Short As Fictober #20: “Treasure Hunt”

The lantern’s white-yellow light proffers a soft circle, a small illumination bubble to hold back the miles of darkness overhead. You count off the last fifty paces in this corridor, and stop. When you bring the lantern close to the cave floor, you find the same symbol you’d seen in the last three rooms–an eye floating above three wavy lines. Your heart sprints and your belly turns inside out. 

After you set down your lantern, you heft your pickaxe and attack the stone floor. Stone shards careen back toward you, leaving tiny nicks in your face, but you pay them no mind. You’re too close to the treasure to care about a few cuts. 

Ten minutes lapse, and your pickaxe breaks through to a hollow space. You clear away the debris, and find a chest the size of a shoe box. Your cheeks puff and deflate as you blow away the dust. As you break the seal and open the lid, you hear a high keening wail. Your scalp crawls, and you try to recall the counter-curse refrain you’d learned from Gilbert for moments such as these. You’re still searching for the words when your lantern topples, and the light goes out. You stow the treasure chest and run in what you pray is the right direction.

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