Chapter 1 - ANGEL
I grunted, stepping down the stairs blindly, the large cardboard box in my hand blocking my view.
“Here, I’ll take it,” he effortlessly plucked the large bundle off my palms, dropping it into the car outside. I heard the slam as he closed the boot, my exhausted limbs dropping down onto the floor into a heap of exhaustion.
“Is that all, Dory?” I huffed at my father, the nickname nagging at my nerves.
“Yes, that’s all. And for the love of all things holy - do not call me that again,” he pressed his hand against his mouth, stifling a laugh, “Please?” I begged.
“Okay, okay. Fine. Dory.”
That did it.
He bent over, laughing hysterically. After a minute, I joined in with him, his arms drawing me into an embrace.
“I’m going to miss you, Dory.” His hug tightened for a split second before he let me lean out of his hold.
“Same here. But not that nickname of yours,” I shook my head to myself, “definitely not.”
“Fine. Pandora it is. Now come on,” he grabbed his keys off the countertop, “otherwise you’ll miss your flight.”
New York was different. I was used to the tumult of wind and the patter of rain across my windowpane; not the immense buzz of traffic and the constant honking of angry drivers.
I shoved the small number of belongings I had into the cupboards, trampling around my new apartment in boredom.
It was bright and airy, the large windows surrounding the high walls giving way to the beautiful scene of the landscape. The setting sun spread a golden hue over the tall buildings, the light spreading over my apartment’s interior in a yellow wash of colour.
Dragging my laptop out of its case, I cushioned into the brand new sofas. My fingers danced over the keyboard as I researched the school I’d be working at for the next two years. Their syllabus was identical to the same I’d taught at my old school and although I’d only been teaching for two years, I had an idea of what was expected.
Except for one thing.
I narrowed my eyes at the screen.
Frowning, I reread their teaching curriculum. They taught Pandora as a set text.
I wanted to cringe at my name, silently cursing the mother that had named me with a label that mimicked her selfish desires. Her greed.
Pandora was a girl of impatience. Pandora was curious. Pandora opened the box.
I sipped at my coffee, glancing over the students’ previous work, the red pen annotations of the previous teacher scrawled down the columns of their homework messily.
Whistling to myself, I let the loud shrieks and cheers of children settle down as their seats scraped against the wooden floor, the young figures tucked behind study tables.
“How are we today?” I asked cheerfully, turning towards the blackboard.
They grumbled a response, their heads resting on their palms are they gazed at me with indifference. I pulled my forehead into a mock frown, “Bored?” My nose scrunched up comically.
They gave a slight chortle as I plummeted back down into my seat, eyeing the lesson for today with distaste. I pondered their grim expressions and closed my laptop, pushing aside the piles of homework.
“So,” I perched onto the edge of my desk, “who remembers the story that your last teacher went over?”
A series of hands shot up, waving for attention, “Pandora!”
“Yes! And what does Pandora do?”
“She opens the box!” They all answered in unison. I felt weird right then, saying my own name as if I were talking about a stranger.
I scoffed - as if I’d ever be assigned a box.
I could sense the enthusiasm rising as I grabbed a piece of chalk, ignoring the shivers racing through my skin, “And what does Pandora represent?”
There was silence for a few seconds before a shy hand rose from the back, a face peeking out from behind the rows. “Yes, lovely?”
“She represents curiosity. And how it’s not always a good thing.”
In awe at her response, I dropped the chalk, nestling back into my chair. I looked down at the sheet of names I had, identifying her as Emily. “What does this make the character of Pandora?”
“A metaphor.” She spoke softly and carefully as if she wasn’t sure of her answer.
I nodded, pride tugging at my chest.
“So, she’s a metaphor? For what? Stupidity?” Another student asked. I clasped my mouth shut, watching as Emily turned towards the asker.
“No. I think she represents human nature. We’re designed to be curious - it’s how we’ve developed our world.”
The debate grew from then on, a debate of insight and inference - a manner of teaching I much preferred than the tedious note-taking the students did day in and day out.
The bell finally rang, a boisterous blare ringing through the corridors as the students rushed out of the classroom, their conversation about the story continuing.
Satisfied, I gathered my things, the discussions of the day bouncing around in my head.
A knock reverberated on the door, “Hi, is this Miss Fernsby?”
A lean figure stood in the doorway, his height towering over my seated frame. “Yes. How can I help?”
He leaned across the doorframe, a smile curving through his lips, “Oh, it’s nothing of the sorts,” I cocked my head, confused, “me and the others were gathering at a restaurant nearby and, since you’re new, we were wondering if you wanted to join?”
His eyes twinkled with friendliness, their warm hue inviting me in. “I wish I could but I’m in a bit of a rush today. Next time?”
His shoulders slumped slightly but he masked it well, “Next time.”
“I didn’t catch your name?” I called after his retreating figure.
“It’s Conner,” he answered over his shoulder, his voice echoing in the empty corridors.
I repeated the name to myself, the syllables rolling off my tongue.
The coffee machine whirred as I reached for my fourth cup, my eyes threatening to droop with sleep. I rolled my shoulders back, shifting my focus back to planning lessons.
The night had blurred past me, the rays of early morning sunlight showering over my face.
After a while, it became clear that my bed looked too comfortable for me to continue, and the rush of caffeine through my veins had also curbed. I sighed, closing the lid of my laptop and dragging my aching feet behind me.
I had nearly planted myself face-first onto the bed when a white sheen caught my eyes. I neared the source, lifting my duvet off its corner cautiously.
My heart battered in my chest as I blinked at the box sitting on my bed, it’s reflective exterior blinding me. The little light in the room bounced off the material, my eyes straining to examine it.
Gnawing at my bottom lip, I let my fingers inch towards it, the coolness of it beneath my fingers calming my racing nerves immediately. I felt an odd rush of heat to my core as I held the foreign object in my hands.
The box was large enough for me to hold in both palms and lighter than a feather. I was tempted to shake it but halted in mid-movement.
Who put this here?
Dropping it back onto my bed, I grabbed my phone, rushing to dial for help.
“Hello? I think someone’s been in my apartment,” I rambled over the officer’s persistent questions, my pulse racing.
“No, I have no idea. I just came in to see a box on my bed - yes it’s right he-”
I paused mid-sentence, colour draining from my face.
It was gone.
I smoothed my hands over the slight dent the box had left in my mattress, proof that it had been there.
It was there one second. Gone the next.
Like a disappearing act.
I picked up my phone, reassuring the officer of my silliness. To myself, I passed it off as stupidity - but Pandora wasn’t a metaphor for stupidity, she was a metaphor for curiosity.
And curious, I was.
The room didn’t feel as empty as it had when I first moved in. It wasn’t like someone had been here.
It was like they were still here.
I became increasingly aware of an odd fervour webbing it’s way to my core, my breath hitching in my throat.
With the sleep vanishing off my eyes, I whizzed around the unfamiliar apartment, checking for open windows and gaps. My thoughts grew still as I entered the living room - the walls were made entirely of glass windows, curved to give way to a luxurious view.
The stretch beneath my apartment arrested my attention, my mouth parting slightly. I pressed my hand up against the cool glass, the material cooling the sudden heat crawling across my skin.
After coming out empty-handed, I searched every nook and cranny, inspected every cupboard, every drawer.
“So, you think it was a bad thing that Pandora opened the box?” Jake nodded enthusiastically, his hands quickly moving to adjust the scrawly collar of his school uniform.
“She opened the box, and out came the seven deadly sins - if she hadn’t things would have been very different.” He continued.
I grew fond of the students with each passing day, their inference surpassing all expectations.
My eyes automatically drifted to Emily’s, a knowing glint dancing in her eyes, “Emily? Have you got anything to add to that?”
“Why was it such a bad thing that she opened the box?” All heads swivelled to turn towards her, “If we take the story to be true, then if she hadn’t opened the box we wouldn’t be here today.”
There was an impending silence before a series of hands shot up.
“Go on,” I urged interested, nestling into my chair.
“Perhaps the entire story is a message. Perhaps its a warning for how tempting the seven deadly sins are but that the destruction they bring is inevitable.” My grin grew wider as another student continued.
“But if the entire story is a warning, why is the ending of Pandora so similar to our world? If it was a warning, wouldn’t people heed the message?”
Another hand shot up, “Maybe it’s not a warning, maybe its an advertisement of the seven deadly sins. Maybe its what made humans commit to evil.”
The bell rang, its splintering echo ringing in my ears - they were visibly reluctant to pack their bags and I found myself wishing the lessons were longer.
“One last question,” I began just as they neared the door, their eyebrows rising with attention.
“What would you do if you were Pandora? If you had a box?” I looked away, the image of the box I had seen feeding my intrigue.