Pandora: Another Tall Tale by Francesca Quarto

Published on by Francesca Quarto

"There was a time," she said in a low, gravelly voice, "the green and blue planet was covered end to end with computers, televisions, mobile telephones, cars that drove themselves, and a  giant brain named the Internet, that helped create a human connection called "social media", that made everyone friends."

The boys and girls listened avidly to the sole earth-human on Luna Regent. There could be others from that distant planet, where all of them were genetically spawned, but these others, would be scattered like the stars across the vast expanse of the galaxy and beyond..

At the beginning of The Departure, every ship that left Earth carried one special passenger; a teacher of History, known to the colonists as the Source Teacher.  These special passengers had been placed in a concoction they no longer knew how to make, inside a transparent tank made from refined materials they no longer possessed.

The Source Teacher of Luna Regent was named by them, "Mother Terra."  She had only been revived a handful of lunar years ago, after eons spent floating in murky fluids like a fetus covered in silver skin.  

The children would come to the Remembering Room in their school yurt, to view the earth teacher in hibernation, as part of their studies.  The silver skin was the skin-tight body suit used to protect her from the corrosive effects of the liquid inside the rover-sized egg.  She drifted in the gentle shifting of the waters in a dreamless sleep; or so they believed.

Nothing she told them in her stories of an earth long ago, resonated with the reality they lived inside their climate controlled Flower Pods.  The pods, named for Dr. Arden Flowers, the famous leader of the first Lunar Regent Colony, were compact, dome-shaped units that housed up to ten families in maximum security, with minimum comfort.

The citizens of Lunar Regent readily accepted their lot as Pod dwellers. knowing nothing better could exist.  That was the status quo until the leaders allowed the Source Teacher to be revived and brought into the life of the inhabitants of the well-balanced colony.

The teaching sessions were scheduled for one blip of time, between the rising of the twin sun and the shadow casting that announced the mid-day meal for children under the age of twelve. The older children would not eat again, until the deep fogs of the Poison Sea rolled over the entire colony, cutting off all natural light from the suns.  

Until Mother Terra was brought out of her false stasis, the eating, sleeping, schooling sessions, would hum along like the song of the stars.  But early on, she began to draw three-d pictures for the children.  The air fairly crackled with their excitement, when they were gathered in the Remembering Room for lessons.  Pictures of animals, buildings, plants, bridges that spanned deep gorges with deep forests on either side. Trees? Oh, the glory of the trees to their hungry imaginations!

She did all this with the help of Pandora, the cylindrical shaped computer put into hibernation with her before The Departure.  She had designed its programs and used it like an artist. She brought life to her descriptions of Earth, long since lost to the collective memories of Luna Regent.

Pandora gave remarkable answers to the many questions that sprang to the fertile minds of the students.  It was one of these faultless responses that led to the calamity.

A small boy, snug in his family's Flower Pod, noticed the heavy fog closing over the dome, cutting off any ambient light from the night stars.

"Mother, I asked the Source Teacher how her helper, Pandora knows everything."

"And what was her answer my sweet?"

"She said Pandora was like a box filled to the top with great wealth and magical strength beyond all understanding."

The father had been listening to this exchange in the narrow gloom of the passage between the boy's bed and their own tiny quarters.  He thought for a moment about their lack of currency to purchase a larger pod, their poor standard of eating, while others seemed fat and thriving.

"A wealth and magical powers..."

He resolved then and there to take Pandora and use it to fulfill his many needs and desires. 

The next deep fog rolling over the Flower Pods was thicker than usual. The boy's father resolved this would be his time to strike and steal the magic- holding Pandora. Its power and wealth would be his.

It was a simple task to remove the cylinder from Mother Terra's small Pod.  She slept as if in a trance and so his clumsy efforts went undetected.  With Pandora tucked under his rough tunic, he ran back to his Pod. The thick vapor of the heavy mist mixed with the smell of his own sweat.

Upon locking the door to the cleansing chamber the man began to study the foreign object.  He poked it with his fingers, shook it to unhinge secret locks, knocked it thrice upon the hard molded seat of the cleanser.  He became frustrated and then angry that no currency fell from it when he held it upside down.  He was furious when he commanded it to obey him and perform magic to bring him great wealth.  

His nerves were shattered after several long blips spent cramped and miserable trying to secure riches for himself and family. Finally, after the dawning of the twin suns and not a moment of sleep, he became enraged and flung the thing against the hard floor where it burst into several large chunks and small pieces, studded with colorful chips and tiny wires.

Pandora was destroyed and now he looked on as it leaked out its many secrets and truths and magical knowledge of a world beyond understanding.  

"Perhaps this is better," he said softly as he picked up the pieces to dispose of secretly.

He knew only the children and Mother Terra would really miss Pandora.  "Just a children's dream toy," he said as he put the pieces down the cleansing bowl and hit flush




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