As I wake and wipe the sleep from my eyes I stretch my legs out, cracking my ankles. I yawn audibly as I roll my head and look to see what the time is. I don’t have my glasses on, but I can make out through blurred vision that the time is 6:43am. I also see what looks like a box sitting next to my alarm clock, I reach out and grab for my glasses and put them on. My stomach registers the gravity of the situation before my eyes have finished transmitting the image to my brain. I feel like my stomach has dropped out of my body. I’m instantly nauseous; my mouth is devoid of any saliva. Sitting before me is the box. Beautiful in its simplicity, yet horrific in its implication. A simple package, a label hangs off it “Open me, if you dare”. I take the package in my hands and turn it over.
A wooden box, sealed closed with a golden padlock. I look at the padlock and instinctively my right hand makes its way to my neck where it takes the key that hangs there from a chain and rubs it between thumb and forefinger.
Calm down, I think to myself, you knew this was going to happen eventually. You knew that this would always be. I pull the chain over my head and look at the key. It’s the same key that I’ve always had, about 3 inches long, standard issue with its own unique code engraved – Kx6-22t-a-1985.
I know that every person within Community-2 has one of these keys and I know that every other person here born in 1985 will be staring at the same thing I am this morning… the box. The key is obviously meant for the box, we all wear it and we all know that one day we will make this choice, whether we open the box or not. Only one person will be given a key that actually opens their box and no one is made to try to open it unless they want to. It’s been twelve years since someone has successfully opened their box because the chosen one of the last twelve years did not try their key. There have only been two Opening Memorials in my lifetime, some people don’t see many more than that. No one knows what happens to The Opened – someone who successfully opens their box – some say they move on to a higher, more enlightened life, others say that they go into the dark. All we know is that they are never seen, nor heard from again, all that remains is the box, the lid removed and the key inside.
I slowly swallow. I reach for my phone and look at the screen. No service. I already knew that was going to be the case. This is my decision and my decision alone; there will be no communication with the outside world. It’s something we’ve all talked about. When our day is called what would we do, would we try and open the box or would we leave it? Everyone always has the same response, that of course they would try. How could you not? Everyone always says this, yet it’s been twelve years since we’ve seen someone successfully open one.
I realise that I’ve been squeezing the key between my thumb and finger so hard that it has started to hurt. I put the key down on top of the box and rub the white indentation I’ve left in my thumb. What am I going to do? Again I feel it first in my stomach; the feeling builds there first and strengthens before my heart and my brain agree. There is only one thing I can do. I have to try; I have to try the key.
Somehow, despite the shaking I line the key up with the keyhole on the padlock. It glides in perfectly. Does this mean anything? I don’t know… Maybe everyone’s key fits initially…maybe it doesn’t. Maybe this is further than anyone else gets. I close my eyes and force my hand. The key begins to turn…. Click.
The box opens…
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: Mystery Box