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The Trials

What's in the box?

By Lilly CooperPublished 7 months ago 12 min read
The Trials
Photo by Elia Pellegrini on Unsplash

Sharni rested her chin on top of her arms folded on the cold stone of the kitchen bench. From this perspective, the thin line running around the entire box delineated the lid from the base.

Maybe I should put it in a cupboard, she thought. Out of sight, out of mind, right?

Initially, she had placed it on a shelf in the lounge room. Even with her back to it though, it left her feeling like someone was watching her. On the third night of not being able to relax, she had moved the box to the kitchen bench. The anxiety had reduced a little. But she still knew the box was there, like a black hole. Instead of sucking in light, it consumed her attention. At first, any time her mind wandered, she found herself thinking about the box. After seven days, she had started dreaming about it. Two weeks on, she was staring at it on the bench, forgetting why she was in the kitchen in the first place.

The box was strange. It was small and square, just big enough to hold four soda cans. The lid fit snugly to the base with only a thin line showing where one ended and the other began. If it weren't for that line, it would have been impossible to tell if it was upright. Sharni had turned it round and round and upside down looking for clues as to origin of the box. There were no makers marks on the box and no hinges. The only remarkable thing about the box was the colour. The colour of the lacquer was an intense midnight blue that in the shadows looked black. There was a depth of the painted surface looked like a pool she could plunge her hand into. And when the light caught the surface the depths flashed, reminding her of lightening shooting through a stormy sky.

Her phone buzzed, startling her out of her retrieve. Her five minute warning from Jonathan that he was on his way to pick her up for work! Crap! She had been staring at the stupid box for forty-five minutes! Snatching box from the bench, she shoved it in the hall closet as she dashed back to her bedroom to get dressed and brush her teeth at the same time.

Missing breakfast and worse, her morning coffee, had not been a good start to the day. It bothered Sharni that she had let herself be so distracted. It was so unlike her. So she raided Jonathan’s snack draw, made an awful coffee in the staff room laced with sugar and got down to work.

She had been so hyper focused on her work she didn’t notice her ride leaning on the door frame watching her work.

The jangling of his keys startled her. She jolted back to the present for the second time today.

‘Jeez Jonathan! You frightened me!”

He chucked. “That’s not hard today.” His jovial tone became serious. “Are you OK? You have been really off today.”

She sighed, considered brushing him off before deciding against it. He was one of her closest friends. Especially since her parents had passed. She should have shared this with him weeks ago.

“Have you ever had a drone delivery before?”

He made a face, pushing his lips together and pulling his mouth down at the corners. He shook his head. “Nope, never. Dave had a pizza delivered once. Or he says he did. You know him though. Bit prone to exaggerating.”

She laughed. “Or straight up lies more like it!”

“Yeah, but I was trying to be polite.” He grinned. “So what’s been delivered by drone then.”

A pause. “A box.”

Jonathan looked confused. “A box? Really? The last time I saw a woman driven to distraction by a box, it contained a pretty, expensive, sparkling stone.”

A balled piece of paper bounced off his forehead. “Nothing like the distraction of a man when he opens the latest X-Station is it?”

He scooped the paper ball up and threw it, missing his target by a wide margin. “It’s a PlayStation or an X-box. Dah.” He shook his head. “What’s so special about this box? What’s in it?”

Sharni shrugged and held out her cell with a photo opened on the screen. “The drone dropped off a package wrapped in brown paper and string. That letter came with it. There are very strict instructions with relation to the box.”

“Mmmmm, I can see that. Have you looked for information about it? And who sent it?”

“I’ve done searches on photos of the letter and the box. I’ve searched about drones dropping off packages like this. I’ve found nothing. I can’t find a manufacturer for the box. There are photos on the next six slides.”

She watched him as he examined the photos. Eventually he shrugged and handed her phone back.

“Have you thought about handing the box into the police?”

“Way ahead of you. Karla’s hubby is with the force. I took it in to him and he had a look, while making sure we didn’t break any rules. He tested the outside for drug and bomb chemicals. He tested the letter and packaging too. It came up with nothing. An x-ray showed the box is empty.”

Jonathan frowned and pulled a face again. “I’m out of ideas. Maybe it’s someone’s idea of a prank? Anyway, you arnt losing anything, soooo.... nothing ventured, nothing gained?”

Sharni laughed. “I think that saying might be more appropriate if I were thinking about breaking the rules set out in the letter.”

“I know you. Your curiosity will get the better of you. Eventually.” He levered himself off the door frame. “Come on, let’s get out of here.”

By Breno Machado on Unsplash

He wasn’t wrong. The box sat it the hall cupboard for more than a year. Out of sight, out of mind had helped somewhat. Or maybe it was Jonathan’s regular checking in to see if she had solved the mystery (code for have you opened it yet?) that bought out her stubborn competitive streak. Either way, the lid of the box remained firmly in place.

Life had become a busy affair for Sharni. A promotion at work kept her working hard. Her social circle involved a cracking schedule of parties every weekend: engagements, weddings, christenings and birthdays. Not that she minded. These people had become her family. She had some Aunts, Uncles and cousins she kept in touch with, but they all lived back in her sleepy home town a million miles away. Despite being separated from her blood family, she was far from lonely. Especially with Jonathan. He had finally asked her on a date and they had been more than friends ever since. They had just bought a home together and Sharni suspected he was planning on proposing on or around Christmas. The house was an a dream and an absolute gift from heaven. A guy had wanted to sell and settle quickly after finding out his wife was cheating on him. Terrible for him. Sharni really felt for the guy. But it’d been a steal for her and Johnathan. She really wanted to be settled in the house before December.

Which was how the love birds could be found late on a Saturday in November, discussing with animation about packing styles.

“Come on, Sharni!” Johnathan rolled his eyes and paused to look at her. “It will save us time in the long run.”

She laughed and reached up to kiss his lips. “That was my argument.”

“Yes, but your rationale doesn’t hold water. If we pack carefully, we can unpack faster at the other end. Your theory may be a little less time here, but will take a lot more time at the other end.”

“Agree to disagree? You keep packing carefully, I’ll keep chucking everything I can lay my hands on into cartons.” She gave him a wicked grin she knew he couldn’t resist.

He turned back to his task, chuckling and shaking his head. Life was always going to be interesting with her.

Sharni headed for the hall closet with a large packing box. Johnathan had already taken out cold weather jackets, sporting equipment and other varieties of junk. But the top shelf held blankets and throw rugs she loved curling up under on cold nights. Throwing open the cupboard she sighed inwardly. Packing was not her idea of a good time, unless ofcourse, the packing was for a tropical holiday. This was for a good cause. Still didn’t make it fun.

Pulling blankets off the top shelf and letting them fall into the box, she squawked and jumped back as unexpectedly a large dark object and papers fell off the shelf with the last blanket.

Johnathan’s head popped around the corner. “Is everything OK?”

Bending to retrieve the item from the top of the packing carton, Sharni stood up holding the mysterious box between her palms.

Placing it on the kitchen bench under the lights, the flashing highlights in the lacquer caught her attention again, almost hypnotising her the way it had that morning more than a year ago.

“You kept it?”

She blinked and looked up at him. “Well... yeah. The letter said it would bring me good fortune as long as I kept it....”

Johnathan snorted. “The letter also said you were never to open the box. It was someone’s idea of a prank, honey. It’s just junk”

“I don’t know, it’s really pretty. Look at that lacquer! Even if it’s not some lucky charm, it’s beautifully made. It’s got some value.”

“Sure, if you use it for something. But stuck in the back of the cupboard?”

She sighed. “Yeah, OK. You have a point. But I can’t just throw it out or get rid of it.”

“OK. So open it and use it for something. A jewellery box maybe.”

“Hmmmmmmm. I dunno. Maybe.”

“Come on! Where’s that inquisitive nature, that insatiable curiosity?”

“You just want me to open it so you are right!” She swept her hair back from her face. Giving in to her curiosity felt like failure somehow. But Johnathan was right. Why was she fighting this? Because some anonymous letter told her not to open it, ever?

“OK! OK, I’ll open it.”

Johnathan patted her arm and grinned. “That’s my girl!”

“You are just excited you get to be right.” She shook her head.

She pulled the box towards herself and put her hands either side of the lid and paused. The depth of the the coating and the beautiful but somehow foreboding with its effect of the lightning like streaks appearing to crackle through the depths.

Sharni met Johnathan’s eyes for a moment, then pulled up on the firm fitting lid.

What happened next was completely unexpected.

A dark purple cloud sprang from the box like a living thing, accompanied by an horrendous screeching sound. Sharni let go of the lid and clapped her hands over her ears, her own scream lost in the sound.

Instinctively, she screwed her eyes up to almost closed. But she could still see. The cloud, inky and dark boiled over the bench top, spreading out before dropping off the side like a sinister waterfall. She stumbled backwards as tentacles extended from the bulk of the cloud, reaching for her. Her scream increased in pitch, mixing and competing with the cloud’s screech.

As the last of the cloud fell out of the side of the box, a bright light bust from the open box. The light came with its own sound, a deep, soul soothing hum that drowned out the deafening screech.

The cloud and its reaching tentacles recoiled from the light, balling up tightly before shooting off towards the open kitchen window. The light raised up from the box, a bright warm light. The light’s hum struck something deep inside Sharni, a spreading warmth stopping her scream in its tracks and moving her to tears. Past the golden orb of light, she could see Johnathan, his cheeks wet with tears.

The light continued to elevate steadily before spreading out and becoming so bright she had to squeeze her eyes shut.

After a long moment, the hum decreased leaving behind a warm sensation.

Opening her eyes, Sharni could see just the box on the bench and Johnathan on the other side visibly shaken, but OK. The kitchen lights seemed dull after the golden orb.

Lowering her hands from her ears she spoke. “What. The. Fuck. Was. That.”

As if awoken by the sound of her voice, he jumped into action. Picking up the lid from where Sharni had dropped it and fumbled as he jammed it back into place. He stared at it like a poisonous snake.

“I have no funking clue. But I was wrong. That box should have stayed shut.”

By Francisco Ghisletti on Unsplash

Prometheus swiped at the Mirror, disrupting Earth-view portal and slouched back in his seat.

“Oh now, Prometheus, do not let this sour your mood. This one fared better than Pandora did. She hadn’t the fortitude to hold back her nature for more than two moons.” Zeus smiled indulgently. “Perhaps choosing her because her name means ‘gift from God’ is not the best criteria.”

“Lord Zeus, her name was chosen for her under the influence of the Muses, because she was a gift from the gods to her parents. She was chosen for the task because of the gifts she was born with.’ He sighed again. ‘I thought Sharni would be the one.”

“I think perhaps it’s time you accepted it, Prometheus. Your creation is inherently flawed. There is no redeeming humans. We go through this trial over and over. Every time, the human opens the box dispite explicit instructions not to and unleashes a plague on their kind. Nothing changes.” Zeus stood and patted the Titan’s shoulder. “Well, if you are determined, let me know when your next champion is ready and we will meet for another trial.”

“Ofcourse, my Lord.”

As the King of the Gods walked away, Prometheus, Titan God of Fire, Sculptor of the original Pandora and all of her successors, honed in on one primary difference with this Champion and this trial.

“She didn’t trap Hope in the box after the plague escaped.” Hope endured. None of the other Champions had let Hope out of the box, just the misery.

He wasn’t sure the humans had really failed the trial this time. He had faith in the human creation.

“There is hope yet,” He mused.

ClassicalHistoricalShort StoryFantasy

About the Creator

Lilly Cooper

A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.

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Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

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Comments (2)

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  • Jordan Twiss6 months ago

    I really liked that ending. Such a unique take on the challenge!

  • Great alternate take on the Pandora legend , so amazing images nad "Oooooh" moments and you got a subscription from me

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