I was sitting in the living room area of the small basement suite I shared with Jake. The box was on the coffee table in front of me, currently visible, so that if anyone else came in, they’d be able to see and touch it, just as I was currently doing. My hand rested on the top of the box, and I could feel the carvings shifting and changing beneath my hand.
“What am I going to do with you?” I asked with a sigh. However, the real question was, what was the box going to do with me?
After that dream conversation with Aunt Dora the other day, I’d come to the realization that my relationship with the box was a little more complicated than I’d thought. Until then, I’d thought that I just had to carry the box around everywhere, not letting anyone else get their hands on it. But after that conversation, I knew that there was more to it, though I wasn’t sure how much more.
“The box wants me to find an artifact,” I said aloud, feeling foolish for even thinking that a wooden box could have a mind of its own, and that it could actually want anything. However, this was no ordinary wooden box, as I was well aware.
Even though I was concerned about the box, and the fact that it seemed to want me to run errands for it, I was even more concerned about this mysterious artifact. I had no idea what it was, or what it looked like, though I was pretty sure it was responsible for what had happened to both me and Danielle. I’d had sex with Jake, not once, but three times, because of that mysterious artifact, and I kept having fantasies about what I wanted to do. This was arousing yet terrifying at the same time.
“I have to find that artifact,” I reminded myself. “I have to stop this…”
One of the truly frightening things about this situation, was that a part of me didn’t want to stop it. As strange as it was, I actually liked having sex with Jake. I actually liked the way he made me feel. When I was with him, I felt like a woman. I felt like I actually was the person that I was supposed to be, rather than someone who was caught between two different lives and identities.
“But I only feel like this because of the magic,” I said aloud. “It isn’t real. That isn’t who I really am…”
Removing my hand from the box, I let out a long sigh, though continued to stare at it for several more seconds. I’d tried ‘listening’ to the box, to see if I could actually hear it communicating to me directly, without any luck. I’d even gone so far as to open the box, and stared into the strange darkness and swirling fog that seemed to fill it, though I hadn’t dared to put my hand inside.
After shaking my head, and feeling rather foolish as I did so, I reached for the cup of tea that was sitting on the coffee table. Though I’d been drinking coffee in the morning, for the caffeine, I found that in the afternoon, I preferred tea. I took a sip, thinking of Aunt Dora and how much she’d always enjoyed tea. Was I drinking it now because I liked it on my own, or because it was like one of those muscle memories that I’d inherited? I didn’t know, and that worried me a little. There were a lot of things about myself that I no longer knew.
“I guess it all comes with the territory,” I mused, glancing down at myself and my new body. “I’ll get used to all of this eventually…”
Jake returned from work a short time after this, and he paused to look at me and the box that was currently in plain view. “Is there something wrong?” He looked around, his eyes scanning for any threats.
“Yes,” I admitted uncomfortably, not sure how to tell him. That was why I hadn’t said anything over the last couple days, though I couldn’t hold off any longer. “There’s an artifact nearby, and the box wants me to find it.”
Jake seemed a little startled by that, but not shocked. “My dad told me that Dora somehow seemed to know when artifacts were close by…”
I scowled at that, remembering the first time we’d been attacked by the man with the fire staff. Aunt Dora hadn’t known about that until it was over, nor had she known about the Peacemaker. If she had, then things probably would have turned out quite differently.
“The box told me the other night when I was asleep,” I said, deciding not to mention the Pandoras in my dreams.
Jake gave me a curious look. “Why didn’t you say something sooner?”
“Because,” I responded awkwardly, unable to look him in the eyes. “I think we might have been affected by it.”
At this point, Jake looked even more confused. “What are you talking about?” He came over and sat down beside me.
I hesitated for a moment, then carefully began, “You remember when we were out for drinks, and suddenly, we were all over each other?”
“Yes,” Jake slowly responded.
“Before that night,” I continued, unable to bring myself to look him in the eyes. “I wasn’t interested in you. Not like that. Then, it was like someone flipped a switch…”
Jake’s eyes widened in realization. Instead of arguing with me, he said, “I… I was attracted to you before then, but suddenly, it got stronger…”
“Daniele had absolutely no interest in Tom,” I continued grimly. “None. Then suddenly, at the same time this switch flipped for me…she was all over him. I tried telling myself that it was just a coincidence, that there was nothing magic about feeling this way. But then, the box told me about the artifact…”
Jake let out a long sigh and leaned back, obviously not happy with this revelation. “So, we’re only together because of this artifact…”
I bowed my head in shame. “Yes.”
We sat in an awkward silence for half a minute before Jake abruptly asked. “What kind of artifact is this?”
“I don’t know,” I admitted. “I never saw it, and the box never told me. But I’ve been thinking about it, and I’m pretty sure who has it.”
“Oh?” Jake asked.
“Tom Adams,” I answered with a scowl. “He likes to come into the diner, bragging about all the different women he’s had sex with, and he’s not exactly George Clooney. And at the bar, that switch got flipped right after we were talking to him. I’m pretty sure he has the artifact…”
“Damn,” Jake gasped with a look of disgust. “You mean, this guy has been using an artifact like some kind of magic roofie?”
I nodded agreement. “I haven’t seen the artifact, and don’t have any real proof… But it makes sense. Trust me, women are not going to be lining up to have sex with this guy the way they have been, unless magic was involved…”
“Oh, I believe you,” Jake responded with a shake of his head. “I’ve seen the guy.” Then he stared at the box with a thoughtful look on his face. “The question is, what are we going to do?”
“I don’t like the idea of stealing something, just because the box wants it,” I told Jake. “But if Tom is using it like this, I think it’s better for everyone concerned if get it out of his hands.”
“Better for everyone but him,” Jake agreed. “But I don’t think his opinion really matters in this.”
I nodded at that. “Definitely not, assuming he really is using an artifact on women…”
Jake let out a sigh. “Then I think our next step is to find out if he really does have an artifact. I think we need to go have a talk with him.”
Just then, Dave called out down the stairs, “Hey, I’ve got dinner on the table. I hope you guys like baked chicken…”
“Thanks,” Jake called back. “We’ll be up in a minute.”
“So,” I said with a smile. “Dinner first, then the artifact. Sounds good to me.”
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