High-Tech Fairies and the Pandora Perplexity
by Alex Shvartsman
The small obsidian cube felt cool to the touch and heavier than its size would suggest.
"Sorry, Sylvia, but I have no idea," said Sneaky Pete. "Won it in a card game the other week,
and the chump I took it off of didn't know either. But it's valuable as-is, right? I mean, it's a
I nodded. Pandora's boxes are rare and completely impervious to scans by magic or science. The
only way to find out what's inside of one is to open it. And I am not foolish enough to do that.
People don't store nice things in Pandora's boxes. Open one and you might be in for a plague of
boils, a nasty curse, or a hologram of Rick Astley singing "Never Gonna Give You Up."
"Do you want to sell or pawn it?" I asked.
"Pawn it," said Pete. He was a two-bit hustler, always finding minor magical items to sell to the
shop. Every week he would haul in junk like second-hand wands, an alchemist's engine that
turned gold into lead, or an early print of Pride and Prejudice, before the Victorians edited out
the zombies. A Pandora's box was a big get for a guy like Pete. But he always took cash. I
arched my eyebrow.
"I wanna hang on to this one. A long-term investment," said Pete. "I just need rent money."
I named a price and he accepted it without argument. This told me he likely would be back for
the box. Lots of people abandon their property on pawn, but they haggle like hell to get the
maximum value out of it first.
"All right then," I said. "You will have thirty days to repay the loan with interest. After that, the
box becomes property of the shop."
He took the money and the pawn slip and booked it out the door faster than the Road Runner. I
stored away the box, and went back to organizing the enchanted wedding rings for our annual
The box didn't enter my thoughts for a time. Not until the Tooth Fairy showed up.