Grandma’s Jewelry Box
By Evan Purcell
Pandora’s grandmother filled her house with antiques… and dust… and rules. Tons of rules.
Don’t sit on that chair.
Don’t smudge that glass.
Don’t touch that. It’s too old.
Don’t touch that. It’s too new.
But the one rule that Grandma always told her—the big rule, the important rule—was to never, never open her jewelry box.
Pandora was too young for jewelry. Plus, the box wasn’t even expensive-looking. It was wooden and splintery.
Pandora hated visiting Grandma’s house. It was only thirty minutes from her own house, but it might as well have been a light-year and a half. Grandma lived outside the city, so there was a grand total of zero things to do. No parks. No malls. Just farms and open spaces and a single neighbor house that was always empty.
It was boring, and Grandma liked it that way. She always said that she’d lived enough adventures for a hundred grandmas. She wanted to have a nice, peaceful, boring life and leave the excitement to young people. It was a nice philosophy and all, Pandora thought, but she was still young, and she wanted to have adventures, and she couldn’t do that in the most boring house in Boringsville, USA.
Plus, her grandma didn’t seem to like her very much. Maybe it was just Pandora’s imagination, but it was almost like her grandma was testing her with all these stupid rules. The only way she could please the old woman, it seemed, was if she sat on the couch all weekend and knitted. Quietly.
That morning, the morning all the trouble started, Grandma left Pandora alone to go to the pharmacy. On her way out, Grandma said, “Don’t do anything. Don’t touch anything. Don’t open the jewelry box. Have fun!” And she was gone.
At first, Pandora sat on the couch and knitted. Quietly. But that lasted about ten minutes before she felt the urge to stab herself with the knitting needles. She decided to go outside and run around the yard.
After a few minutes of running in circles—again, she didn’t have any toys to play with—she heard a quiet voice whisper “Hey!” from the hedges.
Well, the hedges didn’t say anything. A boy hiding in the hedges did.
A new kid! Pandora’s heart skipped a beat. He wasn’t cute or anything—he was too bug-eyed for that—but he was definitely…
Well, he was definitely a human.
Her own age.
And he was holding a baseball.
“I’m Ty,” the stranger said.
“You mean like the radio station thing?”
Pandora shrugged. Her name was weird. Everybody knew it.
And then, out of nowhere, Ty tossed her the ball, she tossed it back, and they had officially become friends. It was too soon to tell if they would remain friends longer than a dozen throws, let alone the weekend, let alone forever… But right now, he seemed nice.
It felt good to finally have something to do in this place instead of staring at her grandma’s knick-knacks and imagining where they came from.
After a dozen throws, their friendship was indeed still intact, so Pandora decided to strike up a conversation. “So… what do you think about this place?”
Ty looked all around him. “Lotsa grass,” he said.
“Not the yard. I mean, this place. This town. Is there anything to do here?”
“Beats me. I just moved here. But if I have one hidden talent, it’s being able to find stuff to do.”
He smiled at her, and Pandora wasn’t entirely sure what that smile meant. She was starting to think that maybe this new kid was a trouble maker. If she was going to keep him out of trouble—keep them both out of trouble—then she’d have to lay down the rules. Fast.
“Well, good luck with that. My grandma has all these rules. Don’t break anything. Don’t touch the windows. Don’t open the cookie jar. Don’t leave the front yard. And never, never, a-thousand-times-never open the jewelry box. I swear, every day she tells me the same rules. So as you can see, I can’t really…”
“What’s in the jewelry box?” Ty asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Come on. I can help you pick the lock if…”
“There’s no lock.”
“Then why don’t you open it?”
“No!” Pandora shouted. Her voice sounded whinier than she’d wanted.
“Look,” Ty explained. “It sounds to me like your grandma wants you to open her jewelry box.”
“No, just hear me out. My dad’s a psychiatrist. He tells me all about this kind of stuff. It’s called reverse psychology. Adults do it all the time. They want you to do something, so they tell you not to do it. And then they repeat themselves, again and again and again, until you have to do it.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Pandora protested.
“It will when we’re older. Trust me, Pandora. Your grandma wants you to open that box.”
“And why would she want that?”
Ty paused. “Uh… maybe she wants you to make decisions for yourself. Maybe she wants you to have a good time when you come and visit. I don’t know. But come on, there’s really only one way to find out.
Pandora had known this stranger for almost six minutes, half of which was spent silently tossing a ball at each other’s heads. She didn’t know anything about Ty except that he had bug eyes and got really excited about stuff.
He was persuasive.
Should she do it? Should she go against her grandmother’s wishes and open that jewelry box?
Ty smiled at her—a goofy, lopsided grin—and she had her answer. “Ugh, follow me,” she said.
They walked into the old, white house, Pandora first and Ty a half-step behind her.
“Your grandma sure has a lot of… stuff,” Ty said. He stood a little too close to an antique vase.
“Yes she does,” Pandora mumbled. “And it’s all very breakable. So…”
“I would never—” Ty swiped his arms in a big circle, sending the vase flying through the air. Before it could shatter into flower-decorated shards, he caught it. “Kidding,” he said.
Pandora found herself standing over the splintery jewelry box. The closer she got to it, the more it looked like something salvaged from the bottom of the ocean.
Maybe Grandma used to be a pirate, Pandora thought. She is old enough.
“Well?” Ty said. He was breathing down her neck.
It was now or never. In a single rush of movement, Pandora clicked the latch open and pushed the lid aside. Now, Pandora didn’t know exactly what she was expecting inside an ancient, rusted maybe-pirate box. Jewelry? Old coins? A monkey hand?
But she certainly wasn’t expecting a dozen little green creatures, with eyes like tiny buttons, with tusks growing from their lower jaws, with little jester hats and tinkling bells. And even if she did expect creatures and tusks and jester hats, she most definitely didn’t expect those creatures to jump out of the box and start trashing the entire house.
Within seconds, these little green men—gnomes, they were definitely gnomes—had managed to break windows, topple cabinets, and smash chair legs into timber. One of the creatures went straight for the antique vase. Like Ty, the creature threw it in the air. Unlike Ty, he didn’t bother catching it.
“What are those things?” Ty shouted. He had to shout over the crashes and bangs and growls.
“I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know,” Pandora said. She needed her mom, or at least a paper bag to breathe into.
That particular noise came from the kitchen. It sounded refrigerator-sized.
“Whatever they are,” Pandora said, “we have to stop them!”
That went without saying, of course, because the creature had already destroyed half the living room and mapped out plans of destruction for the other half. Pretty soon, there’d be nothing left except rubble and furniture shards.
One of the creatures grabbed Ty’s pant leg and latched its claws into the fabric. Then it began to shred.
“Get off! Get off!” Ty screamed.
A lamp toppled.
A window shattered.
Ty kicked his leg and the creature hurtled through the air, landing on the ceiling fan.
“Stop!” Pandora shouted.
All at once, the creatures gathered together in the middle of the living room. They grabbed each other’s shoulders and whispered. They huddled like football players. It would’ve been adorable if it weren’t so terrifying.
“What are they doing?” Pandora asked.
Before Ty could answer, or stammer, or mumble some nonsense, the creatures broke their little formation and ran headfirst toward Pandora. Whatever their plan was, it involved attacking her.
Or murdering her.
Pandora didn’t wait for their next move. She ran toward the front door and flung it open.
Bad idea. The creatures completely ignored Pandora —one even ran over her sneaker—and they disappeared out the door. Pandora instantly realized what she had done.
“I’ve let them loose.”
And that was the biggest understatement of her crazy, monster-filled day. When she opened the door, she had released a dozen tooth-gnashing, bell-jingling, vase-breaking things into the town. And if they managed to do this much damage to a living room, she couldn’t imagine how epically she’d doomed the street… the town… the world, even.
Ty chuckled. Or groaned; it was difficult to tell. “I hope there aren’t any antique stores in town.”
Pandora glared at him.
“Well,” Ty said. “It’s been a pleasure. Maybe we can do this again someti—”
Pandora grabbed him by the collar before he could run off. “You are not leaving me with this mess.”
“What do you expect me to do? I’m twelve.”
Pandora pulled him back toward the jewelry box. She didn’t even mention that she wasn’t going to turn twelve for another two weeks. “We have to stop these things. Maybe there’s something in the box that can tell us what they are.”
Ty wriggled out of her grasp. “Good thinking. I’ll wait here.”
She grabbed his arm and yanked. Together, they walked across the wreckage and looked into the jewelry box.
“What the…?” Pandora couldn’t tell if she said it, or Ty. Either way, she definitely agreed.
There was one creature left inside the box, but this one wasn’t like the others. It was the same basic shape, but it didn’t have tusks or claws. Its button eyes were sort of… adorable? Was that the right word? It looked more like a teddy bear than anything else.
The creature jumped up and stuck out her paw. “I’m Hope,” she said.
“Hello?” Pandora whispered again.
Before they could exchange any more pleasantries, Hope pulled out a miniature shotgun. “Come on,” she said. “Let’s kill some monsters.”
Pandora wasn’t expecting that, but it certainly wasn’t the most surprising thing to happen to her that day. At least they had an ally, even if she was three inches tall and possibly demonic.
Hope jumped onto Pandora’s shoulder and whispered something about getting a weapon. Pandora grabbed an old baseball bat.
Ty grabbed a random golf club from somewhere. He looked overwhelmed and shaky, but otherwise ready to scream “Fore” and swing like a crazy person.
They both charged out the front door, but something stopped them on the porch.
“Uh, hey!” Pandora said, while Ty sheepishly hid his golf club behind his back. “How was the, um, pharmacy?”
Grandma looked at Pandora, then Ty, then the armed teddy bear on Pandora’s shoulder, then the rubble at Ty’s feet, then back at Pandora.
“I can explain,” Pandora said. A piece of ceiling collapsed behind her.
“You opened the jewelry box, huh?” Grandma said. Her blue eyes looked weirdly crinkled, like she was stopping a dozen different emotions from showing on her face.
“Sort of,” Pandora said. She looked at her sneakers.
Grandma smiled. “It’s about darn time. Now go get them.”