A few weeks ago, as part of the 100 Word Challenge for Grown Ups, I wrote a post called The Box which seemed to spark some interest. (I am repeating it below so you don’t have to go look at that post unless you want to) Yesterday, I declared I was going to try to extend some of my challenges into fuller fledged stories. I hope you like it. Eek!
It came special delivery with a simple note attached in handwriting she had not seen except in the letters her mother had kept. Love letters, from her father, a man who left Cindy long ago. A man she would rather forget.
“I’m sorry,” the note said, attached to the red box.
The small box was heavy and cool, made out of material that Cindy could not identify.
She tried to hide it away in a closet, but it seemed to call to her. She pulled it out and placed it on the mantle, where she intentionally ignored it.
Until the night it glowed.
At first she thought she was imagining the glow. A spark, deep in the center of a box that looked almost solid, it disappeared when she looked directly at the box. She avoided looking whenever she could. She started avoiding the room.
Sometimes, though, when she walked by she would catch a glimpse of a spark that simply could not be there.
“The sun must be hitting it just right,” she told herself, even on cloudy days.
Other times when she walked by the room, she heard the call that had made her pull the strange box out of the closet. Words she could not understand sung in a tuneless melody.
“I wish my neighbor wouldn’t listen to her music so loudly.”
After that, she kept the door closed, living as comfortably as she could in the other rooms of her cozy cottage.
But then the power went out. A surprise snowstorm knocked down tree limbs heavy with new growth, causing chaos in the area. Cindy had no choice but to go in and light a fire for warmth. Carrying a flashlight and some matches she opened the door, to find a room full of warm, sparkling red light.
The box was glowing, and she couldn’t ignore it.
The room itself felt warm, as if the fire had already been lit. But there was no fire, only the glow of the red box.
She stared at the box in shock. Her emotions warred inside her. The part of her that loved mystery wanted to walk forward. The nugget of anger at her father that she had held onto for so long pulled her back. Fear of the unknown battled with her innate desire for knowledge. She found herself slowly walking forward, as if the atmosphere had grown thick and she had to wade through it. She reached her hand up and touched the smoothness of the box, still cool despite the warmth in the room and the strength of its light.
“What is this?” She whispered, knowing there was only one way to find the answer. “What did you send me Daddy?”
She found the clasp that held the box closed. Her hands trembled as she tried to figure out its elaborate mechanism.
She opened the box, and music filled the room along with a flash of energy and light so powerful it flung Cindy backward, where she hit the bookcase and fell on the floor stunned.
When she came to, the brightness had faded somewhat and she found herself looking at a man she could only remember in flashes, and from faded photos that her mother had saved with the letters. The man she remembered from then had been strong and handsome, with dark black hair and deep eyes that tricked the viewer, often appearing to be different colors–one a dark brown, the other glinted almost green.
This man looked different, except he had her father’s eyes. His hair was long and silver. His rugged features aged and tired, reflecting a man hardened by unknown trials but also the lines of laughter.
“Daddy?” Cindy asked, her voice cracking in fear and surprise. She pulled herself up onto the sofa, feeling the weakness in her legs caused by the crack to her head, but also disbelief. How could her father be in front of her? How could he have appeared out of a tiny red box?
“I finally found my way back to you,” he said, and his voice brought back memories of long ago. “I never meant to leave you, little girl.”
Cindy found it difficult to form words. “I don’t understand,” she whispered.
“I know you don’t,” he said. He picked up the red box that was still glowing but not as brightly, and handed it to her. “But you’ve opened the box, and now you will know the truth.”
Holding it in her hand, Cindy suddenly knew. She felt its pulse. She heard the music of its song, and she knew. The box was from a place that she only remembered in her dreams, a place where she had only ever been with her father at her side
Holding the box brought back a memory of a scene from long ago, which she thought was just part of her nightmare. The scene came to life in front of her eyes:
Her mother clasped tiny Cindy in her hands as her father rushed them away from a house much bigger than the tiny cottage she called home now. He led them to a cave hidden underneath some vines.
“Here’s the passage,” he said. He hugged them both tightly and gave them each loving kisses.
“I don’t want to leave you behind,” her mother said.
“It’s the only choice,” her father said. “I will come for you when it is safe, and I have destroyed the Wizard. Otherwise we will always be hunted.”
“But what of this other world?” her mother asked. “What if they realize that we are not from there?”
“They will never know. I’ve arranged everything. I’ve even given you a little cottage that I furnished with love. It’s not home, but I hope it will serve. Goodbye, I love you both.”
And with that her mother stumbled the last few steps into the cave. They looked back toward her father and a light flared between them. Cindy closed her eyes against the glare. When she opened them again, they were in the cottage. The cottage she would live in, watching her mother’s sadness. The cottage she would inherit when her mother succumbed to the sadness and withered away as the years passed and her father did not return.
Cindy opened her eyes again, to see her father standing in front of her, tears pouring down his face.
“I’m so sorry,” he said, his voice clogged with emotion.
Cindy looked at the box in her hands. She knew that it had come from a very special place.
A place called home.