Enjoy this futuristic re-telling of the classic tale “Pandora’s Box”. Seventh grader, Juliana Z., uses her skillful writing to provide a witty twist to an ancient story.
Artwork by Zoe G., Grade 7
written by Juliana Z.
Happy birthday, dear Josi.
The hazy image of her family appeared, singing, in her dream. Then, confusion.
She saw things in her dream. A box. A note. Tears. The pace picked up. Panic.
Happy birthday to you.
Then she woke up.
It was a bright Wednesday morning. She glanced at her calendar. November 11th. Her birthday.
“Happy birthday, Josi!” her mother exclaimed, as Josi plodded down the stairs. She emerged into the kitchen and saw myriad things. A cake. Some presents. Her father standing at the stove. Her sister Grace sitting at the table.
“I made your favorite, chocolate pancakes with rainbow sprinkles!” her father said, flipping a pancake enthusiastically. The sweet aroma of the chocolatey goodness filled the air.
“Thanks,Dad," Josi said, as she plopped next to her sister at the table. Grace always seemed to manage to look beautiful, even in the mornings. Josi slightly cringed. She was often compared to Grace, mostly in weight, for she had the fastest metabolism Josi had ever seen. She thought of all the times people stared at Grace. All of the boys who came to their secluded house. All of the times Josi was forgotten.
When she finished devouring the pancake, Josi grabbed her bag and hurried out the door. She hated how her family treated her like a baby, especially on her birthday. I’m turning 14, not 4. She thought as she walked down the driveway on the way to the Smart Bus stop. As she crossed in front of her house, something on her doorstep caught her eye.
Josi was painfully curious ever since she was a small child. She glanced at the bus stop. She turned back to the box. It wouldn’t hurt to miss the bus once. She thought. I’m sure mom will drive me. It is my birthday after all…
She slowly walked toward the small, blue box. As she got closer, she noticed the smoky design seemed to float around on the lid. Pandora. She read on the box. Do not open until sunset.
“Josi” she turned around and saw Grace glaring at her from the hollow window. She quickly tucked the mysterious box in to her backpack and just managed to hop onto the bus.
It felt like one of the longest bus rides in her life. She couldn’t stop thinking about the box. Just open it. A part of her thought. But it said not to till sunset. Thought another. She felt her curiosity eating away at her.
Finally, after many attempts to temporarily forget about the box, Josi gave up. She glanced around at her empty bus. Her neighborhood was oddly small and separate from everyone else, so hardly anyone ever got on the bus. She started to reminisce about when her sister was on the Smart Bus with her, back before they separated the middle and high school. She remembered whenever anyone got on the bus (which was not often), they would plop next to Grace, completely ignoring the fact that there was another option to sit next to. Josi mentally shooed the thought away. Think positive. It’s your birthday.
After spending what felt like hours on the bus, Josi arrived at school. It was a long, boring day with the occasional “happy birthday” as she passed through the hall. She could not get the thought of the box out of her head.
Soon, it was her favorite period of the day. English.
“So who could tell me about Pandora’s box?” her teacher said as she paced around the room. They have been learning about Greek myths for a while, but none have ever really caught Josi’s attention. Until now.
“No one?” she continued. “Well, in the story of The Coming of Evil, it is explained that Pandora was given to Epimetheus to marry. As one of the wedding gifts, Pandora received a box with a note that read “DO NOT OPEN.” But, curiosity got the best of Pandora, and she decided open the box,” she paused, attempting to build suspense. “And now open your books to page 245.” She finished, leaving them on a cliff-hanger.
All throughout the day Josi could not stop thinking about the box and the Greek myth about Pandora. It was only for a second, in the middle of orchestra as her bow slid across the strings of her cello, that she temporarily forget about the box.
Finally, it was the end of a long day, and Josi raced into her house. It was empty, as always. She was used to being alone since her parents were still at work by the time she arrived home, and Grace always stayed behind at school for softball.
Josi threw her backpack onto the table and sprinted up to her bedroom, box in hand. This is it, Josi. She thought to herself. Time to open the box.
As she felt the lid, she once again noticed the swirling pattern and the gold letters. But this time, there was another message written on the lid. It read Do not open until sunset, or there will be great consequences. Josi was furious, yet intrigued by how the message possibly could have gotten on the box. Enough stalling. She told herself. It’s your birthday, and you can’t let some stupid box tell you what to do.
Josi carefully lifted the lid, and was surprised by what she found. It was a charm bracelet, and dangling from it was 5 detailed little charms, each one depicting an aspect of her life. I little cello swung as she picked it up. A slice of pizza, her favorite food, dangled as she examined the charms. A red book charm glistened as she read the note. The note.
Happy birthday, Josi dear.
Today’s a day that comes once a year.
And for your gift on this happy day, a charm bracelet,
and a price to pay.
For each time you eat this and that,
your body loses a pound of fat.
She read the poem over and over again. What could it mean? It’s probably nothing. Just a hoax. Josi put on the bracelet and went along with her day.
Dad and I are gonna be a little late from work. You can make yourself some birthday dinner. Anything you want, read Josi’s phone. She looked sadly at the screen. She was partly sad that her parents were not going to be able to have dinner with her on her birthday, but she was able to have anything she wanted, which contrasted with her parents’ usual strict rules.
She grabbed a box of macaroni and cheese from the pantry and turned on the stove. Her bracelet glistened as she poured the macaroni into the boiling water. When it was done, she set up a nice place at the table and stared at the empty spots. Let’s see if this bracelet actually works.
She took a bite of her macaroni and cheese. Nothing happened. Well that was anti-climactic, she thought. Suddenly, she felt a warm pressure in her stomach. She glanced down and saw that her stomach instantly got flatter. In her shock, she noticed that one charm had disappeared. It was the pizza charm, but Josi could not think of the one charm that was instantly gone. After finishing her meal, she decided to have a piece of cake. Once again, she took a bite of her birthday cake and felt the warm pressure in her stomach again. Like before, her stomach seemed flatter, but this time, her cheekbones grew and her face got thinner. This bracelet really does work! She thought, as she noticed another charm was gone. This one, even though it had slipped her memory, was important. The cello.
The next day, Josi awoke, and headed down stairs for breakfast. She sat down at their table, noticed her flawless sister, and stared at the food. Even though she was starving, something told her to skip breakfast, so she did.
“Good morning honey,” Her father said, tiredly. “You look a lot thinner, are you on a diet?”
“Nope,” Josi replied quickly, trying to hide the fact that she has a magic charm bracelet that makes her lose fat every time she eats.
She got on the bus, rode the lonely ride to school, and went about her normal day. Then came lunch.
As she sat at the Smart Table, conversed, and ate with her friends, the same thing happened, only this time, her arms became a lot thinner. Also, this time she didn’t even noticed that her book charm disappeared.
It was finally English class when Josi found that something was off. She stared at her book, which contained the story of Pandora’s Box in it, and was puzzled to see that there were no longer letters, but symbols.
“Where did the words go?” Josi asked the boy sitting next to her.
“What do you mean? They’re right there,” the boy replied, hastily. Josi stared at the symbols. She then realized that she could not think of what any of the letters in the alphabet looked like.
Next period was music, but Josi could, for the life of her, not remember what instrument she played. She walked into the music room and awkwardly sat down.
“Josi, where is you cello?” the teacher yelled.
“I play the cello?” Josi asked, confused. The class chuckled.
“Yes, Josi. Where is it?” the teacher asked in an attempted to quiet the class. “Are you feeling ok? You look a little pale,”
“I’m fine,” Josi replied as the class watched, hoping she would do something embarrassing.
“Why don’t you go to the nurse?” said the teacher.
“O-ok,” Josi replied, as she meekly walked out the door and down to the nurses office.
“Well, you’re fine,” said the nurse, as she took a thermometer from Josi’s lips.
“Ok” Josi said as she exited the office. “Thanks.”
The bell rung right as she walked through the door way. Finally, it was the end of the day.
Josi hopped on the deserted Smart Bus, looked around at the emptiness and sat down. As usual, she took out her snack. Her friendship charm swing back and forth as the bus shifted around on the road. The warmth was back, this time, on her thighs. She was in complete amazement, but felt odd, like part of her was missing. She chose to ignore it, since it only lasted a second. The bus stopped short, and Josi looked around at her small neighborhood. Something was different.
“Hey, Josi!” said Josi’s neighbor and best friend, Rose.
“Hi?” said Josi staring at the girl like she had 5 heads. “Do I know you?”
“Yeah… I’ve known you since kindergarten,” said Rose. “You ok? You look a little pale,” she asked, noticing the fact that her best friend forgot who she was.
“I-I’m fine,” said Josi backing away, scared. Something was really wrong. Josi was terrified, for she was in a completely different neighborhood. Or she thought.
This theory was disproven when she saw her house and her mother’s car parked in the driveway. Josi sprinted into the house, and ran upstairs to her room. She didn’t know why, but something was telling her to look under the bed. She peaked under, and saw a pink scrapbook sitting among the dust bunnies and soot. She reached under and slowly opened it. There, she saw, were picture of her and the girl she saw outside. The girls in the pictures seemed to be having the time of their lives together. How could that be me? Josi thought. I don’t even know that girl.
Suddenly, she heard the creaking of her front door. Alarmed and speedily, Josi tucked the book back under her bed and slowly went down the stairs, uneager to see what awaited her when she got to the door. What if it’s another stranger? What if they want to hurt me? Josi slowly got to the door of the mudroom. She heard booms of feet banging on the ground. She opened the mudroom door ready to attack what was behind it.
What a relief it must have been just to see her sister, Grace, standing there, confused as to why Josi was standing in a position ready to pounce.
“Hey Josi,” Grace said, slightly creeped out by Josi’s abnormal behavior.
Grace walked past the girl and went to the kitchen for her usual after school snack. As Josi watched, she realized that with all this scared adrenaline, she was hungry herself. Grace took out a bag of Oreos and started eating. Don’t do it. Something told Josi. Do not take a bite of those Oreos.
But I’m starving, Josi replied in her mind. Just one can’t hurt,
As Josi reached for the cookie, her final charm fell of and disappeared in mid-air. The family charm.
She took a bite into the Oreo and once again, felt the warmth. This time it was all over her body. This time, it was a bright flash of light that Grace noticed, as she shrieked in fright. Then, Josi blacked out.
She awoke in blackness. Blackness everywhere. She float, she felt light. A mirror then appeared before her eyes. She looked at herself. She then knew what was going on. In her reflection, she saw the epitome of beauty. Beauty beyond words.
“Where am I?” Josi shouted at the blackness, sobbing. “This is not what I wanted,”
“You’re beautiful, aren’t you?” said a voice coming from the mirror. “More beautiful than Grace?”
“Well yes, but—“ Josi was cut off by the sound of her family singing. Her birthday. When this all started.
“Then you got what you wanted,” said the voice, calmly with a hint of maliciousness.
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
“No!” Josi screamed, sobbing uncontrollably.
Happy birthday, dear Josi.
The pace picked up. Everything was moving quicker, quicker until --
Happy birthday to you.
She woke up.