The Memento Box

A small being sat in the dark, surrounded only by the comfort of her thin blanket. She trembled viciously in her small, uncomfortable corner, as if she were a leaf barely hanging on to the mother branch in the face of a raging storm. Her legs were tumors standing on twigs, her arms like chicken bones. The sounds of piercing, inhuman shrieks filled her ears to the brim – snow-cold yet scorching fire pouring into the snowy, clear glass of her brain. The waterfalls of noise were overflowing from her ears and mind. In this place, they spoke warmly of "summer" and "flowers": the searing cremation ovens that shined with the sun's brightness, and thick turd braids that lined the gray floors, releasing a bitter, fat-filled smoke that greased the surface of the girl's thin skin. The girl could feel the thundering footsteps approaching at an alarming pace - five hundred meters, two hundred, one hundred, fifty meters closing in upon her broken body. All she could see now was her ashes being thrown into a ditch amongst the vile skeletal bodies that reeked of soft diarrhea and rat fur.

The everyday stenches of the girl's pitiful existence often made her vomit the meager contents of her stomach, which consisted of mashed up rotten bread and muddy water. A violent chill ran down her spine, making her appear as if she were having a seizure. She placed her bony hands against the wall, pushing herself up slowly – one wrong move, she thought, and her bones could just snap like a brittle stick. The girl pulled her blanket around her. For now, it was her baby, her best friend, and a little sister that would always be with her through thick and thin. She ran as fast as her legs could take her, to a sanctuary where she had stayed for the past 5 years of her life in this miserable building. It was deep ditch in the place where the wall and floor met, but it dug deep enough into the wall and foundations so that nobody could ever figure out that a person lived there, let alone anything else. There were several spots above her body that let in light, so she took out the object that she had been hiding underneath her blanket. With a little click, she unlocked the object with a key, and almost tore the top off its rusty iron hinges. It was a rather large, wooden box where all of her and her family's memories before the war were kept. The wood was of premium quality, a beautiful crimson and sienna mahogany imported from France, and the gloss coating the entire thing reflected the light coming from outside, and it sprinkled the beams to look like chandelier glasses lining the entire ditch.

In this world, the girl could feel like a spoiled princess again, even if it was only for a few hours. When she peered into the endless depths of the box, she was immersed inside of a world that was vibrantly alive, where people were dressed in lace and frills, and they danced all night long to the songs of America's Frank Sinatra, or even to Beethoven and Mozart. Inside the box, the dirt caking her hair magically floated away with ease, and she could vision her hair, silky and flaxen that flowed with grace, in time with the warm winds of late May. Within the photographs of her previous life, the girls flirted with the handsome gentlemen who came to escort them to countless balls and dances, and their eyes danced with the excitement that swept them off their feet.

She envied the beautiful girls, with their bright, vermillion-hued rouge and soft ivory facial powder that was reminiscent of fine white flour, and their soft, curling hair all braided and pinned up into sweet, elegant buns, or pulled back into severe knots atop their heads, without a single strand of hair out of place. Her hands moved to her own mussed up and filthy hair, and she fingered it with scorn. It had been so long since then – she had long since forgotten if she was one of those lovely socialites who lived without a care in the world. To them, the Earth was just a world of complete blissful peace, with blue skies overhead for eternity.

"How stupid they were," the girl thought. "How stupid we all were in those scenic days…"

Her eyes softened after they had wandered to another picture, a photo of a dashing young man clad in a dark Prussian blue suit. His eyes whispered of saccharine love, and his smile flooded her mind like a fast-moving tidal wave invaded the shore. She could place herself right beside him in that photograph, in a beautiful dress, which would definitely share the same color as his shirt. He would sneak his arm around her waist, and he would laugh heartily when she slapped his hand away with the brightest blush a girl could muster.

The perfume of the hydrangeas and roses wafted up to her nose through the black and white crinkled paper, and the air spoke of another time and place; it murmured of a passionate summer, and butterflies gracefully fluttering their gossamer wings in the wind to create a subtle harmony. The girl could see her future with this boy, a ring daintily placed on her left ring finger. It wouldn't be a big, flashy gold and platinum ring with numerous jewels embedded in it, a ring meant for a banker's or a general's wife. She sighed in happiness, as she twirled her hand around on the balls of her wrist. The ring she had dreamed of was a simple, gold band that fit snugly around her now bony finger. It was humble, but it boasted satisfaction and love rather than wealth. She scrutinized his angelic face – the picture was in monotone; nonetheless, she could see his milky and fair skin that felt like smooth satin when touched, and a head of tousled mouse brown hair that was always frizzed up in the morning.

"I love you so, my dear! Let us get married! We can have however big a wedding as you want. We can spend so much money that we'll look formidable and wealthy! Wouldn't that be swell?"

Yes… Yes it would be wonderful. By the way, what was your name, again? Who were your parents, and what did you like to do? Did I love you at some point in my life?

Hey… was somebody crying out there, out in the wilderness of the world? She thought she heard a scream, the loud squeal of a small baby being torn apart into millions of little pieces of bloody flesh. It was thundering and raining, but why wasn't it cloudy outside? Why couldn't she see anything? The poor, poor child, with eyes as horribly alive as tigers, she thought. And the moment the baby's balloonish belly and pencil legs splashed into the oven, voices would claim the mother, urging her to run from the building, to scream, lift up the baby's small cloth; and then and there, the wolf's screech would ascend up and through the skeletal female body, and the guards would shoot. The girl clutched onto her box like it was a baby, a child to replace the one that had perished so long ago. Her memory was fading to blackness, and the face of that little golden-haired angel was perishing with everything else. She wondered if she was going blind to the happiness of the past.

In that moment, she felt a jolt from atop her head, and suddenly her idyllic world crashed around her, a cacophony of dust and wood crushing her mind into submission. Broad shoulders, lifeless eyes, and a solid helmet to complete it… His leather boots laid a crushing blow to her fragile skull. When had this all began? Where was she? What was her name, and how old was she? The girl didn't know. She saw bright red roses bloom all around her figure, and the icy Earth faded away to spring, to a forest where every type of tree and plant flourished in the soft, dark soil. They would bear ripe fruits, and when one ate a piece, the warm juice would drip down their chins. Someplace, a better place, was luring her into the placid, calm light of day. On the other side of this Hell, there were green meadows speckled with jovial, bouncing dandelions and deep-colored irises; beyond them even farther, innocent tiger lilies, tall, lifting their orange bonnets to the sun. In that box, in her disappearing reflection, she could see it all happening right before her own dull, chartreuse eyes. She became a beauty queen again, with a man at her arm, and an adorable, living, smiling baby on her hip that would always call her "Mama." Her braids would flow in a calming harmony with the winds of the coastline in the southern countries – she smiled because she had always wanted to visit there in the future, where people sang and danced by the mildly aqua ocean all day and all night.

"Yes. This is the place where I want to go." And it came to her in a flash of lighting that cracked into the foundation of her conscience. She felt that she knew everything about life now. Why hadn't she been aware before? She felt that a helium balloon was lifting her up and carrying her away from the suffering and anguish of the outside world.

The fuzzier she felt, the farther away she receded from the wildly chattering metallic voices. She envisioned July, when small cicadas chirped throughout the entirety of the star-filled midnight. The girl didn't know where she was headed to now, but it was going to be a beautiful place where she could have a happily ever after, one even better than most girls could ever dream up of.

She welcomed life back, with tears like liquid glass surging down her now vivaciously pink cheeks.