Tonight’s the Night
By Jeff Baker
The bunch of us were sitting around the dorm drinking soda and eating chips. Pretty low-key, when someone brought up the Box.
“I think one of us should go over there,” Paolo said.
“It’s the middle of the night!” Elaine said, swirling her soda in the can.
“It’s only ten-thirty,” Louis said. “But for us college kids, that’s the middle of the night. Even in Berlin.”
“I grew up with the Wall here,” Werner said. “When they tore it down I thought I’d leave. But my family stayed to build something new. My Father was the one who found the Box.”
The Box. It was found when an old building had been torn down, just a few blocks away from the University. The house dated back to the Middle Ages, and when it was knocked down it revealed the box; a crystal casket with a woman in it, a woman dressed in clothes of a bygone era.
I grinned up at Paolo and helped myself to more chips. I liked Paolo if only for the posters of hot young Football players he hung on the walls of his dorm room. He was a hot young Brazilian, I was an American. But he was straight, as far as I could tell.
“No, we should go,” Paolo said. “Tonight.”
“Is the shrine open?” Elaine asked.
“It’s always open,” Andrew said. “They take your money any time.”
I’d been to the shrine when I first got here, just to see it, but that was during the day. By the time we walked to the small enclosure it was just an hour before midnight. The guards glared at us suspiciously until we paid our admission to the high-domed room with the glass casket on the ground where it had been found. It was impossible to move from the site or to open. We stood and stared. The dark-haired woman lay there in a velvet robe that was open at the neck.
Paolo stood and stared down at the woman the press had dubbed die Schlafende Schonheit, the Sleeping Beauty.
“I still say Disney’s going to sue,” Andrew said.
“How long has she been dead?” I murmured.
“She’s not dead,” Paolo said. “She’s breathing.”
I didn’t see it, but Paolo reached down and pulled at the crystal casket. It opened just like any other box. I’d seen, we’d all seen, the news coverage of people with jackhammers trying to open the thing. Couldn’t even crack or budge it. But Paolo had opened it.
Paolo looked over and grinned at our shocked faces: “And she didn’t start out a princess, she started out a prince. But I see her. I really see her.”
He leaned over and kissed her and yes, her eyes opened, she smiled, she kissed back. Love at first sight after about eight-hundred years.
Oh, well. I guess I never stood a chance with Paolo.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Originally I thought about doing a riff on the Circle from “That 70’s Show,” hence the song title, but someone mentioned “Sleeping Beauty” and the new story just took off. Plus, yesterday was the Transgender Day of Visibility, so that showed up in the story too. I’m writing this early Thursday morning and today I get my first vaccine. Don’t think that made it into the story! ——jsb (4/1/21)