The box had been in the family for generations. Nobody knew exactly how many years that may have been, but it was recorded in an old diary belonging to my great grandmother.
I often spent time reading her diary, and found her words and imaginings closely in tune with my own. To read of her life and times in the days when this house stood at the edge of a rural village, filled me with longings for those simpler and quieter times.
Staring at the page that recalled the box, I mouthed the words she'd written from memory, rather than actually reading them. She said, "Today I'll spend with the box. Everybody's out and I'll dream a little, and travel perhaps."
The diary, written for the complete year of eighteen ninety-four, lay open at the twenty first of May, and although I'd read every word within its covers, I could find no other reference to the box.
How strange and enchanting were the words she'd used. Why there were no further descriptions of her encounters with it, I could only guess at. One reference however, two months later asked, "What would it have me do"? But whether this "it" referred to the box or not, isn't clear.
As a child, my mother would say to me that if I behaved, the box would bring me presents. When no such gifts arrived, I'd be told that it was because of this or that naughty boy I had supposedly been. In fact the box had never treated me at all until I became a teenager.
That it was a box was not in doubt, but the hinges and clasps of its lid, although free from corrosion, refused to operate. Nobody it seemed had ever been able to open the box.
There it sat now. It had occupied the central position on the window chest for all eternity, or at least that's how it seemed. I'd moved it once as a child and suffered not only a disproportionate spanking from my mother, but also a summer fever close to death I'm told.
It bore some odd markings on both sides. The wood had been carved away to form very precise and script-like curves, inside of which a bronze coloured metal had been deposited. What language the shapes represented, if it was a language, has remained a mystery?
Some years ago, a visiting friend knowledgeable in antiques, thought that it could date from well before the civil war. He added however, that as a one off, his judgement of such artifacts was a little doubtful.
The lid of the box gave a picture of a children's playgound. In the foreground of this view however, was an image infinitely more sinister than the overall effect. There upon a seesaw, were two figures. To the left, a dunce complete with hat, and to the right, a classroom swot with books and spectacles.
Upon the hat of the dunce were arithmetical formulae, whilst the hand of the swot concealed a simple crayon drawing. The dunce although portly, soared high, and so grounded, though of meagre dimensions, remained the swot.
No illustrations or markings adorned the rear face, but the front contained an ever-changing pattern. One day to the next would leave a vastly different impression on the viewer.