By Micki Brushwood
Chloe didn’t get it. Why a shoebox? Seriously, an ancient artifact, thousands of years old, disguised as a Nike shoebox? Classy, Hermes, very classy, she thought. Now she was being chased through a home goods store by a pack of statues, clutching a shoebox like it was a treasure chest.
It was only quarter till one and her day was already less than ideal. Sure, spending the week in Portland with her grandparents wasn't exactly how she'd imagined her last days of summer. Turns out that was better than having to hunt down the "Evil" of the world and trap him in a shoebox that could hardly hold a pair of adult's tennis shoes. Did anybody realize how hard that was? She thought not.
When Chloe had first discovered the Nike box in all its glory she thought, Great, now I work for Pandora. I hope I get an employee discount, not I hope Fear sends a pack of living statues to chase me through a Home Depot.
She regretted taking the job.
But Chloe didn't really have a choice on the matter. As soon as she looked inside the stupid box she was the "Chosen one to find Pandora's monster" or to simplify a long story: trap Evil back in the shoebox. She hoped Evil wasn't more than ten inches tall. Otherwise, it'd be a tight fit for him.
Chloe turned a sharp left. The statue closest to her fell and shattered. Chloe almost felt bad for it, almost. She ran down the gardening aisle. A traditional armless statue of Athena hopped with its pedestal still attached to its feet, catching up to her. Chloe grabbed a broom off a display and jabbed it at the Athena statue. The statue jumped back and fell backwards. It rolled side to side trying to find a way up.
And she’s the goddess of wisdom? Chloe wondered to herself. She kept running, gripping the box tightly. Her job was to trap Fear in the box with the rest of Evil’s minions, (Lying, Cheating, Stealing…) not run for her life from him.
Hope, the dragonfly, buzzed in Chloe's ears. Another thing Chloe didn't get was why Hope looked like a dragonfly. Wouldn't it want to look like something else? Like, a centaur, or a puppy, or Chris Pratt. Chloe wouldn't have minded if Hope looked like Chris Pratt. The dragonfly kept whispering in her ear as she ran from the statues.
“Turn this way!" The fly buzzed as they reached a corner.
Chloe ran down another aisle, knocking over a large container of sponges. She watched out of the corner of her eye as one of the garden gnomes slipped on a sponge and shattered into small clay pieces. Chloe laughed. The statues nearest to her suddenly jumped back and recoiled for a second, almost as if they were afraid of her. It hit Chloe; I can't beat Fear by running from him. The only way to stop Fear is to face him. Chloe slowed down her pace a bit. She didn't want to fight these statues. Fear had made sure that she was living her greatest nightmare, no matter how stupid or irrational it was. She was afraid, but her fear was only making the pursuing statues stronger.
She stopped. Using the broom she turned and faced the statues. It was her against a small army of stone people and garden gnomes. But hey, she was Chloe Morse; she wasn't one to back down from a fight. Chloe scanned the group of statues.
"Come at me! You’re all dumb as rocks!" she challenged them, waving the broom handle like a baseball bat. The statues backed up, none of them willing to face her. Chloe felt a surge of confidence until the statutes parted down the middle of the group, allowing their leader to see her. Fear in all his gory walked up.
Fear looked like a rabid dog. Then he quickly changed form into a man yielding a large bloody knife. He took on the shape of a broken doll next and kept changing form, becoming each of the major human fears for a few seconds. Chloe looked at the changing forms, focusing hard on Pandora's warning. Fear is like a parasite, Pandora had told her: Whatever you do, don't think about what scares you in front of him. If he gets inside your head you're doomed.
Chloe had thought Pandora was exaggerating, but now, being face to face with Fear, she believed what the ancient Greek had said.
Chloe tightened her grip on the broom. Don't be afraid. She repeated to herself over and over again. Fear's form started shifting again. She started to recognize it well. No matter how hard she tried to deny it, nightmares were creeping into her thoughts. Fear changed once again. Chloe may have been living her worst nightmare but there was one thing she feared even more than the situation she was in. Fear read her mind. He shifted form one last time, standing in front of her in the form of her sister, donning a hospital gown. Her sister (Fear) glared at her, playing with a lock of her dirty blonde hair. The same harsh-cutting voice of her sister spoke, "Chloe, what are you doing? Shouldn't you be in a coma with me? After all, you were the one driving."
Out of all the things Evil's minions had done to thwart Chloe on her mission, this was the worst. Chloe breathed deeply. It wasn't real. What Fear was showing her wasn't real. It was a trick to defeat her, but Chloe wouldn't let it. Hope buzzed next to her, quietly whispering, "You know better Chloe. She loves you and she can’t wait to see you again." The dragonfly's words plunged deep inside of her. Hope was such a tiny thing, but it had so much power.
"Fear cannot defeat me," Chloe said, turning to look at Fear standing before her.
"You only have power if I give it to you," she realized, "but I will not give you that."
Fear summoned his statues again, making them surround Chloe.
"I am not afraid of you!" Chloe exclaimed, filled with strength and hope.
The statues all stopped, becoming only pieces of chiseled stones again. Fear changed to its true form, a small black bug. Chloe dropped the broom and grabbed the bug. Fear bit the inside of her hand but Chloe held tightly to him and set the Nike box on the ground. With one hand she opened the box just enough to slide the newly caught bug inside. With Fear trapped inside she slammed the box shut to avoid anything else trapped inside from escaping. Chloe lifted the box up off the ground again, putting it under her arm.
"Well Hope," Chloe said, surveying the mess Fear had made in the store, "Evil is weakened but we still haven't stopped him yet. Let's go find the rest of his minions.