Throwback: Ned Dibrof and the Forbidden Box

It’s a new year, so what do you do with the first short story you ever posted on this site?

You repost it 6 months later as a tribute to your younger far less talented self.

It seemed like 6 months ago, nobody did quite understand it, hence the shoddy reception. Perhaps, 6 months later, my readers have grown? In any case, we aren’t meant to fully understand it (even I, the writer, has had her doubts about what her words mean exactly). Nevertheless, enjoy this throwback to the first short story I ever wrote!

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Ned Dibrof was the guardian of the Forbidden Object.

It sat in a hatbox next to Ned Dibrof on top of a giant hill.

His boss gave the Object to him one day and told him to protect it from anything, anyone, and anywhys. Questions were just as unwelcome as anyones or anythings he was duly notified. “If you see a question rambling up the hill,” Ned Dibrof’s boss told him, “Shoot it.”

So Ned Dibrof shot every thing, being, and question that had the daring curiosity or stupid bravery of climbing up the hill. He started off with some lightening bolts, but they made re-grassing difficult, and the smell was just awful. So, he bought some arrows off the nearest rampaging raiders and thought that it was just dandy. It was clean and efficient. Arrows made for easy clean-up, and Ned Dibrof was always looking out for the cleaning staff, since they were the best ultimate disc-throwing teammates he ever played with. Ned Dibrof took great pleasure in spicing up the ways he shot the arrows. Sometimes he would add a little poison to the tip to send the poor soul off a little quicker. Other times, he would tie a pretty, little bow at the ends so that his victims can go with style.

One day, a spattering of very sharp and fast metal balls struck him across the forearm. Surprised for the first time in centuries, Ned Dibrof jumped up from under the tree to wrap his great chest around the hatbox. He was very afraid and very sure that even if one of these tiny projectiles made its way past the cardboard box something Bad would happen. As the missiles kept coming, the sound of men shouting and stomping in perfect time came drifting over the grass.

“We demand you, oh great Guardian, to show us what is in that box,” they demanded.

“I highly suggest that you turn over the box or else you will have to face the force of the strongest army in the world!” suggested a tall man in a very smart outfit.

Unfazed, Ned Dibrof decided to double his arrows on each bow, and shot the two nearest soldiers. They went down and the greatest army in the world shifted uncomfortably.

“Hold! I said hold!” shouted the man with the smart outfit. He turned to Ned Dibrof, “Cease, you will not be able to defeat us great Guardian.  We have the newest technology of mankind in baffling numbers. You have arrows, but we have guns!” He then proceeded to unleash a very impressive row of bullets through the exact middle of several blades of grass.

Guns, Ned mused. I really need to ask my Boss for a raise.

Ned Dibrof then did some speedy math in his head. He drew 784,263 arrows and shot them all into the crowd. To prove a point, he added a snooty bolt of lightening as an afterthought.

All around the hill, the soldiers lay dying on the ground. Ned Dibrof walked down from the clouds and stumbled across a young man who fell far away from the vicinity of the Object. He was on the verge of bleeding out from the great arrow in his sternum. The soldier made a feeble noise for his attention, and Ned Dibrof knelt down next to the dying man.

“Guardian?”

“Yes?”

“Can you give a dying man the good graces to answer a very simple question.”

“Yes.”

“My planet has been looking for answers to the small box on top of the hill. For thousands of years, our greatest philosophers have pondered over it. Our leaders had fired up nations into war in order to control the piece of land it is on. Whole religions have grown from the very question of what it contains. To require such careful and diligent protection, whatever it is, it must be something of such incredible value humanity would never be able to comprehend fully. Some believe that it is the antidote to all disease. Others hope that it is a portal new worlds.We thought that it might even contain the answer to the universe itself. Recently, an epidemic has come across our world and humanity is at risk of being wiped out. As you can tell, many are willing to risk their lives to gain the knowledge for the whole world. Whatever it is, it may be the very thing we all needed. So, Guardian I  know I shouldn’t ask you anything about the box, so I will ask you about something you know better you. Why, Guardian, do you protect this box?”

Ned Dibrof is silent.

“Are you like me, looking out for the greater good? Is it something evil that will destroy us if we let it free? ”

Ned Dibrof does not speak.

“Why? Why do you risk your life to protect this thing? ”

Inspired, Ned Dibrof finally sat back on his great heels and thought about the question for a very long time. Finally, he answered low and rumbling.

“I really don’t know, mate”

Defeated, the soldier died at that very moment from surprise.

As Ned Dibrof trudged back up the hill with an armload of guns, he felt a bit bad about killing all those people. They really didn’t need to die. All they wanted was to save themselves. It was a shame, really, that the humans took their curiosity too far, making up legends about things they didn’t know.

Ned liked humans. It was too bad they had to die. Even so, he found it entirely necessary. It was his job. Ned Dibrof was ordered to protect the Object, and he did.

He also really didn’t want to be fired. The universe was in a recession, for God’s sake.

End.

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