Eleanor recoiled when her trowel hit metal while tending to her garden. The urge to push dirt back over the object overwhelmed her. Telling herself she was foolish, she set about freeing it from the ground.
She lifted a long cylindrical case of finely worked metal. As she examined it, she was surprised to find she knew how to open it. Warnings flooded through her mind. Why was she so nervous? At ninety-five years old, her memory wasn’t what it once was, but she didn’t think she would forget something like this.
Cautiously, she broke the seal. Light flared for a moment, making Eleanor feel somehow threatened, and she hesitated. Her father always told her she was too curious for her own good. He was right, but it never stopped her from jumping in feet first. Odd, she reflected, how she could remember his words but not his face. Being old sucked she thought and laughed.
Death wasn’t too far off, she knew. A strange longing for that day gripped her often in recent weeks. She’d been in the world too long.
If this unusual case provided one last adventure, she would take it. Pushing the ill portents aside, she pushed the cap all the way open and found a rolled piece of parchment inside. She slowly unrolled it, unsurprised it was a map, complete with a large red X. It showed the town she lived in, but it was old, with none of the newer landmarks in the area. She could have sworn she had never seen it before but knew she must be wrong because she knew exactly where it led.
It ended in the woods on the outskirts of town. People rarely went there. She didn’t know why, but every time she went near it, she felt repulsed.
Though worn out from her gardening, Eleanor determined she would go. Trowel in hand, she set out. Twenty minutes later she was there, with no assistance from the map. From the moment she entered the tree line, everything became unsettlingly familiar, yet she couldn’t remember ever being there.
After several minutes of walking, she found the marked site in the middle of a small clearing. Though there was nothing exceptional about the spot, she knew where to dig. It took her an hour to find the chest. Reverently, she pulled it up and set it next to the hole.
She was too exhausted from her efforts to open it right away. As she lay on the grass, she could almost remember doing this previously. Déjà vu? I’m too old for this shit, she thought.
After resting for a while, she sat up and studied the chest. It was covered in strange symbols which almost glowed. Knowing it was right, she waved one hand in front of the lock. It released and fell away. She opened the lid and peered inside.
A gasp escaped her when she saw it was filled with gold coins, glittering jewelry, and a scarred wooden bowl. Without knowing why she lifted the bowl and watched as it filled with water. A part of her said what she was seeing was impossible, but she ignored it as the moment imbued her with wonder.
Eleanor remembered her wish to die. She’d lived a long and blessedly boring life. Death was a welcome thing. Her longing for it was deep but wavering. She glanced at the water, then the shining contents of the chest. With a shrug, she drank from the bowl. When every drop was gone, she took several handfuls of gold and a few pieces of the jewelry out and placed them beside her. She set the bowl back on top of the rest.
She laid back on the grass and closed her eyes. The change was uncomfortable but brief. When she rolled to her side and pushed herself up, long black hair covered her face. Black, not gray!
Damn, she thought as she took in the scene before her. She did it again. Her memories returned to her, she recalled how she promised herself the previous cycle would be the final one. She’d been ready for death but now had to live her life again, for the thirteenth time. Oh well, thirteen was her lucky number.
She rolled up the map, sealed it in its case, and cast it into the chest, which she reburied. Eleanor hoped she would forget the location by the end of this lifetime.
Since it was an odd-numbered cycle, she had access to her magic. Maybe she would be an evil witch like her third and seventh time then go out with a bang! As she picked up her loot, she decided there were only two things she knew for sure she wanted this go round. Forever death at the end and no more gardening.
Rough draft 805 words
I have a book of writing prompts called A Year of Creative Writing Prompts. Each page represents a day with three prompts. There is a five-minute prompt meant to be a warmup. These are one word and most of the stories I’ve written recently came from this type.
Then there is a midday and a dinner prompt. These are longer and until now I haven’t used any of them.
Today’s story came from a midday one. I’d seen it before but it did nothing for me. Then a few days ago when I skimmed over it, I got an idea. I jotted down whatever came to me and a story was born.
The prompt is:
An elderly woman is gardening when she discovers what appears to be a treasure map buried in her back yard. It seems to lead to a spot on the outskirts of town. What does she find where X marks the spot.
The first time I saw this I found it boring. Even when I first started putting ideas to paper I didn’t think it would go anywhere, but you never know. It’s what you do with an idea that matters I suppose.