This story is for Miranda Kate's weekly flash challenge.
This is from Miranda's post:
This week's picture prompt is Jeannie Anne Numos aka i-am-JENius over on their page on DeviantArt, an artist based in the Philippines. They have some incredible pieces. I might have to use a few more. This one's titled 'Vanished Route to Demirville'.
Here's a link to the prompt image.
Please note that anyone can join in with a story up to 750 words. My story has 747 words for those who are counting (not including the title and byline).
There is a link to a downloadable PDF version of the story at the bottom of the page. If you want to leave a comment and you aren't on Patreon, you can post it on my blog.
All That Glitters
by K. R. Smith
The fog was thick. Brad almost missed the old man digging around the base of a large oak as he walked along the tracks. The man said nothing as he approached, but watched him as he picked his footing over the slippery, moss-cover ties between the rusting tracks.
"Hello," Brad said, waving his hand. Still, the old man remained silent. Brad introduced himself again, then asked, "Do you live around here?"
The old man took a moment before replying. "Not far. But I can tell you don't."
"Because you're headin' towards that deserted mine."
"You know about it?"
The old man laughed. "Everyone around here knows."
"I've bought the mineral rights, but I can't find any record of when the mine opened. Somebody had to dig it out. You wouldn't have any local knowledge on that, would you?"
"Nope. But I've heard folks say that dark hole was here as long as anyone can remember."
"You've been there?"
"Near enough not to want to go back."
"People say there's gold inside."
"People say a lot of things."
"I take it you don't put much stock in those stories."
"Don't know either way."
"So, what treasure are you searching for?"
"I can buy more ginseng with a few nuggets of gold than you can dig in a month."
"Gold don't do ya no good when your dead."
"Neither does ginseng."
"True enough. But I don't plan on dyin'. "
"So, you're not interested in gold?"
"Not from that place. Folks around here are wise enough to know better," the old man said as he looked over the stranger in front of him. "Unlike some others."
"Look, I know mines are dangerous. I've spent my life working these old claims. Made a decent living at it. What's so special about this one?"
"There's something down there. Something that don't like sharing."
"Something? That's all you can tell me?"
"Never met it. Don't want to, neither."
"Does everyone around here believe this?"
"The smart ones do. Some say it's a beast of sorts. Others say it's spirits, like the Kachinas."
"Well, I don't believe in monsters or magic. And the Hopis are a thousand miles west."
The old man just shrugged. "It's what some folks say. Then again, it might be people's imagination, I suppose. Hard to figure, though, why so many folks would be imaginin' something like that."
"So, you're afraid to even go in?"
"Going in ain't the problem. Comin' out is. Especially if you're taken anything out with you."
Brad smiled. "Or the boogeyman will get you?"
"Or something. That's why it's closed. No one was willing to work there. These tracks ain't been used in years."
"I guess I'll have to take my chances then, won't I?"
"Or you could find another old mine somewhere's else. Up to you."
"If it's all the same, I'll take a look for myself."
"I can't stop ya, but ya might wanna think twice."
As Brad continued down the tracks, he yelled back, "I'll think twice about the gold."
The old man wiped his brow, shook his head, then returned to his task. After half an hour, he heard twigs snapping in the woods. His eyes squinted. There was movement, but he couldn't identify what it was.
"Johnny?" he called. "Johnny Redfeather, is that you?"
"Yeah, Jake. It's me." A man in a blue flannel shirt appeared from behind a stand of large trees on one side of the tracks. "I see you've gotten a head start."
"Not much o' one. I heard someone was comin' to nose around that damned hole. Thought I'd best get moving. He left a short while back. Anyway, glad you're here. I'm about wore out."
"I heard the news, too. After the gold?"
"Then we'd better gather all we can. Ginseng's the only thing that seems to placate whatever's in there."
Johnny laughed. "Sorry. It means to calm down."
"Oh, okay. I can't understand half of what you say since you came back from that big-city college. Don't any of them smart folks know how to get rid of this thing?"
Johnny shook his head. "They don't teach about stuff like that there. Or even believe in it."
"Dang. Well, I hope there's enough ginseng left."
The sound of thunder echoed around them, but they could feel through their boots that the source was deep within the Earth.
Johnny glanced down the tracks. "Me too, Jake. Me, too."
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