The Box's Pandora part 12

I awoke with a bad ache all through my midsection, and an even worse one in my heart. I remembered what happened to Cliff, and felt the grief hit me yet again. I’d liked Cliff. His death didn’t hit me as hard as Dad’s, or even Aunt Dora’s, but it still hurt to think that he was now dead and gone.

When I opened my eyes, I found that I was in a hotel room. My entire midsection, both stomach and back, was covered with bandages. After a few seconds of taking this in, I tried to sit up…but only for a second. The sharp pain convinced me that this wasn’t a very good idea.

It took me a moment to remember why I was all bandaged up, since my memory of being shot wasn’t quite as clear as my memory of Cliff’s death. That seemed kind of ironic when I considered it.

“Damn,” I muttered, turning my attention to the box. It was still there, floating a short distance away, the same way it usually did.

“Are you awake?” Jake’s voice called out from the doorway, though he hadn’t come into the room so I couldn’t actually see him.

“Yeah,” I said with a groan.

Glancing over myself, I realized that other than my bandages, the only thing I had on were panties and a bra, both of which had blood on them. I quickly covered myself up again with a bed sheet, and just in time.

Jake stepped into the room, then stopped in the doorway to stare at me with a grim expression. “I know that this is probably a stupid question, but how are you feeling?”

“Like someone shot me,” I responded with a snort.

“The bullet tore a large hole all the way through you,” Jake said with a wince. “Between the damage, blood loss, and shock, any normal person would be dead by now.”

I let those words sink in before I quietly responded, “Then, I guess it’s a good thing I’m not normal anymore…” Of course, in spite of this obvious benefit, I still found it hard to be grateful for my situation. A moment later, I looked around and asked, “Where’s Theressa?”

Jake was silent for several long seconds, but his grim expression spoke volumes. “Theressa didn’t make it.”

“No,” I gasped, bolting upright in horror, only to freeze as a spear of pain shot through my midsection. I collapsed back into the bed, with tears filling my eyes. And they weren’t just tears of physical pain. “Mo…Theressa…”

“She sacrificed herself so we could get away,” Jake said in a sad tone. That and the pained look in his eyes, reminded me that I wasn’t the only one who’d just lost someone important to them. He’d just lost his dad.

“I’m sorry about Cliff,” I said, not sure what else I could say. It was all I could do not to burst out crying over my own loss. As it was, tears were already starting to leak out anyway.

Jake nodded at that. “Thanks.”

For several minutes, we both remained where we were, neither of us saying anything. We were both grieving for our losses, though I was pretty sure that Jake didn’t know what I’d really lost. He’d lost his father, and probably thought that I’d only lost a good friend, not my mother. Tears ran, though Jake didn’t say anything about mine.

Then, Jake turned his attention back to business, probably to distract himself from the grief. “We should check your wound…”

“Sure,” I responded quietly.

I let Jake pull the sheet back and remove my bandages, giving me my first look at the wound. It was a circle, about two inches across, and completely scabbed over, with bright pink flesh around it. Considering how fast I should be healing, the fact that I was still in this condition said a lot about just how bad my injury had really been.

“You can probably go without bandages now,” Jake said in a businesslike tone. “But I think we should bandage you up again for now anyway, just in case it opens up again…”

“Sure,” I repeated, not having anything else to say. I knew some basic first aid, but not much more than that. This was beyond my knowledge and experience. “If you think I need it.”

Jake nodded at that. “Yeah, I think you do. That, and a bit more rest.”

“And something to eat,” I added, realizing that I was hungry.

Jake nodded again, his expression grim and serious. Still, he gave me a worried look as he pulled out the first aid kid, and began to clean my wound and bandage me back up. He did the whole thing without saying anything.

Once Jake was done with my bandages, he started for the door, promising, “I’ll be back in a bit.”

As soon as Jake was gone, I let out a long sigh and let myself sink back into the bed. Since Jake was no longer there to see, I stopped fighting the tears and let them flow.

--------------------

I stood in the shower, savoring the hot water, which felt good against my back and shoulders. My whole mid-section was still a bit tender, but no longer gave me sharp pains whenever I moved, certainly not like this morning. After spending all day in bed, recovering, I was finally feeling up to moving around…and cleaning myself up.

“Yuck,” I said, knowing that my previously dried on blood, was now washing away and swirling down the drain. “It’s nice to be clean though…”

With that, I carefully touched my stomach, where I now had a rather nasty looking scar, which matched the one on my back. If I continued to heal the way I had been, then by tomorrow morning, I probably wouldn’t even have the scars anymore.

“At least there’s something good about all this,” I told myself with a bitter scowl.

I’d lost my mom, my dad, Aunt Dora, and Cliff…not to mention my own body and identity. But on the plus side, I could heal from almost anything, in almost no time at all. The truth was, I’d rather have my family back, and my old body, though I knew that neither were possible. Even with all the magic in that box, there was no bringing back what I’d lost.

I had no idea how long I stood under the hot water, lost in my own thoughts and emotions. I’d only just started to truly process and accept the fact that my dad was gone, but now Theressa was gone as well. I was alone. Everything I’d had…everyone I’d had was gone. I knew that I was crying, though the water washed the tears away as soon as they emerged, leaving almost no trace that they’d ever been there, other than in my heart.

By the time I climbed out of the shower, I’d run out of tears, at least for the moment. It was with an eerie emotional numbness, which was probably due to emotional exhaustion or straight out shock, that I dried myself off. My long hair was a pain, but I didn’t even bother complaining about it mentally this time.

Clean clothes were waiting for me on the sink, courtesy of Jake’s shopping trip today. While I’d been in bed recovering, he went and picked up some clothes and supplies. Even though he was grieving, he was able to focus on being practical, and doing what needed to be done. I silently promised myself that I’d try to do the same. No matter how much I hurt, there were still things that we needed to do. Unfortunately, I didn’t really know what those things were.

I quickly dressed in the clothes I’d been provided, some plain lingerie and a track suit. There were other clothes, better ones, but not a whole lot of them. And at the moment, getting dressed up and looking nice was the last thing on my mind.

A short time later, I left the bathroom and found Jake in the main room, sitting at the table. A gun was sitting on the table beside him, within easy reach, and Cliff’s sword was leaning against the wall. I vaguely remembered Jake picking it up after Cliff’s death

“I hope you like fried chicken,” Jake commented, gesturing to the bucket of KFC chicken that was sitting on the table. Jake had mentioned that one of their restaurants was next to the motel.

“Fried chicken is greasy and fattening,” I said, repeating something that I’d heard Theressa and other women say at one time or another. However, I smiled faintly as I added, “So of course I love it…”

Jake gave a weak chuckle at that. “Glad you approve.”

I sat down at the table and ate, not saying another word until I’d eaten three pieces of chicken, and some sides. Once I was comfortably full, I leaned back and looked around the room, with my eyes settling on Jake. To my surprise, he was staring at a glass jar that was sitting on the table in front of him. I hadn’t really noticed it until that moment.

“What’s that?” I asked, suddenly remembering the jar that Alexander Kraesse had been carrying.

“Kraesse dropped this during the fight,” Jake answered, not taking his eye from the jar. “I picked it up…”

Feeling curious, I leaned forward for a better look. The jar was just a medium sized mason jar, which wasn’t very unusual or impressive. The only thing that I could see inside, was a small chip of wood. I frowned in disappointment, as well as confusion.

“It’s just a chip of wood,” I said, giving Jake a curious look.

Jake nodded. “I thought so too, but when you went and took your shower…it moved.”

“It moved?” I asked blankly.

“When you came out of the shower, it moved again,” Jake said, finally looking up at me.

After a moment, Jake turned the jar around, a hundred and eighty degrees. The chip, which had been on my side of the jar, was now on the side facing him. A second later, the chip moved, sliding across the bottom of the jar until it was on the side facing me.

“I think that this is how they found us,” Jake said. He picked up the jar and moved it to the other side of the table. The chip once again slid across the bottom of the jar, until it was on the side facing me. “This must be how they found Dora the first time too…”

“But how…?” I started. “Is it some kind of artifact?”

“I have no idea,” Jake admitted. “But it seems drawn to you. Kraesse must have used this thing like a compass, to lead him straight to us….”

For several seconds, I just stared at the glass jar and the chip inside. Then I opened the jar and dropped the chip onto the table. It began to slide across the table, right towards me. However, I realized that it wasn’t going straight towards me. It was aiming towards my side. I glanced to the side, where the box was invisibly floating.

“It isn’t coming to me,” I said in realization. “It’s drawn to the box…”

With that, I willed the box to settle on the floor, then to turn visible again. I didn’t touch the wood chip as it came off the table and began sliding across the floor, straight to the box. Then, right before it touched the box, I picked it up. I could feel it gently moving in my hand, still trying reach the box.

“Strange,” I said.

I lowered my hand next to the box, right to where the chip was trying to go. Then, I saw it. There was a small chip missing from the edge of the box, exactly the same size and shape as the piece of wood in my hand. On an impulse, I opened my hand, and the chip flew out of my palm and to the side of the box. It slipped right into the open space, fitting perfectly. A moment later, it seemed to melt into place, because I could no longer tell that a piece had ever been missing.

“It was a piece of the box,” I said aloud, though Jake had seen this for himself.

Jake nodded at that. “That explains why it was drawn to the box…and why they were able to use it to find us. Either way, it means that they no longer have it, and can’t track us that way again.”

“That’s good at least,” I stated. Then, I ran my hand over the smooth wood of the box, almost as if petting it. “So, what do we do now?”

“I’ve been thinking about that,” Jake admitted, gesturing towards the box. “That makes this a little simpler, since they won’t be able to find us as easily.”

“There’s no way I can go home,” I thought aloud. I didn’t look like myself, and no one would ever believe that I was really Byron Houseman. And even if they did, I didn’t really have anything left back there now. My old life was gone entirely.

“And I can’t go back to school,” Jake said. “If they knew who my dad was, then they’d probably be able to track me down through more traditional methods. We both need to disappear for awhile.”

I closed my eyes for a moment to think about what Jake said. We had a lot of problems, enough to make me scream and pound my head against the wall. However, I’d already done that after my dad had died and my body had changed, and it hadn’t done any good. This time, I tried to focus on how to solve some of these problems instead. If nothing else, it distracted me a little from the ache in my soul.

“Then the first thing we have to do,” I announced, looking down at the pale skin of my hand, “is change my appearance.” I gave a weak smile. “I look a little too distinctive.”

Jake nodded at that. “Good point.” He ran a hand through his hair, then said, “We’ll take care of that tomorrow.”



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