The Enchanted Music Box – A Christmas Tale

Once upon a time, there was an enchanted music box. It was beautiful and ornate with breathtaking imagery captured in both subtle and vivid color. Its finest details gilded in gold, all on a flawless foundation of porcelain – all set to a magical and haunting (in a good, life-giving way) tune. It was masterfully made. I say made because it’s obvious to most people this sort of wonder doesn’t exist without cause.

However, the bit that made the box the most special wasn’t without but within. For as long as anyone could remember, it had been open. Unlike other boxes, the characters didn’t move in an automated, mechanical fashion. Instead, they seemed to roam freely of their own accord – talking, laughing, and interacting as if masters of their domain. And then there was the wonder of all wonders. The song was never exactly the same. The melody was close enough to maintain a constant theme but the notes were never repeated exactly as before.

The only clue to the box’s purpose was found on a small inscription on the gold plate on the floor of the tiny world – visible to all its inhabitants. It read:

Sing the notes. Sing a new song. But know to whom the scale belongs.

It seemed to define the terms of their existence. As long as the occupants followed the simple instructions, they were free to improvise and live however they saw fit. People stood in awe and would watch and listen for hours. And an infectious joy spread as a result. Until one fateful day.

It started small. One tiny figurine was one of the most gifted song makers. In fact, spectators had grown to love his unique use of the scale. The adapted melodies were repeated by the audience and could be heard well beyond the scope of the music box but loud enough to reach the ears of the talented wonder. Over time, the praise grew and grew. In an effort to find the very roots of originality (and the recognition that would accompany such a feat) he wandered off the scale into forbidden territory. And at once, the lid on the box started to close.

Over time, the ventures off-scale became more and more frequent and odd. Although the new melodies were thrilling at first, they left the listeners with a darker, more empty feeling than before. Therefore, the talented musician felt he had to foray farther and farther off the scale in order to produce the same effect. As they did, the box continued to close bit by bit. Until eventually, it closed completely.

Onlookers were devastated. The little source of joy that was the enchanted box was gone with no hope of return. And while they the off-scale tunes were exhilarating in the moment, they now wished it had never happened. Inside the box, to the surprise of many, life continued. Although, it was a darker existence.

The inhabitants seemed to be content with their new way of life and some even began to champion it as the only way to live. Small pockets of the population attempted to reclaim the original scale but it was never quite the same. The melodies they made weren’t as pure as the originals and took on a more arrogant, prideful sound than before. While there were moments of happiness, joy was harder and harder to find. Years passed by and those days and the original notes were all but forgotten.

One day many years later, several figures were near the outer edges of the box. A burst of light broke through and practically blinded them for a brief moment. It wasn’t a diffuse light but a beacon seemingly pointing them in a direction. Their impulse was to follow so they did. They wound their way through the contours of the container until they found themselves standing on a dim but glowing floor illuminated by the beam of light. And they noticed something else. Wherever they’d taken a step was now replaced by a gold footprint.

They frantically started to uncover more and more of the shiny object until the old plate was completely visible. They looked at each other perplexed and in a sort of unison, read the once familiar inscription together aloud:

Sing the notes. Sing a new song. But know to whom the scale belongs.

As they did, a giant crack sounded as the lid to the box broke open and exposed a bright sliver of light all around its perimeter. And with it, an unfamiliar note rang out. The group was terrified but collectively compelled to incorporate the note into their song. Unlike the other notes, this one fell into place perfectly and seemed to belong. For once in a long time, a glimmer of hope arose within them and it was good.

Immediately, they ran to tell the others what they’d seen and heard. Some ran back with them, read the phrase, and heard the note as they had. Others read the inscription but were so clouded by the years of darkness they couldn’t recognize the note and even would become angry and defensive at the suggestion. However, the word spread enough to those able to hear that the song began (ever so slightly) started to change. Each time a new note was revealed and sung, the box would open just a bit more.

On the outside, spectators noticed the box had cracked open and started to gather. And while not yet the songs they once knew, there was enough familiarity to stir a deep contentment they’d not felt for a long, long while. But there was something else. In the area where the box came together, in the front and directly in the middle was a keyhole. Since the box closed, people had unsuccessfully searched and searched for a way to open it back up. But one thing was certain now. While it might not have been possible before, it looked like the creator made a way.

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