I opened the box and the diseases and disasters submerged the earth without distinguishing race or gender. Maladies spread between all kinds of human populations. Some worse than others. In some cases, it manifested on the outside by means of festering wounds or bloody ulcers. Others ate from the inside of the human beings. Cancer decimated quite regularly by the clock the world populations. Pestilence came down on the rodent they called rats. However, they didn’t die and became carriers of the disease which they spread in the suburbs of the cities.
Much turmoil was put on the planet and the earth was shaking so badly, whole houses disappeared when the ground collapsed, bridges were destroyed with all the people who were walking on them. Forests burned like inextinguishable torches and took the border cities up in their flames. Volcanoes erupted and lava streamed like rivers through the country. So many fertile grounds had been overflowed by floods and cattle and thousands of persons drowned.
After this eruption of misery ended, when the survivors counted their casualties, those diseases and disasters hid in the hourglass of time. Without warning, they struck at regular times, merciless and without sparing anybody. Hidden under the skin, irregularities began to develop into the deepest essence of our being, the rotten fruits of the box my husband had received had nestled in the human being.
Dissatisfaction ruled, even about the smallest things. Quarrels arose about the least disagreement. These little irregularities had blown out of all proportion. Nations took up arms against each other and fought to the death. Blood was shed in the name of principles everyone tried to force on others. Everyone was convinced about his right and about the wrongness of the enemy.
Clouds with dark magic floated over the earth and the oceans. Places they stopped by were being submerged in acid rain and impenetrable mist. Magic clung to some beings. Some got unnamable qualities through this sorcery.
On the first day, rain poured down on the heads of many ignorant souls. They received the power of transformation and some became wolves at night under the light of the moon. Their body every time endured a painful transformation before they, covered by the darkness, searched for their victims.
The second day an impenetrable mist came down out of the cloud banks. You hardly could see the person next to you in the streets of the village where this magic fell down. Most of them became possessed with demonic powers and made a pact with the Devil. They would proceed with his work on earth. The other demons settled down in houses and castles and haunted every night, till the inhabitants became crazy.
On the third day, there was lightning and thunder in the clouds. Many living creatures had been struck down by lightning, but the human beings under them rose after a moment to walk away as servants of the Dark. Wizards and witches performed Black Magic with their new powers with the only goal to drown mankind in a pool of pain and sorrow.
The fourth day, blood was raining out of the sky and the clouds evaporated into thin air. Those who tasted the red flood of rain on their lips became an insatiable urge for blood. Both of their upper canines grew longer and sharper. They used them to slash the throat of their victims to drink their warm blood that their dying heart was still pumping up.
All these creatures and still more scum and dark brood spread around the world. They used the shadows and the protection of the night to make new victims. Their numbers grew because some of these creatures had the power to create new servants of Evil.
From this moment on, there was misery on earth, from this day on nobody felt safe anymore.
How can a person be pardoned for some much suffering!
Pandora’s diary was a gruesome gift she had left her daughter with. She had, after her unforgivable mistake, not known how to rectify all this misery. Seized by a deep despair, she had tried to write everything down for posterity about all the misery she had set loose on the world.
The atrocities she described in the collection of parchments could be called at least bloody and horrible. Both Diana as Julius had been surprised to read the origin of the nightwalkers and some other well-known beings of the night.
‘Did you also received your power in that way, Mercedes?’ Julius had listened attentively to the reading of the extraction of the diary. He was made by Dragosj and Diana’s creator had traveled to the sun and wasn’t there anymore. They both were not of the first generation.
‘My mother had been punished because of her disobedience and curiosity. My wolf-being has been laid on me because of a divine jealousy, my other side, the witch in me comes from the box. Over the centuries, I’ve learned to control myself not to take the wrong road. It has cost me a lot and it has not been without making victims. It’s an emotional luggage I’ll never get rid of. There is and always will be a dark place in me.’
Diana sniggered because of Mercedes’ effort to pluck the heartstrings. ‘What you call emotional luggage I consider as experience and power. You should be proud not to be an ordinary mortal.’
It was as if Julius wanted to react to this, but eventually he didn’t want to get into that. For him, there was always his hatred against Dragosj because of the death of his mother. Consequently, he called his new existence as quasi-immortal in question.
Before Diana would have seen his hesitation as powerlessness or treason, now heard his story, she gave him the benefit of the doubt. She would try to help him to eliminate his human side that still slumbered in him. He would be far better off. Certainly with the possibility to succeed Count Dragosj.
‘Are you sure to have seen something in this about the Water of the Lost Sighs?’ Diana became impatient because she suspected the enemy not to sit still. Even if she was almost invincible, she would bet on a direct confrontation without having more information. Information how this being could be defeated for example.
Mercedes looked through the folios that had curled on the edges from old age. ‘Here, I found it. I knew there was something in it.’
‘Give here,’ Diana snapped impatiently, ‘where’s that water situated?’
With squeezing eyes, Mercedes looked at Diana, who didn’t move an inch under the flaming glances of the wolf-witch.
‘Alright, let me hear how it is with your knowledge of the Old Greek, my dear Diana.’
‘Old Greek?’ Diana could hit her own head. Of course, the text was written in Old Greek. Pandora descended from that time and place where this language was used in documents. ‘Okay, know-it-all, start reading.’ She had to back down, something she wasn’t accustomed to.
With a half-smile on her face, Mercedes couldn’t hide, she focused her attention on the messages of her mother.
The water of the Lost Sighs is not of this world…
‘Excuse me, what does that mean, not of this world? Don’t tell us fairy tales, please?’ Diana stood there with arms akimbo. Obviously she never wouldn’t become friends with Mercedes, that’s for sure.
‘Diana, shut up and let the woman finish talking. Then we still have time to raise objections and if you can’t let it go to criticize her at that moment.’
With a startled glance the scarcely color on Diana’s face disappeared. Julius never had talked to her in that way. However, she knew she stood lower in the hierarchy and swallowed her anger. She waved with her hand at Mercedes as a sign she could go on.
The Water of the Lost Sighs is not of this world. On the place where the Styx, the Phlegeton, the Acheron, the Cocytus and the Lethe come together, there’s a swamp. This swamp isn’t navigable for a mortal soul. Charon shall be paid with death and an obolus on the tongue, to be allowed to sail up with him. The one who beats death in his own game will be rewarded and sail to the Water of the Lost Sighs. There he can see upon the surface of the water for he seeks or what he has lost. This must happen in the length of time of two hourglasses. Exceed this limit and the unhappy one will wait an eternity wandering along the rivers of the Underworld.
‘Seriously, a piece of cake.’ For the rest, Diana kept silent and waited for the reaction of Julius and Mercedes.
‘Honestly, Mercedes, what is meant by that? These are old myths. I’ve to agree with Diana if I hear all this I begin to doubt the trustworthiness of these texts.’
Despite the reaction of both nightwalkers who suddenly pulled together, a smile appeared on Mercedes’ face. ‘And my mother? Pandora, she is described as a myth. The box of Pandora, also a myth? And all the night beings you have knowledge of, also a fable? May I insist to you that I certainly do exist and that I’ve known my mother very well? I would like to point out that I am flesh and blood and that I personally have known my mother very well. I can confirm you with certainty that either the Underworld or Charon exists. Maybe not as you picture it in your mind, but they are there… still.’
‘Okay. Where can we find it? Is there a hole that leads to these rivers of the Underworld or do you have a secret treasure map hidden in that diary?’ It was said in a mocking voice, but Diana was right. If the text in Pandora’s diary leaned on reality, where was this place located?
Mercedes suddenly became very serious and hesitated to answer. Julius saw her hesitation. ‘Please, tell us, Mercedes, don’t worry. We have already faced extremest peril. Difficulties are there to be conquered and now that we have joined forces, we’re much stronger than on our own.
The wolf-witch nodded and swallowed her last doubt. ‘We don’t have to displace us to make this dangerous voyage. That’s not the problem. First, we have to fulfill another condition before we can start this journey.’
‘Alright, I can accept that. Tell us, let us fulfill that condition so that we can proceed as fast as possible. It cannot be that hard to do, can it?’ Julius had taken courage. He believed in Mercedes and in the writings of her mother. He thought about Shakespeare, a contemporary of his. There were more things between heaven and earth he could dream and that’s why he believed there was a solution to everything.
‘I don’t know if you realize what this voyage implies. To sail the Styx and the other rivers of the Underworld first and foremost, you have to be… dead!
© Rudi J.P. Lejaeghere