Matthew Scarpa is studying creative writing with a focus on screenwriting and short stories. He enjoys rock climbing, long boarding, long walks on the beach, and writing cliché biographies for himself. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichardScarp.
Tuesday, December twenty-ninth, I received a package from my sister, Dora. She had been away for work on an archaeological dig, somewhere in Greece since before Christmas. It was nice to get something from her so I knew she was alive. Inside the white FedEx box that came to my door, was an intricate urn, topped with a wooden lid. The paint was faded, but it was easy to tell that at one time, the outer shell was covered in purple and blue paintings. Around the neck of the urn was a rusted, gold ring, chips missing from the precious metal. I absolutely adored it. I called my sister to thank her, but she never answered. I hung up when I got her voicemail, and began carefully turning the urn over in my hands. It was then I noticed a note, taped to the wooden lid that read “Do not open,” in Dora’s handwriting. I figured it must be some prank. I decided to play along, and set the urn carefully on the dresser in my room. It was that night the voice started.
“Open… lid…” I heard in the middle of the night. I sat bolt upright in bed, searching for the voice’s origin.
“Open the lid…” I heard again. The voice was muted, as if covered by a cloth, or some foreign object, but obviously, that of a young child.
“Hello,” I said. “who’s there?” I sat timidly in bed, expecting to hear some crashing of a burglar in my living room, but no noise came. A quick lap around my apartment with my favorite nine-iron yielded no results either. The door was still locked, everything was in place, and no windows were shattered, or even opened. I went back to bed, but every hour or so, the voice haunted my dreams.
Wednesday, December thirtieth, I realized that the year was ending. My phone rang off the hook, friends calling and asking what my plans were for the following night. I told them I wasn’t feeling well, and that I was staying in this year. I just wanted to sleep soundly, late into New Year’s Day, as it was my day off. I tried to call Dora again that day, still no answer. What in the world is she doing, I wondered to myself. That day was uneventful, but at night, the voice started again.
“Open the lid. Let me out,” it said. “I’m all stuffed up in here.”
This time, the voice sounded nearer, louder even. I slowly stepped out of bed and crept around my room. As I passed my dresser, I heard it clearly.
“Open the lid, let me out. Please,” the voice said again. There was no mistaking it, it came from inside the urn.
Thinking that this was one of Dora’s jokes, I picked up the urn and shook it gently. No sound came from inside, it seemed empty. “What is this?” I asked.
“Pandora’s pithos,” the voice replied. “I’m Hope.”
Startled, I shoved the urn into my closet, behind some thick sheets, but through the night, I heard Hope call out.
“Open the lid, please.”
Thursday, December thirty-first, I realized I hadn’t actually slept in the past two days, more like passed out from exhaustion. The day blurred by without any notable instances, and night came once again. Party-goers out in the streets sang about the new year, hoping it would prove more fruitful than the last. I sat inside, staring at an urn.
“Open the lid,” called out the voice once again. “Please.”
I thought insanity had finally set in from my lack of actual sleep. I began talking back.
“You’re Hope,” I asked
“What are you doing in there?”
“An angry god put me here, centuries ago.”
“And this is really Pandora’s…”
“Not Pandora’s Box?”
“There was never a box. Just this pithos. And me.”
“And you’re Hope.”
“Yes,” the voice said, curtly. “Would you be so kind?”
I stared at the markings on the side of the urn. I smiled, thinking that the world could always use a little more hope. Without another thought, I lifted the small wooden lid, and out seeped a dark, oily cloud of smoke. It burst forth with maniacal laughter on its heels and malice in its wake.
“Freedom,” Hope screeched. “After millennia, freedom!” The smoke burst through my window and into the night. I looked around, stunned, and saw my phone lit up on my nightstand. My sister finally decided to return my call. I picked up the phone, and heard a heavy sigh on the other end of the line.
“You opened the urn, didn’t you?” She asked.
Through the broken window, I heard cheers of “Happy New Year!” Two-thousand sixteen had begun. “I might have.”