A Product Of Circumstance

Nathaniel Bradford was a product of circumstance.

For all intents and purposes, he was the child every parent desired. He played tennis as a casual hobby and soccer as a casual act of war. He did the dishes when he was asked to the dishes. And what he lacked in academic prowess, he made up for in common sense (which, as he would be quick to point out, was the more important of the two). Despite all of this, Nathaniel never asked for the life he'd been given. He was given it regardless. Each curious happenstance and random coincidence carved away at him as a river would a rock until the Nathaniel Bradford he was became the Nathaniel Bradford everyone knew him to be.

There was nothing circumstantial about the chest, however. It lay in the back of the family attic since the attic first came to be. Yet its gold trim still gleamed in the sunlight and the polished wood was still cool to the touch. Each curl carved along its edge bore a purpose. Each lock was intent on keeping its contents hidden.

Nothing about the chest was accidental.

There was nothing accidental about the way Nathaniel was sent to the attic, either. His mother claimed to be feeling nostalgic that day and asked him to fetch the photo album of her and Mr. Bradford's wedding day. He crept through the attic, keeping a wary eye out for stray nails on the floor. And while he found neither the nails nor the album, he did find the chest.

At first, he thought it to be an illusion. It was a natural reaction, of course - no sane man could be able to take in such an ethereal object all at once. Once he was sure it was no illusion, Nathaniel stepped forward. He laid a hand on the gold trim, ran a finger along the polished wood. Not a speck of dust had settled on its surface. Yet as peculiar as it was to see such an object in what could've been anyone's attic, he was not particularly surprised. There was something inviting about its presence. Something compelled him to push forward, to pry open the lock and reveal the chest's contents.

And yet he held back. Nathaniel continued his search for the photo album, and, upon finding it, darted back down the stairs to return it to his mother.

Michelle Bradford was an extraordinary woman. There was no doubt about that. More importantly, she was a woman who seldom missed an important detail. Had Nathaniel fiddled with the lock, she would've heard the clang of each failed attempt. Had he finally succeeded in opening the chest, she would've felt the creak and steady rumble of their family secret's unmasking.

She knew Nathaniel would regard the chest with curiosity. She had planned on it. Each moment was a result of careful consideration, of tireless planning and countless dreams of the day her son would partake in the family legacy. A day sooner and the boy would've felt too rushed; a day later and the opportunity would be closed off for good. No, it had to be on that day, in that precise moment. Nothing could be left to circumstance.

What she failed to realize was that Nathaniel Bradford was a product of circumstance.

There was no steady rumble waiting for Michelle. Instead, there was a scream.