A Box Within

First place winner of the June-July Hidden Power Competition. Sometimes it takes an outsiders view to make real a life so tragic and flawed, that once shown its true colours revitalizes a need for change. It shows that sometimes the greatest power man bestows, is the ability to change their life for the betterment of something far more valuable.

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3. The Box

Claire was stunned. She kept moving her gaze from the frozen people in the café to the strange smiling man opposite her, sitting there in his ridiculously bright suit. But each time she looked away her eyes were drawn to that white metal box. That humming box.

"Look at you," he said smiling again, "look at the state you're in. Have you seen yourself this morning?" He chuckled.

"I... I had a good night." She said, uncertain.

"Did you?" He paused. "Remember when you were thirteen years old and you saw your Father drunk for the first time, well, first time that you can recall anyway. You were with your friend Donna at the time, nice kid. What did you say to her?"

Claire sat stuck to the chair, the box humming a little louder. Her headache was impeding her memory and so she just shook her head blankly.

"You said, 'look at that mess, I am never going to get like that.'" He said as he stood up and made for a glass doored fridge that supplied bottles of Coca Cola and Fanta. "You were so upset by what you saw that you made a promise to yourself, and to little Donna." He took two bottles of orange Fanta from the fridge and sat back down. "Where is Donna now?"

"Shouldn't you know? You know everything else in my life apparently, whoever the hell you are." She said, crossing her arms, getting defensive.

"Of course I know," he said opening a bottle and passing it to the girl. "I want to hear you say it." He opening his bottle and took a sip. It seemed to hurt him, his smile evaporated as he winced in pain before his smile was painted back on. His white teeth ever shining.

"She died." She said bluntly, "Happy?"

"How did she die?" He pressed.

"Car crash, okay? Drunk driver." Claire said, tearing up slightly but as she had learned to do she forced those emotions away and instinctively took a swig of her drink, a little disappointed with its contents.

"Yes. Ryan Stewart was the driver, a man you slept with. But that's unrelated, I mean that was months after the accident." Irvine said smiling. "What became of Ryan? Is he waiting for his princess to come home?"

"Why are you doing this to me? Can I leave?"

"Do you think you can just leave? Well? Answer my question: Is he waiting for his princess to come home?" He repeated, his smile not shifting.

"No."

"No," Irvine echoed, "of course he isn't, he left long ago, I mean look at you. Who would stay?" He laughed, taking another hurtful sip of the drink. 

"What do you want from me?" Claire said, tears now showing.

"I want you to realise who and what you've become, not for anything anyone has made you do, not for any purpose that you had in mind. But what you have allowed yourself to become through neglect and self loathing. Through this deep need to be saved in someway and that the only way out from the hell you have found yourself in, is on the back of a silver horse. Is that simple enough for you to understand?" He reeled off, almost rehearsed. 

Silence fell over the table. Then a thought hit Claire, 'someone must have put something in my drink. I must be hallucinating. Someone has slipped me LSD last night and this is some awful trip. I just need to wait this out, and I'll be better.'

"No this is not a trip, such a stupid thought. You couldn't imagine this if you tried. You certainly wouldn't be able to comprehend what I have for you in this box." He said tapping the box with a long finger. "Oh, but do you deserve what is in it? That is the job given to me by my superiors. Think of this like a job interview. Shall we begin?"

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