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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2. The Café

Morning light beamed through a crack in the curtains, illuminating the council flat lounge. The floor was dotted with empty bottles of Captain Morgan spiced rum, amongst others, as well as passed out young adults; some half dressed, some not dressed at all. An overfilled ash tray and empty plastic baggies lay on the stained wooden table in the middle of the room. A girl sat upright in the epicenter of the chaos, rubbing her make-up smudged face, unaware of what time or day it was. A Tuesday she thought, though not certain.

She looked around, trying hard to remember the names of those she partied with as well as where she left her belongings. Silently, as best she could, she collected her clothes, and shoes, and bag, and made for the stairs down to the front door. No one noticed her leaving, which she was thankful for.

She stepped into the clean summer air, coughed a little, and uneasily on her high heels stumbled down the uneven stone steps to the empty street and tried to remember her way home. She knew the memories of the night before weren't going to show up until later on, so she enjoyed the time she had free of regret and embarrassment as she retraced her steps as best she could. 

She remembered passing a café on the way to the party which seemed an age ago, and decided to line her empty stomach with greasy food and cold orange juice. Luckily she hadn't spent much, most of the alcohol was provided by the host which she remembered now was called Mark, a strangely older member of the group who she assumed owned the flat, he did not. Who's flat it actually was was never made clear, it was a safe place, that's all anyone really cared about.

She found the café and took a seat, resting her head in her hands she pined over the menu, looking for anything with the words 'bacon' and 'egg.' She settled for an omelette and waited to be served, the bright sun glaring through the decorated windows only compounded her oncoming headache. 

An elderly couple in the corner looked over at her, tutted and in a very British way left her alone as they remarked on the problem with today's youth, the girl acting as a poster child for their opinions. The girl was so tired and hungover that she didn't even notice a well dressed man pull up the seat opposite her and sit down. It wasn't until he reached out and placed a small metal box on the table did she raise her head. 

"Hello?" She said wearily, trying to ascertain whether he was at the party too, and so somehow knew her, or followed her here from the flat, though by the way he was dressed she doubted it.

"Good morning," he said rather cheerfully before placing his hands onto his lap and stared at her intently.

"Can I help you with something?" She asked, now certain that she had not seen him before, he was far too attractive and old to have been drinking white cider and smoking joints with her in the flat. 

"What makes you think that I need help?" He said, smiling his cheerful smile.

Confused, the girl responded as best she could, "umm, I don't. What do you want?"

The man smiled, showing off his brilliant white teeth. "I want nothing more than to help you."

For the girl the penny had dropped, she knew what he was up to and was insulted by it. "If you're some Christian freak, thinking that I need my soul saved then forget it. Leave me alone."

"Oh but Claire, you are alone." He said, still smiling, "there is something in this box I want to show you."

Claire looked down finally and saw the box the man was talking about, a white metal box, engraved in a language she couldn't read. It was beautiful, but she felt something was odd about it. Something about the box made her hair stand on end, made her feel uneasy. The box hummed to her.

"How do you know my name?" She said, still looking at the box.

"That's not what you want to know really, you want to know what is in this box, and you want to know why you feel so attracted to opening it. I know you better than you do. In that box is a gift, a rare gift not everyone gets." He continued to stare into Claire's eyes, his smile fading with each word. "You were dealt a bad deal. You don't know it, but you were meant to be more than this. This is the way out, so to speak." Claire sharply looked around to seek out anyone to help, but she saw that the couple by the window, and the guy by the till had stopped moving altogether.

"Oh don't worry you're perfectly safe. My name is Irvine, and I'm here to change your life."

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