For Prometheus' Love
Years of emotional damage has opened a Pandora's Box on a couple's dysfunctional union. Is it a lost cause or is there still hope to be found?
"Nothing," she whispered to herself with heightened annoyance.
What kind of twisted person delivers a partially addressed, flawlessly assembled, hauntingly empty box, securely wrapped in duct tape to someone's doorstep, on Thanksgiving of all days?
She flipped the box over, furiously tapping the back in the hope that something tucked inside would mysteriously appear on the small white counter in front of her, but nothing. Not even a speck of dust from it sitting open on a shelf in a warehouse somewhere waiting to be packed.
She folded the top flaps down and looked at the writing on the front. It seemed oddly familiar, yet she couldn't quite place it. Not that there was much to study - simply her name, town and zip code. No return address, not even a label, just block letters from a bold, red Sharpie.
With a deep sigh, she began to replay the morning in her mind, hoping she had missed something. Her body had woken up several times earlier that night, likely sensing her solitude. Jack had drunk himself into a stupor as usual, and fallen asleep on the couch watching Star Trek reruns with Prometheus draped at his side. Around 3am he had taken the dog out one last time, before they both hobbled upstairs to settle in, waking her a second time.
"Theo" as she often called him was a 100-lb silver mastiff mix. Evan, her partner of eight years, had secretly adopted him as a ten-pound puppy six years ago during a rough patch in their marriage, and the two were as conjoined as Siamese twins. Soft-hearted and slobbering, he had sauntered into their home with terrible burns on the back of his legs from a horrid case of abuse and neglect, thankfully rescued before he was too old to remember much, but physically scarred nonetheless.
Both she and her husband had an enormous love for animals, especially abused ones, but it was fair to say after four years and ninety pounds of his endlessly growing obsession, she had developed a certain amount of jealous envy about the time and attention Theo received over her on most days. Still, Prometheus made her smile every day, a trait that had not gone unnoticed or unappreciated over the past few years especially.
Waking up around 7:30, she had begun the task of the day. Glancing at the clock, she had pulled the bread and a large silver mixing bowl out to begin prepping the stuffing.
For some reason despite there only being the two of them, Evan always insisted on a full Thanksgiving meal, which only ended up in copious amounts of leftovers and extra weight for both of them by the new year. It was a point that she had long since forfeited over the years, in an attempt to avoid another ridiculous argument over nothing and suppressive comments about how if she just had self-control and ate better she would lose weight.
By 8:30am, she had mixed the batch of stuffing and put it in the fridge. Evan wouldn't be up until almost noon, but she would never hear the end of it if her stuffing wasn't ready to go so he could "get the bird in" at a reasonable time. For the most part that was where her meal contribution ended and Evan took over, not out of laziness, but in a conscious effort to avoid ridicule over every other task she would undertake that day. Even placing pre-made rolls on a baking sheet required the "proper" procedure at the "right" time, and her technique never seemed to meet his standard.
After eight years, her resolve to win the point had deteriorated to a level of self-consciousness and personal loathing that he couldn't seem to comprehend and took no responsibility for helping to craft at times. It was simply easier to avoid the argument. That was the strategy her mother had always adopted. Although it was fair to say that the woman had never had the same spirit after Ellie had reached about the age of five. Somehow neither she nor her mother had ever seen any other option or been confident enough to seek it out.
About that time, Theo had trampled down the stairs and plopped in front of the door; a sure sign he needed to go outside. She had put on his leash, opened the front door and it was just there. After sufficiently sniffing it with fervent curiosity, Theo galloped down the stairs, pulling her with him to the frost-crusted grass below. While she was waiting, she had stared at the box intently trying to guess its contents or considering if she had forgotten something she had ordered.
Clamoring up the steps as fast as he had come down them, she had swiped the package as he had brushed by it, opened the door, let him run back up to Evan and wound up in the kitchen staring at an empty cardboard box with angry confusion.
"Ok, enough," she thought, tossing the box on a stack of bills at the edge of the counter. She grabbed her phone, sat down on the corner of the couch and pulled up a crossword app. Several hours later, Evan appeared in the doorway to the living room.
"Why are you just sitting there?"
"I'm waiting for you."
"Like there aren't enough things that need to be done around here?"
"I made the stuffing."
"Did you empty the dishwasher?"
"I have to have counter space to work on, don't I?"
"Ok, I'll do it. Relax."
"If I'm making all the food, the least you can do is empty the dishwasher."
"I'm doing it right now."
Shuffling into the kitchen, she began to put the clean dishes away, while he pulled out the turkey. Walking over to the butcher block to grab a knife, he noticed the empty box with red writing on it.
The thin, aggravated tone of his voice was nearly imperceptible to anyone, but her.
"I don't know. It was empty and sitting on the porch when I took Theo out earlier this morning."
"Empty? That doesn't even make any sense? Why would someone leave an empty box on the porch with your name on it - on Thanksgiving, when no one is even working," he asked, his aggravation level clearly growing.
"Like I said," she responded with deliberate agitation,"I don't know. It doesn't make any sense."
He grabbed her wrist and spun her around, pulling her in closer, the butcher knife still in his right hand. Prior indiscretions had made both of them easily suspicious of one another in such situations.
Theo, laying casually on the kitchen floor, suddenly stood up with laser focus on both of them.
"You must think I'm stupid. What was in it," he yelled, shaking her arms violently.
"Let go," she shrieked, "you're hurting me!"
"Tell me what was in the box," he yelled, tossing her violently towards the kitchen wall. Prometheus let out a low, growl that turned into a booming bark and began moving towards him, but Evan was still blowing smoke like a locomotive on its tracks barreling towards her while staring relentlessly at the box.
As she leaned against the kitchen table struggling to pull herself up she saw the crossword glowing on the face of her phone. Quickly grabbing it she forced herself up, sprinted upstairs, and slammed the bedroom door at the top of the stairway. Fiddling with the lock until it clicked she moved away from the door and dialed 911.
She could hear Evan screaming from the kitchen, but couldn't quite make out all the words. As she began talking with the operator she could hear him scrambling through the living room and up the stairs. Theo was following him, barking furiously, as Evan reached the bedroom door.
"Open this door right now, or I'll break it down," he screamed, pounding so loudly the pictures on the stairwell wall fell off their nails and tumbled down the staircase.
"I'm calling the police if you don't leave me alone right now!"
"Ma'am, are you there, is everything ok?" the operator replied eagerly.
In the chaos of Evan thumping, the dog barking, and the operator questioning her, she momentarily thought she would pass out and suddenly remembered something from the night before.
The night prior, as Evan watched reruns, she had sat in the sunroom reading a book, while drinking her own beverages. She had two, possibly three, enough to be tipsy, but at some point while in the kitchen, she had decided to take the recycling down to the basement.
Amidst the piles of empty cardboard shipping boxes from Amazon, she had noticed one small box with no writing or logos on it teetering at the top of the pile. Grabbing it she had stumbled over to Evan's workbench, grabbed a red sharpie from a can and scribbled on the front of it. Taking his silver duct tape she had carefully covered every corner, opened the garage door, walked around to the front porch and set the box in the corner of the landing.
But why? Why had she done that? Evan. It must have something to do with Evan. But he hadn't noticed it at 3am, half-asleep, so she had found it instead after forgetting she had even put it there.
"Ma'am? Officers are on their way." At the sound of the woman's voice, she immediately snapped back into the moment. She could hear Prometheus pacing back and forth in the hallway outside their bedroom at the top of the stairs. Evan was punching the door. Finally, in one last act of desperation to gain control, he stepped back, took his foot and kicked a hole through the cheap wood next to the doorknob.
Sobbing uncontrollably she huddled behind her side of the bed as he reached through the hole and unlocked the door. It swung open and he stood momentarily in the doorway still holding the knife he had grabbed when this all began moments earlier in the kitchen.
She heard Theo's low growl from the end of the hall and heard his nails click along the wood as he ran towards Evan. In a flash he lunged for the hand holding the knife and pulled his arm back at an awkward angle. Evan's body partially twisted to the right as he screamed in pain. As his torso bent forward, the weight of the dog pulled him down, putting his legs at an uncomfortable angle until he completely lost his balance and toppled down the staircase. She could hear his body thudding and cracking until everything stopped. And then, silence. Prometheus sat at the top of the stairs looking back and forth between the two, with his head hanging low.
For several minutes she was too scared to move. Then,
"Police! Open the door!" Prometheus ran downstairs barking.
After a few seconds she realized he wasn't going to open it, so she pulled herself to her feet and walked to the doorway. Looking down the stairs she saw Evan, crumpled in a ball and not moving. Her eyes welled with tears as she crept downstairs, slid by him and swung the door open. The police entered with their guns drawn. One began to clear the house, while the other asked her if she was hurt.
The rest of the day seemed a blur. She recounted the events as best she could, conveniently leaving out the part of her depositing the box on the porch herself.
"Miss Harper," the detective began skeptically, "based on your story we did a search of your home to see if we could find anything that might indicate where this 'package' came from. In your basement we found a red sharpie and duct tape sitting on a workbench. Initially we assumed your husband must have sent the package himself, until we found this on the corner of the workbench."
He handed her a folded piece of paper. She gently unfurled it, immediately noticing the red marker that bled through:
We are trapped in Pandora's box. The evils of the world are festering right here in this marriage, and I can't stand it any longer. It must end here and now, today. Goodbye.
She slowly looked up at the detective, but no words would come.
"We also found a book on Greek mythology sitting in your sunroom that includes stories about Prometheus, and Pandora."
"Wait, You think I planned for all this to happen?"
"I don't know, Mrs. Harper, did you? All we have at this point is your side of the story."
"But, what about Theo? The dog was there, Evan has to have some injuries where he grabbed his arm. What about the knife? What about the 911 operator, she heard him yelling, and the dog barking, and..."
The more she talked the more she broke down until she was nearly hyperventilating.
"I loved him, but he had changed so much. How could you think I would intentionally set out to harm him?"
"We don't know what this letter means ma'am. But we will get to the bottom of it."
He got up and left the room as she shuddered in the corner. The longer she sat the more she second guessed herself.
Had she planned for this to happen? How could she have planned it? She was drunk and angry, lonely and unhappy, but she wasn't a murderer. She hadn't even touched him, how could she have planned he would have reacted this way or that these would be the events that unfolded? She had written the note, but it wasn't actually in the box, so he didn't have anything to actually be upset about? Was that a mistake or intentional?
She was so confused. So confused, but at the same time, a wave of relief washed over her. She could breathe again. For the first time, in a long time she had found what she needed most, hope.
About the author
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Original narrative & well developed characters