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Interviewing Dora

Frances Pauli writes multiple books and series across the Speculative genres. Though she has difficulty sticking to a particular genre, her fiction usually touches on themes of magic and spirit, often includes romance, and occasionally wanders into dark or humorous corners. Frances posts serial fiction on her blogs, and lists her works in print at francespauli.com When not writing, she crochets, shows hairless dogs, and keeps far too many tarantulas for her family's comfort.
"This is a box full of feelings." Her desiccated fingers stroke the scrolling corner plates, outline the hinges as she speaks. "It's meant to keep them in."
"Tell me about them." I lean back and watch her dull eyes sputter. Once, they must have sparked at the idea of the box. They must have flared with mischief.
"They don't like it." She shakes her head, a lead weight on a thin, wrinkled neck. "They're not supposed to be locked up like that."
"And so you let them out?" My best efforts can't keep the accusation from my voice. We all know the story. Everyone knows. It's all her fault.
"A young girl did once." There's guilt in her eyes. They flicker, a long-spent ember.
"What happened?" I lean forward, raise my pen, and keep it between the box and myself, a tiny weapon to fend off the world's horror.
"No one understood them."
Her fingers never stop stroking. They measure the box over and over, caressing, tracing the swirling spirals inlaid in the stone. Her fingernails reflect the patterns, black and white.
"I don't imagine they did."
"They got it wrong, you know." She risks running a hypnotic nail beneath the lock, rattling it just enough to stiffen my spine. "They're just feelings."
"And I suppose they're harmless?"
She laughs, and for a second, her youth echoes forward. "Don't you think the world gets tired of the same old feelings all the time? Don't you think it gets bored?"
"Is that what happened?"
She sniffs, pulls the box closer, and traces faster.
"What happened to you--to the girl? Did she get bored? Was she punished?"
"Punished?" She snorts and her fingers flick the lock again. They circle and circle the box until the lines are all dancing. "You think she should have been?"
"I think I'm supposed to ask the questions." Spirals. Black and white and a golden lock that hadn't been open a second ago. "Have you let any out? I mean, since then?"
"The same old feelings over and over. You'd think they'd have thanked her."
"But they didn't?"
"No."
"How many times have you opened the box?"
"Not too many."
"But more than once?" I see it now, the way the lock dangles from a golden thread. The hinges, too, seem loose. They shift in place and threaten to let the lid gap.
Her hands tilt it, first one direction and then the other. "Could you blame me?"
"No." I close my eyes and still see the spinning designs, the open lock just barely keeping the world the way it should be. Predictable. Safe. "It's not my place to blame."
Boring.
"Would you like me to open it now?"
I shake my head to dislodge the spinning sensation, the tightening at my temples. "No, I"--
"Just a peek." A spiral nail flirts with the lock again. "I'm getting good at closing it."
I imagine a whole new feeling, being the first ever to feel it. Except I can't, of course. It doesn't exist. Not until she opens the box. Not until I ask her to do it, until I beg her for a peek.
I lean toward the girl, and the world holds its breath. The spirals dance, and someone's voice whispers, "Do it."
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, May 10th, 2017


My interview with "Dora" started ordinarily enough with a daily writing prompt. I liked the idea of exploring emotions from a good vs. bad perspective, and the myth of Pandora's box made a suitable vehicle for that journey. The character herself, however, surprised me. I expected her to be far more contrite, remorseful, or guilt-ridden. Instead, I met an entirely unapologetic character with a defiant streak--and full confidence that she'd done the right thing all along. Her fingers teased the box's clasp, and before I knew it, I very much wanted to see it opened.

- Frances Pauli

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