For Sanjit, who may never see this, because he doesn’t have Instagram or Facebook, and doesn’t know what WordPress is. He gave me a topic which I refused to use, and when I asked him what he was doing that would make him think of such a topic he simply said, itching.
(If you are joining Emmeline’s story today, welcome! It might help for you to begin here.)
Pandora’s box. J R Manawa.
Emmeline had an itch. She desperately wanted to open the little iron box that she now held tight in her hands. But she had promised that she wouldn’t.
Charon had left not long after she woke, he said he had things he needed to do while there was still daylight. He insisted Emmeline stay put in her grandfather’s house.
The truth was that Emmeline was feeling like she was a fairly useless liability. People were dying to save her, for no reason at all. She didn’t believe her life was worth the deaths of her mother, father and grandfather. Most certainly she was not keen on anyone else dying to protect her, so even though she felt a little bit betrayed and very much alone, she knew it would be for the better if Charon never returned, and she suspected he wouldn’t.
For the past hour she had been perched on the upturned and dismembered arm of the brown leather couch her grandfather had loved, in the centre of the scene of destruction which had once been her living room. She sat with the tiny box in her hands and stared at the door, waiting for something to happen.
She turned the box over in her hands. Charon had asked her to keep it close, but not to open it. The box would not have been anything significant, except that Charon had somehow located it under a floorboard in her bedroom. But there was other reason Emmeline desired to open it.
On the base of the little iron box, her date of birth had been engraved.
Her fingers really did itch to see inside it. She felt like Pandora with her box, or Eve with her apple. A deep understanding of the need to peek and see had come over her, a desire to quench her thirst for knowledge. In her hand was an object that might hold some of the answers to her past that she was so desperate to learn.
There was a knock at the front door. Emmeline jumped violently. It was either Charon, or….something else.
The door was not locked. She didn’t see any point.
“Come on in!” She yelled, half heartedly picking up the leg of one of the dining chairs from the mess on the floor and shoving the little box into her pocket. She knew she wouldn’t have a chance to defend herself, but brandishing a wooden chair leg somehow made her feel braver. She sprung over the carnage on the floor to slip into the shadow of the living room doorway, holding her weapon aloft and waiting.
She could hear hushed voices and the crunch of broken glass beneath feet. Not really caring who or what it was, so long as she got the first hit in, she adjusted her grip and prepared to swing.
“Hello? Emmeline? Are you there?” Poppy’s head peeked around the corner and looked around the room.
Emmeline let the air burst out of her lungs in relief as Poppy looked around at her in horror.
Behind her, Emmeline could hear Gulliver’s voice, “Did you see those birds? You did see them right?” as he and Thomas also filed into the living room.
“What happened?!” Thomas asked in shock as he looked at the scratches and bruises on her face.
Poppy meanwhile had already embraced her without saying a word.
“How did you get here?” Emmeline asked, still shocked. She noted that Gulliver was carrying a bag full of cleaning products, and Thomas a mop and bucket.
“It took a while, we meet at the station and walked. They’ve started to clear the main roads, but walking is not easy. I can’t believe how much snow there is!” Gulliver laughed and itched his forehead.
“You walked all the way?”
“But what happened? To you I mean?” Thomas asked, repeating the first question that had been on all their lips.
“I got attacked by some birds,” Emmeline blushed, she didn’t really think she could tell them what had actually happened since she last saw Thomas and Gulliver at the hospital.
“The birds outside?” Gulliver asked.
Emmeline gave him a funny look, “Uh, no. Not birds outside,”
“I’m so sorry I proper missed your birthday,” Poppy said suddenly, squeezing her hand.
Emmeline laughed, “I think I missed my own birthday,” she said ruefully.
At that moment Charon burst through the front doors and stormed straight into the living room.
“Did you see those birds?!” He demanded of Emmeline, not even stopping to observe the presence of her friends in the room.
Poppy squeezed Emmeline’s hand tighter, and looked at Charon with her mouth wide open.
“Uh,” said Emmeline, looking to Poppy and then Thomas and Gulliver awkwardly. Poppy and Gulliver seemed awestruck by his presence. Thomas was frowning.
Charon repeated his question.
“You mean the ravens?” Gulliver asked.
“Ravens?” Emmeline’s voice rose an octave, and she turned on Gulliver, “You didn’t tell me there were ravens,”
“Uh, I, Uh-” He didn’t know how to react to her outburst.
“Wait, who is he?” Thomas asked. He had clearly taken offence to the male stranger who had just stormed into Emmeline’s living room.
“They should never have come here,” Charon said, darkly.
Gulliver was itching his head again in wonder, and Poppy still had her jaw hanging open.
“I didn’t ask for them to come. They are my friends,” she got right up in Charon’s face and echoed their conversation from earlier that morning, “Maybe they think I am worth something.”
“Hey, hey, let’s not argue,” Poppy said loudly, jumping in between them and putting on her ‘mother-knows-best’ voice. Emmeline could guess why Poppy didn’t want her arguing.
It was fairly obvious Poppy wasn’t quite ready for Charon to leave yet. “Were you born with your eyes like that?” she asked, lacking a need for sincerity.
He looked down at her once, and then back up to Emmeline, “Did you see the ravens outside?”
Gulliver ducked back out into the hallway as Emmeline replied, “Look, you are going to have to show me, because I honestly don’t have a clue what you are talking about.” She let go of Poppy’s hand and walked toward the door.
“No!” Charon took her arm and stopped her.
“Holy- there is like twenty of them out there on the fence now!” Gulliver said, walking backwards from the window.
“What?!” Emmeline’s voice was stricken now as she moved forward, but Charon held her tight.
“You cannot go to the window, you cannot let them see you. If you haven’t let them see you, then there is a chance they don’t know you are here,” he whispered urgently.
When Emmeline looked from him back to Thomas and Poppy, it was Poppy this time who said, “Emmeline, I think you need to tell us what is going on,”