There was a man who had a life. It may not have been a good life or one filled with love – still it was a life. In that life was a wife and a child; they made life meaningful or so the story goes. One day a terrible wind came and took the wife away; then a car drove up and took the little girl. The man knew that his wife and his little girl were out there somewhere in the world; he just did not know where. The wind and the car had torn his heart and taken the things that were most precious to him.
The man vowed that nothing could hurt him, like the storm and the car, ever again. The memories of his wife and his child were too painful. He bought two boxes and put the memories of his wife in one box and the memories of his child in the second box. “I will visit these boxes when the memories are no longer painful,” he said. There were moments he wanted to hug the boxes – but he didn’t.
Time went on and the memories faded. The man carried the boxes with him but never opened them. He no longer needed the memories. He met another woman. “Instead of being alone this will be better,” he thought. Now he would be able to stack the boxes away without a thought. They had several children. He loved each of them; they made him smile with their youthful glee. Then one day a big man came and grabbed his wife. The children reluctantly followed like ducks in a row. “Goodbye daddy we love you, ” they called. He tried to see his children through a fog but the big man and the woman were replaced by Ogers. The ogres prevented him from seeing or talking to those he loved most. The pain was so great that he could feel his chest pulsating. He opened his chest, found his heart was crushed, and torn open.
The man bought five boxes this time. His wife he carefully laid in the first box. He kissed each child as he laid them down in another box. The lid of the last box waited to be replaced. He put his heart in the fifth box. “I will visit these boxes when the memories are no longer painful,” he said. There were moments that he wanted to hug the boxes that contained the memories of his children. Several times he heard his heart calling to him. “Please put me back- I am dying.” He resisted.
The man no longer cared what happened to him; no one cared about him or his memories. He was reckless. He laughed and said “this is the new me and those boxes can never hurt me again.” For a time he was put in a cage for his recklessness. Nothing could hurt him. Not really. Sometimes he would feel the tug of the scars where his heart had been but not often. There were other caged men who had torn their hearts out as well. They mocked misery. They scorned love, feelings, and life.
The man was released from his cage but was still treated like a caged man. He went from place to place carrying his boxes with him- never opening them. “If they want to hug me they must open the boxes themselves,” he would grumble. The boxes never did. They were boxes after all and never knew how to open themselves.
One of the boxes cried for help; it was one of the first boxes. He opened the box. Inside was his daughter added to the box were her two sons. They reached up their arms. He called down and said” I will help if I can.” For a time he would keep the box open and talk to the three in the box. He fed them, protected them, and was just taking them out of the box when his daughter called out ” close the box. Leave me alone! I don’t want you anymore. Where were you all the years I lived in the box and cried?” she chastised him. The two boys reluctantly watched their grandfather reluctantly close the lid. A big tear fell down the man’s cheek. If he heard her voice, he would peak inside. “Do you want help?” “No – go away!” He hated the lid and taped it down. He heard the boys and would talk to them through the box but little by little the box became silent.
At the same time, he had gained a friend. Though he was reluctant to call anyone a friend. The voice of a million letters had to prove herself. She liked things that he liked. They shared days on end about their love of music, art, poetry, philosophy. He started hearing sounds that he thought were gone from the world. A word he had struck from his mind surfaced –” Hope.” He talked – she listened. She talked – he listened. His hands were inspired to create again. He heard her laughter ; he started to laugh as well. He could feel the ocean breeze and soaked in the golden rays of the sun. He felt as though he was falling but he didn’t know where.
He tried to push this feeling away;then he would try to pull it towards him. His mind kept saying ‘there’s gotta be a catch…” His words could be angry. The voice of a million letters was still there. He saw the words plainly in front of him. “I love you!” He shook his head, “that feeling can never be mine again. ” He bought another box meaning to put the words in the box to save himself but he didn’t.
Months went by; he looked at the words. One by one he took the words “I love you” and held them. They were soft and kind. He felt a foreign beat, in his chest, that had been missing. His mind tried to jump in and say “there’s gotta be a catch…” He didn’t listen this time. He sent the words “I love you” back to her. He started to dream, to believe – so did she. The voice of a million letters was like a lifeline; he felt he could do anything as long as he held on to her. He could get used to being loved – maybe.
“It may be awhile” the voice of a million letters said “but I will be with you. My words depend on you.” He could be patient. He wanted to throw the empty box away but he didn’t. He wanted to throw all the boxes away but they were somehow attached to him now. There were some hard days. He needed a home and there was no place. The voice of a million letters would have given him a home but she had none. All she could give him was the three words. So he looked for some place for him and someday for her. A friend offered him a roof. He was grateful. So was his lifeline of words- she wanted him to be safe and warm.
She didn’t know what it was maybe it was the roof or maybe he couldn’t trust the three words. He changed. He started throwing words at her. Instead of laughter, there was a roar. The words were unkind and they meant to hurt. What he didn’t see is the words became arrows; when they reached her they pierced her. She cried out in pain. He couldn’t hear. He looked at the words “I love you” and threw them in the vacant box. He heard the mocking “I told you there’s gotta be a catch…”
The voice of a million words felt her heart hit a cold hard bottom of something like a dark pit. “Maybe he just needs time to get used to the roof,” she sighed. She washed the words ” love you” and placed them close to her. She would not give up. She could still be the friend he needed, maybe somehow still be hope. She knew about the boxes and knew he had suffered great pain. Then it happened – the thing that had brought them together, their creativity – their words of inspiration were thrown into the box with a thud. In some ways, that hurt more than her words of love being cast into the pit. “What more can he throw in that box?” she wondered. “Me” was the answer. So to prevent him from any more pain she threw herself into the box and pulled the lid closed tight. He would never even know she was gone. The voice of a million words would be gone and that would be that. He would go on with life like before. There would only be one difference; he would have eight boxes instead of seven that he would carry with him.
He was angry at the eighth box. He would hold it close then throw it far from him. One day he had enough. He decided the only way to rid himself of her was to despise her, to hate her, to blame her for the other boxes. He threw all his hate and anger at the eighth box. In a short time, the box no longer existed. No sound, no words -just emptiness.
What had he done? he asked himself as he picked up remnants of the eighth box and pulled them close. He started to remember back to the beginning.
One day a person asked him what were all the boxes that he carried with him.
“Memories. Boxes full of memories,” he said lovingly.
In the end, he realized the box he had destroyed had loved him. She had encouraged him to love the seven boxes; so much so that she gave herself up for him. He would always love her for helping him to remember. As he spoke to the seven boxes, he said the words he knew the voice of a million letters would have said.
The Tenth Daughter of Memory is a writing blog that creates a rich writing environment for serious writers. Come join us. The prompt this time was There’s Gotta Be a Catch
Thank you to MammaOca for the wonderful boxes