“As they slept that night, the jar kept returning to Pandora’s thoughts. It was in her mind as she laid in bed and when sleep finally arrived it came to her in her dreams.“
“Hermes! How… unexpected.” Epimetheus grimaces as he opens the door.
“Yes, just thought I’d pop by. See how thing are going.”
“Well, do come in, can’t have you hopping about on my doorstep like that. And what’s that you’ve got behind you? It looks awfully intriguing.”
“Indeed! This is something we’ve just created. Hot off the production line. It’s a ‘fe-male’. Like you, but with other bits and pieces, which I’ll let you find out in your own good time.”
“Marvellous, does it have a name?”
“Yes – Pandora. Come, show yourself my dear. Don’t be shy. That’s it. Let him get a good look at you.”
“Pandora you say?” Epimetheus looks at the strange creation and feels his heartbeat quicken. He opens his mouth to talk, but finds he has nothing to say.
“We’re thinking of mass producing them, but want to do some market research first,” continues Hermes. “So, what do you think?”
“Well, she’s… um. She’s certainly… yes, definitely. I mean, I don’t really know. Pandora, you say? I’m not exactly sure what I’ll do with… but I certainly could… I guess?”
“Excellent,” says Hermes, as he pushes Pandora into the house. “The marriage ceremony will be in two days.”
“We’re to be married?!” Epimetheus stutters. “But… why me?”
“Well, Zeus feels guilty about the whole incident with your brother, Prometheus -”
“Chaining him to a rock and sending an eagle to eat his liver every day for eternity?” Epimetheus cuts in. It seemed harsh.
“Yes, that whole messy business. And as an apology he’s made the beautiful Pandora your bride.”
Epimetheus eyes Hermes suspiciously. There’s a catch, but he can’t see it. Damn being the God of Afterthought. “Can he not free my brother from his never-ending torture instead?” he asks.
Hermes shuffles his feet awkwardly and looks away. “Who am I to question the mighty Zeus, eh? I am but a messenger. And you know what they say: don’t shoot the messenger. Please!” He laughs awkwardly and then clears his throat. “The ceremony will be in two days. You’ll have lots of planning to do – cake, chair covers, first dance and all that, so I’ll leave you two lovebirds alone to get cracking.” Hermes turns to leave. “Oh, silly me. I nearly forgot! Your wedding present.”
Hermes hands Epimetheus a large, plain-looking clay jar.
“Thank you.” Epimetheus tries to hide his disappointment. “You shouldn’t have. You really shouldn’t have.”
“Not a problem. A few things to mention: bury it in the bottom of your garden and, whatever you do, never EVER open it.”
“What is the point of it exactly if I -”
“Must dash. Lots of messages to send. Toodlepips.” Hermes’ winged sandals flutter, and he disappears in an instant.
“How strange,” mutters Epimetheus to himself before turning to his bride.
“Hello,” she says.
Epimetheus loses himself in her hazel eyes. The wedding present sits forgotten in the doorway.
“Babycakes?” Pandora squeezes Epimetheus’ leg, which lies casually across her thigh.
“Hmm?” Epimetheus replies, putting his lyre down. She only calls him that when she wants something.
“Whatever happened to that jar?”
“The one Hermes brought with him when we first met.”
“Oh, that old thing. They could have bought us something a little more useful, couldn’t they? A coffee-maker or some towels or something. They are gods, after-all.”
“Hush dear, they might hear you. But what happened to it?”
“I buried it like Hermes said, right at the bottom of the garden near the old oak tree. Why do you ask?” Epimetheus picks up his lyre to continue with his song.
“No reason, I was just wondering.”
“Yes, well, better left alone if you ask me. Prometheus said to me: ‘Brother, whatever you do, don’t trust those gods.’ And, well, look what they did to him.”
“Yes, don’t remind me!” Pandora pulls a face. “When we went to visit him, he was such a bore.”
“He was being eaten alive, dear.”
“Didn’t even congratulate us on our marriage. Just… screamed.”
Pandora sits up and rubs Epimetheus’ leg affectionately. “But surely if we shouldn’t trust the gods, we should do the opposite of what they ask?”
“Just a little peak at it. I’ve not really seen it.”
“I could just -”
“Not even a tiny little -”
“You’re no fun,” Pandora digs her long fingernails into Epimetheus’ calf and he yelps.
As they go to sleep that night, the jar returns to Pandora’s thoughts. It won’t leave her mind. Even in her sleep, it’s there; the focal point of every dream.
Epimetheus’ loud snore wakes her, and she decides that the only way to rid her mind of the jar is to take the tiniest of looks at it. There’s no need to open it – she can just dig it up. Yes, that will do.
Pandora puts on her dressing gown and walks to the old oak tree in the garden. She is so desperate to see the jar she doesn’t bother searching for a spade and instead begins burying into the mud with her hands like a pig looking for truffles.
Soon dirt coats her, but she doesn’t care, she knows she is close. And then her fingers touch something hard and smooth. Pandora squeals with delight and pulls the jar free.
It looks plain, like every other jar they have in the house. What an unusual gift! How foolish she has been to make such a fuss over it. How unrefined. What would Epimetheus say if he were to see her?
There must be something special inside.
Making sure she is alone, Pandora gently lifts the lid, and an explosion knocks her off her feet. The lid flies off and Pandora watches helplessly as sorrow, hunger and conflict crawl out of the jar.
Her screams have woken Epimetheus, and he emerges sleepily on the garden path.
“Oh bother,” Pandora mutters as disease and famine escape.
“Pandora, what have you done?” Epimetheus has caught up and stands with his head in his hands. “Put the lid back on. Where’s the lid?”
Pandora scours the ground for the lid on her hands and knees. “Found it!” she says, lifting it up.
“That’s a pebble,” Epimetheus groans.
Anger and hate escape just as Pandora finds the lid in the rose garden.
“PUT THE LID ON!” Epimetheus screams.
“At least we know what was in it now,” Pandora says as she secures the jar.
“Do you think much escaped?” Epimetheus asks through gritted teeth. A vein throbs in his head.
Pandora looks at her feet. “No,” she mumbles. It looked empty; but she could be wrong.
“Good. Bury it again and let’s never talk of this. Hopefully, no-one will notice!”
And so Pandora buries the jar, having contained just one thing: hope.