Menace Unlocked

"Excuse me miss! How did you get back here? This area is for EMPLOYEES ONLY."

Sheila blinked, as though she'd blacked out temporarily. Hastily registering the situation, she rolled her eyes and sighed, the shrill voice grating on her nerves; and the capitalised end to the admonition making it quite clear that she'd been caught red-handed.

She waited a beat before she backed off from the giant almirah she'd been rummaging in- how best could she tackle this situation? Hmmm, maybe...

"Excuse me madam, but we will be forced to call the police unless you turn around immediately!"

Oh well. So much for planning. She turned around and flashed a dazzling smile at the owner of the tiny antique store. The tiny man wasn't impressed, his moustache quivering and face red with anger.

"I do beg your pardon sir. I'm just a rather avid collector of antiques. It's my creature comfort, really. None of what I saw out there satisfied me, so I just thought I'd take a gander in here, see if I could find anything that piqued my..."

"None of these items are for sale."

Sheila bit back annoyance. Sure, she'd been caught trespassing, but that didn't mean the man had to interrupt her so often! Through gritted teeth, she said, "That's quite an exaggeration. I only found one thing, and it was this handbag. Took me forever to find- a dozen doors, booby traps and padlocks galore! Somehow... I managed to unearth this."

She frowned as she said that. She was a little fuzzy on how exactly she'd got the handbag. And why had she wanted it so badly? She looked at the article in her hand. A rather dowdy leather handbag- it was moulding, and seemed more ancient than the coin pouches of ancient Greece. All that desperation... for this?

She looked around her. A hammer lay flung aside. Splintered wood everywhere. Her own hands bled, and yet the pain was a dull afterthought. Alarms blared in the distance. It was overkill. And yet, she could say the same about her own actions to procure this bag.

Distant swirls of memory swam around in her brain. She was a prominent professor of 'Ancient Greek Civilisations', and could remember a dashing man leaning against the doorway as she'd finished answering the last of the audience member's questions at the end of her guest lecture. The man had smiled at her, told her how riveting her lecture had been. She'd been flattered- not often did handsome men give her such sweet compliments. He'd asked her out to dinner... it had been magical. They'd spent a month together, and he'd been the perfect gentleman. So debonair, so complimentary... albeit a little pushy. He'd insisted on just the one thing however. That she visit this here antique store. She'd objected- it was so out-of-the-way, and surely she had better things to do. But he'd insisted. Firmly, icily. She quickly agreed, more out of fear than anything else. But then he'd smiled, and the apprehension just evaporated. She vaguely recalled questioning this odd pursuit, and being decidedly persuaded that this was necessary each time. The rest was a blur... and now she was here, clutching a very important bag in her hands.

"Miss? Miss, hello! That's it, I'm calling the police."

"No." The steel in her voice shocked her, but she knew one thing- she had to get the bag.

"Miss, please, you cannot take that bag..."

"I can, and I will, for I need it." From within her pocket, she pulled out a purse of jangling coins. Gold coins. She flung it at the man. "A fair price, I think."

The man spluttered, and rushed towards her. The next second he was on the ground, grasping the hilt of a dagger sunk deep into his belly. Her eyes widened... what was she doing?

"You... can't.... leave it here... dangerous... safe... centuries.... don't... open... no..."

Panicking, she backed away, and fled. She ran out of the store, ran until she stumbled upon a little bench. She flung herself onto it, panting. She comforted herself by reminding herself that she had paid for the bag, and had, for all intents and purposes, purchased it legally.

She opened it, and pulled out a tiny box. Pulled off the lid. Nothing. A chilling whoosh of air blew past her, and she heard cracks of thunder nearby. She rummaged some more, and pulled out a scroll. Dated, and yet it had a charm. She smiled. A lover's epistle. Not unlike the ones she'd exchanged with... well, he never had revealed his name. Always teased her with it, and all he'd ever admitted was that it began with a 'z'...

She opened the letter. Ancient Greek. How curious. Her practiced eyes scanned the words and read through.

'My love,

I regret that we have been apart for so long. Unfortunately, I have no choice. My brother has erred and I strive to correct his wrongs. The Lord is furious, and endeavours to punish him, as well as his creations. His temper is violent, but I must protect you, and all mankind, from it. I know not when we shall see each other again, for I am on the run. I have discovered something, and will disclose it to you. No one should know that you know dear, so please, keep it that way. You will receive something from him, but be wary. It is a trap. I know you shall be curious, love, but please, heed my words. Hide it. Bury it. Protect it, and ensure that it is protected for generations to come. I know what would have happened if you were caught unawares, but now that you know, I trust you'll act wisely. It is a trap, and is a danger to everyone as long as it exist, but it is indestructible. All we can do is ensure that for all eternity, my words are heeded. Never, ever, open the box, Pandora.'

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