Below is a short story that I wrote two years ago titled, PANDORA’S BOX. It’s a 3,750 word paranormal fantasy about a regular guy looking for meaning for his mundane life. Enjoy
Update 3/27/14: This story is currently on submission so I have removed the second half of the story.
by, N. M. Carrara
Adam Gorman sat at a tiny table in the café of the bookstore where he worked. Fifty years old, he had never married, had no children, no siblings and both of his parents had passed away years ago. He reflected back on his humdrum life—as he did most days during his lunch break—and saw nothing but one failure after another. He’d gone to college, majored in journalism, and after graduation, had taken the job at the bookstore part-time so he could pursue a career as a freelance journalist. But then never had the courage to actually go out into the world to hunt the good stories. Instead he took shelter in the safety of his boring life and now he was sipping lukewarm coffee, staring hopelessly at the back of a magazine, wracking his brain for some way to escape—for some interesting thing to happen to him.
He heard someone call his name.
He looked up. He was the only one in the café, besides the geriatric barista. “Did you say something, Deloris?”
“What?” she replied in her nasally, high-pitched voice.
“I asked if you… Never mind.”
He scanned the area again. The only other person he saw was a homely-looking female perusing the bookstore’s Christianity section. He didn’t think she could have been the culprit, so he chalked it up to hallucinations due to malnourishment—coffee didn’t constitute a meal.
He walked up to the counter, ordered a refill and a pretzel. The girl from the Christianity section queued up behind him while hundred-year-old Deloris took her time preparing his order.
“Adam Gorman!” a chilling, hollow voice bellowed.
A woman in a threadbare linen frock stood in the center of the bookstore. At least it looked like a woman. It had long, stringy, silver hair and a smooth, heart-shaped face. It was tall and thin and radiantly feminine while standing still. But its slender frame held broad shoulders, and if it had breasts at all, they were mere bumps on its hollowed chest. Its skin was as sallow as the foggiest morning, and when it stepped towards him, all illusion of grace and femininity was lost in its disjointed, awkward movements. Whatever that thing was, male or female, it was not human—not anymore.
The creature lurched forward, raising its wasted arm to point a bony finger.
“Adam Gorman.” A loud pop accompanied the words.
Adam felt himself being pulled away from the counter and thrown into a nearby armchair just as the lighting fixture above him exploded. An electrical fire burned in the empty socket. Crackling sparks ran down the rest of the wiring.
He moved to get up and run, but was thrown back down.
“Stay where you are!” the homely girl said, holding him firmly in the chair.
The creature called his name again. The girl released him and charged at the thing. She moved so fast that she became a blur. In an instant, both she and the creature vanished.
Adam sat slumped in the chair, too shocked to move. His arms started to burn. He pushed up his sleeves to find the skin on his upper arms red and raw. This was not the action he’d been hoping for when he began his break.
“My touch can do that.” The homely girl stood before him.
“What was … How did you—”
“Not now,” she said. “There are more of them coming.”
He tried to speak, but his voice caught in this throat.
“Close your eyes. We’re leaving.” Her tone demanded obedience. Adam complied and she placed her hands on him again. Searing heat shot through his arms, but a second later she released him.
“Open your eyes.”
“We’re at my apartment?”
The girl nodded.
“How do you know where I live?”
“It’s not safe to explain out here. We should go inside.”
Adam led the way around the building and up a flight of stairs to his apartment door. He hesitated. “What are you?”
“It’s hard to explain.”
“I have a right to know.” As he waited for her answer, he took his first good look at her. She had these superhuman abilities: strength, speed, teleportation and a fiery grip. Yet, she looked utterly unassuming. She was shorter than he, frumpy, with shoulder-length black hair, a round face, and olive-toned skin.
She looked into his face and he noticed her eyes for the first time. She didn’t have irises or pupils, but eyes that looked like mirrors, showing a perfect reflection of what she was looking at. Adam saw his reflection in her eyes in that moment’s pause, and he shuddered.
She spoke. “That thing in the bookstore, do you know what that was?”
He shook his head. “A vampire or zombie of some sort?”
She snorted. “No, not in the way you mean. It was a corpse reanimated by the spirit of a demon. I’m like that thing, only I’m not a mere spirit. I am a true corporeal immortal creature.”
Adam’s heart jumped in fear and he stepped back. “You’re a demon!”
“Not all demons are bad, Adam Gorman,” the girl said calmly. “We’re just angels predestined to fall from grace in order to keep the balance. Unlike humans, we have no free will. And can anything that lacks the freedom to make its own choices really be considered bad?”
Adam was at a loss for words.
“We should really go inside,” she said. “There’s more than one demon spirit lurking about and it won’t take them long to raise another corpse and get here.”
Adam unlocked the door. He turned the handle, then paused again. “What’s your name?”
“My name…” she said wistfully. “It’s been so long since I’ve heard my name that I’m afraid I’ve forgotten it.”
“You must be called something?”
“Oh, I’ve been called many things, none of which were my God-given name. You can do what they all do–refer to me however you like.”
He contemplated it a moment. “Kara.”
“I knew a girl named Kara once. You kind of look like her.”
“Do I?” The corner of her mouth twitched into a grin. “Kara it is, then.”
Adam opened the door to his apartment and stepped over the threshold. He threw his keys onto the side-table by the door. Kara stared at him from outside, motionless.
“Do you need me to invite you in or something?” he asked, unsure as to how much of the mythology about demons and vampires was actually true.
She half grinned again and stepped past him into the apartment. “I cannot go where I’m not invited. But you invited me in long ago.” She sat down at the kitchen table and gestured to the empty seat across from her. “Have a seat.”
He obeyed. Silence engulfed the room for a long moment. He took a steadying breath, looked at Kara and felt ashamed to see his face pale and his body trembling in the reflection of her eyes.
“Why are demons after me?” he asked.
“Do you know the story of ‘Pandora’s Box’?”
“The Greek myth?”
“Yes. Pandora was a human that Zeus presented with a box filled with all the evils of the world. He told her never to open it, but her curiosity got the better of her. She opened the box, letting the evil things out. When she closed it again, the only thing left inside was hope. What does that have to do with me?”
“What if I told you that the myth is wrong?”
“What do you mean? Of course it’s wrong. It’s just a story someone made up thousands of years ago.”
“But what if it wasn’t just a story? What if Pandora’s Box was a real thing? Not a small box given to a girl by a mythical god, but a chamber buried deep in the Earth, in which God locked all the evils of the heavens so that mankind could inhabit this realm. And when the human God chose to guard the box let the evils out, it wasn’t hope that was left inside the box, but something worse than anything that had already managed to escape?”
“Like the Demon that would destroy the entire world.”
“That’s crazy. These are just myths—demons don’t exist.”
“Is it crazy?” Kara’s face contorted in a way that made her unrecognizable. The reflection of Adam in her eyes caught ablaze. Adam’s hair stood on end and the flesh on his upper arms began burning again.
“How are the marks on your arms from where I touched you today?” Her voice burned like her eyes. “What do you see when you look at me? Because I can assure you this is not what I really look like. I’m not a small human girl. I’m one of those things you don’t believe exists–a soulless demon trapped until the end of days in a world that is not mine. Demons exist, Adam Gorman, with no will of our own, and not all of us are bound to help humans.”
Adam felt as if all the air had been sucked from the room. A small voice managed to escape his throat. “What does this have to do with me?”
“The box was entrusted to a human. Only a human can open it. Once every thousand years a human Key is chosen. You’re that human Key, Adam. You’re the only one who can open the box, and you’re the only one who can kill the Demon inside once and for all.”