Monday, October 10, 2011

FICTION: Pandora by Elaina Thompson


When they created me, they taught me beauty and charm, grace, and wisdom, and all manner of things. Perhaps by accident, I also learned curiosity.

When I was only a few days old, they sent me on my way. I was physically mature, but still young in the ways of the world. It was a young world, young as I was young; naïve. It was a world I did not know or understand.

There was no one else like me, and I was a novelty. I was nothing but a gift, and a trap. I was only bait. A hook cloaked in bright feathers and shining things. But even I did not know where the point of the hook lay waiting.

And so I went to him, carrying my box, his as I was his. And I knew that his brother had whispered of my dangers, but still he took me, into his house with dark wooden walls and rooms that smelled like cedar. But he did take my box, never that. And so then I became it’s keeper, and it burned in my hands.

I weaved and I cooked and I charmed, as I had been taught, sitting at my loom and standing at the fire, and I wondered about the box. And when he would touch me, more than ever I found myself consumed by the box. I told myself that I could ignore it, that I could let it sit patiently in the corner, just one more piece of furniture, something unacknowledged. But it was a lie. Oh how I lied. And how I acted for him. What a façade I offered him. I never told him of the burning, of the intense wondering.

And then one night, I could not sleep. And so I laid on my side, my back to him, and I stared at the box in the corner of the room.

Surely nothing in it could be so bad. It was a gift, no more dangerous than myself. I forgot what I had once known, that I was a trap. It was such a small box. Ordinary looking, wooden with a hinged lid. It could have been a box for jewelry. I’ll only look for a moment is what I told myself. Just the slightest lift of the lid, the smallest of peeks.

I rose quietly from the bed, all the time justifying myself. Was I not entitled to know what it was that I kept? Was it unreasonable to want to know what the box hid, to be able to decide what danger it posed? I folded myself on the floor before it, and brought my hand to hover over it. And the room felt very tense and dry in that moment. It felt like electricity, like something was crackling through the air.

Just crack the lid, only the lid.
With my heart pounding in my ears and my throat, I brought my hand to rest on the latch. And then the room was very still and the silence was palpable. I brought my face very close to the edge, where wood met wood, and I held my breath tight in my lungs and let it press against the roof of my mouth. Very slowly I lifted the lid, and in that first moment I thought I saw nothing.

But then it was as though something shattered, something and everything. I thought I would laugh and cry and scream and my skin felt too tight and binding and my hands were hot and prickly. And there was a rushing in my ears and my teeth hurt and I realized that I was shaking violently. And even though it was night, all the colors were brighter and the edges were sharper and the floor was too hard underneath me. And there was something sinister and horrifying that lurked in the shadows that I could only just see out of the corner of my eye. I was breathing in chocked gasps, and I came to know that I was lying on the floor.

With a great effort I managed to stand, for my limbs felt very heavy and I felt much older. Although somewhere in the very depths of me I felt younger than ever; insecure and frightened with no charm or wisdom at all.

And I drifted towards the bed, and I crawled into it, and I sat in front of him, waking him, for somehow he was sleeping still. And when he sat up his eyes seemed brighter and there was something harder than I was used to seeing in the line of his jaw. And so I kissed him, and tangled my limbs with his, with my blood burning in my veins, and I deepened the kiss, wanting the taste of him on my tongue. And he was kissing me back, with the same painful acuteness that I felt, and when he slipped inside of me I did not feel like a child at all.

When it was finished the room was very still again. And the world seemed not so naïve now, and it seemed quite a frightening place, and out the window the sky seemed clearer and I thought I was seeing things for the first time. And there was something inside of me, bubbling up my throat, and rooting itself in my womb, and growing stronger there.

And the thing was hope.

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