I wrote this short story yesterday evening. I intended it to read like a children's book about children, and who knows, maybe one day it will be :P The inspiration came from many YouTube videos, especially this one. Enjoy!

Once there were five friends. When the weather was nice they'd play outside together in the fields and grasslands close to where they lived. There were always new and interesting things to find, and exciting places to explore. Often they would talk about the things they found and places they went. They didn't always agree, and would often argue. Usually, though, they would quickly forget their differences and return home the best of friends.

The first friend was called Adam. His parents were both antique dealers, buying and selling priceless ornaments. The second was named Beth. She often helped her mother in the family bakery, putting doughy things in the oven to cook. Third was Charlie. His father worked at a confectionery shop, making all kinds of sweet-tasting luxuries. Next was Debby, whose parents were divers and often took her swimming in the deep blue ocean. Last was Eddie, whose father was an amateur epistemologist, and who liked to think about things logically and from all angles.

One sunny day, the friends took a long walk over the fields and grasslands. The weather was so nice, and the scenery so beautiful, that they ended up travelling further than they ever had before. In time, they arrived at a clear scrub of land, where they sat down to rest on some convenient rocks. After some minutes, they noticed a large cardboard box not far away, and went over to take a look. They stood a few yards away, peering at it in interest.

"What do you think is in it?" asked Adam at last. "Maybe it's treasure!"

"I hope it's food," said Beth, rubbing her stomach. Charlie nodded eagerly.

"Maybe it's an animal," suggested Debby. Eddie stepped forward for a closer look, and the others followed.

The box was smooth, clean cardboard with a matching lid covering it's top. The lid was too high to reach. There was no writing on any surface, and no symbols or markings to suggest what might be inside. Beth suddenly hit the box, startling everyone, then cocked her head to one side, listening. Eddie nodded slowly to himself, put his ear to the box and tapped gently. Adam stood with his eyes closed, as though listening too. Debby took out her favourite crayon and starting scribbling on the side. Charlie just stood, rubbing his chin and scratching his head.

After a minute, they went back to the rocky area and sat together, thinking about the box.

"It's an amulet," said Adam suddenly.

"What?" cried Charlie, staring at him incredulously.

Adam nodded sagely. "My father has one. It's shaped like a medal, and brings good luck."

"How could you possibly know what's in the box?" asked Debby angrily.

Adam shrugged. "I asked it"

"You did what?" said Eddie

"I asked it," repeated Adam

Beth frowned. "But you didn't say anything. I would have heard you."

"Well, I didn't say it out loud," he countered. "I asked it in my mind."

"In your mind?" asked Eddie, unconvinced

Adam nodded. "And it answered. It said it was an amulet. Like a medal. A big gold round coin with a gold chain." Adam grinned to himself.

"No, it isnt!" said Beth suddenly. They all turned to look at her. "It's not some rubbish medal. It's a loaf of fresh bread."

"Bread?" asked Debby, surprised.

Beth smiled and nodded. "Fresh and chewy and warm, just like mother makes."

Eddie raised an eyebrow. "What makes you think it's bread in there?"

"Well, I banged on the side of the box..."

"Yes, we noticed that," Adam interrupted, putting a hand to his chest melodramatically

"And then," continued Beth, giving Adam a look, "I listened to the sound coming back from the inside. I definitely heard bread." The other friends looked at her, somewhat bemused.

"How can you hear bread?" asked Charlie

"I don't know," said Beth. "I just kind of saw it in my mind. Like a picture."

Adam frowned "But with sound?"

Beth sighed and glared at him. "Yes. With sound. I heard the sound and knew it was bread."

"I think maybe you didn't hear it right," said Charlie. "It's much more delicious than bread."

"What do you mean?" asked Eddie.

Charlie smiled contentedly to himself. "Chocolate. My dad sometimes brings me some from work. It's the greatest and most delicious food in the whole world."

"So," said Adam uncertainly, "are you saying there's chocolate in the box?"

Charlie looked at him. "Well, of course there is!" he declared.

"What do you mean, 'of course!'?" countered Beth

"Think about it," said Charlie, "What would be the best thing to find in a mysterious box in the middle of nowhere? Chocolate, of course. That's what I'd choose, and I'm sure that's what it is!" Charlie grinned, bobbing up and down excitedly.

"I don't understand" said Debby. "You're saying there's chocolate in the box because that's what you'd choose?"

"Not quite," replied Charlie. "The thought of that cardboard box full to the brim with lovely sweet chocolate makes me very happy indeed..."

"And because it makes you happy, you choose to believe that it's chocolate," Beth finished.

Charlie nodded. "It is chocolate," he said softly, a serene smile on his face.

Debby stood up, indignant, her hands on her hips. "Why do you always think of treasure and food?" she asked. "Don't you realise there's a living thing in there, swimming away?"

Adam looked confused. "Um, fish are a kind of food... And goldfish are a kind of treasure. Almost."

"No they're not!" Debby retorted. "Anyway, it's not a fish. It's a beautiful, elegant dolphin. Which is bigger and prettier than a fish. Smarter too."

"A dolphin?" gasped Beth. "What on earth makes you think it's a dolphin?"

"I saw it," said Debby calmly.

"What do you mean?" demanded Charlie. "No one else saw a dolphin."

"Well, what I mean is... I took my crayon and started scribbling nonsense on the wall of the box. After a minute, I stopped and looked at what I'd drawn, and it was a dolphin."

"So... you drew a dolphin." said Eddie, shrugging.

"No," replied Debby. "I just scribbled. For a whole minute, I just moved the crayon around randomly."

"And somehow that aimless mess ended up looking like a dolphin?" said Charlie

Debby nodded. "I don't know how or why, but it must be a message. It means it's a dolphin that's inside the box."

They all sat a while in silence, each nurturing their own thoughts and scorning their friends' opinions. Each child was sure he or she was right while the others were wrong. Eventually, Eddie stood up. The friends looked up at him, wondering what kind of strange object he thought the box contained. Perhaps an egg, or an eagle.

"Each of us looked at the box," he began, "and each of us thinks there's something different inside. Adam thinks there's an amulet because he asked and got an answer. Beth thinks there's bread because she banged on the box and heard an echo. Charlie thinks it's chocolate because he chose that and it makes him happy. And Debby thinks it's a dolphin because she drew it without meaning to and thinks it's a message."

"We all know this already," said Beth. "We've each explained what we think. But what do you think? Don't you agree it could be bread?"

"No," said Eddie. "You say you heard bread, but none of the rest of us saw or heard anything like that. I smelled nothing. I felt no heat. I saw no evidence of bread."

"Well, of course!" said Charlie. "There was no smell because the chocolate was wrapped up, and no heat otherwise it'd melt."

"No," said Eddie. "You would choose chocolate, but others wouldn't. Just because a thought makes you happy, that doesn't make it true. I saw no evidence of chocolate."

"What about the dolphin?" asked Debby. "If it was in water, there'd be no smell and no heat. Plus, it sent me a message. Surely that convinces you?"

"No," said Eddie. "You say you saw what looked like a dolphin in a scribbled mess, but others would see no dolphin. Plus, if there was water, the cardboard would go soggy and collapse. I saw no evidence of a dolphin."

"Well, amulets have no smell, no heat and no water," said Adam. "It told me it was an amulet, and no one else heard because no one else asked it what it was."

"No," said Eddie. "But again no one else heard what you heard. None of us heard what Beth heard. None of us chooses what Charlie chose. And none of us saw what Debby saw. Each of you has a totally different belief based on things you experienced that none of the rest of us did. If none of you agree and we have no evidence of anything, then none of you can claim to be right."

"But that doesn't tell us anything!" fumed Debby. "Even if the rest of us are wrong, you still haven't told us what you believe! If there is no amulet, no bread, no chocolate and no dolphin, won't you please tell us what is in the box? "

"No," said Eddie. "But only because I don't know. There is absolutely no evidence, no clue to the contents of the box, if it even contains anything."

"Wait a minute," Beth said, frowning, "are you saying you think the box is empty?"

"That's my guess," said Eddie, nodding. "Since there's no evidence on the outside, and we haven't seen inside, we can't say either way. But as we've seen no evidence, it's quite logical to assume that there's nothing in there at all! For example, as well as no smell, no heat and no water, there's no light shining from inside. Therefore there's no candle or torch or anything similar in there. Also, there's no sound or movement from the box, so it's unlikely that it contains a ticking clock or an animal." The friends took this in in silence.

"So," began Charlie, "there may be nothing in it at all." He sighed. "Well, we can't get up to the lid. What else can we do to find out if there's anything in it?"

Eddie shrugged. "The only thing we can do is look for evidence."

"We could try to lift it!" yelled Debby. "One of us can go on each corner, or at least we could make a circle around the box, then we count to three and lift."

"Good idea, Debby!" Eddie nodded, and Debby grinned. "And if we can't lift it, we'll at least know for sure that there's something in it."

"Something heavy!" said Adam, and they all laughed.

And so the friends encircled the box, counted to three, and lifted with all their might. The box shot upward like a cork from a bottle, hung for a second in mid-air, then toppled back down. One of the bottom corners connected with the ground, gouging a hole in it and sending the top end of the box in a slow arc down to the ground where it gave a loud, hollow thud. The friends gaped open-mouthed at the top end of the box, watching in awe as the lid, pulled by gravity, seperated from the body of the box and fell with a smaller but more meaningful thud. For a moment all was silent. Then the friends looked at each other, knowing they were all thinking the same thing. Without a word they walked as one to the cardboard opening, and for the first time beheld the interior.


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Tags: box, epistemology, evidence, mystery, short story, story


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