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They called it a box, but it wasn’t really. It was a tall jar, tall enough that she might have fit inside it herself if she opened it and climbed in, it looked large enough that it might not even be a squeeze. It was heavy, and the things inside rattled around- even when the jar itself was still, there were fluttering taps from inside, and you could feel vibrations if you placed your hand on the side, almost as if it was filled with living things.

She had looked after it for so long; night after night it had stood beside her bed, day after day she had kept it near her while she toiled, and yet still she did not know what was inside.

The fluttering from inside seemed a little weaker, she thought, placing her hand flat against the side of the jar as she had so many times before. Perhaps it was something alive after all; kept in the jar without fresh food or water, without light – it was such cruelty. Surely it was a mistake. Something had crept inside, a little bird or some small creature, seeking shelter and instead finding this jar and becoming trapped.

She bit her lip and stood on tiptoe, reaching up to the top of the jar. It was stuck fast. She poked at it, trying to get her finger into the gap and prise it open. The jar wobbled, but the lid didn’t move. She stepped away with a sigh, and wasn’t even looking when the jar toppled.

With a crash, it fell to the floor and cracked open. She jumped back in surprise, and then fell and scrambled away as the things inside flew out. Squamous tendrils, glowing with an eerie light, felt their way out. A thing like a man made out of mud, eyes staring brightly from the darkness, crawled after it. A little golden figure followed, which almost seemed pleasant and bright until it opened its mouth and cackled, a sound so unearthly that it made her want to tear her eyes out. A horrible black liquid flowed from the crack in the jar, and from it strange figures appeared and disappeared. A huge lizard; a flying thing with too many eyes; a great bear which snarled as it wrapped its horrible paws around a struggling victim, and many other things too horrible to even look upon.

She crawled away as far as she could and covered her eyes.

“Oh, Pandora,” a voice said, “What have you done?”

© Kari Fay