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Image by Deleece Cook

The Battle of Pandora's Box

(c) Linda Hutchison March 2016

Pandora moved slowly, tentatively, towards the box, reaching out to touch it. It was so beautiful. Tantalizing. But no, she quickly withdrew her hand and held it tightly to herself. The box was locked for a reason, and she was on no account to open it, ever.
The lustrous wooden box had arrived the month before, a special delivery from Zeus for her marriage to Epimetheus. They had placed it on show for their myriad of guests to admire. The ornate iron key to the box, however, had been hidden safely in a secret alcove in their cellar, well away from the inquisitive eyes of the public and securely distant from the box itself. Prometheus, her husband’s brother, had shaken his head in disbelief when the box arrived, convinced that it was another trick the Gods were playing on them, like the arrival of Pandora herself. But Epimetheus could not be swayed – both Pandora and the box were here to stay.
The box was magnificent in its construction, finely crafted in oak with beech, willow, yew and precious metal inlays. The joinery was so precise that the box appear seamless despite its complexity and size. And the box was heavy, although it was hard to know if the weight came from what was held within or from the box itself. It was a glorious mystery.
And therein lay the problem. Pandora held her face tightly in her hands, as if to squeeze the box from her mind. It played with her. She could scarcely go an hour without the box appearing, whether it be immediately before her in reality, or in her mind’s eye. It followed her everywhere, even to the theatre, although her thoughts at the time had been miles away, consumed by the drama. All it had taken was the mention of forbidden fruit to veer her attention straight back to the achingly exquisite box. It felt tattooed into her vision – irremovable.
Knowing that the box was locked, and that the key was in the cellar helped, because she couldn’t open the box without the key, and only her slaves had ever been down to the cellar. But not knowing what the box held, especially as it had been given by Zeus, was intensely frustrating. Surely he, as a one of the gods, would know exactly what she’d like. Perhaps it contained finely woven garments, or intricate golden jewellery. Oh, why had he told her to leave it alone? Couldn’t he have just left the box empty? Or perhaps the inside of the box was even more amazing than the outside? It was all too hard! She frowned and walked out into the glaring midday sun.
Pacing up and down the stone-paved courtyard, Pandora determined to reign in her thoughts. She mulled over the evening’s menu for her guests - wine, cheese, olives, figs, fish and bread, and of course, honey cakes for dessert. Rich, golden cakes, breathtakingly sweet and, she paused, exactly the colour of the wood panels on that dratted box. Arrggh! She wandered towards the pool and into the shade of the palms. She breathed deeply and sat looking at her reflection in the water. It is just a box, she told herself. There are many other beautiful things I can delight myself with. Or could she? Would she find joy in nothing else while this box ruled her life? Provocation, irritation, vexation, and exasperation of the highest level all seemed to be ruling with it, and it was all too disturbing.
Enough, she resolved. I am in charge, not the box. She ordered the key to be retrieved from the cellar and strode into the room where the box held court. She placed the key in the lock and turned. She hesitated for a moment, then fought off any thoughts of wavering and lifted the lid. Instead of light, all she could see was blackness. A deep guttural sigh and desperately dark sense of foreboding entered the room as the contents spilled from the box. She moaned as she realised that the box had held unutterable terrors and not precious gifts, and she had just released them into the world. The battle had never been with the box itself; the battle had been with Zeus. And she had wholeheartedly capitulated. She sank to the cold stone floor and cried, suddenly understanding that her curiosity had led her to a choice that had far-reaching and miserable consequences for the world. One selfish decision had unleashed hell.

The Battle of Pandora's Box: Work
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