I almost missed it, the ornate box covered in years of dust, tucked away in the darkest corner of the attic. It was hidden in the shadows and as I dropped down the ladder, I took one last look around. I glimpsed it then, briefly as the rays of the sun shifted slightly revealing its outermost corner. I squinted to be sure I was seeing it, when I heard the roomba scuttle right into it, then shift positions and start off in another direction.
I eased myself back up the ladder and walked over to the corner. My feet were a bit unsteady. After all, this was contraband. It had never been declared to be in this house. But, as I glanced over it, I knew it held something valuable. Far too valuable for me to leave it behind.
A sudden beeping came from below. “Teela? What’s taking so long?”
Jax poked his head up as he climbed the ladder. “The machine says we’ve got everything we’ve declared, the house should be empty-“
I put my finger to my lips.
He put the machine down and sauntered toward me. “What is that?”
“I don’t know. It was here, in the corner.”
“Well, it isn’t ours, so it doesn’t concern us. Come on, let’s go.”
“I can’t just leave it, Jax. It feels important.”
He winced. “There you go with those feelings again. Remember, we’re living in a scientific world now. Feelings don’t matter. It’s just a box. Probably was here since before we even moved in, and the tracers never noticed it. Let the new owners handle it.”
I stood up. “I’m going to get one of those boxes with all our cleaning supplies in it. I should be able to fit it in there, and hide it from the tracers with all the cleaning supplies instead.”
“They’ll know. And then we’ll lose our new apartment. Teela, really, think about this. Do you want to be caught with contraband? I mean, you could never open it without them seeing anyway. In the city, every single inch is monitored. Come on, Teela, this is our big break! Can’t you let it go, for me?”
I sighed and pushed the box further into the shadows. “Fine. I’ll leave it. But one day I’ll be back for it. And I’ll find the key, too.”
“Thank you.” He pulled me closer to him. “Thank you.”
We descended the stairs and heard the doorbell ringing faintly from below. “The tracers are here.” I muttered flatly.
Jax jumped in front of me and ran down the stairs to open the door.
The tracers were imposing. They were massive in every way, from their heads to their feet. I could only describe them as bodyguards on steroids. They touched a few machines – buggers – who came to life and scanned every room looking for anything left behind. I winced when they descended on the attic.
They came back clean though, and the biggest tracer stepped forward. “The house is empty. You may leave.”
We nodded. “Thank you.”
Jax climbed in the front seat of his pick-up truck. I slowly climbed in on the passenger side. “I’m sad to leave the country, you know.”
“I know, I am too, a little if I’m being honest. But the city will give us better paying jobs, and we’ll be higher up in society. We’re movin’ on up, baby.”
As we rumbled toward the city, the unease grew within me. I squelched it for his happiness, but I knew one day I’d have to find what was in that box, and why I had been the one to find it. I could only hope the new owners wouldn’t find it first.