Sept. 6, 2015
(Note: I responded to this prompt and sent it to my friend for his birthday, rather than post it to the subreddit. He insisted I post it here, so I am).
The root was set deep, and I had to grasp the base of the weed with both hands and jimmy it like a stuck door. When it finally came up, a mound of topsoil, gravel and detritus came with it. I shook it, trying to leave some of the good stuff in my poor, neglected garden when something shiny fell back to earth. I tossed the plant into the embarrassingly large mound of weeds and took off my glove and poked about in the dirt after the shiny thing.
My fingers grazed something cool and smooth and I picked it up.
Even caked with dirt, I could tell it was a key – those old fashioned kind with long stems that fit in old-style keyholes. A real key – not those bits of toothy metal we use these days. It rested comfortably in my palm. I brushed the dirt away and realized that the key was made of glass.
“That’s silly,” I muttered to myself. “How would you turn it?”
And I wanted desperately to find what it opened. And it made sense to dig – because maybe the treasure chest or door wasn't too far away.
My hands were blistered and bloody by the time I found the box. It was about the size of a shoebox and made out of glass, but it wasn’t clear like the key. It was black – and though it caught the light of the setting sun, rather than reflect it, the box seemed to suck it up like a cloth. The keyhole was perfect.
I slid the key inside, and the noise it made sent a shiver down my spine and I gasped as the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. There was something secret in the box, something different, beautiful and not quite right.
I turned the key and it snapped in my hand as the tumblers in the box fell into place. I lifted the lid, and felt a warm breeze – like a breath being exhaled in my face. Then they poured out. I’m guessing they must have been more demons and hell spawn to darken the world.
“For fuck’s sake,” I grumbled, and slammed the lid shut.
“Pay up,” said Hermes, a shit-eating grin on his face.
Zeus’ face darkened, but he fished in his coinpurse, removing an errant thunderbolt before tossing the drachmas to his son.
“We could do this a million times, and she would open it every time,” said Hermes. “What we should have bet on was whether or not you’d fall for it.”
There was a rumble of thunder, but Hermes had already put a soothing hand on his father’s back.
“So, what did she get for a consolation prize this millennia?” asked the thunder god.
“In addition to Hope – the great standby of mankind – I left her chocolate. Felt right,” said the Trickster.
“Fair enough,” said Zeus. “I’ve got this scheduled again for this time next eon.”