CAROLINE ALPERT It took you years to find it — your whole damn life. And now it’s here. Right in front of you. The chest was gilded brilliantly with regal gems, decorated and crafted expertly by ancient masters of an age long lost. It shines mysteriously, producing light as if the gods themselves had touched it, the remnants of their radiance gleaming through the cracks, taunting you forward, beckoning you with sweet temptation. The contents of the chest are all you’ve ever wanted — they’ll solve your problems; they’ll lift your burdens. Everything you’ve ever known has led you here — the anticipation was suicide — but your journey has ended, beyond a doubt, beyond a shadow.
This is it. This is the moment. You stride around the corpses, shift aside the fallen columns, and cry profoundly as a wave of mitigation breaks apart your suffering. You climb the marble steps, placing aching foot affront foot, forcing the remainder of your strength into these final motions.
At last, you lament, it’s over. I’ve done it. Everything will be right again. The sky begins to break and sunlight pours into the temple, blinding you with glorious rays of redemption, refracting as a rainbow off the chest you’ve always needed — the one and only prize for you, the priceless harvest of your labours, the grand fruition of your endless struggle. There it is. Right there in front of you — it’s real! You always knew you’d succeed! You reach to lift its lid, the heavens’ songs begin to rise, illustrious beams of rich, fluorescent colours flood the consecrated hallow like an ocean of angels, claiming victory over time and corruption! You’re drowning in the splendor of your triumphs! But it’s locked. You’ll never know what was in it. For the poet giveth, as the poet taketh away.