There was nothing remarkable about the box that the young girl always carried with her. The box was simple, black about a foot tall deep and across with two silver hinges that held on a lid that locked down in the front with another silver fixture.
No, the box itself was not remarkable.
It was the fact that she carried it with her everywhere she went and that no one but herself could gaze upon its contents if it indeed had any. That alone was what made the box more than it was.
Some brushed it off as her security blanket – something to comfort her when she was not home, after all she was about that age. But then what child cares that much for a box or what is inside the box so much to not take it out to hold it at least once or one who does not want to share it with everyone they happened to meet? Plus, what child can keep a secret at such a young age when everyone is asking “What’s in the box?” and not tell a single soul and just sit there quietly with a mischievous yet knowing smile that would make the bravest of men falter. Does that sound like a child that needs a security blanket?
Others ignored it and most just wrote it off simply as child’s-play and something that she would quickly grow out of.
At the play ground kids running around wildly playing tag, climbing, and screaming in joy, they all avoided her. She sat quietly on a bench head down, her pigtails blowing slightly in the breeze, her gaze intent on the latch of the box almost as if she was convinced that the second she looked away it would unlock and the contents would fly away never to be seen again.
A shy new girl who was afraid to join in on the game of tag fearing the same ridicule she received at her last school because she couldn’t run as fast stood on the outskirts looking longingly at joining in before finding a girl about her age sitting quietly. Cautiously she approached and sat on the other end of the bench soundlessly until curiosity took over “What are you doing?” she asked just above a whisper.
Startled at the sudden interaction the girl with pigtails looked up and smiled “I was just daydreaming.”
The new comer seemed satisfied with the answer and left it at that folding her hands in her lap and kicking her legs. She once again looked at all the screaming kids with longing and watched a little boy chase after a ball that he couldn’t catch.
“I’m Pandora.” the girl with the box said shifting her position to face the other girl on the bench and with one hand she held the box tight in her lap and the other she extended out to the new-comer warmly.
“Emily.” she replied grinning broadly and taking her hand pleased at her new budding relationship.
They quickly became close to where they were inseparable. One day as the children played quietly in Pandora’s room with dolls and a tea set which of course the mysterious box had its own place –for Pandora trusted Emily to set it down on the table in her presence instead of holding it- Pandora’s mother called her downstairs.
“I’ll be right back.” She announced and went to grab the box but thought better of it and turned to her friend “Watch my box but do not open it okay?”
“Okay.” her friend willfully agreed and Pandora quickly ran out of the room.
Emily stared at the box transfixed. “What is in there?” she thought to herself not for the first time, and knew not to ask again. Quietly she scurried to the door and looked out and in seeing no sign of anyone she ran and brushed her hand over the top of the box and quickly pulled it away suppressing a startled cry for the lid had burned her. Confused as what to happen and knowing her friend would be back any second she took her seat and as she got settled in Pandora ran into the room “Mom wants to know if you are staying for dinner.”
Emily looked at her friend and then at the box in distaste and declined stating her mom had told her to be home for supper and that she should probably get going.
Pandora simply smiled and said she understood as she watched her friend leave.
A week later they were together again and though Emily was still unsure about the box she was sleeping over at Pandora’s house. Once again Pandora’s mom called her out of the room and once again she left the box in the room asking Emily to watch it for her.
Not wanting to be burned again but having to know what was in the box Emily grabbed the key from where she had seen her friend put it last, her jewelry box, and snuck over to the dresser where it lay. She forced herself to touch the box again only instead of burning she was met with what felt like ice under her fingertips, startled she jerked her hand back and half spun to the door just in time for Pandora to come bounding into the room. “I have to use the bathroom.” Emily announced and walked out of the room pondering what had just happened with the box.
That night Pandora lay in a deep slumber while Emily next to her couldn’t stop thinking about the box and the key she had in her pocket and unable to resist anymore she shook Pandora gently gradually getting harder until she was convinced that she wouldn’t wake up if she were to sneak over to the box and look inside “Just a peek, that’s all I want.” she told herself as she tiptoed over.
She held her breath looked over at her friend to make sure she was still sound asleep and braced herself as she reached forward to touch the box again. This time she wasn’t met with anything just a hard wooden surface. Shocked she ran her hands around the entire thing and picking it up tenderly –nothing-. “Maybe it was just a fluke” she thought digging the key out of her pocket and slipping it into the lock and turning. Pandora snorted then and Emily jumped turning to find Pandora rolling over still sound asleep, Emily let out a sigh of relief and turned back to the box and gingerly lifted the lid.
Nothing could have prepared her for what she saw then.
A bright warm light poured out and bathed the room, she saw the solar system spinning and dozen of star constellations along with complex math problems and so much more. Then the images began to change the light turned cold, she saw an old woman with her eyes closed rocking gently on a porch in early fall she didn’t know how but she knew it was herself. The old woman lifted her head and without looking at her stared deep into her. Emily wanted to shut the lid but she couldn’t bring herself to move, the old woman opened her eyes, they had no color, no iris no pupil just a glossy white. Emily screamed as the old woman began to stumble forward towards her coming ever closer, the old woman was upon her her mouth open in a silent scream her hands reaching out for her.
Suddenly the old lady was gone and Emily crumpled up on the floor crying. A hand touched her shoulder softly and she jumped. “What did you see Emily?” Pandora asked.
Through sobs Emily explained she saw herself old and blind.
“Hush now.” Pandora whispered as a mother would to a child just waking from a bad dream and cradling her into her lap. The box lay closed the key still in the lock a foot away from them upturned on the floor.
Her sobs slowly subsided and Emily wiped her tears away only the blurriness remained “Pandora!” she nearly shouted an octave higher than her normal voice.
“I know Emily, I know.” Pandora cooed softly as she reached over to the box, slowly removed the key and placed it in her pocket smiling.