This story is one of the September Writing Challenge entries that was chosen to be a featured story.
I thought it would take me longer to find it; but I know it is here.
Time has changed us, but not this place.
I’ve dragged your old spade behind me all the way up the hill. It pulls reluctantly at my arm as I edge myself closer to the peak — the spot we chose together. I spy a single daisy standing in its place, like a clue to buried treasure.
With a sigh as heavy as the air around me, I cease my walk. Before I can change my mind, I thrust the spade into the ground.
The surface will not break beneath it. I persist uselessly, scorning myself at every strike; I am not strong enough for this.
Without warning, my weakness boils to frustration.
It races up from my stomach and into my arms; I lift the spade as if at the end of a vengeful puppeteer’s string, and, with a cry I can’t recognise as my own, I plunge it down to the ground, hot tears smearing my vision and scorching my cheeks until, at last, the blade pierces the unwilling shield of green. Brown fragments of earth spill onto the grass like blood from a wound.
The spade is no longer enough.
I fall to my knees, and my nails stain black as I scramble through dirt. Stones scratch at my fingertips, my elbows, my arms; but the pain is nothing next to the burning in my gut, the thud of my heart in my throat, the wails of my mind as the memories draw closer.
After time spans almost the length of your absence, my fingers brush over something smooth among the rough of the soil. With a last frantic scrape, I grasp what I have been seeking. I haul myself back from the hollow I have made, and there in my hand it sits.
I hold it before me, the wildness in my eyes staring back at me through its metallic mirror. So many years have passed, and yet the capsule seems as new as the day we cast it down, vowing hand in hand to bring it back up together.
But I am here alone, only a soulless spade and sorrow as my companions.
I stand on shaking legs, knowing that all I wanted, and all that we were, hides beneath the seal.
Until this moment, my feelings have been buried as deep as this vessel in my hand. I thought that after all this time they would have rotted away, like autumn leaves on a winter ground; but now the fantasies grow as fresh as the flowers we planted together one spring.
I know that opening the capsule will only further unravel the delicate ropes that have held me together for so long.
But we promised each other it would be today. And, unlike you, my promises remain whole.
With a shuddering breath, I wrench away the lid.