The Curse of the Red Rose

"Come on, let's try it!" Charlotte pleaded earnestly, her blue-gray eyes sparkling like gems in the sun. The wildlife around us chirped, seeming to go along with her plea.

"No," I firmly refused, crossing my arms over my chest stubbornly. Today was my eighteenth birthday and my best friend of all my life, Charlotte, thought it would be "cool" to go into the creepy forest to try some Wiccan spells. Charlotte wasn't Wiccan, but the religion and art had fascinated her since she was capable of understanding it. She was always the supernatural kind of girl – she carried a pack of tarot cards with her all the time.

We were sitting against an ancient, giant tree and I studied the bark, trying to avoid Charlotte's eyes. Her eyes were so light, almost an icy gray, that they gave me shivers. She had the kind of eyes that seemed as if they could read your soul and at times I truly wondered if Charlotte did indeed have some kind of supernatural ability. I kept my dark gaze focused on the bark, trying to read its story wound in the wood.

"Ellie…" I heard Charlotte's voice calling my name, her voice soft like the wind that was brushing against my blonde hair. A sigh escaped between my lips and I knew it was inevitable. I knew Charlotte was excited about this and it was for my birthday, after all. I turned my gaze up to the night sky, watching the wispy clouds drift by with a laziness a cat would envy. The moon was shining brightly and full, a perfect night for magic. Stars were scattered amongst the dark clouds, hanging close to the moon the way a child clings to his mother's skirts.

"Fine," I sighed, resigning myself to whatever adventure Charlotte had planned for us next.

Charlotte and I had been inseparable since we were children and had gotten in all sorts of trouble together, from talking in class to sneaking out at night. Charlotte clapped her hands together and dove behind the tree, disappearing for a split second. A moment later she reappeared with a large, red velvet bag in her hands. I stared at it curiously, wondering about the contents. Charlotte had a mischievous, impish smile across her lips, which spiked my curiosity even higher.

"What is it?" I asked inquisitively as she sat back down and began to pull on the silver thread strings that had the bag scrunched close.

"You'll see," Charlotte murmured, excitement seeping from her lyrical voice. Her hands disappeared in the bag and pulled out a small, square wooden box. I scrambled over, looking down at it. The box was a deep rosewood and along the edges was what looked to be an engraved golden thread, woven in Celtic designs. In the center was a worn away painting of a rose that played along with the rosewood, and it blossomed with the grace of a swan. The petals were a dark red and disturbingly looked as if they were painted with blood. Thorns protruded from a green stem and were painted to appear dagger-sharp. The golden thread was sewn in a mystical design around the rose, winding up the stem like a vine. A small, heavy lock kept the box closed and I felt my curiosity swell again. But my eyes were drawn to follow the golden thread's path and my fingers itched to trace it. I was drawn to it; the pattern enchanted me. I slowly looked up at Charlotte and she was watching me with a mixture of amusement and understanding.

"How do we open it?" I whispered and the sounds of the forest around us seemed to hush at the sense of suspense that was in the air.

"We don't open it. You do. It's for the birthday girl," she whispered right back and reached over to take my hand.

I was shaking with excitement or fear; I wasn't sure which. She folded four of my fingers, leaving only my pointer finger extended. Charlotte placed the tip of my finger on the beginning of the line and I gasped as an electrical shock went through my body. The need to follow the thread raced into my veins and up the nerves in my arm, consuming my mind. I pursued the thread like a lioness does her prey and the clouds swarmed to cover the moon overhead. Charlotte let go of my hand and leaned back against the tree, her blue-gray eyes lightening as she watched. The thread on the box glowed as if on fire, running along the grains of the container. As I neared the rose, I felt the power growing thick around us, making the air feel as tangible as fog. The consuming need was driving my mind to its limits and I felt it screaming for me to stop this madness. I tried to yank my hand back from the box, but I was stuck like an insect in a spider's web. Wind was stirred from the bottom of the forest, rustling the trees and swooping around us. My hair blew across my face, covering my pale features with its blonde curtain.

"Charlotte! I can't stop!" I cried, dismay soaking my words. My fearful eyes rose to Charlotte and horror settled in: Charlotte's eyes weren't their usual blue-gray, but pure white. She tilted her head at me with a smile that terrified me to the very core of my essence.

"You can't stop; this is your destiny!" Charlotte's voice was unrecognizable – it was deeper and darker, yet still feminine.

"Charlotte? What destiny?!" I yelled over the rising wind that began to whistle like a tornado. I looked back down to the box – only a few more Celtic designs until I reached the rose. Dark droplets appeared on the box, falling from the petals of the rose. As my finger traced over one, it was wet and warm with blood.

It was blood.

Shivers racked through my body and I struggled even more to pull my hand away. I was frightened at what was happening to my best friend and desperately wanted to wake from this unending nightmare.

"Your destiny is to be the next Pandora, created to wreck havoc upon the world," her words were soft over the wind and yet I could hear them as if she screamed them.

"No, no! Charlotte, I'm just Ellie!" Charlotte blindly smiled at me, like she would to a stupid child.

"You will see, love," she murmured sweetly and raised her hands to the heavens, lightning brightening the sky with its purple touch.

My finger entered the final design leading to the rose and I started to scream as panic crashed into me like waves and devoured my mind as if I were a simple seashell. At last I touched the smooth paint of the rose's first petal and the box caught fire, licking at my hand. I tried to writhe away as I traced down to the second petal, the third, heading towards the interior of the rose. Rain showered upon me, soaking through my clothes and making strands of my blonde hair to cling to my face. The fire was not extinguished and only grew brighter as each droplet of rain landed gracefully. I had finally reached the interior of the rose and my body was overcome with tremors. My mind clawed at the walls of my skull, seeking a way to escape this hell. I didn't know what was happening to me or what happened to Charlotte. Trepidation overtook my body and tears flowed freely from my eyes, mixing with the rain. The lock securing the rosewood box glowed fiercely for a moment and then a soft click was heard over the turmoil of nature. It rattled, then twisted off and hit the ground with a quiet thud.

My hand was pushed back from the box, jolting my shoulder, and I covered my eyes with the back of my other hand as the lid of the box flew open and darkness spilled out. The fire was extinguished from the shadowy substance and only sparks remained dying on the earthy ground. The substance was black as the night that surrounding us and yet I could see it as if it were bright as the sun. Silence quickly overcame the chaos, like the slamming of a door. The only sound to be heard was my weeping and Charlotte's chuckling.

"You have fulfilled your destiny," she murmured, victory radiating from her words.

The darkness slowly rose and floated towards me, with the flow of water. It laced around my body, wrapping around my hair and caressing my cheek with the touch of a lover. I shuddered as ice entered my body and the darkness whisked away, past Charlotte, and into the night. The glow left the box, leaving it looking as empty as I felt inside.

Thunder was fading in the distance and I didn't have the strength to push away the box; I felt dull and drained. Because of my curiosity, the world would perish with sorrow and evil. I didn't know what would happen now and my mind ached with the after effects of overwhelming terror. I heard a sudden gasp come from Charlotte.

"Ellie? What happened with the box?" She sounded baffled, as if she had just woken up from a long nap.

Now it was my turn to not respond and I fell back against the trunk of the tree. I found myself staring at the same bark I gazed at earlier tonight, when all was well. I would tell Charlotte later, or rather, she would find out the damage that would be caused, similar to Pandora. My hands were limply lying in my lap and I felt something fall onto them. I looked down jadedly and saw the bloody red rose resting in my hands.