We were minding our own business. Honestly. The thing about our office is that, basically, no one ever comes in here. So it's strange, the way things started.
But things did start, and in retrospect there can be no doubt that this started on a grey, gloomy morning in April. There was a quality of slowness, of inertia, in the air and things were quiet - until an uncanny sound shattered the silence. It was the bell on our front door. It's always a bit of a shock to hear it.
The deliveryman laid his package on our desk and was pretty much forgotten - the bell must have jangled again on his way out, but we didn't notice.
On our desk was a sooty black parcel tied up with twine. It didn't rattle and thankfully, it wasn't ticking, either. But there was something ominous about it. It was addressed in fussy calligraphic script and it was for us, no doubt about it. Eventually we'd probably have to open it.
The return address was a mystery:
Now we're normally reluctant to open packages from lawyers, but we'd signed a receipt. There wasn't any point in pretending it had never arrived.
Still, this package... there was something repellent about the dead black wrapping, something disturbing about the nature of the twine that had tied it up. The thing smelled of ashes. It didn't rustle when we messed about with it: it was as though it was absorbing sound, not making it.