I was discharged from the hospital two days after I woke up. Though it probably wouldn’t have mattered because I was barely awake, still exhausted and dead asleep on the drive home. But I was eager to leave the hospital. I didn’t like the smells and felt a little nervous with people checking on me and saying things I barely understood. The nurse always looked so confused and I figure it had to do with me being a twenty-year-old girl in this day and age who didn’t seem to know much about medical jargon. The only comfort was Warren who barely left my side at all. He could explain everything to me. Even the nurse who checked on me every once a while said I was a lucky girl to have such a loving boyfriend. I blame the medication I received to help the still throbbing aches but I was blushing, bashful mess. I knew Warren’s eyes could turn but I didn’t expect that amount of red on his face ever.
That was enjoyable for me.
I think Warren enjoyed teasing me like I was a drunk who slurred her words occasionally and got all emotional. On my last day at the hospital, I woke up to a bouquet of flowers sitting on a table stand next to my bed, a mix of off coloured white roses and some red roses that stood out from the mix. A disastrous mix but heart-warming. Warren only read of the name of the church and I felt more light-hearted than I had in weeks. They were okay. They were safe now. Once I was better, I could get Marios to help me find the box and hide it away even better if I had too. I couldn’t remember whether he said he knew or not. But right now, the box was safe, hidden and my friends and protectors were safe as well. I could relax now. That was all. I was more thrilled when I was told I could leave tonight and was more than eager to. Warren cited me as puppylike, eager to get home asap.
I woke up in my bed, covered in a thick blanket plus another layer, even though it was cold, I felt as though I was overheating. But better than being cold since it made everything hurt more. Warren had left me for the day, even though he didn’t want to but I persisted. I wouldn’t go anywhere, plus didn’t feel like moving anyway and I could tell he was eager to go back to work soon. So, the next couple days, I sat indoors, enjoying a brief moment of reprieve from everything, watching some movies that Warren showed me to how to start and heat up some leftover food. I was starting to feel like I was taking over his place now, since I could give back nothing. But Warren never complained or seemed upset and I figured once I was okay, I could back to the church and stay there.
I sigh, leaning back against the couch, an unsettled feeling setting in place at the thought. I didn’t really want to leave. And I could definitely chalk that up to the feelings that were still right there. I was too nervous to say or imply anything because truthfully, I wasn’t ready to find out my own feelings myself just yet. Right now, I just needed...I don’t know. Time maybe. I needed to adjust myself to this world still and find the box. No, I need to finish watching this film, this Lion King film because my heart was breaking here. Is he going back? He’s going back home! “Yes! Go home! Go help them! Listen to your father!” God grief, I was getting emotional over a film that wasn’t realistic in appearance, quite childlike and bright and colourful but oh god, my heart was wrenching. I don’t know whether to despise Warren or not for introducing me to these Disney films, he called them. My heart was struggling with this.
I heard the sound of a door not too long later and glanced up as Warren appeared in the living room doorway and his eyes fell on me and my heart jumped at the light hearted look.
My heart is still struggling.
“Welcome home.” I smile softly and hold up a bowl of soup I had heated up. “I heated up some food if you’d like some?” A strange expression crossed his face, but it disappeared just as quickly and he gave me a faint smile.
“That sounds delicious.”
“Excellent. I am really loving these ready-made soups you get from the shops. It’s so easy and quick, and simple.” I pause the movie, placing my food on the table and slowly climb out of my spot on the couch, my side twinging. I hear Warren telling me to sit down but I wave him off. “No, no. I need to move around, it helps when I do. But as I was saying, it’s amazing at how delicious it also tastes. My favourite is this spicy lemon Thai soup. Hardly spicy at all but tastes incredible and quite refreshing with a nice cold glass of water. It’s just perfect for a chilly day like today...and what’s with the look?” I stop in the kitchen, catching his unmoving gaze as he continues to stare at me strangely. His eyes were dark, his expression was intense and it sent knots in my stomach and my throat grow dry. “You okay, Warren?” We stare at each for what could pass as minutes but would only really be seconds. But every second that passed, the tension grew and grew until I was sure someone would say something, do something but I couldn’t, struck still by that strange expression on his face. I’d seen it a little bit more these couple days and it was both confusing and worrying. His shoulders rose as he breathes in evenly and releases a deep sigh, his eyes flickering with some unknown emotion.
“I’m...” He hesitates but subtly shakes his head. “I’m good.” He follows me into the kitchen, his voice strained as I stare at him confused but he smiles softly at me. “You need some help?”
“Sure.” I smile nervously back, grabbing a bowl as he grabs a packet of soup from the cupboard. “How was the college today?” I glance up at him as he rips the package and his lips twitch.
“It was good.” He pours the soup in the bowl and I turn away to place in the microwave. As I place it inside and the machine beeps softly, I’m almost certain he says “It got a lot better now.”
“How did you manage with some movies today? Do I need to get more tissues?”
“It’s your fault. How do you recommend something so heart-wrenching? And saying it is a children’s film! These poor kids- how do parents keep up with the need for tissues.” I glared at Warren’s back as he was laughing loudly, almost hunched over as he left the living room. “Yes, yes keep laughing.” I scoffed.
“But come on, the ending was happier.”
“Yes, but still. That’s a lot of emotional turmoil right there in that movie. It’s just so sad.”
“You should watch more of them. I’m getting a kick out of your reactions now.” My eyes narrowed evilly at him as he sat back down across from and smirked at my look. “You can try and look as terrifying as you’d look but you’ll never eclipse me, princess.”
“How can you recommend more of these? How many is there?”
“A lot.” He shrugged. “There’s even one called Hercules. You might enjoy that.”
“Isn’t Hercules a child of Zeus?” My tone dropped darkly and Warren’s face twisted apologetically. “Isn’t Hercules’s story quite dark and they would make this a kids’ film?”
“It’s not quite the true story. It’s a lot different.” Warren sighs, running a hand through his hair. “Sorry, I probably shouldn’t have suggested it but I figured, something light-hearted and maybe a little close to home.” My gaze turned to Warren evenly, irritated at the mention of that God. It was still a bitter pill about everything. It felt like a massive betrayal. To myself and to my mother who prayed and worshipped Zeus for all things. Instead, Zeus merely used her as he used me, to bore me and raise me unknowingly into the perfect trap. And the memory of her death was trying to claw its way to my head but I was scared to face it but it will be a matter of time.
“Maybe another day.” I kept my tone even but the atmosphere grew strained and I despised myself for being the cause of it.
“That’s okay. There’s so many others to go through anyway.” Warren chuckled lightly, trying to smooth over the brooding feeling in the room and I force a quick smile on my face as I stare blankly at the T.V. screen. “Actually, how are you feeling anyway?”
“Still a little sore but nothing I can’t handle.” I shift around the couch as if to prove a point. “Can we...” I turned hopeful eyes to Warren who rolled his own as though I was a pestering child.
“Alright, alright. I’ll take you when I’m heading to the university tomorrow. Just promise to stay there until I get you later in the evening. I don’t fancy you wandering about while you’re still hurt.”
Pick me up? Like he didn’t want me to leave yet?
“You don’t have to.” Stammering, while surprised as Warren looks at me perplexed, brows bunching up. “I mean, you don’t have to get me after your work. I mean, it’s far from each distance and I’ve been staying with them before and they were helping me adjust to this new world,” His expression faltered, a flash of hurt crossing his hurt. “No! No, I mean, it’s not like you haven’t been helping me! You have! More than I could ever thank you with but I don’t want to be burden-”
“Pssshhh.” Warren snorted, rolling his eyes as he stood up from his seat, taking my empty glass of water and his. “Oh, please.” He stood at the kitchen isle filling it with the pitcher of water he left out before coming back and laid our glasses on the table, mine he placed in front of me as he bent over slightly. “If you were a burden, Pandora, trust me this. You would know.” He stares at me sharply in my eyes, making me unable to look away and my lips move but I am unable to say anything.
“O-okay. I’m sorry-”
“Don’t apologize.” His voice was sharp but gentle and he smiles faintly. “You’re your own person Pandora.” I blink stunned at his words. “You can go or do whatever you want. But you are not a burden.” His lips twitch and he suddenly leans in over me. My stomach knots weirdly as my heart jumps as I feel myself lean further back into the couch as he leans over me. “You’re just a pain in the ass who enjoys swinging a poker at War.”
Oh dear...be still my beating heart. He’ll hear you!
My cheeks flush heavily under his gaze, holding my breath as though he leaves my body unable to break with his gaze upon me. My mind was whirling a mile a minute as he continues to stare back, his expression changing from wicked amusement to a strange, intense expression that had my heart jump to my throat, my breath hitching. My fingers starting to sweat, dug into the blanket around my legs.
This felt familiar. And yet different.
A flashback of a different time, a different situation, where he towered over me almost similar to this moment, I could remember it so clearly as if it was just yesterday. A heat was scorching back then, uncomfortably so unlike now. My heart ran rampant then as it does now but...so very different. I leant my head back slightly against the couch, boldly facing him, meeting his gaze with a glimmer, which was a huge contrast from a long time ago. Terrified, in despair and begging as I couldn’t face him evenly. Now, there was no terror or fear. Just something else that made my heart feel like it had never been lively as it was now. Our faces mere inches away from each other, his breath fluttered over my face, the smell of pine and soap. His eyes and his cheeks darkened as we remained where we were, unsure of when or if to move.
His eyes squeezed shut suddenly, before they opened, dark and level on mine and he gave a wry smile.
“You’ll be the death of me, princess.” He murmurs, resting his forehead against mine suddenly and my heart jitters, my lips tweaking upwards. He pulls away, his smile strained. “You should get some rest. We have to get up a littler earlier then.”
“Okay,” I whisper, watching him leave. I turn back to the T.V. but I don’t see anything, lost in my own thoughts, fingering a strand of my hair between my fingers. My mind went to places it really should not.
My eyes drifted to the kitchen, landing on a pot with a tiny twig sticking out sitting on the dining table where it would get more light at the moment.
“If there was ever a moment, I could use a woman to talk to, it would be now, Daphne.” I sigh, shaking my head in mock frustration. “I’m hopeless when it comes to this.” Standing up slowly so as not to antagonize my rib, I turn the T.V. off, following the direction Warren left. “Night, Daphne.”
The church appeared in view as we rounded the bend of trees and thick shrubs, parted ways for the gravel road. There was no movement until Warren parked and I quickly hopped out of the car, excited to face them again and see it for my eyes now they were okay.
I heard Warren tell me to relax a little but I was already moving to the garden where Father Marios stood, running his hands over some frayed and sick rose bushes. He turned to us as we approached, his eyes tense and wary turned soft and welcoming as he saw us both.
“Ah, Pandora! Kalós ílthate!”
“Father!” I hesitated in front of him, and he chuckled, a wry expression crossing his face.
“Come now, child. Don’t be shy.” He extended his arms and I quickly wrapped my arms around him, embracing him back, so grateful I could. I was eternally grateful to this man for helping me and the others who suffered and for sending me away at risk of his own life. I could never repay him. I sighed weakly against his shoulder and he chuckles, pulling back. I smile wetly and he pats my shoulder. “You’ve done well, my child. You did not need to come for us but myself and my children are eternally grateful you did.” His expression sombered as he looked at the messy graves lined on the ground, desecrating the clean-cut grass and rose bushes. “For even though we were saved, we lost many. Our sisters, our brothers. Even Daphne.” His head lowered, eyes hidden from view as his shoulders dropped, as he crossed his fingers over his chest. “She was our saviour and protector and she fought valiantly.” He glanced back at me, patting my shoulder and his eyes turned to Warren who remained standing behind me. “And thank you, War. I knew you would be most helpful to Pandora and we thank you for saving us. Gítses.” Father Marios lowered his head in respect. Warren nodded back slowly, a tight smile on his face but my heart was ready to burst with the exciting news.
“Father, you need not despair.” I clutched his forearm, the excitement threatening to scream out. “Daphne lives! She is alive and she will be herself once again.” Father Marios stared at me incomprehensively, eyes blinking slowly as he took in my words.
“I am sorry child but that is impossible. I saw her struck down by the ogres themselves. She could not have survived.” He shook his head sympathetically, patting the back of my hand. “I am sorry, I know you were quite fond of her-”
“No, Father. It is true.” I shook off his hand before clutching it mine. “We found a piece of her. She is a dryad; she will make it.” His brow furrowed as he surveyed my face and then to Warren, expression faltering.
“Is this true? Could it be...a miracle?”
“I wouldn’t quite say so,” Warren muttered. I threw him a glare at he met my gaze evenly. “She was burned not struck down. She must’ve been very lucky then.” A strange expression ghosted over Father Mario’s face; his eyes sharp as he frowned.
“Burned? I don’t recall a fire?”
“Your rose bushes were burned in an obvious fire.” Warren’s tone grew cold. Father Marios glanced at his rose bushes and his expression sobered.
“I do not remember much of that night I’m afraid. It was not a pleasant night afterall. But all is well. We must pray for Daphne’s quick revival. It will be good to see her again.” He smiled warmly at me. “Would you like to come in, both of you?”
“Yes, I would but Warren has to get to work but he’ll come by later if he’d like to.” Warren was frowning at Father Marios and I nudged his arm quickly. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine.”
“You sure?” Father Marios questioned, quirking a brow. “You are welcome in our home, horseman?”
“I’m aware.” Warren coolly dismissed the offer but turned to me. “You sure you want to stay, Pan? I’m happy to take you to town with me?” A genuine smile graced my face and I laid my hand over his forearm.
“I’m fine. The nuns and the priest risked their lives to save mine. They are strong and fierce. I’ll be safe, I promise.” Warren’s expression remained heavy as he glanced at the priest who stared out into the cemetery with a distant expression. Turning back to Warren who straightened and with a tense smile, nodded sharply.
“Alright, but if anything, and I mean ANYTHING, happens-”
“I’ll text you like you showed me too. I’ll be okay, I promise. Now go.” I laugh cheerily, pushing him back towards his car. “I don’t want you to be late.” He rolled his eyes at me.
“Please, I could be late but my students wouldn’t care.” He gave me a smirk as he walked back to his car. “I’ll see you later okay.”
“Bye.” I waved him off, staring at his back as he strode back to the parking lot, powerful legs moving him smoothly towards his car.
“Pandora.” Turning back around, Father Marios stared at me with an odd expression before he gave a cheery smile and gestured to the doors. “Time for breakfast. It’s an early morning and I’m sure you are starving.” He stood at the door waiting and I glanced back over my shoulder where I saw Warren’s dark silver car disappear around the bend and a strange tightness enveloped within my chest. Shaking it off, I turned to the priest with a wide smile.
“I am starving, thank you.”
“Sas efcharistó gia to proinó Adelfí Bria.”
Sister Bria gave me an odd look as I thanked her when she laid a plate of food in front of me. She appeared as though she was trying to smile but had never smiled before and didn’t know how, which wasn’t like her from what I remembered. Her eyes flickered past me before she quickly scampered off, gown trailing behind her as I followed her with a heavy frown. I turn back to Father Marios who looked away from where she disappeared and chuckled casually, wiping his face with a napkin.
“Do not take offense. She and the others are still quite tense after our...ordeal. It is quite traumatic, especially watching your sisters and brothers you grow up with slaughtered before your very eyes.” My heart hummed sympathetically and I nodded softly, glancing at my cup of water.
“I am sorry for putting you through this Father. If I wasn’t brought back, then none of this would’ve happened.” He shook his head exasperation clouding his face.
“Nonsense child. Life follows an order. One we have no control of. Not even the Gods have true control of it. They may pull strings, push further. But God’s cannot tell which way the waves can flow in the ocean or which direction the wind blows. They can only enforce it, strengthen it. You, coming into this world was a push of the God’s for something that no one really knows yet.” Father Marios eyes clouded as he clutched my hand tightly. “You were brought back by a power we were aware a God could dare show or even wished so but that makes you important, someone that is not so easily discarded.”
“What do you mean?”
“Pandora, your creation, painful as it may be was for that box. You can only be here for one reason. To protect what is yours at all costs. The God’s trust no other than you to do so. Your revival, is a big wave started by the God’s. They mean business.” Father Marios cast his gaze to the ceiling above us as though he was seeking answers above. “Your box has caused quite a riot. Have not had quite a problem like this since millenniums ago. But your box is safe.”
“Yes,” I take a large sip of my water my mind frazzling at the thoughts Father had put there. A power of a God, I was brought back just to protect the box which remains safe and hidden. It wasn’t a surprising thought but seemed a little way out of the God’s idea of being helpful. If the box was safe, why bring me back? What reason other reason could I be here? “But that is why I am here, Father.”
“You have the box I assume.” Father Mario’s eyes lit up as he patted my hand, sighing deeply in relief, ignoring Sister Bria who appeared through the back door with a pile of dirty dishes. “That is good, precious. It will be good for us to hide the box further needed.”
“No.” I shook my head, brow creasing in confusion. “I don’t have the box, Father.” His thick brows furrowed as he frowned at me.
“How do you not have-”
“The box remains hidden, as you said. I wanted to ask you where it could be so we could hide it even further if we must.” He blinked, obviously struck and a flicker of frustration crossed over his eyes before he let out a heavy sigh.
“I see.” The disappointment was prominent in his tone and I felt a flicker of disappointment in myself. I didn’t like disappointing in someone who did a lot for me. “Then, you would know where it could be, right?” His voice sparked, as though desperate, his hand gripping mine tighter and I flinched at the tight grip.
“Um, no,” I stammer, gently pulling my hand away from his and his eyes narrowed. “You never wanted me to know.” I frown, tilting my head at him. “You didn’t even know and you wanted to remain that way.”
“Right, yes. Yes, I did,” He stammered, shaking his head harshly as though riding himself of a thought and frustration clouding his voice. “But it is pertinent that we do find the box. Best to be safe.”
It’s safe with the box hidden.
An unsettling feeling was creeping the back of my head like a spider digging into my hair to make a cosy home. I squirmed, my hand snapping back to scratch the back of my head, to rid myself of that spider. But the feeling remained, niggling me.
“Um, I’m sorry. I haven’t had time to find it. I was trying to look for you with War and rescue you.” An expression crossed over his face that for a second lasted, I was certain it was just made up in my mind. But that niggling sensation dug in deeper making my shoulders tense.
Does he not remember any of this?
“I see,” He hummed, his face softening suddenly and he smiled brightly. “I cannot repay what you and War have accomplished, all for us. It is a relief to have good people risking it all for us.” He patted my hand again. “I would’ve understood though if finding the box was more important but I thank you anyways.”
“Um, yeah. I’m sorry.” I murmur, lowering my gaze but I felt anything but sorry. Just seriously confused. “Anyways, um, you wouldn’t happen to know anything about where the box would be...right?” I never looked away as I searched his approaching answer.
“No. I do not. I believed you would always have it.”
No. Not right at all.
But he has been through a lot, they all have. He can’t be expected to remember everything, right?
“That’s okay.” I smile softly, a tense silence dawning over us and I pushed back from my seat. “Is it possible if I may be excused for now. I need to go to the bathroom.” I stood up and he nodded, standing up with me.
“Of course, precious child. I must attend to some work around here. There was still quite a mess.” He chuckled, the humour sounding off in my ears. “The bathrooms are through that door and down the right.”
“It’s left, Father.”
“Right!” He laughed boisterously, waving me off. “I have forgotten too much of my home. I almost believed I wouldn’t see it again.” He waved me off as he turned to leave. “Go relieve yourself then dear and do whatever you please. This is your home too.” He turned down the corridor throwing me a soft, smile that made the spider dig deeper in my hair as I turn slowly, my mind wandering to different places.
Was his eye always brown?
Leaving the bathroom, I stood before the top of the basement stairs, the stench was still quite strong from below. Smelling of sewage, swampy water and rot...like that the dungeon we were attacked in.
The ogres...they still haven’t really left this place.
It made my stomach twist at this thought, this place of peace, a resting place for others, was violated and those who did everything they could to keep the peace...torn limb from limb.
My eyes watered slightly but I rubbed them harshly as I took the first step down, and then the next and climbed down the stairs following the narrow corridor, the smell neither stronger nor weaker, just there. Finally reaching the bottom, the thick stone doors to the crypt room was still opened but the bodies were gone, leaving only several dark brown stains on the once clean white marble floor. Several dozen arches, a crypt for someone ran seven across and then twelve up to the top of the wall. One crypt stood out amongst them. Broken, hollowed, it was crumbled around the edges and pieces of stone laid in a heap beneath it, some dust and crumbles splayed around from where I collapsed and crawled through like a worm.
That was my home for millenniums. A place where I laid til I turn to bone and dust and the rest of me...lived alone for eternity. My heart tightened in its vice; my throat heavy as I faltered in the doorway before slowly approaching. My body was hesitant, faltering, afraid to approach and see well, I don’t know what I would expect to see. It was head high, allowing me to peer in without struggle and I held my breath as my heart throbbed dully in my chest as I slowly took the last step in front of my crypt.
I released a breath, opening my eyes and stared into the hollow darkness and... felt nothing.
Except a tandem of emotion rise from within my chest, forcing me almost to my knees under the heavy weight that settles inside. My knees tremble, as I grip the edge of the crypt, feeling bits of stone crumble beneath my palms as my breathing grew heavy, a strangled sob escaping me as I rested my head on the edge.
I struggled to retain my breathing, trying to breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth as the emotions clashed harshly within like a tidal wave. I was the dam. And I was made out merely branches and twigs. I broke apart within seconds at the last thought.
Sometimes you can only focus on other things once you’ve helped yourself a bit.
Tears burned a river down my cheek, my eyes burning hotly as I cry, my legs giving away and I fall before my crypt and the others buried within.
“I’m sorry.” I turn my eyes heavenward as though someone was listening to me. I didn’t care right now if they did or didn’t. “I’m sorry, mother. For everything. For what I’ve done. For not saving you.” My shoulders rattle as I sob, clenching my teeth and I just let it go as I cry for myself and for everyone. Within weeks, I was brought from the dead which almost wrecked me into a world I am not prepared for. My friends and saviours kidnapped, killed, beaten and tortured because of me. For my past. For my mother. For almost losing Warren, someone new and for almost dying again. “Forgive me, mother.”
My breath was shaky and ragged as I slowly pull my head away from where I was leaning against the stone wall, bits of stone dropping from my hair. Rubbing my stinging eyes which still released some hot tears and some snot off my sleeve, I sit up on my knees. A sharp sting on my knee has me pulling back from where my knee just landed on a large chunk of stone on the floor. Sniffling, I take up the piece of stone, turning it around where a couple letters were carved within. δώρα. Laying the stone on the floor, I play with the other larger chunks, finding the words carved within that I had seen a few weeks ago.
I ran my fingers over the Greek letters that spelt out my name. I could almost remember my mother’s voice at the open window our home, warm food wafting behind her, the tall grass rushing past me as I laughed and followed the warm loving sound of my name calling me in. I smiled sadly down at the broken pieces of stone, wiping my sniffling nose again.
If only you could see the things, I have seen mother. This world, is unlike anything we ever thought it would be. And I wish I got to meet my father. Pushing the stone up against the wall, out of the way and gathering it together so it would be easier to clean up for later. There was so much stone, large pieces, I forgot the damage they could do. I mused in thought, my eyes drifting to the now faded cut I received when I first woke up, clinging to a piece of stone in my hand it cut my finger badly. Honestly, it was a miracle I could’ve broken out in the first place.
I froze mid stand, my mind freezing as I dropped my eyes down to the chunks of stone on the floor. All of it came from my crypt, put together, it came together as a thick slab of stone.
It was too easy. Too easy to break through.
Straightening up slowly, my mind a whirlwind of confused thoughts as I struggled to catch up with anything. I stared into my hollow crypt, my eyes trailing around the arch of my opening, the jagged pieces of stone still attached. Reaching out a hand to a piece at the top of the arch, I used my palm to push it and felt it move slightly under the force.
My mind was a yarn of thoughts going a hundred directions.
Throwing a brief look at the other crypts beside mine, I almost banished the thought but I was already standing hesitantly before another crypt.
“Forgive me for this.” I squeeze my eyes apologetically, and unsure of how to try but I curl my hands into a fist and hit the wall of someone’s crypt with enough force to see if any of it would loosen or shift at all. But there were barely any cracks in it and barely shifted or release a slight dust cloud. I only gained an aching fist.
Stupid girl. You can’t throw a punch at stone.
Growling in frustration, I raise my arms to the crypt head high next to mine and start slamming my arm against it and nothing.
It was slabs of stone.
Reeling back, as I face my crypt, the many thoughts running rampant in my head, one of them stuck out hard.
I couldn’t have possibly broken through. No matter how desperate I was, or panicked, in a state of survival. It wasn’t possible for me. I was too weak to do anything except push it apart-
My crypt was broken into. Someone broke in and put it all together. Why? When? Why didn’t Father Marios or Daphne or anyone else say anything? Blindly, I reached for my phone on my jean pocket, pulling it out shakily, I turned it on, scrolling the screen down so I could get the flashlight button. I turned the torch into my crypt, lighting it up like daylight. Inside was nothing but stone bricks around, dust and cobwebs and pieces of decayed, disintegrating fabric. My stomach rolled but I forced myself closer despite the feeling of death around me. There was nothing in here, or any signs of anything that could’ve been hidden in there.
Except the corner.
Placing my phone on the flat surface, I pulled myself up with a strained groan, my arms cutting into some crumbled pieces of stone inside but I managed to pull myself up inside my crypt. My legs still hung as I lay on my stomach inside, the dust ruffled up by my movements and I sneezed harshly.
“Bless myself there.” I grumble, scratching the bridge of my nose. Using my forearms, I crawled in further, keeping my head low as the ceiling grazed the top of my head, along with hanging strands of dust and webs. Holding up my phone’s torchlight, I point it in the right corner where the bricks looked irregular compared to the other bricks, all in a neat, precise pattern, even in the other corner. It was subtle but it was a bothersome glimpse. The corner was a sharp angle, and two pieces of brick had been broken apart and settled together, matching up as though they were bent into this sharp angle that fit oddly well. The lines around it had less dust coatings than around it and reaching forward with an uncomfortable shuffle and lying flat on my throbbing ribs, I dug my fingers around the brick edges, feeling it loosen under my clawing. My breath remained stuck in my throat, my heart thundering in my chest, echoed in the tiny chamber as I used both hands to claw around on piece of brick and pulling it away from the wall with a heavy scrape. I easily slip my hand through the hole and grip the other end of the last piece of stone, pulling it away.
A hidden tiny chamber was hidden behind. Covered in a thick coating of dust and cobwebs, except for a section of it the surface which was lined with a thin layer of dust as though something squared, like a box had sat there for millenniums and only just been moved. It was...It was there...All along! And it’s gone...No, no, no! No fucking no! Scrambling closer, I throw my phone in just in case I fucking blind and can’t see now but there was nothing. I released the breath I held, unable to hold back the whispered prayers as I begged and begged no this couldn’t be. A small section behind the rectangle shape of dustless ground was also faded of dust. A shape that looked like a key. Gasping for air, I reach for the pieces of brick, expecting something, like a box or anything else but no box. One block of stone had a hollowed out inside where a small bronze tube sat inside. Numbly tipping it over so the tube fell out, I shakily unscrewed the top of it, tipping it over so a slip of paper fell out. Unscrolling it, I held my phone over the piece of paper.
Sorry if you find this, Pan, then it means we’re dead. The box was already missing, Dora.
Missing. Already missing.
My body and brain went slack, my shaking arms dropping flat as I slowly pushed back out of the chamber numbly, not caring about the ache and cuts on my body. That didn’t matter. My body slipped out, my feet landing on the dusty floor with a jarring stop but my thoughts ran numbly, uncaring. Nothing mattered now. The box...wasn’t safe. It never was safe. It was gone. It was gone before I even woke up.
Daphne...how...why? Why didn’t you tell me? My legs shake horribly as I grip the edge of my crypt for balance, curling an arm around my stomach as the turmoil and terror runs through me.
Someone has my box. Someone has the part they need.
The blood rushed down from my head, my vision swimming as I swayed on my feet. Oh God! Oh God! No, no, no! My chest rising and falling as my breathing grew panicked and shaky in horror.
Despite the panic and terror coursing through my body, sending my body in a turmoil, a niggling sensation rose the hairs on the back of my neck high and I pressed my lips tightly together, forcing my breathing out of my nose so as to control myself. I wasn’t alone. Trembling, the spider digging the unsettling feeling appeared but a lot bigger and sharper, practically squealing in my ear.
“Um, Father. I have a question.” I force my voice to appear as calm as possible.
“Where did you get your roses from? The ones you sent to me from the hospital? I always thought they looked familiar.”
“Only some of the best, precious child.” Marios hummed from behind and I heard a chill run my spine at the word. Precious. He had said that...so had...
“Where else would I send you flowers from? Only the best from our gardens.”
My blood ran cold as I slowly turned around, facing the man with no recognition. The spider screamed in my ear.
DANGER! BAD! NOT GOOD!
I stared at him, seeing him as though someone I didn’t recognize and in this instant, I didn’t. My heart was frozen in terror and horror in my chest.
“No... you would never send me flowers from your gardens.” I swallowed heavily, barely able to process my own words. “You said you work too hard to make them perfect for all those that you bury. Besides, Daphne used to say you thought anything other than roses were better sent for certain situations.”
God, it sounded stupid in my head. But Father Marios was a stubborn man who had his quirks and choices. Did things his way like clockwork. The man in front of me only stared at me eyes that were unfamiliar, no glint of confusion or frustrated. Nothing in his eyes. We stared at each other, unmoving as my heart thundered wildly, panicking in my chest like a mouse caught up in the attention of a snake.
“I don’t have the box.” I repeat, my voice shaken but I held strong as I met his unfamiliar eyes. He didn’t react or even blink, just remained staring. His unnatural staring causing my skin to shiver like ants scurrying away. I swallow heavily. “Even if I had it or knew where, I wouldn’t give it to you.”
He blinked once, slowly, the milky film of his right eye disappearing, leaving two very clear, gold eyes with a slitted black pupil.
I could feel the stone cutting into my back as I stepped back and movement behind Marios made the panic run rampant. Slowly, one by one, their steps perfectly in sync, nine of the sisters and brothers slowly stood evenly apart behind the fake Marios. I almost cried in relief when I saw until I saw them and their eyes, eyes that stared at me unblinking and now the same horrifying gold as Marios now displayed.
The same colour as the hot-dog vendor all those weeks ago!
They were alive then...now...
“Where is the box, Pandora?” It was Father Marios’s voice but there was a tone in there, an unnatural echo that breathed out of the nine others who stood motionless behind him. Like he spoke and his voice came through the others. Like someone speaking on several radio stations. As though they were all one being.
“I. Don’t know.” My voice grew strained, glaring at them as harshly as I could but inside, I was fucking terrified. My hands shook, my knees trembled and my body was growing cold like it was preparing for death. I was going to die.
Oh God! No, I can’t! Not with my box missing! Not without saying thank you to Warren! Oh God, Warren! Why didn’t I listen to you?!
“Where. Is. The. Box?” It asked again, voice still the same monotonous tone. I’d almost believe it didn’t care if it wasn’t for the way that some of the others started to shift around him, moving closer, circling around me. My senses tingled, my eyes jumping to all the faces before me, looking for anyone familiar. But in the eyes, the gold, reptilian eyes, nothing familiar. Despair was a well-known figure, who was praying for anything.
Glaring at the one as Father, without missing a beat, I crouched down grabbing two pieces of stone and hurled them straight at Father Marios. One piece caught his forehead, knocking his head back with a sharp crack and his head remained tilted back. While briefly distracted, I ran forward, ready to slip through and refuse to let anyone stop me. I needed to get out of here. I slammed partly in Marios, but I didn’t stop as he reached back for me with a hiss. I slipped past him, jumping for the steps, my eyes keyed on the stairs ahead of me, ready to bolt up them and run no matter what-
I felt my body wrenched back, a force curling around my abdomen, yanking me back, stripping the air from me. I felt myself fall back, landing hard on the marble floor.
Despite struggling to catch my breath, I could feel the ever-growing frustration.
“Stop with the throwing me around!” I snarl, before coughing as my lungs screamed for air. I started to roll to my feet but something yanked on the back of my collar, hauling me up to my feet. I squirmed, kicking and biting, but my aching ribs made it difficult to struggle anymore. Those blank, cold eyes in that face stared at me like I was an annoying, pesky ant.
“You’re very disruptive.” Marios sighs, eying me closely, looking bored. He tilts his head slowly to the side, and twisting me around, shoves me back. I slip to my knees, back to where I previously stood and I wanted to nothing more than to scream in frustration. Anger and terror coursing through me like a heady soup, slowly turning to face them, they all stand in closer around me.
“Let’s try it again, without the disruptive activities you’re prone to. It won’t bode well for you, much like the Priest and those nuns you were fond of.”
My heart grew cold, wailing in despair as I squeezed my eyes shut as the anger grew thick and vile, like a vine choking me.
“Where is the box?” I faced them, casting a poisonous glare at them.
“Burn in the flames of Tartarus for what you’ve done! Pray you be torn limb from limb by the Titans that feast on the new arrivals!” I spat on the floor. “Nikíste sti dystychía!” His eyes followed my spit which landed before his foot before slowly moving back to mine, a chilling look sweeping through. His tongue slipped out, long, almost brown, and split at the ends, breathing out a hiss.
“Very well.” He hissed softly, gliding towards me, the others crowding shifting in like a pack of hungry dogs that could sense on-coming blood. I stumbled back, trembling as I gasped heavily. Help! Oh God, help me! He gripped the collar of my shirt, backing me roughly into the stone wall. My breathing grew pitched but I faced him boldly, trying to fight the panic. I would not beg or cry in front of them. His lips slowly spread into a wide, ear-splitting grin, showing off his teeth and his eyes widened in turn and a choked cry escaped me. “It’s been delightful, precioussssss.”
“It really has been.”
My heart jumped, almost collapsing in relief if it weren’t for the grip on my collar. The face of the priest stared at me coolly before rising with a heavy sigh and turning to face Warren who stood in the doorway.
“Ah, horseman. I certainly wasn’t expecting you.” Warren’s smile grew even colder, his eyes pitch black but a storm of red flickered through.
“I bet.” Before anyone could say anything or react, Warren flicked his hand outwards and with a croak and gurgling cry, one of the nun’s head jerked back, her body falling back with her as she collapsed onto the floor. Her body convulsed, hands twitching as blood sputtered out from her throat where Warren’s knife was embedded, hilt deep.
The others shifted, bodies tensing as the terror and tension grew to immeasurable heights. Warren slowly stepped in closer, eyes flashing ominously as he stared at the priest. The priest chuckled a wheezing laugh.
“You caught us it seems.”
“Eventually.” Warren’s face twisted ruthlessly. “I almost ignored the warning signs but I’m better than that. I’ve been around long enough to read them. But you...you know for your all-in-one situation...” He gestured to the others slowly slinking around Warren, despite his cavalier smirk. “You don’t have your facts well put together. Nor could you hide yourself better. I should’ve known what was here the first time I smelt this place when we came here after they were kidnapped.”
“It was the same smell as that dungeon you were supposedly held in. Hydra’s love swampy sewage water. Garbage monsters. Lethal but you’re full of garbage.” Warren smirked, his other knife appearing at his side. “I haven’t faced a hydra in a very long time, I almost forgot.”
The priest threw his head back, laughing manically.
“Oh well done. It may not have been our best performance but we got close now, didn’t we precious?” He pulled me to his side roughly, wrapping his arm around my shoulder and starting to squeeze it. I tried to pull away, duck under but his nails dug into me. Warren’s eyes narrowed, he snarled and started towards us, steps thundering on the marble floor. A nun shrieked at him, flinging herself at his side. Warren didn’t falter, stepping back, missing her outstretched arm and claws, wrapped an arm around her neck and twisted, a resounding snap echoing and the nun dropped limply to the floor in a crumbled heap.
“Release her. Now!” Warren’s voice echoed with a thunderous clap in the room, his eyes promising war. The hydra hissed, his grip tightening and the others tensed, preparing to leap. I held my breath, heart stuttering in my chest as we waited for a signal to war.
Suddenly the grip on me loosened and I felt heavy shove on my back as I was shoved forwards. I felt Warren’s arms around me, felt him pulling me to my feet as he backed quickly, arm outstretched, knife extended ready for anything. He held me close to his front, but his arm around me felt tense, ready to push me aside if he had to. The hydra’s stared at us with poisonous glares, hissing but the priest, stepped closer to his others, smirking.
“No need for a fight. Well, for now. We have things to do, things to find now.” The others slipped out of the room one by one without looking back at us until the one disguised as Father Marios remained the only one standing in the doorway. “I am sure we will see each other soon.”
My breath stuttered as I gripped Warren’s forearm, my nails digging in for dear life as those venomous golden eyes laughed at us in the dark as he disappeared up the stairs, his hissing laugh fading behind him.
Warren and I stood there for an unknown amount of time but I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the doorway, terrified, expecting them to suddenly appear down the stairs again with those horrid yellow eyes. The arm around me loosened but I gripped it tighter, pleading for safety and security that was emitting just right now.
“It’s okay now, Pan.” I could hear Warren through my silent hysteria, body trembling heavily, ready to collapse in a heap. “I’m here. They’re gone now. They’re gone.” I felt my body turn until my face was buried in a shirt, jacket and warmth. His arms enclosed around my back, cocooning me in deep. My shaking grew slighter as he hummed at the top of my head. “You’re safe now.”
“N-No... Th-they, they’re not...they’re dead...” My chest heaves rapidly as I sob. “I failed them...they’re...they’re dead! I didn’t save them...”
“You didn’t fail them Pan. You did everything, at your own risk to find them and save them. You tried your damn hardest.” I shook my head frantically against his chest. “Yes. Yes, you did, Pan-”
“It’s gone...It’s gone War!” I shake my head rapidly, pulling away to look up at him. His brow furrows with confusion as I fist his shirt in my hands, the shock and horror reaping over me. “The box was already gone! It was gone before I was brought back! Someone else has my box! They’ve had it God knows how long!” I feel Warren’s arms loosen around my back and I crumble to the floor, slipping through his arms, my knees landing with a dull thud on the floor. Warren steps away as I follow him as he stands before my crypt, peering inside. “There was a note, from Daphne inside. She must’ve put it in there once she sent me away.” I wrapped my arms around, trying to hold myself together. “I broke through the wall; it was too easy. Someone broke in. And-and the hydra- that was a hydra? It was searching for it! It didn’t even have it, so someone else has it-”
“Yeah, someone else does.” Warren’s voice was heavy as he pulled himself out my crypt, holding something up in his hands. Warren turns to me with a severe look as he holds up something I completely missed inside the crypt. He holds a piece of a broken white feather that was dusty and partially bent.
“I-Is that...” My voice grew weak, my body growing faint and Warren’s expression darkened, fury clouding his face as he roughly runs a finger through his hair. “It can’t be-They didn’t know-” The world tilts horribly in my vision as my head lightens.
Warren clenches the feather in his fist, crushing it. “It doesn’t matter how or why.” Warren snarls, throwing me a foreboding look. “Aello has your box.”