The bane of humanity

February 6, 2011
Every man will tell you that woman is the bane of mankind. To this statement every woman in the room would vehemently disagree. Unfortunately for women it’s true. This does not go for all women however. It was the downfall of one woman, and her name was Pandora. With this name goes a story, one that you might be familiar with, but this is not the story of Pandora. Everyone knows the story of Pandora and her box, but does anyone know what happened to the box after Pandora? After letting pain into the world the box was obviously not popular. Many tried to destroy it, but it could not be destroyed. After it was found to be indestructible the people did the next best thing for it that they could think of; they hid it. They hid it so well that they themselves could not find it. Over time no one could find it so the whole world moved on and forgot about it. Well, almost the whole world. You see when the box was hidden there was a league of people who dedicated themselves to the protection of the box. For generations they passed on the secret of the box and as the years passed the leader of the league passed on the key to their descendants. The key, if it ever was used, would bring around the fall of mankind. First it unleashed pain, what other torment could it release that would be worse?

There is one keeper of the box per generation. The position is given to the oldest daughter of the previous keeper. Therefore the eldest daughter is always named after the original keeper: Pandora, for indeed it was Pandora who was bequeathed with the box by God. When the old keeper dies it is then and only then that the key is passed to the keeper’s prodigy. This was to occur all too quickly, for the keeper was at deaths door, waiting to pass on the key before she had the audacity to knock.
* * *

“Pandora, come here,” my mother ordered me. She only calls me by my real name when she’s serious, and has something really important to say. Not that I would ignore her, I never knew when I talked to my mother whether or not it would be the last time. My mother was on her death bed. She had breast cancer. I guess it’s true what they say, only the good die young, she’s 36. My mother was the nicest person in the world, and my only family. I was so scared of losing her, but sadly there are some things that you can’t change. It was kind of selfish of me but I was worried about what would happen to me when she died, I had no one else around, my mom didn’t have family, and I didn’t know who my father was. Worried I went to her.

Her frail frame was stretched across the bed, her head bald from the chemo. Every time I look at her it makes me want to cry, she’s become so fragile.

“Pan, it’s time,” she said.

“Time for what?” I ask, already knowing what she means as I start to cry.

“I have to leave you,” she said calm as ever.

“No mom you can’t,” I plead, tears streaming down my face.

“Shh,” she said trying to quiet my sobbing. “Stop that, I have to give you something.” She reached into her dress and pulled out a key. Not just any key, but the key. It looked way to big to be around her fragile neck. It was a two-pronged iron key, five inches long. It was ancient, and hand crafted, with the imperfections to prove it.

“This is the bane of mankind, protect it with your life,” she told me fervently. “This key unlocks something that is worse than anything you could imagine. The fate of man kind rests on you keeping this safe. Were you to use it and open what it locks, you do know what it opens, and where it is too right? Incase it too needs protecting?”

“Mom, I know what it unlocks, I’ve known what it was since I was a little girl, and yes I unfortunately know the location of what it unlocks. You have taught me well.”

“Then your ready,” she said with a look of resignation on her visage. “I love you baby girl.”

“I love you to Mom.” As those words left my lips I knew she was gone, and her hand fell limp in mine as her life wilted away. The fates had finally cut my mothers thread of life, but that’s really when mine started, and I felt the pressure of it on me like the yoke of responsibility had just been set on my shoulders. I felt a hundred years old.

I had no idea what to do. I had no family, no one to turn to; I was alone in the world and had nothing to do. Nothing that is, except to bury my mother. The only problem with that was that if I reported her dead the ambulance would come, and with them the cops, who would haul my seventeen year old self off to a foster home. Being your average teenager living in the year 2499 I was scared to death of the cops. They were not people you wanted to mess with. They would take you to jail for no reason and keep you there just for the fun of it. Those were the nice cops. If you got a power abuser (which was common) you would get tortured for no other reason than that they wanted to. So, I did the only thing I felt I could do; I packed my bags, took my mom’s emergency money stash, her credit card, and the car keys. I walked right out my door and threw my stuff in the car. I called my neighbor and informed her of my mother’s plight, and sped away before she could come out and see me.

I had no plans, and no place to go, so I just drove. When I finally got so exhausted that I couldn’t see the road anymore, I looked at the nearest street sign. It cheerfully informed me that I was in New York. I figured that it was fate that sent me there, because New York always has, and always will be the home to the largest amount of wayward teens in the United Macean Federation (formerly known as the United States of America).

I fit in perfectly with them, except for the car, which no other teen had. I sadly realized that I had to ditch the car immediately, because they could track it. I also realized that the credit card had to be ditched, but not so fast that I couldn’t empty out my mom’s bank account first. I figured I could live on the streets until I turned 18. It was a good plan seeing as I only had to execute it for seven months until my birthday. That night I was scared and frantic, but I realized that the plan was the only way, so I started to live it. I was sleeping on the streets; sometimes on abandoned subway platforms, sometimes behind a dumpster. It was pretty rough, but it was incognito. At least I didn’t have to dumpster dive for my food like a lot of kids; I still had my mother’s money, which I protected almost as dearly as I did the key. Ah the key; it was now my life to protect it, but it was the very thing that would ruin my life.

You see the thing my mother never told me is that as badly as I wanted to protect that key there were those who wanted just as badly to utilize it for their malevolent purposes. I could have stayed hidden if it weren’t for the key. The draw of it was just too strong for the ones who knew what it was. For every yin there is a yang. I was part of a group sworn to protect the key, but we have a counter part. They are a dark organization known only as Temptation. It was temptation that made the first Pandora, my namesake open the box. Their motivation hasn’t changed. I knew of the Temptation, but I never thought that they would come for me. I was wrong. I had been successfully hiding for six, almost seven months when they found me. Right before my hiding was over.

I was just about to look for a nice place to sleep when I noticed two men following me. They were nothing out of the ordinary for New York. Men in black suits were very common. What were uncommon were the feelings that they radiated. They had an aura around them that I could instantly sense. Not only could I feel them following me, but I felt the need to do something bad. When this feeling registered, not only did I know that the agents of Temptation were stalking New York, but I knew they had come for me. I tried to get discretely farther ahead and tried to meld into the crowd. They were not fooled for a second. I knew my only option now, I had to run! I tore down the street in a mad dash trying to weave my way in between people. They threw discretion out the window when I did and followed me at a break-neck pace. By this time I knew New York like the back of my hand, but apparently they were professionals at following people. In my panic I forgot all my training on how to prevent this, and so forgot to look were I was going. I turned down a dead end alley. I was half way down the alley when I saw that it was a dead end. Cursing I tried to turn around, but they were already standing in the alley’s maw.

“Hello Pandora,” one of the men said sardonically. In an act of desperation I charged the men, but the act was futile. One of the nameless men caught me so that I could not move, then he covered my mouth so that I couldn’t scream.

“Your services are required,” intoned the one not holding me. Then my captor elbowed me in the face, and my world was enveloped by pain before it went black.

When I awoke I didn’t know where I was, in fact because of the pain I was unclear on who I was. My head felt fuzzy, but I was alert enough to realize two things. That I was bound and gagged, and I was underground. I looked around me and saw a large number of men dressed in black. That’s when it finally hit me. I had been kidnapped by the Temptation. A man in flowing black robes, who was obviously the leader turned around and looked at me.

“Pandora. Welcome,” he said in a voice that sent tremors down my spine. “You are to be of use to me at last.” He motioned for one of the other men to remove my gag. The second it was out of my mouth I shouted at him.

“Where am I? Who are you?”

“My dear girl,” he responded. “You already know where you are surely?” Only then did I finally let my surroundings sink in, when I realized the full magnitude of my situation, I was in the cave of the box. When I realized this, my face fell, when I realized how badly I had failed. When he saw this he let forth a wolfish grin and continued.

“As for me I am the leader of the Temptation.” Then he leaned down into my ear and whispered,

“But you can call me father.”

“What?!?” I exclaimed, ruining all his subtle quiet.

“That’s right daughter, why do you think your mother never told you about me. She was ashamed. The Keeper, with a member of the Temptation, how disgraceful!” he said, still whispering in my ear. I just stared at him in horror.

“Now my dear Pandora,” he said with heavily placed distain on my name. “I have a job for you. You my dear get to open Pandora’s Box,” he said dangling the key in front of me. Again my look was one of sheer terror. When I got my voice back I instantly started to protest that I couldn’t, that no one could, and that I wouldn’t let it happen, but he cut me off.

“Oh you keepers,” he sighed. “You’re all the same, always blindly following orders that you don’t understand. The box had already been opened, sorry, but all the bad has been let out, it’s gone. All that’s in the box is what you want to let out into the world. The first Pandora opened the box and got pain, disease, and death because that’s what the world needed. The whole world is a system of checks and balances. All this box does is even things out.”

“Your insane,” I spat at him.

“You know it’s true. You need an example? Just look at your own Patronage.”

“I don’t have a father,” I seethed.

“Oh, but you do, and right now he wants you to open the box,” he said, getting testy.

“Open it yourself,” I snapped. “You have the key.”

“Yes, but sadly even with the key I can’t open it. The box has to be opened by Pandora, or at least one of her descendents. This box has a recipe. The key alone can’t do it if you don’t want the results to be chaotic. You need the Key. You need Pandora, and you need her to be eighteen.”

“But I’m not eighteen. I don’t turn eighteen until the first.”

“Oh but it is the first, happy birthday.”

“I’LL NEVER OPEN IT!” I yelled reverting to our prior discussion.

“You will,” he insisted. “Or you’ll watch your mother die.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked confused. “My mother has been dead for seven months.”

“Oh no, you just had to think that.” And with that he brought out my mother. I didn’t believe my eyes.

“Mom?” I asked trying to stifle a sob.

“Pan!” she screamed. “Don’t open the box!”

“Now if she had told me to open the box, I never would have believed it was her. But she was here reiterating the same thing she always told me. I tried to run to her but someone held me back. I watched as they gagged her. Then the man who claimed to be my father held a knife to her throat. By the way she glared at him I could almost believe that he was telling the truth about my patronage.

“Open it, now or she dies!” he said cutting her throat lightly so that it bled a little.”

“Alright!” I screamed. I couldn’t help myself, they were about to take away from me the only person I ever cared for…again. My mom looked at me with a silent pleading in her eyes. When my hand wavered when I reached for the key he made the cut in her neck a little deeper. Then I resolutely took the key and walked over to the box that had been behind me on a podium the whole time. I looked at the box. It didn’t look too menacing in fact the gold exterior was shiny and bright. I took a deep breath, stuck the key in the lock and slowly opened it. For a moment nothing happened and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. That’s when the Whole planet turned upside down and the cave exploded with a deafening bang! The whole place was instantly an inferno. I had somehow been thrown fifty feet away from where the cave had stood. No one else it seemed had survived the blast. I stood outside for hours waiting for someone to crawl out of that mess, but no one did. I could see New York in the distance, and I started towards it. When I got to the city I saw that it was in ruins as if a bomb had racked it to the core. There too I saw no signs of life. That’s when it hit me. It was my eighteenth birthday. The first day in the year 2500, New York, and probably the world was in ruins, I saw no survivors, and my last resounding thought was: It was all my fault.

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