‘Pandora dear there’s someone at the door can you get it darling?’
‘So what was it?’
‘A package, addressed to me.’
‘Oh, and who send it.’
‘It says “ Ursula Pandorium, Mindbogglers Cottage, Pitnacree.’
My mother snatched the package from me and peered at it and then at the addressee. I had never seen my mother angry but at that time she was, her eyes darkened, her demeanour changed and she then looked at me in the most worrying way.
‘Ursula Pandorium is my sister, your aunt. When you were born we were as close as you could be and I named you in her honour, but we fell out with each other and she moved to the cottage and we never spoke again. This is the first I’ve heard from her in all these years.’
‘Why would she be sending me a package when I don’t even know her?’ I asked as I was puzzled by the package as this was my first introduction to an aunt I didn’t know I had.’
‘She’s a bitter and twist woman these days Pandora. I fear what is in this package will not be pleasant.’
I peeled back the layers of wrapping to reveal a beautiful box, ornate and on the side an even more ornate lock and latch.
‘Oh no!’ I heard my mother exclaim, ‘I know what this is.’
‘What is it Mother? It’s beautiful.’
‘Oh my dear girl that is the charm of the box, it looks attractive, desirous, but if you read the note I’m sure it will say something different.’
I found the note attached to the side of the box. The writing was from someone with a very elaborate style, the calligraphy was beautiful, but the message was worrying.
‘Dear Pandora, this box is yours, it has been passed down through the women in our family and now I pass it to you. Treat it with the greatest of respect for it contains every nightmare you could imagine. Your mother will tell you more, as she knows first hand of the power it holds. Love from your Aunt Ursula.’
To me it looked like an old fashioned box, the sort of thing you found in your grandmothers closet. But mother was clearly not happy about the box being in our house.
‘You must promise me Pandora that you will never open this box. It contains unbelievable horrors, it will bring you nothing but pain and misery.’
In the weeks that followed the box sat upon our mantelpiece as mother told me the story of the box. She didn’t know why but the women in our family had been cursed, as she put it, with the safe keeping of the box and now it was my turn.
She recounted the story of the box being opened one day by Ursula and herself out of sheer curiosity after their own mother has told them all that Pandora’s mother had told her daughter.
The sisters were never the same again. They fought and argued, schemed against each other, pushed each other to the limit where their mother told Ursula to take the box and leave to never return leaving my mother with me, the baby in her arms.
Once Ursula left peace once again descended onto the household and life went on. It seemed that if the box was opened the keeper of the box was the one who suffered the most.
I could see my mothers concern at this thought.
One morning I came out and discovered the box was gone. Mother would never say where she had put it but it was safe she said, and I could forget about its existence.
And so it vanished from my life, I completed school, grew into a normal teenager and on my sixteenth birthday there was a surprise visitor.
Aunt Ursula appeared at the front door. Now freed of the box she felt safe to venture away from her cottage and visit us for the first time since her exile.
She asked mother where the box was.
Mother refused to say.
Ursula then asked me.
I had no idea.
Ursula was worried. It was a matter of me being sixteen that bothered her. The box would begin to call to its owner. Temptation would grow to reunite with its keeper. She reminded my mother of the box’s power, its strength, its desire, which outstripped any human desire.
Ursula knew the box could be controlled by the keeper, if kept close the box was harmless, but if you separated it from its keeper beyond her sixteenth birthday you were in effect playing with fire.
She told me the story of Great Aunt Alice, who fought the box but who in the end went mad from fighting it. No one wanted that to happen to me.
All the while I was hearing these tales I grew more and more curious about the box. I wandered out into the yard, I had turned sixteen the week before and had noticed in change in myself, but I thought it was just growing pains.
Near the back shed I felt a pain in stomach, the pain stabbed at me, it drew me to the shed, in the shed buried under the floorboards was the box.
I picked it up and immediately the pain subsided. I held it close, the box was warm in my arms, it nestled into me.
The latch I noticed was loose, I lifted it, the heat of the box intensified, then an impetus like I had never experienced before compelled me to open the lid.
A force overwhelmed me and the box consumed me.
In the seconds that followed I had my first lesson into the power of the box, it revealed to me its history and its existence since the beginnings of time.
After what seemed an eternity it released me leaving with an enigmatic message: ‘Use me wisely Pandora, I am capable of good, but I can be very very naughty.’
I opened my eyes to see my mother and Aunt Ursula leaning over me, both looking perplexed and concerned for me.
‘I’m ok,’ I said. My eyes darting from one woman to the other. ‘We’ve become acquainted.’