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Editor’s note: In this deviation from news, we are printing this three-part work of fiction by Register contributor Tim Carl. Part I of “Inside Pandora’s Box” ran on Feb. 5 in the Connections section. Part III will run next Monday, Feb. 19.“Let’s go over this again. Does anybody have a clue how we were all thrust into this situation?” asked Tick.

Everyone around the table was quiet.

“We’ve gone over this like a million times before,” said a completely flummoxed Streptococcus Bacteria. “No one remembers anything about how we got here or why. One minute we’re just going about our business and then the next minute we’re here.”

Something rustled from under a blanket near the remaining stacked crates, and a dark figure poked out his head. No one had noticed him before. When they could finally see his face in the dim light everyone gasped and turned away, for it was the ugliest thing anyone had ever seen. It had a small, misshaped head with slanting black gashes where eyes should have been, and enormous broken teeth jutted out from its swollen red lips.

It spoke in a slippery voice, “Maybe I can help?”

“Go on,” said Tick, still looking away.

“I overheard a conversation just as I was being shoved into this place. I couldn’t see anyone, but it sounded like a man and woman talking. Something about a guy getting back at another guy. Something about a box filled with ... couldn’t make it out...”

“Who are you?” asked Tick, sneaking a quick look at the hideous creature but then needing to turn quickly back away.

“My name is Revenge. But my friends call me Justice.”

“OK, Revenge,” said Tick. “Why didn’t you tell us this earlier? And what else do you know?”

Revenge shrugged his shoulders. “I only talk with friends,” he said and went back under the blanket.

***

A buzzing and flapping of wings could be heard coming in from the distance.

“Reporting back,” said Wasp as she landed near the table.

“What’s out there?” asked Tick.

Everyone waited anxiously.

“Looks like there are thousands of other things out there in the dark. Hard to make out just who or what they are, but they don’t appear hostile — just as confused as we are by the look of it. Also, seems like we are in a container of some kind. After a long flight Crow found walls on all sides, same material as the floor, and Vulture reports a high ceiling. Cockroach found some symbols on the wall, maybe writing, but couldn’t make out the language in the dark.”

***

Wasp finished her report with a long list of navigational details that no one understood and then asked, “Anyone got a beer? I’d kill for a beer.”

“I’ve got one,” said Vice with a crooked smile.

“Forget the damn beer!” Tick stammered. “This is far worse than I thought. If all these things were put in here but no one can remember by whom or for what purpose, then we have a serious problem on our hands ... things ... appendages, whatever. Whoever did this must have an agenda. A plan. They are obviously not our friends.” Tick tapped her mouth parts on the table.

“What does it all mean?” asked Confusion.

“What does it mean?” Tick said, looking down hard at the table. “It means we have to be ready for anything. We’ll need to be ready for an escape or to defend ourselves or maybe even to attack whoever did this to us.”

There was silence as everyone pondered this revelation.

***

Bedbug lit up a cigarette and Cancer joined him.

“This is nothing,” said Bedbug, taking in a deep draw of smoke. “When I was younger I was in the war. No food and cold as hell. Only got out of there because...”

“I was in the war, too!” broke in Mistrust. “Double-agent duty.”

Then Mistrust looked up toward Hope and asked the others in a low voice, “Hey, why aren’t any of her family members here? I mean, I don’t see anyone else that looks like Hope around here.”

A few eyes looked up wearily.

“Probably think they’re too good for us,” Envy chimed in.

Vulture stood at the edge of the table and whispered, “I agree. We need to be careful ... we might want to think about what we’d do with a spy.” Then, looking up, “Think about it, that’s all I’m saying.”

Everyone around the table nodded slowly.

Hope squeaked from above, but no one understood what she was saying.

As everyone pondered Hope’s allegiance, Tick quietly slipped nearer to Mosquito.

***

Just then the entire room started to shake, and everyone felt as if they were in an elevator, going up. Most fell to the floor, and Hope’s light suddenly went out.

“What the hell is this?” gasped Plague Virus as he was being squashed down on the floor due to the force of the upward movement.

“I don’t know, but something weird ... or weirder... is going on,” hissed Rattlesnake, who had slithered around the base of one of the crates.

“We’re all gonna die,” whimpered Fear, tears starting to stream down his face.

“Serves you all right,” said Revenge in a muffled voice from under the blanket.

The movement stopped abruptly, and in the next few moments everyone worked to regain their composure.

Then, “Shhh. Shh,” said Tick, “Quiet. I can hear someone coming.”

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