We Thrive on Bones

Happy Summer Solstice reader(s)! The inspiration for today’s writing prompt is  quote found here (http://writingprompts.tumblr.com/image/50655156811). “Stick a shovel into the ground almost anywhere and some horrible thing or other will come to light. Good for trade, we thrive on bones; without them there'd be no stories.”

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Though she could not see them in the pale light of the moon she knew the palms of her hands were covered in blisters. Puss-filled sores pushing their way up through her skin would eventually burst leaving her flesh raw and bleeding, but she would not stop.

Though the muscles in her back and shoulders burned and cramped, contorting her already hunched back; she would not stop.

Though the shovel’s dull blade barely managed to plunge deeper into the hard earth below the headstone, and the wooden handle splintered with every whack, she could not stop.

Hours passed in the darkness. The sounds of her digging as rhythmic and steady as a ticking clock .  When the shovel broke off its handle she fell to her hands and knees and used the spade to scoop the dirt. Slow work. Soon that was not enough either. With a curse she threw the useless metal aside and clawed at the dirt. Fingertips scraped the ground until her nails ripped off and bits of dirt jammed into her skin. She only stopped to wipe the sweat from her forehead otherwise it would drip into her eyes and sting. A delay she could not afford.

At some point the pain in her body grew so intense she crawled to the corner to vomit. It had been a while since her last meal, and save for a small amount of bile she mostly dry heaved. She spat the remaining acid that burned her teeth and went back to work.

Never as she struggled did she worry it would not be there. This was why she chose this spot in the middle of nowhere all those years ago. The road to get out to the house was so grown over with weeds it would have been a challenge for anyone to follow it. But not to her. The long abandoned house had not changed. Time had not weathered it as it had her.

Eventually she could no longer hold up her body. Too consumed to remember water or food, she collapsed. The hole was wide enough now that she could lay out comfortably.  She rolled on to her back to watch the stars. One hand still slowly, as though it had a mind of its own, continued to paw at the ground. The stars out there were so many she couldn’t tell a wisp of cloud from a galaxy. These had not changed either from when her and her brother would watch them.

A smile split her cracked lips as she thought of the stories he would tell her of great men and gods who earned their place among the heavens. She searched hoping to find his constellation through blurred vision.

The silhouette of a young boy appeared over the edge of the hole looking down at her. “What in the hell are you doin’ down there?”

“I’m tryin’ to find it.” She whispered though she couldn’t be sure if she had actually said the words out loud.

“You think I care about some silly kid’s toy?”

The silhouette disappeared replaced by swaying tree tops.

She tucked into a fetal position and sobbed. Dirt filled her mouth as she wailed. Her knobby, curled hands could no longer make fists, but still she beat the ground only stopping when she heard a hollow, tinny echo.

Adrenaline surged, giving the final burst she needed to finish the job. Tears streamed down her face as she picked up the rusted box out of the dirt. Her shaking hand softly brushed off the lid before opening it.

A cloud passed over her only light source so she could not see it, but it felt familiar between her fingers. Exhaustion consumed her and she closed her eyes for a quick nap, the small treasure tucked against her heart.

“Well come on, I don’t have all day.” His voice woke her up.

“Your back.” Her voice came out clear and vital.

“Yeah well I thought you could use some help out of this hole.”

Looking around, in the early light of dawn she could see just how deep down she was. He reached out a hand, “Listen, I haven’t got all day.”

She grabbed his hand, hesitant that his small frame wouldn’t support getting her out, but when she reached for him she saw only young, smooth skin. Worry melted away and she hopped right out of the hole.

“Here.”

“I told you I don’t care about some dumb toy.” But he smiled and tucked her gift into his faded overalls.

“Well, now you can stop looking for it.” She hesitated a minute, feeling as though she forgot something.

She turned to go back when he grabbed her hand, “Don’t worry about that. I’ve got something real neat to show you. Race you!”

Before she could agree he was already off, “Cheater!” she yelled as she chased after him into the bright morning sun.