This Mysterious Box Contained Everything About My Past, But No One Knew How To Open It Until I Met Someone Who Could (Part 2)

Flickr / Michael Martinez
Flickr / Michael Martinez

It’s been a while. I don’t know if anyone can read this. It’s my most desperate hope that this somehow finds its way online – and that someone can save me from reality, because reality has become too heinous to bear.

That night, I waited in agony for my “parents,” as Cassandra had promised that they would come. Even as the inky blackness of the night began to bleed into dawn, I kept my eyes trained on the door, wondering what was going to come violate my threshold.

Eventually, my exhaustion assaulted me. Although I tried to keep my vigilance for fear of what would soon come through my door, I must have drifted away into sleep as Cassandra stared silently ahead. I was awoken a few hours later, the sun fighting against the grime in my windows. When had they become so dirty? I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and sat up…

…And was greeted by the sight of Cassandra standing over me.

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I have to admit, I was terrified of her. At first, she didn’t bother me much. Sure, I thought she was a little weird, but there’s no fault in that, right? But after seeing her cradle that mummified corpse the night before… well, I had judged too quickly. I had underestimated the trouble I was in.

“It’s time to go,” she said.

Her eyes were unmoving and the tone of her voice held a hint of a command. She was holding the box to her chest, and I realized that this, too, was her duty. I wondered if my “parents” had anticipated my desire to destroy it. I wondered if they were playing a game with me.

“And if I refuse?” I asked. I don’t know why I did, because the plan was already forming in my mind.

“You don’t need to take anything except your car keys,” she answered. She seemed intent on ignoring my hypothetical refusal, or perhaps she hadn’t been trained to deal with it effectively.

“You’re avoiding the question. What will you do if I refuse to go?”

Cassandra faltered. There was no movement, but I could see it in her eyes, the subtle loss of surety. The gears were turning in her mind. I stared at her relentlessly. Her answer at this moment was crucial, after all.

Finally, the porcelain mask of her face cracked and I could see who she was underneath. Fire came into her eyes, intense yet shrewd. I see, I thought. She was clever and strong. She was a born leader. In control. Pushed behind this façade. This could play to my advantage, if I was smart enough to figure out how.

In the meantime, she simply snarled, “then mother and father will be the ones to deal with you.”

Seemed fair enough. It wasn’t what she wanted to say, I could see that much, but it was what she settled for. I nodded sagely. “Alright, then. Let’s go, shall we?”

She seemed surprised, but held it in check. As I rose to my feet and searched for my car keys, she pieced her mask back together. The air held the fragility of uncertainty. Good, I thought. I needed her off her game.

Without another word, we descended the stairs and exited my apartment building. The sun was harsh and blinding. It seemed hostile and I found myself craving the darkness of my apartment. The thought sent chills into the pit of my stomach. I was changing, and it was all because of this family. I thought with longing back to my adopted family. I wondered if they were all right. Once this was all over, I’d go find them. I’d find them and thank them for all they’d ever done for me. As I slid behind the driver’s seat and opened the door for Cassandra, I realized that I could have ended up just like her.

We drove in silence, but for Cassandra’s occasional instructions. She wouldn’t tell me where we were going, and I didn’t press for details. I knew that it would be pointless to try. It didn’t really matter where we were going, anyway. What mattered was what happened when we got there.

We made it out into the countryside, the highway surrounded on all sides by dense forest, when Cassandra asked me to stop the car. We got out and she headed off into the forest, her little white frame soon lost among the trees. I ran after her, a little hesitant about leaving my car on the side of the road. But maybe it was for the best. If something happened to me, the authorities would have something to go off of. If I was lucky, that is.

For a short while, I was able to keep tabs on Cassandra, the glaring pale of her skin flashing through the gaps between the trees. However, it wasn’t long before I lost her and was left wandering alone through the forest. The canopy above my head grew ever thicker as I called her name, wondering if this was a part of the plan.

Silly me. How couldn’t it be? Cassandra was smart, I already knew that. And she followed orders.

I had found my way towards a tiny clearing when the blow came to the back of my head. In a moment, I was out. And I had lost my advantage.

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I could tell it wasn’t a normal house that I woke up in. It was something in the air that tipped me off. That and the fact that it had no windows. It was endless and solid stone, encasing me in whatever fate I was to be subject to.

I groaned and pulled myself off the ground, my skin clammy from the stone floor. I was in a room, yes, but a small room. It had no furniture, save for a few torches on the walls. Torches. Of course. I was dismayed but not surprised. At this point, I doubted the universe’s ability to surprise me.

One of the drawbacks of being a doubter is that I am often proven wrong.

Cassandra was standing at the door, the only door. She was watching me. Once I was somewhat steady on my feet, she opened the door and motioned for me to follow her.

“You’re clever, aren’t you?” I asked.

No reply.

“What is this place?”

“Home.”

“Doesn’t feel much like home…”

No reply.

“How old are you, Cassandra?”

“Fifteen.”

A full ten years younger than me.

“Why did mom and dad decide to have you? Why did they keep you and not me?” I know, I was beginning to sound cruel, accusatory. But what I wanted from her was a raw reaction. I needed to break her down before we got to… wherever we were going. We were pacing down long hallways at a terrifying speed, and I couldn’t help but feel the urgency pressing in on me.

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“It was necessary.”

“That’s not even a real answer. WHY was it necessary?”

“You’ll know in time.”

“Why is now not the time?”

“Mother and father have their reasons.”

I stopped. We were nearing the end of a hallway in the maze of hallways we’d wound our way through, and a heavy wooden door loomed just ahead of us. If I didn’t get her to snap now, there may be no future opportunity. She turned to look at me and I saw a rash of irritation on her features. Good. At least I was getting somewhere.

“Quit it with this mother and father bullshit! Don’t you have a mind of your own? THINK for yourself and ANSWER ME. They aren’t my mother and father, anyway!”

That was what did it. That fire lighted in her eyes again, but this time, it burned out of her mouth. She roared and flung herself at me, her fingers arched into claws. She half-hissed, half-screamed at me, “You. Will. NOT. Speak. Of. Them. Like. THAT!” She swiped right at my throat. I sidestepped her and grabbed her arm, forcing it behind her and holding her tight in my grip. I sighed inwardly, my relief palpable. I had gotten what I needed – I’d shaken their foundation.

“That’s enough, Cassandra.”

The voice startled me – I hadn’t even heard the door open. Cassandra went stiff in my hands, her frenzied struggling jerking to a sudden halt. I felt her breath catch in her throat. The air was electric with her fear.

“Perhaps your training wasn’t sufficient, Cassandra?”

Without thinking, I let her go. She slunk wordlessly towards the door. My eyes turned to follow her, and I was greeted by the first sight of my parents.

My mother was petite, with olive-shaped eyes and the stark white skin Cassandra had clearly inherited. She had a blissful smile stretched over her face, one that I hadn’t expected to see. It was so happy… but there was something missing. I still can’t place what it was. My father stood silently next to her. He looked somewhat like a spider, the length of his limbs a little too extreme, the sharpness of his face a little too aggressive. He simply stared ahead, another trait Cassandra seemed to have inherited. The whole few moments that I knew him, he did not speak. He was like a robot.

I would soon learn why.

“Dearest Michael!” My mother smiled even wider. She looked at me but made no movement towards me. “How long we have wanted to see you! How long we have kept you away. But the time is right for you to fulfill your duties. It is our greatest happiness to initiate you.”

I had no words, but these six: “What the fuck is going on?”

My parents retreated back into the room, Cassandra at my mother’s side. She looked as though she’d been unplugged. I suddenly felt a strange surge of concern for her. Maybe it was my instinct as a brother, but I think it had more to do with… her. Just who she was, who she’d become. There was something wrong with her, and these monsters had everything to do with it. I wanted to snatch her up and run away, if such a thing were possible.

As I crossed the threshold into that room, I noticed that she still held the box.

The room was painted red and housed a deep well in its center. At least, it looked like a well. I couldn’t see the bottom, but it seemed to stretch down into the abyss in unending darkness. On the farthest wall there hung a small array of tools, mostly knives. Something gurgled from the pit. Something turned in my stomach.

“What the fuck is this?”

My mother spoke again, smoothing Cassandra’s hair. It was the only motherly gesture I’d ever see her perform.

“For eons upon eons, our family has been bound to a sacred order. It is one that has died out elsewhere, but has persisted because we have ancient blood. We have ancient veins. We are special, Michael. YOU are special.”

I watched expectantly as I waited for her to continue.

“We serve them, Michael. And they serve us. In this way, we can exist. In this way, we can see eternity. From today forward, you will be master and servant. You and Cassandra will continue the rituals, just as your father and I have done.”

“What…?” I looked at Cassandra. She seemed to understand.

“This ritual will act as the wedding ceremony between you two. The final sacrifice will be the sacrament that ties you together. And she will have her new master.”

“What the FUCK is wrong with you?!” I wanted to be angry, but somehow I wasn’t. I was just terrified. That’s it. There is no other word for that feeling in that moment. It was pure horror without a scrap of righteous anger in it. I wanted to run far away from it all, even from Cassandra. “Marriage? She’s my goddamn SISTER. And… for fuck’s sake, she’s fifteen!”

“The laws of man do not sway the will of the gods,” my mother answered.

“What the fuck are the will of the gods?!” I really wish I’d never asked.

“The eldest, who joins them in the deep;

The middle, whose soul is theirs to keep;

The youngest, who waits in deepest sleep.”

She looked at Cassandra and motioned for her to continue.

“Our elder sister has already joined them in the Below. We will serve her, she will serve them, and they will serve us.

“It is my duty to submit myself to you in all matters, as a dutiful slave to her master.

“Out in the world, you have led a simple life. Now, you must reject it and return to us, following the customs of our family. We must continue the cycle.”

“And now Cassandra will perform her last duty to us, as is custom,” said my mother. The last words she ever spoke.

I was in shock – that’s why I didn’t stop her. Although, I think, now, that perhaps I couldn’t. Maybe there’s nothing I could have done. Maybe there’s nothing anyone could have done.

Cassandra marched to the back wall and lifted a knife with a long, thin blade. She walked quietly back towards her mother and father, who had knelt down next to the pit as she opened the chest. In utter silence, she took our sister’s body from the box and laid it into my mother’s arms. I couldn’t see my mother’s face as it happened, but somehow I think she was smiling.

I didn’t think it could be done so fast. As soon as she’d straightened her back, Cassandra ran the knife across our mother’s throat, spilling a red curtain down the front of her dress. As our mother tumbled down into the pit, she repeated the motion on our father, who never so much as flinched. He joined his wife in the depths only a moment later.

For a few short seconds, everything was silent. Cassandra stared at me and I stared back at her. She was still holding the knife. For the first and only time in my life, I saw her smile. It held immense satisfaction.

A few moments later, the screaming began. And a deep roaring, somewhere in the earth, somewhere far below in a place that I knew I didn’t want to recognize. But somehow, somewhere inside me, I did.

Cassandra’s voice was soft as she said, “Do you hear our sister? She feeds.”

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I ran. I ran as far and as fast as I could, my feet tripping over the cold stones as I randomly chose hallway after hallway, running ever deeper into the frigid air. I couldn’t hear Cassandra behind me… but I know that she followed. I know that she’ll find me.

I finally ran out of breath and fell to my knees, sobbing, at the end of yet another corridor.

Everything I knew about my life, gone. My real parents, my adoptive parents, will I ever see them again? No… I know now that they’re gone to me for good. Finally, I’ve come to understand the meaning of the cold that envelops me – we’re somewhere underground, so far under that I doubt I’ll ever see the sunlight again. Perhaps that’s for the best. After what I’ve seen, the aching sun might drive me mad.

My phone is almost dying, and as I type this, I think that it will never reach anyone. But if it does, please, dear God in heaven, somebody help me. Somebody find me. I’m alone and I’m frightened. And I do not understand.

There are footsteps coming from the end of the hall… TC mark

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