoke to the angry buzzing of his alarm clock. He had chosen to sleep in this lazy morning. He was not expected at work today and he would enjoy his time to himself. A late breakfast and a later shower was on the menu for today. His slid into his slippers and went to get his old Sunday robe, tattered to perfect comfort. He sauntered to the front door to get the paper. Today he read the paper first and take breakfast afterwards. Perhaps there would be a good recipe in the lifestyle section. Opening the door, he bent down to retrieve the paper and froze.
There was a large cardboard box sitting on his porch. The box sat unopened and unmarked before him. There was a small tag attached to the box that stood erect on a stiff piece of white wire. Kneeling, Louise slowly read the typed lettering.
"Phineas's Packing Service, nothing too big or too small, we ship it all!"
Puzzled, he lifted the box into his arms. The box had a strange weight to it. There was something inside of it but when he rattled it, it made only a slight sound of movement. Turning to go back inside, Louise spotted the door hanger. This too, he slowly read.
"Need something shipped today? Just open the box and let Phineas's Packing Services do all the work for you. We pick up for you! Just fill out the packing slip and open the box. First package up to 150 pounds shipped free!"
Louis did not think he had anything to ship today but he decided to take the box inside nonetheless. Setting the box on the table he slowly looked around the room. Remembering the stack of coupon clippings and magazines he had been gathering for his brother, he smiled and went to the closet to retrieve them. He returned to the table and set the shoe box full of clippings beside the shipping box. Sitting down he slowly began to address the box using the provided shipping label. With one free hand he slowly began to open the box. He slowly continued to write as his fingers stumbled over the flaps of the box.
Feeling the box open, Louis was about to pull his hand back when he suddenly found his hand captured around the wrist by a strong iron grip. His looked up slowly, eyes widening. From the side of the box a mechanical hand had shot out and seized him by the wrist. The arm had no point of origin. The arm was not coming from inside the box but was extending out from the side. There was no possible way such a thing could be. But Louis did not have time to contemplate this. His arm was yanked into the box as the arm attempted to lay his limb inside the box. When it was discovered his arm would not fit, another steel appendage extended itself and seized him by the upper arm. With a painful and sickening twist, the arms folded his own limb so it bent and curled around the inside of the box.
Louis screamed in pain as he felt his arm being broken in two places. His voice raised as he attempted in vain to pull away from the mechanical monster. The arms continued to fold his arm until it had been smashed and pulped, blood filling the inside of the box. Frantically, Louis tried once more to free himself but soon found his other arm captured. Much in the same way, his other arm was folded and broken to lay neatly beside his other arm. By now Louis felt himself going cold with shock. His nerves felt raw, his face hot. The arms took a hold on his shoulders and yanked him forward into the box. His own blood was forced back into his nose and mouth as he screamed in agony. His head was shoved against the sides of the box which felt more like metal than simple cardboard. After his head had been placed in the box, the wickedly powerful arms tried to fit his torso in the box as well. And when they were met with the resistance of his bone and muscle, the arms neatly folded his torso in half. His back snapped and Louise felt his lower half go numb. His bowels emptied themselves and vomit filled his throat. Choking and sputtering, Louis rolled his eyes, the only part of him he could move now. He thought it a small mercy that he could not feel his legs being folded neatly on top of his broken and bloody body. By the time both of his legs had been placed over his body and the hands gave what was left of Louis a push so he could completely fit inside the box, he was dead.
The hands reached up and folded the lid of the box over the contents inside. One hand held the lid closed while the other hand pulled a strip of tape from the other side of the box. And then the hands smoothed the tape over the package and sealed it completely. With a snap, the hands vanished back into the box. For hours the box sat on the kitchen table. A pool of blood stained the pink floors a sickening red. The outside of the box was spattered here and there with blood. However the simple cardboard box did not get heavy with the blood. It lay there on the table until the clock struck the hour of five. As the hall clock chimed away, the box suddenly stood up. A pair of legs had grown from the bottom of the box and with a hop, the box landed on the floor. Taking little waddling steps, the box teetered and tottered towards the front door. Stopping at the closed door, one of the arms reached up to turn the knob and open the door. The box trotted out the door and sat down on the porch. The arm reached back and shut the door behind it. And with a final snap, the arm zipped back into the box.
Promptly at eight in the evening, the grey van rolled back down the street. Manny let the van stop once again in front of number fourteen. The red light on the computer board in the back of the van told him the package had been filled and was ready for delivery. He got out of the van and slowly sauntered up the walk. He quickly checked to be sure the slips had been filled out properly and after determining they were, he bent down and picked up the box. This box felt very heavy. If the box was over the limit, he would have to leave a payment notice on the door. Taking the automatic weigher from his pocket, Manny slipped it on the box. As he watched the device slip around the box and do its thing, he noticed all the red splotches on the box. What on earth were these people mailing these days? You would think they could at least be neat about it. As it turns out the box was just under the weight limit, and so with a smile, Manny took off the device and began to carry the box back to the van. Perhaps Louis would be happy to learn that he had indeed lost the weight he had been meaning to.