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Pandora's Box

Chapter Text

In the beginning, God sealed all the evils into one box. Famine, war, hate… All of these, and many more, inhabited that box together. The first woman, Pandora, had discovered the secret hiding place of Heaven’s box and took it within her hands. Some said it was a solid gold box hidden in the mountains, others that it was intricately carved mahogany in a hidden palace, still others that it was a sealed treasure chest deep in some ocean grotto. Either way, the box intrigued Pandora. It had no lock, only the will of Heaven kept it closed, but Pandora’s will was stronger, and she was able to open it. From within the box, all the evils of the world dispersed. Famine, war, hate… All these, and many more, were reborn in the world. Pandora had earned her death, but… there was one last redemption for her and the world. Inside the box, one light still lingered, the light of hope. And as that light remained in the box, one day the hearts of men would be able to conquer all evil and light the world with the torch called hope.

~*~

BAM! A girl grabbed her head as she lifted it wearily from a desk. Her light brown hair fell in cascades around her face as she raised her head and let out a shrill squeak. She tightened her grip on her head, wincing quickly and muttering some random nonsense beneath her breath amidst a few more high pitched squeaks.

A cheerful, feminine laugh rang through her ears. “Slept in class again, Minako?” A blond girl held a small black book bag out to the babbling underachiever.

Minako still held her head within her hands. Her large brown eyes narrowed as she growled. “Shut up.” Finally regaining her composure, Minako stood up from her seat and brushed her hair back behind her shoulders. She then adjusted the light pink bow at her chest, so that the bow hung loosely from her middy blouse. And finally, she pushed her white knee high socks down toward her ankles and the straps of her black patent shoes. She then clapped her hands before reaching for the book bag the other girl held out patiently. “Okay! Let’s go!”

The blonde haired girl giggled once more as she ran her fingers against the strands of her hair pulled back by bright red barrettes. “Is this special for today only, or do you do this every day when I’m not looking anymore?” She was about the same height as Minako with slightly shorter hair and a rounded face. Her outfit resembled the original condition of Minako’s, as they were school uniforms. She placed her fingers around the straps of her backpack and resituated the weight on her back.

Minako stuck her tongue out at the blonde haired girl. “Only for you, Renee.”

Renee giggled again and rolled her eyes. “How lucky, I’m the only one that gets subjected to your slob-like ways.”

Minako put her hands on her hips and whined, ”If you keep laughing, we’ll never get to go!!!!” She slung the book bag over her shoulder and continued to whine, “And I’m not a slob…”

Her giggles continued. “Because I can’t laugh and walk at the same time?” She gave a quick wink. “And your unkempt bow tells me otherwise…”

She clenched her fist. “Well excuse me for not liking tight things around my neck!” She shook her head quickly. “No, just… I want to get there quickly…”

“Because Damien is hot?”

“No!!!!!! I wanna see the show!!!! I paid good money!!!!”

Renee put her hand to her face. “You’d think that with all the time we lived here, we’d have gone more often...” She removed her hand from her face. “And besides, it’s not like it was so expensive…”

Minako grabbed Renee’s hand and began running. “Look, I don’t care! This is no time to contemplate! That and my mom will be so sad that I’m missing her favorite shows!”

Renee laughed as she followed Minako’s quickened pace. “I think you’ll live for one day.”

“But… My mom was buying angel food cake!”

Renee shook her head. “It’s a wonder you’re not overweight.”

“I have a dancer’s body… It’s such a curse.” She nodded her head in a straightforward manner.

Renee clenched her fist. “Don’t say that with a straight face, Minako!!”

“Green isn’t a very flattering color on you, Renee,” Minako mused, a sickeningly huge grin covering her face.

“Arrogance doesn’t fit you well either,” Renee scoffed.

“What color is arrogance anyway?”

“Brown.”

“You’re mean, Renee!!!” 

"Just telling the truth."

"Mean!!"

Renee laughed again as they continued running down the crowded street.

Cars sped by at lightning speeds on the road next to them. They pushed their way through the crowded sidewalk, only half mindful of the rushed people beside them. Overhead, the buildings loomed to impossible heights, making them seem almost small and meaningless within their own world. The increasing cloudiness of the day enveloped the busy streets.

“Do you think it will rain, Renee?” Minako held her hands in front of her and briefly examined the sky.

Renee smirked. “So you can ponder the weather, but I can’t laugh?”

Minako gasped. “That’s right! We’ll be late!”

Renee sighed and shook her head derisively. “You need to work on that focusing problem of yours…”

“It’s not a focusing problem!”

“My mistake, studying problem.” Renee winked.

Minako clenched her fist around her book bag. “I don’t have a studying problem!”

Renee winked again. “You’re right, it’s a disorder.”

“A disorder is worse than a problem!” Minako fumed as she ran past Renee.

Renee laughed as she reached her hand out to Minako. “Wait, wait. It was a joke!”

“Then at least make it funny!” Minako pouted. “You’re cruel, Renee!”

Renee continued laughing. “Sorry, sorry.”

“And don’t apologize if you’re not sorry, Renee!”

“Sorry…”

“You are not!”

Renee continued laughing as they ran down the street.

Even in the rain, their bright world shined brilliantly. It was a world where any sadness and darkness was buried far away from the surface and its inhabitants lived in a world of unending light. Though, in the end, that existence seemed somewhat unfulfilling. There are people who look forward to those sad, dark, and unfortunate days in the rain because brightness is dull without complimentary darkness.

~*~

After what seemed like an endless run, the studio finally stood before them. It was a bright, energetic room overlooking the square below. So many times, they had looked up to it, but had never actually been inside. It was a dream come true for them, like many others who had stood before the magnificence of this place. It was a place where happiness lit up the world in an instant. The audience had begun to gather on the tiered steps. They were two of fifty guests that day, finally realizing a long kept dream.

“We get to be on TV!!!” Renee squealed. “On TRL!!!!”

The two girls clasped hands and began to jump up and down. Their squeals were shining beams of sun on the otherwise gloomy day outside the window. Even as the fog settled the streets, their sunbeams broke through the darkness. They scrambled quickly to their seats, before the best spots were taken.

The show went as normally, the crowd cheered and the colorful, enticing videos flashed across the screen. As the show began, Minako’s heart had been elated, almost to impossible heights, but it sank deeper and deeper into the ground as it progressed. Would it be buried six feet under in her lingering disappointment? What am I waiting for? There’s something missing… But what? I can’t remember any more. Aren’t I happy? To finally be on the TRL stage? But there’s something from very long ago that I wanted… She put her hand to her head, letting out a low breath. Something from long ago? What exactly is it that my heart is missing?

The studio swirled into darkness. Minako’s face grew pale. Everyone around her was still cheering and smiling, even Renee. Don’t they notice this empty feeling swallowing them? She lowered her head and turned slowly to face Renee’s smiling face. “Renee…” Minako whispered.

Renee turned to face Minako. She reached her hand to Minako's arm. “Why are you so pale?” She blinked suddenly and her body shuddered forcefully. “I just felt really empty, like something was missing… Strange…”

“Me too.” Minako lowered her gaze. “What is it?”

Renee’s eyes darted back and forth, looking at both sides of the room. She put her hand to her forehead. “I don’t remember, but there’s something that should be here… from before… Something very important… It almost seems like it’s crying about being lost. What an ominous feeling…”

Minako put her hands on the step. It almost seemed to be cracking slowly beneath her. “Renee…” She reached her hand toward her friend’s arm.

Renee lowered her head; her eyebrows pinched as she smiled regretfully. “Minako, sorry… I want to remember… But… I don’t know…”

“Don’t apologize when you don’t have to…” Minako lowered her head and pulled her hand back.

Renee laughed quietly. “You’re right… I always forget… Sorry…”

Minako clenched her hand into a fist. Why is this place filled with such ominous darkness? Why do we remember such an odd and impending feeling? She looked down to the step. Why? Why does it feel like unending darkness is consuming this place? And, why do I feel like it’s pulling me under?

The step shattered underneath Minako. All that existed in the world seemed to be an endless void of darkness. She plunged into the void, an ominous river of blackness. She unclenched her fist and lashed her hand toward Renee, who still sat on the step. “RENEE!!!!!!!!!!”

Renee thrust her hand out, only a few moments too late. Minako had slipped from her grasp into the unending darkness of their ominous incomprehensible memories. She stood quickly. “Minako!!!” She put her hand to her head as she collapsed back to her seat. The darkness vanished and she was back within the world of the cheering crowd and the imagery of musicians. She folded her hands across her lap, then whispered, “What was that strange vision? Minako… Where on earth did you go?” She shut her eyes. ”No… Where on earth could you go?”

~*~

Renee ran out onto the street. She whipped her head from side to side. Minako… Where are you? She lowered her head. That vision… Was it a dream, or… was it something more important? She clenched her fist. No one else had seen that unending black world, I’m sure of it. If they had, they wouldn’t have been cheering with such fervor afterwards. Maybe I’ve just gone insane… Minako probably slipped past me in the rush to leave. She would be at home, sadly asking her mother what happened on TV and if she could have some of the cake. She laughed to herself. That’s exactly what Minako would do.

She gasped quickly and raised her hands to her heart. Minako… If… If she’s just at her house then why is this immense sad feeling washing over my heart? She lowered her head. Minako who watches soap operas and laughs with her mother… Minako who never has a sad thought in her head, even over troublesome subjects like her grades. Renee clenched her fist again. Minako… Where are you suffering all alone? Is it… somewhere in the world I can never reach? What a cruel thing… I want to be with you… I want to hold you close and keep that darkness from consuming you. That black void… It must have been some dark world of only nightmares… Renee held her hand to her face. Minako… Hold on to your hope… I will be there as soon as I can… Somehow… 

But how on earth do you get to a place that doesn't exist anywhere?

~*~

Minako stirred and opened her eyes slowly. Darkness? She moved her fingers slowly, almost laboriously. Where? Renee? Is this TRL? She shifted her eyes to her hair lying limply on the ground almost as if it were dead. She lifted her head slowly, raising her hand to her forehead as she sat up. Everywhere’s a black canvas. It’s nothing like our world. It’s completely empty... Where is this? She blinked as her eyes continued to adjust to the dim lighting. This place is like an empty prison. Am I the only person in this world of unending darkness?

At that moment, a pair of wide, bright, yellowish pupils stared back at her. “Another soul has joined us, how unfortunate to awaken…”

Minako scooted backward and gaped. “Who’s there? Where are we?”

As her eyes adjusted to the lighting fully, she could make out the figure for the first time. Her darkened hair hung limply in front of her face, it was almost as black as the room surrounding them. Her clothing was dirty and torn, her face was yellowed and worn. How long has this girl been here? How long has she suffered all alone in this world of unending darkness? No… There seemed to be hundreds of those same yellowed eyes glowing back at her… How many girls live in this unending void?

“I should ask you the same question.” Her solemn voice and eyes were almost as hollow as the darkness.

“What is this place?” Minako asked, tears forming in her eyes. The creatures before her seemed broken and almost faceless. Had the pure blackness of the world done this to them or was it something else? Could darkness really harm a person so much that they changed?

Her shadowed hands rose to her heart; for that moment in time, the expression on her face seemed almost angelic. “All of us slept in a beautiful dream. They wanted us to forget, but we remembered… And now we suffer…”

“Beautiful… dream?” Minako lowered her gaze.

“A world of only light and happiness… There was never any hurt or despair. It was a world without darkness and suffering… But…” She clenched her fist. “Fragmented memories pulled us into darkness… Memories we never had…” She lowered her head. “Memories of only sadness…”

“Sad memories of what?”

“Before…”

“What happened before?” Minako clenched her hands to her heart. That ominous feeling at TRL…  “Something… that didn’t exist in the world…”

“I do not know… But I remember that there was something…” She shut her eyes. “I dreamed that I was searching for something, from so long ago… What was it? Where was it? But… When I woke up, I was here. And this is where I have been ever since… Searching for something that existed only in my heart…”

“Is this a nightmare?” Minako’s voice shivered, an echo of the rest of her body. Something that can’t be found… Something that doesn’t exist anywhere on earth… Something that makes my entire body cry out to it…

“Wouldn’t that be nice? Then we could wake up to find everything like before.”

“Why are you still waiting here?”

“There is a legend of a great power sealed in a box. That power is the key to our existence. But… It seems that power was sealed away because it was evil. It’s unfortunate we depend on it more than anything.” She buried her face in her knees as she held them to her chest.

So much sadness fills this place. The creatures here are suffering. I can only clearly see this one figure shrouded in shadow, but all those other sad eyes are staring at me.

She raised her head once more. “But… There is a woman… Pandora… She can save us…”

“Pandora?” Minako moved her hands from her heart, blinking her eyes. A woman who can save everyone?

“Deep within her heart, Pandora knows the location of the box. She can light up the world with the torch called hope.” She turned her head slowly. “When she opens the box, we will all be saved from the monster and the evil of the world will vanish.”

“Evil and monsters? What’s going on here?”

The figure shook her head. “Only Pandora knows… Perhaps… Perhaps you are her?”

“No… I’m Minako…” Her voice quivered. Why can’t I help? Why is there only one powerful woman who could save the world from this unending darkness and monsters?

“No… I suppose you couldn’t be Pandora… Pandora can understand the vague memories that only whisper in our hearts.”

“What do I do?” Minako’s hands shook violently. Where is Renee? She’d been there with me and felt the emptiness with me, but… Where is she now? Minako shivered as tears began forming in the corners of her eyes. Renee… Where on earth are you? What do I do without you here? Renee…

The figure vanished within the shadows. The piercing, yellow eyes glimmered for a moment, then vanished into the dark abyss. Her low voice called to Minako through the blackness. “There is nothing you can do… Only Pandora holds the torch of hope.”

Pandora… A woman who carried a torch of hope to light the world… Minako huddled against the wall and shivered. The lights of the eyes no longer lighted this world… A world of only darkness… It was terrifying… “Renee…” Tears dropped from her eyes and burst violently on the ground like a rainstorm. Where in the world am I? Can you find me in this darkness? Renee…