Excerpt from Pandora

Words by Jessica Miller

Published on November 23, 2012

Pandora’s Box

The box looked heavy. She tugged at its lid. It was heavy. But the sensation of warmth that had flooded through her when she first touched the chest surged up along her arms once more and she pushed the lid back easily. On her tiptoes, she looked downwards.

A thick cloud of dust wafted out from the box, the same purplish-black as a nasty bruise. Its fine dark grains flew up her mouth and nose and gathered at the corners of her eyes. She blinked quickly three times — click! click! click! — to dislodge it. She could see what was in the chest clearly now. It was a doll. A beautiful porcelain doll.

‘Very strange,’ murmured Pandora. A soft, autumn-leafy rustling came from inside the chest. As if the doll sensed she was there. Pandora laughed under her breath. That was impossible. But still she kept her laughter soft and tight inside her throat in case — just in case — the doll should hear it.

She looked at the doll carefully. It was a frighteningly beautiful creature. Its hair was golden and shone like candlelight, even in the murk of the chest. It had been curled and arranged in an elaborate pile on top of the doll’s head and shiny birds feathers in blues and greens were stuck through it on pins. Its hands, small and perfect, were neatly folded across its front. Its plump pink lips were a perfect bow in its milky face.

Pandora drew in a deep breath. The doll was wonderfully made. Perhaps even more wonderfully made than Pandora. And looking at the doll — the beautiful, precious, fragile-looking doll — Pandora felt something she had never felt before.

Jealous.

She didn’t want Weezy to have ever made a doll more carefully, more lovingly, than she had made Pandora.

And then she saw the doll’s eyes. Its right eye was a dark blue, clear and strange as the sky at midnight. But its left eye had been pushed all the way down in its socket. It was a deep black hole in the dolls perfect face. Pandora was relieved. There was no mystery about the doll. Weezy had made it, but after its eye had broken she couldn’t sell it.

‘She just forgot about you,’ she told the doll and then, giddy with meanness, ‘She probably only kept you for parts. She was going to break you up into pieces and turn you into other toys but then she forgot all about you.’

There was a rustling noise inside the chest again. Spiders, Pandora decided. Cobwebs clogged the doll’s hair and twined through its fingers.

It must have been locked away a long time, thought Pandora, to be all covered in cobwebs.

She felt in the pool of dust that had settled around the doll until she held one of its hands. ‘Poor dolly,’ she said. ‘I’m sorry I said all those horrible things to you. You’ve been lying here a long time, haven’t you?’

She looked down into the doll’s blank left eye.

‘Poor poor dolly.’