The Ornate Box

Daniel Shanks
There are magic words that create a world that survives deep within the mind. Draw your sight downward to see a dreamlike kingdom that is misty, dark, and despondent. A place like this would make your childhood nightmares seem like precious memories. Alas, the only boastful treasure in this forbidding place is a maid giving birth to the expected boy. Then a babe comes, girly legs kicking.

The hall rings and cries at the omen; the young queen orders the child to be drowned in a nearby bucket of water. The tired woman’s consciousness fades into oblivion as the bougainvillea leaves lose their shadows under the bleak sun.

The midwife feels forbidden sympathy for the innocent, unnamed princess and carries the baby in birthing gauze to hide the girl away in an obscure tower. Trembling like a weak cobweb the old woman makes for a secret room. Fear dictates to the old biddy that the child’s mouth be sewed closed so that she might not make a sound. She fits the child into a snug ornate box; she is safe. The woman turns the key to the precious box and then closes the tower door where forgetfulness suddenly assaults her.

A few years go by and the little girl miraculously stays alive. Constrained in the lavishly decorated box where she is uncomfortable, as she has grown in size. She only learns of the space outside her box by little dust bunnies and creepy crawlers that rarely fly into the room. The creatures nourish her and tell her stories and gossip of all the other fair princesses who had been saved to salvage hope.

As the years continue to pass, the girl sees a dirty boy sneak into the room where he discovers the gold, gem-encrusted box. Enamored by it he stands and gazes. Unaware that he is being watched through the tiniest cranny of the ornate prison. The little princess stares with wide open eyes as best she can, for she is equally charmed by her first sight of another human life. Time has broken the threads of her lips and she expresses a kind of nervous smile.

The greedy little servant boy wobbles over, attempting to steal this lovely ornate box in the hope that it might make a fortune for him. His plan does not go well. He tries to lift the box clumsily and it rattles our princess so that she is badly hurt and she gives out a horrible muffled sound.

“A chatter-box,” mutters the grimacing lowlife. “I liked you better when you didn’t talk!” He begins to rant, disappointed in a haunted treasure and disappears out of this story.

The Forbidden Fruit and Immoral Fabric by Ryan Orosz

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Then one moment, for all she has are moments. The girl contemplates, locked up in her little ornate box. A foreign prince is parading the courtyard and he comes to visit the hysterical queen to discuss buying the impoverished kingdom. They look at all the empty rooms and even discover the old tower. The court and the man are led by faint ghostly sounds, noticing moths and spiders that riddle the place.

Shrieking gusts rattle the ivy in cold raptures. The people feel an overrated elation of anticipation.

Within the tower, the unstable, deteriorating stone steps precede the prince to an empty room hosting the devastatingly beautiful, ornate box.

He feels delight and struggles to open it. The midwife from earlier passes by and quietly recoils at the vague recollection of what she had done, oh, so many years ago. “Oh my!” she exclaims, “I forgot!” and pulling out an old thick key, she turns the lock and it gives a click. The box springs open and the young woman, bent and frail, attempts to stand.

Shocked and frightened she chokes on her first breath of freedom, amazed by it. Her body collapses into death as the undaunted prince finds that he dearly loves the ornate box, taking the valuable golden shell as his own.

The company of people moves out of the way leaving the girl’s corpse behind. Her body begins to decay and disintegrate. Only wonder-filled eyes in shrouds of dark hair are left behind where at once she is surprised to see the silhouette of a gargantuan fowl fill the room. Its dark feet take her eyes into flight.

As if two eggs, they are dropped into the bird’s nest. Far away from the corrupted kingdom, there they live happily ever after.
Archives: Fall 2010.

4 Responses to The Ornate Box

  1. 3star says:

    I love this! An analogy of what the American ideal has become.

  2. Whitney NeSmith says:

    This is an ideal story that forces the reader to think about their political surroundings and wonder. I loved every bit of it.

  3. Carl says:

    wonderful story. It is much deeper than what it seems.

  4. Tom Nguyen says:

    It seems that it is like the world is today at times. Thank you for sharing this

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