Andora closed her eyes and reveled in the warmth of the sunlight and the smell of the sweet sea grass. Sandpipers skittered about the shore, piping softly to themselves. The sea hemmed and hawed in loud roars.
Altogether, it was another beautiful day. Just like any other day.
Andora had never known a truly bad day. Even rainy days were lovely for her. She would sit out in the rain for hours. It would fall gentle and kind on her and sing out soft music as it hit the ground.
She opened her eyes and looked up at the clear blue sky. Although she lived alone, she was happy. She had never known pain or loneliness or loss.
She frowned. It was an unfamiliar expression for her, but, at that moment, it was the only one to make. Something wasn’t right and she didn’t know why.
“It is undoubtedly Keeper.” She rose to her feet and glanced around.
He was nowhere in sight.
She followed his voice, without hesitation or fear, across the shoreline and into the green woods. Friendly birds chirped and sang to her. But she paid them no heed.
She followed his voice to the far southern edge of the green woods and stopped.
A black metal bridge arced over a rushing, frothing stream. The night woods loomed on the opposite side.
She backed away. “I must have made a mistake. Keeper told me to never come here. Surely, he would never call me into these woods.”
But it sounds so like his voice. Keeper? Is that you?”
“Come to me, child.”
“But…” She had never questioned his orders before. For he was wise and kind.
She would not question him now.
She walked across the metal bridge. It was nothing like the soft sand nor the leaf covered trails that she was accustomed to. It was hard and hot and cold. But she was unafraid. “Keeper is on the other side.” That is what she said and what she firmly believed.
Andora stepped off the bridge and entered the night woods.
It was nothing like the green woods.
The night woods were dark. Creatures with yellow eyes watched her, only to dart away when she tried to look at them. Pointed rocks and sharp sticks littered the path. Roots jutted out of the ground. The air smelled of harsh spices and cold mud.
But she remained unafraid. “Keeper is here. He will show himself. I must be patient.”
The path curved downwards and devolved into loose stones and crumbly dirt. She struggled to keep her footing.
But she kept her footing and she kept walking forward.
A sickly green light broke through the darkness.
“It is he!” she cried with relief. “It is Keeper.” She ran to the light. “Keeper! It is I!”
The light flickered in a black metal lantern, which hung outside a rickety wooden house.
“Keeper? Are you there?”
She hesitated. It had sounded like him before, but now…”Are you Keeper?”
The voice didn’t reply.
“Ah, but who else could it be?” She approached the front door, opened it, and entered the house.
A large wooden crate sat a couple of feet before her.
“The crate is yours.” said the voice. “Open it and claim its contents.”
“You are not Keeper.” She knew it without a doubt. “Keeper would never—”
“I am not Keeper. I am…an old friend of his. And I am giving you a gift. Take it, child. It is yours.”
“He has never spoken of you.”
“There is much he has not spoken of. All of that knowledge is inside that box.”
“It is knowledge he will never give you. But I, on the other hand, give it to you freely. Out of the kindness and love inside my heart, I give all of that knowledge to you.”
“Keeper is good and kind. If he has kept any knowledge from me, I’m sure it is all for my own good.”
“No, dear child. He keeps it from you to keep you ignorant of many truths. Is that what you want? Ignorance? Knowledge, my dear child, is bliss.”
She walked up to the crate and touched it. She let out a startled gasp. It felt beautiful – soft as new fur, warm as the sunlit sand. “Why would he keep such a thing from me?”
“Open it and see.”
She tore it open, hungry for the lost knowledge.
A creature with glowing eyes and jagged teeth jumped out at her and slashed her arm with its claws.
For the first time in her life, Andora felt pain and fear. Her blood trailed down her arm. She opened her mouth wide and screamed.
The creature snarled at her, spread its wings wide open, and flew out the door.
Words filled her mind. So many questions. But the pain was too much for her. She could not speak.
A white, blue, and purple light twirled into one appeared before her. “Andora.” His voice was as gentle as the sleeping sea.
“Keeper.” She looked up at him. Tears spilled down her face.
“You have disobeyed my command and set pain and ignorance free into my world.”
“It wasn’t my fault. I was tricked. He told me…” Bitter sorrow stole her words.
“But you chose to obey him.”
It was an incomplete question, but Keeper understood. “He was one who would have been my highest, but he wanted more. He is my enemy now and wishes to steal all from me.”
“My arm…Something’s wrong with it. It feels all wrong.”
“It hurts. Many things will hurt you now. Oh, my dear child. Everything will be different when you leave this house. Pain. Sorrows. Loneliness. Work. Death. You will no longer live in the green woods nor walk across the soft beach. You will never more see me nor hear my voice.”
“Ah! You will abandon me?”
“Never. Look once more into the crate.”
She obeyed him. A strange shape made out of wood lay inside. She pulled it out and looked it over. “What is it?”
“It is my hope that I give to you.”