Monday, March 31, 2014

Pandora's Envelope

Chuck Wendig's blog "Terribleminds" is one of my greatest inspirations. I highly recommend it to anyone who writes. He posts a weekly writing challenge called The Flash Fiction Challenge each week with a new prompt. I really liked this one so I think I'll post it. The prompt was to create a short story (there's a 1,000 word limit) using five of the ten words he listed. Mine were;

& Hermit

I guess I'll name it Pandora's Envelope because Greek mythology just kinda happened. Enjoy.


It’s a bright day.
Not exactly what you’d expect from a funeral.
Disney sure has some misleading little fuckers.

Spring, as I have always seen it, is a time for weddings, little girls in Easter dresses, and grilling parties with the neighbors we not-so-secretly hate. Today was supposed to be like that. Well, I guess it still is, and everyone else is going about their day as if nothing really happened because none of them really knew him. The Hermit, I mean.

And neither did I, for that matter.

He squatted in a run-down house on the outskirts of town.
I wondered why nobody ever threw him out. Now I think I know why.

Yesterday I went to visit “his” house. I expected there to be piles of trash and other miscellaneous paraphernalia. I brought gloves just in case. The door was, miraculously, intact and swung open with little persuasion from my hand. Where I had expected spiders, there was a well-tended fire place. Where I had expected broken glass, there were carefully folded newspapers. Where I expected shattered windows, I found foxgloves in the windowsill.

It wasn’t at all what it looked like from the outside. Still far from luxurious, but charming in its own way. This wasn’t just a squatting hole. This was a home.

I walked over to the windowsill to smell the light perfume of the orange and pink flowers. Sunlight danced through the dew that was still left over from the night. Outside, the woods that extended past the neighborhood’s back yards threw patterned splotches of the same sunlight down on the damp earth beneath the trees.  I understood why the hermit had picked this place.

There was no dust to be found anywhere, no dirt. Only small mementos of a life that had been lived sometimes in haste and sometimes at leisure in irregular intervals. Upon rifling through the newspapers, I found that many of them were from before my mother was born. There were more than just newspapers in the stack. There were two business cards, a photograph of a woman on a rock overhanging a large gorge, three small pamphlets with foreign languages written on them, and one letter.

The letter immediately caught my attention. The envelope was old, hand folded, and a deep topaz blue.

Curiosity has always been my weak point. I can’t help it. The letter was unopened. Why was it unopened? Why keep a letter he had never even seen?

It was that fucking box all over again.

I know that I shouldn’t look into unopened things. I thought I had learned that lesson. I was sure that the whole of my existence was based on that one simple, stupid rule. I wasn’t supposed to open the box. “Do not open the box.” That was the one rule. The only rule. My only rule. I could do whatever the hell else I wanted.

But no.
I wanted what was inside of the box.

That. Damn. Box.

As I said. Curiosity. Big, big, weak point. Let it suffice to say that after releasing all of the monsters and terrors and other horrible things back into the world, I didn’t think a letter would do much harm. I opened the letter and nothing happened.

That I was aware of, or am aware of, anyway.

I pulled a thick piece of yellowed paper from the envelope.
The note was, to say the least, disturbing.
At the bottom of the page it was signed,
                “From your favorite,
                                                The Orphan”

I am sitting in my favorite chair made by an old Indian woman that my great, great god-mother bought from an acquaintance. Don’t ask why I have a great, great god-mother. It’s a very complicated and lengthy story to tell, and I’m lazy. I am also sleepy. I am drinking tea of the chamomile kind as well. My chair is comfy, my tea warm, and my body tired, but I can’t sleep.

I couldn’t sleep at all last night. It was agony. All I kept thinking about were the contents of the letter.
The sender, specifically.
I have a good idea of who it was, but why?

Then again, she considers me lower than a hermit (even though she obviously had dealings with one), and I think I’m pretty good for someone who has literally brought the very worst upon mankind. Heh. When you say it like that… I guess I probably am lower than any hermit that has ever walked the Earth. I can’t even blame Dionysus anymore. That part of the myths is completely overlooked.

You see, all of those things that have been discussed in stories since before we knew personal hygiene was a thing are actually happening now. Like today, actually. Or two years ago. That was when I was given the box. The stories get scrambled after a while though, being sped through time-space as they happen, both in the past and future. Of course little things are going to be mixed up.

But not me.
Not the greatest failure.
My story has no falsities whatsoever, they made sure of that.

Dionysus is a different story altogether, which is exactly why he’s so easily blamed. I have absolutely no shame in admitting that he has taken the fall for at least 103 other mishaps caused by me. He kinda deserves it.

I finish my tea and don a solemn black dress. It’s almost time.

I stand and walk the short distance across town to the cemetery. There is virtually no one there except for a few old ladies who come of their own kindness and the preacher who knows virtually nothing about the old man in the casket.

The Hermit.


As they ready the casket for its decent into the Earth, I place the letter on top.
I’ll seal this mystery up before I can bring one more grief to mankind.

Just this once, though.

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