The rain was coming down in cold stinging sheets. The stoops that were covered enough held shadowy figures and lots of smoke. The weather kept the druggies from bothering the boy without a name, with the exception of a few curses that were thrown his way. His rags were barely hanging on him as he wandered down the darkened street shivering. Splashes from the occasional car couldn’t make him any wetter.
He felt like he’d been slogging through the dark for hours. Yet he knew exactly where he was, until he looked at where the vacant lot should have been. There was now an abandoned building that looked older than any of the crack houses he avoided. But something about this place was inviting. The little boy felt it was as good a place as any to get out of the rain.
The place was as dilapidated inside as it looked from the outside. Broken out windows decorated the place along with the front door frame with rusty hinges. The was no telling where the door was. Layers of dust wafted around front room like it was too afraid to settle on any of the decaying furniture. Bookshelves lay crumpled on the floor, the rotted wood having given in to its own weight long ago.The little boy noticed tiny footprints in the dust making him realize he wasn’t the first intruder to stalk this horrid place recently.
Perplexed by the building and just glad to get out of the rain, the little boy didn’t even wonder how he could see so clearly in such a darkened place. He followed the footprints, that were just a little smaller than his, to what had been the kitchen. It was in such shambles that the boy couldn’t get inside. Part of the old icebox had rusted away causing it to fall in front of the door. All of the cabinets no longer hung on the wall, instead littering the floor. The top of the door frame had also fallen down.
The little footprints made a right down a short hallway that ran into the only door still hanging in the house. He passed by two rooms on both sides of the hallway. One looked to be a bathroom, but the ceiling had caved in and it was hard to tell. The other looked like a dining room that was probably connected to the kitchen. He followed the little feet inside.
Broken picture frames were strewn all around the room, no longer containing what ever it was they had lightened the room with. The dust was more settled in this room even though the large window to the right was broken away. The large table, still holding on with three legs, leaned a little. The boy imagined how such a large table could have held so much food, more food than he’d ever seen in his life. The chairs were laying on the floor, either having fallen backwards, sideways, or broken to pieces. He strolled over to the doorway to the kitchen but was also impeded from this side. With nothing to hold his interest, the boy left the room to explore further.
He stood in front of the door for a long time thinking it just didn’t belong. The footprints of the kid before him seemed to have gone through. Opening the door, he expected a loud creaking sound to claw at his ears, but the door opened as serenely as the door to the bakers shop, only without the mouth watering smell of breads.The stairs behind the door looked sturdier than the whole house. He started climbing them a bit confused by their cleanliness.
As he opened the door at the top of the stairs the bottom door closed. Afraid he was locked in, the boy raced down the stairs to open the bottom door. It was still unlocked, and opening it cause the top door to closed. That’s when he noticed a string attached to the bottom of the doors leading to a hole in the wall just under the bottom hinges. His little sigh of relief turned into another coughing fit. He fell against the wall on the bottom step coughing until he was too worn out to continue. Blood and spittle was spattered on the floor in front of him as he tried to catch his breath. His whole body was tired from the racking fit, so he decided to rest on the step for a while.
Some time later, the boy got to his feet and climbed the stairs again. As soon as he opened the door this time he saw a small figure dash into one of the rooms ahead. He walked, weakly, to the doorway where the foot prints lead. It was the most amazing bedroom he’d ever seen. A white, framed bed with lots of pink hanging from every side and above, sat in one of the far corners. Across from it was a extravagant white dresser with a huge mirror and lots of little things spread across the top of it. But the thing that caught his attention most of all was the large wooden box inlaid with gold, emeralds, and many other kinds of jewels.
Though he had been brought up on the street, he did manage to learn to read just a little. He knew all the letters, but had a hard time making out the first large word on the box “P-A-N-D-O-R-A-S” he tried to sound it out several times, but it sounded weird. The other words were much easier “Toy Box”. His eyes brightened at the thought of toys, something he had never had before.
He opened the lid and leaned inside to get a good look at all the toys. There was only darkness, a darkness that suddenly started sucking the air out of him. He couldn’t breath and he thrashed, barely able to move his arms. His hand grasped something fuzzy just before he fell to the floor and passed out.
Not sure how long he had been asleep, he opened his eyes to see a stuffed rabbit held hard against his chest as if he were trying to save it from something. He blinked a few times before he realized feet in front of his face. He leaned on one arm and looked up to see a little girl is a white gown.
She smiled softly “My name’s Pandora, what’s yours?”
He sighed and scrunched his nose. He hated every time someone asked him that. Sheepishly, he answered “I don’t have one.”
She looked at him quizzically “Well, we’ll just have to give you one!” She placed her hand on her chin, looking up as if thinking really hard. Her “Ah ha!” surprised him, causing him to back up against the toy box. She proclaimed “From now on, you’ll be called Joseph.” She smiled sweetly.
He didn’t know what to say, out of everyone who’d ever met him, no one ever bothered to give him a name. “I like it” he said with a smile.
Suddenly, the girls stature changed as did her voice. “Joseph, you have opened the box that damned this world at one time. Though, do not fear, you have actually helped it this night. I have decided it was time to give life another chance, and chosen to collect all that escaped my box long ago. Though there is one rule. From you I have taken something that would have killed you this night, and in return you chose something that you’ve always wanted.”
Joseph looked down at the stuffed rabbit, hugging it for fear she would take it back. He wasn’t sure of anything else she said, and it showed on his face.
She smiled softly, but looked much older than she had, though she hadn’t changed at all. “I have taken your sickness and along with it every piece of that sickness that was in this world. In order for you never to get sick again you must keep the rabbit within twelve cubits at all times.” As she said that, she showed him what a cubit was.
He nodded as his eyes started to get heavy. With a yawn, Joseph fell asleep hugging the rabbit.
Joseph awoke the next day in a nice warm bed. A knock at the door and the call of his name seemed strange. A lady in pink pants and a white shirt came in and sat down next to him checking his temperature. She caught sight of the little rabbit next to him “Did you have a visitor?” she exclaimed happily. He hugged it and nodded. She took the thermometer from his mouth and asked “Did you name it yet?”
He nodded as if resolute “His name is Pan!” and hugged it tighter than ever.
She smiled sweetly and touched the rabbit on the nose “Well it looks like you and Pan will get to go home today!” And with that, she was off.
As his mother led him down the hallway to leave the hospital, Joseph caught a glimpse of a familiar little girl in a doorway. Though he couldn’t quite place her, she sparked a feeling inside that he’d never forget. He whispered “thank you” as she waved good bye with a smile.