The box was amazing.
I remember the day that I found it. I was eleven years old. My cousin and I were playing pirates in the woods behind my house. We had just wrecked our “ship” on a reef and tumbled out of the Sycamore tree that was serving as the crow’s nest. My cousin had a wrinkled cardboard map off the back of a Cheerios box We followed it along corresponding imaginary clues to a bare spot at the edge of the woods. Using our sticks as shovels we began to dig frantically for the imaginary treasure.
Then it happened.
My stick dug through the sand and struck upon something very firm. At the time, I thought it was a root but the irregular pattern I felt as the stick swept across the surface interested me. Holding out a hand, I cautioned my cousin to stop his excavation and I dropped to my knees, removing the sand with my bare hands. The box was real. Why was it here? What were the chances that we would ever in a million years find a random box buried in the woods?
Disbelief gave way to excitement and in an instant he knew that I was no longer pretending. Our treasure was right before us. Eight inches under the sand and soil. Dig. Dig. Dig.
Our fingernails were black and made rough by the sand. The box was four inches wide, nine inches long, and three inches thick. It was dark red like the inside of a cedar tree and covered in intricate carvings. The grooves formed intricate scenes. Figures of giants surrounded by people in robes. Animals. Cloud shapes. Strange hieroglyphs wrapped around the sides. We spent hours learning each inch of the box and making fantastic stories about what it all could mean. The box felt light as if the wood was dried. Several small but heavy objects clattered around the inside when we picked the box up. We wondered if it was truly full of the treasure of a land locked pirate. The most peculiar thing was that the box didn’t have hinges, or a lock, or even a seam to suggest that it might open.
As we walked back to the house we realized that a treasure this intriguing was nothing for parents to be involved in. We kept it secret. He had to go home that night so I became the keeper of the box. It went into a quiet spot tucked inside the box springs under my mattress.
I dreamed about the box. The things inside. I started to saw it open on more than one occasion. The outside was so beautiful and the mystery was so incredible that I couldn’t bring myself to put an end to the excitement. I hid the box and after a while my cousin began asking what had been inside the box. He refused to believe that I hadn’t taken a peek. He convinced himself that I knew. That whatever I had found was so fantastic that I was keeping it for myself.
I suppose in a way… I was.
I continue to do so. Even now, having read all the way to the end, you probably find yourself searching for the answer. Reading ahead to see if the ending was worth the mystery while knowing it probably isn’t but driven by the fact that it could be. The all-consuming desire to know. What is in that fucking box?