In a tiny filling station in the darkest, loneliest part of the smallest town in east Texas, was a lone red box machine.
The filling station had long ago passed into disuse, the windows were dusty, when they were present at all. And a variety of animals had begun to use the shelves and refrigerated cases as their homes. Generations of soft and furry animals had begun and ended their lives in the filling station. Chewing through the wires and drywall, creating weapons of twisted and tangled wire, armor of candy bar wrappers and drywall. Forming bands, raiding out further and further from their tiny, dilapidated home to search for food and goods.
Anchuk, the leader of the raccoon's band was braiding his wire whip, and twisting bits of scrap metal into his tail.
“Another accomplishment Anchuk?” a wizened old raccoon with grey fur asked, leaning on her cane made of wire shelf.
“We have recovered another of the cases. There will be many peanuts this winter.” Anchuk added a final, elaborate twist to the end of his whip.
“Why that is a reason to celebrate Anchuk! Why did you not inform the councils of Elders of your triumph?” The grey raccoon asked.
“We needed to regroup and take care of our wounded. The world outside the station is still a very dangerous place for beings our size.” Anchuk responded, jumping to his tiny claws. “And I am telling you now. Arrange a celebration if you wish.”
All of the tribes of the filling station were gathered around the community bonfire that night. The rhythmic drumming and clanging of the musicians instruments and the dancing of the children and unattached raccoons created a merriment that filtered out of the broken windows and caused the redbox machine to begin to glow.
The Eldest called for silence, and the children crawled forward to sit at her feet. “Long ago, before the station became our home, the raccoons lived outside, in the trees and among the grasses. It was not safe to be a raccoon. But all of a sudden, humans began abandoning this station, and soon enough, it was empty. And our ancestors formed a hole and moved inside. At first there was food a plenty, the humans had left their station intact. But soon enough, food grew scarce. But our spirits remained high. Instead of wallowing in worry, we celebrated long into the night while our raiding parties went out in search of food. And finally, something good occurred. The big box outside, drew a person to its glowing beacon, and our food problem became no more.” The Eldest raised her hands in triumph, and a growing roar filled the station.
Outside the window, the glow of the redbox grew in intensity.
The Eldest continued her story after the roar died down a bit. “Our people gained the experience to take care of ourselves, learning how to raid further and further outside of the station. Our raiding parties have become the life blood of our people, we are beholden to them. We can never forget the contribution that they make to our lives.” The crowd gave up an even louder cry of appreciation, every raccoon was on his or her feet, hands high and stomping and clapping and screeching and clamoring for all they were worth. As the raccoons' celebration reached a climax, the redbox's glow sent out a beam of light that shot far out into the distance.
The celebration stretched far into the dark of the night, loud enough that the raccoons did not notice the approach of a figure heading to the redbox.
The raccoons' dancing and the music had whipped them into a frenzy, the unattached raccoons paired off and found themselves a secluded corner while the children tried to force themselves to stay awake.
A zzzzzaaaappp of lightning struck the redbox and the person who had been drawn to the eerie machine. The individual fell threw the front window and rolled to a stop just at the edge of the celebration, nudging a group of sleeping children. All of whom woke up, saw the dead body looming over them, and screamed.
The Eldest made her way to where the children were cowering in terror, “have no fear young ones, it is another offering from the big box outside! We have been blessed again with more than enough to survive the cold nights that are coming! The parties' contribution will last for another year. Our people are meant to survive!”
The celebration redoubled, the station glowed with the intensified fire and heat of the dancers. And the redbox began to glow again.
As dawn clawed her way over the horizon with her rosy fingers, the raccoons on watch outside the station were alerted to the presence of an approaching vehicle with flashing lights.
Anchuk sprinted back to the station from his look out post, “Elders! We need to hide, there are humans approaching!”
The Eldest grasped Anchuk's arm, “I shall gather the children, you warn the adults.”
Both of the raccoons spread the word amongst the exhausted revelers, a wildfire spread through the group, raccoons fled in every direction to hidden spaces in the walls.
The flashing lights drew closer and stopped. Anchuk peered out into the station, watching as years of his life were overthrown by boots and nightsticks. The lead human found the dead body and spoke into a strange box affixed to his shoulder. “Affirmative dispatch, I found the Mps car, and I think I found the MP too. You'll want to send a crime scene unit, and the coroner.” He turned over a wire rack, “Uh, dispatch, we'll probably want a boss or two down here too.” Anchuk covered his eyes in disbelief, the human had found the last offering from the big box outside.