Pandora wasn’t worried about the fall; there were worse things than dying. And she was pretty sure her father could put her back together if she really broke apart. No matter how angry he was or how reckless she had been, Pandora could count on him to meld her edges back together. He’d welded her together in the first place, so he knew how to fix her.
Her elbow gear groaned as she pulled the belay device a little tighter, pressing a new clip into the sheer face of the tower. She spit on the cog, and the gears shifted, making less noise now that they were lubricated. The wind pulled her hair over her face, smelling of wet grass, even this far off of the ground. The sun burned orange, spattering color over the perfect world below.
And it was perfect. Not a speck out of place, the builds formed perfect lines, marching deep into the distance. There was no staggering, the city planned within an inch of his life. Everything was pristine here.
She was discordant note here. Not them. Not the perfect city below with their perfect statuesque citizens. Not her parents, who had built her with the best of intent. It was said her father, the blacksmith Hephaestus, had built his daughter out of spare parts after finding his bride to be barren. He built a child to pass on his name, and to secure his marriage to the love of his life.
Love was wildly out of fashion here. It was too haphazard and unpredictable. Too messy for this perfect world. But her father had persisted, wielding together Pandora out of gold coins melted and pressed, out of rubies, silk made from the whitest of clouds, and Grace, carved from the statue of Justice herself, standing tall and blind in the market square.
Continuing to climb, Pandora pulled herself onto a ledge. Her foot slipped, and her heart skittered and creaked inside of her chest as she dangled there. ‘The ropes will catch you if you fall, Pandora,’ she reminded herself for the thousandth time, trying not to look down the length of the tower. She wished, and not for the first time on this trek, that the tower had a stairway, or a magic elevator, or a giant bird that would pick her up and drop her off at the top. Anything was better than all of this climbing.
Pandora checked her hand; part of her leather glove had scraped open, showing layers of torn skin and nails. They leaked dark, viscous brown blood down her arm, and she could see wiring underneath the goo. But the injury wasn’t too bad, and her pain receptors had yet to figure out she’d hurt herself. Either that or she’d damaged them slamming her hand into the wall like that.
The sun started to set and she groaned; Pandora had been hoping to be up the tower by dark, and she was only about two thirds up the way up.
Every sun set in this perfect world was a beautiful show or dancing light. The oranges, pinks, and lilac purples danced over the horizon, painting the clouds like flames over the city. Even Pandora loved them; they were the one beautiful thing in her too perfect world.
Her left elbow groaned in protest as she continued her climb. Her left elbow had always been a point of weakness in her, some mislaid welding or ropes of nerve wires mussed in her inner workings. But it would hold; it would have to hold. Pandora had to get up that tower.
She cursed her oozing hand, the torn glove, Emperor Zeus, and the tower as she climbed. Her mother would faint to hear her speak so, but this perfect mess was Zeus’ fault in the first place. Her world would be better if he hadn’t gone messing with the natural order of things.
It had started one thousand years ago.
Emperor Zeus had ordered the building of this stupid tower, with no stairs or levers, so no human would dare to reach the summit. He hid everything he disliked there, everything he saw as a threat to his perfect empire. At the top of the tower, watching over the city and trapped for all eternity. Unless Pandora had a say in it.
Releasing it would give her back her freedom. Would give them all back their freedom.
Pandora latched on another spike to the side of the tower. It whirred to life, spinning to dig a shallow, yet secure holding place for her rope. Latching the outer rope to the hook, Pandora continued to climb, pressing her sticky sneakers into the smooth, sheer rock of the tower. From this height, it looked as though Zeus had ordered it carved out of one, solid stone. Perhaps he had. It sounded like something his crazed brain would have come up with.
She climbed steadily, the fading light making it harder for her to see, but would also make it more difficult for someone walking along the ground to see her as well. A small blessing. At least the moon was out tonight, and the moonlight would reflect a little off of the cool white stone of the tower, giving her a little something with which to see by.
It took her another heart-wrenching hour to crest the top of the tower, and vault onto the edge. She was careful, knowing Zeus to be tricky. It would just like him to make most of the top of the tower hollow, to make anyone brave enough to scale the tower fall to their deaths on the other side.
With a sigh of relief, she saw the top of the tower was as solid at the sides, and she would be able to walk freely. Testing the floor gingerly, Pandora slid over the railing onto the flat tower.
The wind whipped through the pillars of the tower, shivering through her clothing and cooling her wires. It was cold and clear up here, the constant streams of air slapping her hair into her face. She breathed in the air deeply; it was clean and clear up here. It felt freer to be this high in the air. It felt beautiful.
After a few moments of reveling in the cold air, Pandora turned to study the platform on which she’d found herself. The top of the tower was about thirty feet across, and the floor was patterned, glowing softly in the moonlight. She could see the marble and silver that formed the top were deep reds and blacks; it was a warning in mosaic. The little pieces formed together a picture of an angry god smiting anyone who dared to touch the Box.
Pandora snorted at the depiction; there were no gods here, in this too perfect town. There was only nothingness.
In the center of the mosaic, under a canopy of chains, lay the Box. Even now, a thousand years later, it still twitched, its contents fighting to get free of its gilded cage. Pandora took a careful step forward, keeping her lead line tight against her waist. If the floor caved in, she was ready. She was ready for anything.
She reached the Box with no calamities. The Box settled, no longer shaking, as if sensing her presence. Pandora lifted her injured hand, touching the Box’s gilded cover. It was beautiful, lined in gold and jewels, and warm to the touch.
‘You should leave,’ A deep almost-voice tumbled into her subconscious. But Pandora ignored it; another trick of the tower. The tower could tell her anything and she would ignore it; she had come too far to be dissuaded by almost-voices.
She pulled a few of the chains loose. Once the Box was uncovered, it stood nearly motionless. It seemed to vibrate with anticipation.
“I know you house all of the bad things,” she told the Box. It seemed to listen as she spoke, its lid tilted a bit to the side, “ but you also house so much good. I want freedom and good for my people, even if it means war and pain.” She looked away, tears in her fragile eyes. “What’s the point of living if there is no pain? How can you be happy if you have never felt unhappy?”
The Box seemed to sigh in reply. Pandora lifted her hand again, pressing it to the warm lid. The Box shivered under her touch. “What’s the point?” Even the almost-voice was silent; it didn’t have an answer to that.
Pandora lifted the lid.