89.5 WNIJ recently invited listeners to participate in Three-Minute Fiction, a “very short story” contest inspired by an NPR series of the same name. GK Wuori, a DeKalb native, Pushcart Prize-winning author and Illinois Arts Council Fellow, wrote the story prompt and selected five winners and five honorable mention commendations.
Author Ross Martin of Sycamore, Illinois won second place in the Three-Minute Fiction competition with Pandora’s Box.
“Pandora’s Box” by Ross Martin
I was alone with it. I looked down at the little box. I was intrigued. My heart was palpitating and my eyes squinted. My breath was short; my hands trembled. It was MINE.
The box lit up and I was mesmerized. I was physically unable to let it go. Looking into the box brought me to limitless sights and sounds. My curiosity was that of a cat. Some moments were hilarious, some were not. Some were LOL and others more WTF and definitely NSFW.
At first it was a novelty of epic proportions, a super powered information gatherer. I would look into it and know the date and time, the weather, the traffic, game scores. It was a flashlight, a guide to the stars, a map, and an encyclopedia. It dangerously provided something, anything, to occupy every idle moment. Its light was hypnotic, an insomnia-inducing beacon that by now was a constant companion.
I was looking into the box one time while walking down the sidewalk. It was showing me silly cats again. What is with all the cats? Preoccupied, I bashed my forehead into a low hanging tree branch. Another time while I was laying by the pool the box treated me to a couple hours worth of triviality. I came away from that session with information on a cosmos diet, who in town was arrested, a fairly good synopsis of middle-eastern tensions according to lesbians, knowledge of the tenacity of honey badgers, a sore neck and terrible sunburn. Another time while staring into the light at work I was witness to images of such obscene nature that I had to look over my shoulder to make sure I was in fact alone. I was not. The box was illuminating other job options the next day.
The box did give me friends and a great control of who is or is not one. I could find most anyone I wanted inside the box and I could follow their daily happenings. My neighbor had steak and wine for dinner, my cousin is in Italy, an old classmate just married, a (former) coworker’s baby ate cat food. The box sometimes even revealed to me those I should trust and those I should not. After a while, even when I wasn’t alone, I might as well have been. I had so many friends in the box.
Things started to take a turn for the worse. While at the hospital, I missed the birth of my child, the box was showing me a country bee flying into the mouth of a city reporter. In the midst of my laughter I inhaled a cough drop and was whisked away to ER. Years later, the kids would tug on my pants, while I stared at the box, trying to get me to avert my gaze. But I could not look away; the box was showing me what spiders do on LSD. I was even looking into the light at one point and sadly realized that my relationship with my partner was doomed; her words shining brightly dimmed my spirit. But it didn’t really matter; I could not control that insatiable desire to see what the light would show me next.
Then, one day I was very lucky to be alone. I looked up from the little box. I was terrified! My heart stopped, my pupils dilated. My breath gasped and my hands clenched. I lost the little box. It went through the windshield right before I did.
For more information on the Three-Minute Fiction “very short story” competition, please visit wnij.org.