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Summer, 2004
24-Hour Short Story Contest

2nd Place Winner!

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24-HOUR SHORT STORY CONTEST HERE!

 

TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:
It had taken him almost an hour to climb over the rocks to the hidden beach. His metal detector was strapped to his back and he didn't think many other treasure hunters would go to this much effort. It was low tide, so he started at the water line and began sweeping the detector back and forth. On his fifth pass, the detector gave a strong beep...



Finding Victor
By Michael G. Munz, Seattle, WA

It had taken Tom almost an hour to scramble over the rocks to the hidden beach. He'd had to strap his metal detector to his back and he doubted many other treasure hunters would go to the same trouble. The rocks gave way to an expanse of sand and white driftwood bounded by a high, tree-spotted cliff.

Starting at the water line, he swept the detector back and forth. On his fifth pass, it gave a strong beep. Whatever it was, it was reasonably large and buried two feet beneath the sand. Jackpot! Tom pulled out his collapsible spade and began to dig.

"Reckon ya got somethin', do ya?"

The voice startled Tom so much that he nearly drove the spade into his foot. He turned to see an elderly stranger standing a few yards away. Whoever he was, the old man must have liked white. Everything he wore on his short, slight frame--sandals, shorts, T-shirt, even the umbrella he clutched to block the sun--was white.

"Ah, hello," Tom managed through his disappointment. "I thought I was alone." At least the man had no metal detector.

"Oh, no," the man remarked absently. "No, no, not alone."

"I'm not trespassing, am I? I mean, I didn't think this was a private beach."

The man chuckled. "Oh, not trespassing. Not private. Go right along."

"Ah, good. Well, good day, then." Tom went back to digging in hopes that the man would wander off. He'd had spectators make fun of his hobby before.

Instead, the stranger stepped closer. "Ever found anything good?"

Tom rolled his eyes as he dug. "Sometimes, yeah. It's not a waste of time, if that's what you're implying."

"Oh, didn't say it were! Or do you have to find the good stuff to be enjoyin' it?"

Head down, Tom continued to dig, watching the sand for signs of anything. "Doesn't hurt if I do..."

"Oh, sure, doesn't hurt, doesn't hurt. Always wondered what drives yer type ta be lookin' fer treasures that others've lost. Heads down ta the sand alls time. Now me, I'd be flyin' a kite. Ya see a lot more. Notice a lot more. See things comin'. Goin'."

Tom stood up with a scowl. "Where's your kite?"

The stranger just shrugged with a grin before checking his watch.

"You have somewhere to be?" Tom asked hopefully.

"Just here."

"Something happening here?"

"Oh, things happen everywhere, don't they?"

Tom let it go and turned back to his digging. Still the man continued to stand there.

"It's funny."

Tom sighed, but kept digging. "What's funny?" "How you types always know ta come here. ...Well, guess ya don't know but ya do it anyway."

"Yeah, isn't that interesting." He cared more about what was beneath the sand than whatever the man was talking about at that point.

"Then 'gain, suppose if ya knew you lot wouldn't come at all. Or maybe ya would. Some people gets tired of it all, don't they?"

"I'm getting tired of something," muttered Tom. He'd nearly dug deep enough.

"Had a good day?" the man continued. "Kiss yer wife, tell 'er you love 'er? Kids? Family? Friends?"

Tom kept digging without speaking. Within moments his spade struck metal, and he switched to using his hands.

"No? Oh, shame, shame. Always ought ta do that. 'Every day like it's yer last,' they say. 'Course, they also say 'Don't talk ta strangers,' and I never understood that one. Guess no one's perfect."

The old man sat down and, to Tom's relief, ceased his jabbering as Tom swept the sand away from his find. Whatever it was, it was black, long and cylindrical. He kept digging, following the shaft to where it lay beneath some buried white sticks of driftwood. Puzzled, Tom went the other direction where the shaft met a familiar rectangular casing. With a theory growing in his mind, he uncovered more until he saw the tiny screen and was certain. He laughed with surprise.

It was another metal detector.

Yet how had it gotten buried there with the driftwood? It only took a moment's closer look at the "wood" for him to realize what he'd really found. He leaped back in horror.

"Somethin' wrong, is it?" said the man.

Tom pointed to the hole. "Bones! There's a skeleton with a metal detector down there!"

The man remained unimpressed.

"Yep. Was Victor, I reckon. Came here ta die couple o' years ago. Leastways, I think that was 'is name."

Tom stared. "WHAT?"

The old man smiled. "Victor. Brain tumor's what got 'im, I recall."

Tom looked back and forth from the skeleton to the man. "Tumor? You mean he just...died right here on the sand?"

The stranger nodded. "Looked surprised, too. 'Course, most o' ya look surprised when it happens. Not right sure what brings ya here. Guess it's some sorta instinct."

Tom stepped back, appalled. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest. "There's OTHERS?"

"'Course there's others." The man smiled as if Tom had just asked if the sky was blue. "What'd ya expect to find, coming' to a place that's so bloomin' hard ta get to? All that's here's dead treasure hunters. Secret treasure hunter burial ground! Just like elephants, 'cept diff'rent. Somehow ya all knows ta come here when yer 'bout ta die." A stabbing pain shot through Tom's left arm and he suddenly felt light-headed. The old man cocked his head. "Ya did know ya were 'bout ta die, didn't ya?"

Tom clutched his heart in pain. The last thing he saw as he fell was the sand rushing up to meet him.

As the ocean breeze tugged at his umbrella, the stranger looked down at Tom's lifeless body with a chagrinned grunt. "Pity. Forgot ta get 'is name. Ah, well." Tom's spade lay in the sand where he'd dropped it. He closed his umbrella, took the spade, and began to dig Tom's grave. "Least they always brings their own shovel."


What Michael won:

$250 Cash Prize
Publication of winning story on the WritersWeekly.com website
1 - Freelance Income Kit Includes:
-- 1-year subscription to the Write Markets Report
-- How to Write, Publish and $ell Ebooks
-- How to Publish a Profitable Emag
-- How to Be a Syndicated Newspaper Columnist Special (includes the book; database of 6000+ newspapers; and database of 100+ syndicates)

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