The treasure that lies beneath (Writing prompt short story)

Writing prompt: A man is digging in his backyard when his shovel strikes something hard. What is it?



The treasure that lies beneath


Three more pine trees to go and Atticus would be free of his neighbor’s prying eyes. Or binoculars, he thought with a sneer as he caught the glint of one from the next ranch over. He’d been subject to his old neighbor’s annoying curiosity for three years, and he had finally had enough. He’d been driving home after a sweaty day at work, contemplating selling his house  when he spotted the rows of pine trees for sale, and the brilliant idea had struck him.

Now he only had three more to go, with nine out of the dozen already planted, fertilized and watered. More than half of his small home was covered already, the trees providing him the privacy he’d been craving for the past three years. Triumph sang through his blood even as fatigue slowed him down.

He struck the shovel, cursed when he hit something hard.

Damn those rocks, he thought as he crouched to pry it loose.

Ah, but it was worth it, even if he had to work half the night, only to get up a few hours later to go to work.

He rolled the rock aside, stood, and just to annoy the old bat he was certain was watching, scratched his backside rudely.

Chuckling to himself, he resumed shoveling, widening the hole he’d need to place the six feet tree into, pausing only to dig up the rocks and drink from the canteen he had brought with him so he wouldn’t need to track dirt into his home.

The moon was full, the night was still, no breeze, no calls from the night animals. The only sound was of the shovel meeting dirt and the occasional chink when it met some hard rock.

When he hit something hard again, pain zinged all the way to his shoulders.

Muttering under his breath, he reached into the hole, searching for the edge of the rock, unable to find it. Undeterred, Atticus stood, moved back to the pile of random accessories he had brought with him. He found the lantern at once, exactly where he knew he would find, then crouched to look into the hole. Seeing no lumps that indicated something large and hard, he reached into the hole again, brushed his callused fingers over the soil. There was something hard there, and with a sinking feeling he wondered if the rock was larger than the hole he had dug. He picked up a hammer, struck the rock with a hard thump.

It reverberated with an oddly metallic sound. Not a rock, he realized. Adrenaline making his heart pump wildly, Atticus picked up the shovel and began widening the hole, excitement making him forget all about his fatigue, his prying neighbor.

When the hole was wide enough, he crouched, began brushing the damp soil away until he found the edge, contoured around it.

Something square, he thought as images of hidden treasure trunks popped in his mind.

Because of all the dirt, Atticus didn’t see the symbols carved into it, or the fact that the light gave it an eerie reflection.

Impatient now, he searched with both his hands for a latch, smiled when he found it. He struck it with the hammer, once, twice, breaking it in half.

Breath held, heart pumping, hands unsteady, Atticus pulled the top open, straining with the weight.

And stared into a dark, obsidian hole.

The faraway scent of something damp, metallic and citrusy drifted upward, and with a still shaking hand, Atticus raised the lantern.

A crude ladder was carved on the side of what Atticus could only call a tunnel, but as far as he could see, there was nothing but darkness below.

Not stopping to reconsider, Atticus slung the lantern over his neck and slowly, carefully descended the rotten steps. It wasn’t far before he reached the bottom, but there was nothing down there but a small chamber. The walls were rough, hard earth, the ground rocky and damp.

A Darker shadow on the far wall caught his attention, and Atticus moved forward, the metallic, citrusy scent more pronounced here.

He entered a small tunnel that barely fitted his broad shoulders and moved into it, pausing a few minutes later when he realized he was in an unknown underground tunnel and could die of asphyxiation without even realizing it before it was too late.

Digging into his pocket with his dirty hand he took out the lighter he had kept as a memento after throwing away his last pack of cigarettes and lit a healthy, orange flame. Satisfied, he continued forward, stopping now and again to light up the lighter to make sure he still had oxygen to go.

Suddenly the ground opened up and Atticus was airborne. He felt an instant of indescribable terror before he began sliding down, hitting his elbow on something hard, his head on something pointy. He fell for what felt like ages before he came to a hault, the world spinning madly around him. He thought he saw something orange, something blue, something white, but those could have been the stars spinning around his head, trying to peck, or stab his eyes out.

Atticus stood slowly, painfully, recalling with a sick feeling his cell phone lying beside the canteen back by the hole. He picked up the lantern, shook it once, but it didn’t work. He glanced up suddenly, ignoring the painful spikes digging in his head as he realized that it was no longer pitch dark.

Up ahead stood another tunnel, a faint light beckoning him. The scent of the citrus took up form, like verbena, only stronger.

Without any other options, Atticus moved into the tunnel, his mind curiously blank. Either he’d been in there all night long or… what?

He emerged into a green, luscious land, like nothing he’d ever seen before. The foliage was thick, the trees gnarled, old things that stood tall and proud, with the bark cracked, the branches long, entwined in an intimate embrace with the branches of the neighboring trees. The leaves were thick and fringy. Thick ropes dangled from the trees, strange colored animals with spiked heads moved between them, trilling a mellifluous song. To the side was a picturesque stream, and Atticus followed the peacefully gurgling water, like a landmark he could follow back, until he reached the river where the stream dispensed.

What he saw then struck him dumb.

An entire civilization moved about on the other side, dressed in shimmering clothes, their feet bare, their children running around, tagging each other, some after two headed animals. The structures were small, complex buildings made of stones that glowed under the orange sun, asymmetrically pointing upward like magician hats. Up in the sky birds the size of a house played with one another, and with an incredulous sense of amazement Atticus realized they were dragons, the scales on their lizard like bodies glowing with a variety of colors he’d never seen before.

A strange, white bird the size of a Saint Bernard suddenly appeared right beside Atikus, shocking him into immediate paralysis. It tilted its head upward and sideways in a reptilian-like gesture, silver feathers the size of Atticus’s finger crowning its head. It met Atticus’s eyes and held, the intelligence in the aqua blue like nothing Atticus ever saw before. It measured him up and down, its small beak clicking open and shut, and then, with an indifferent toss of its head, it spread its wings wide, showcasing a breath stopping view of magnificent indigo feathers.

It cawed once, then jumped into the air and flew away, joining the dragons in their play.

Heart light with the peacefulness of the land, Atticus decided to move along the river’s bank and find a safer crossing place when a rough hand appeared out of nowhere and slapped him.

Jolting, Atikus turned and … stared at the wrinkled face of his curious neighbor, feeling disoriented. Up above the sky was beginning to brighten, an indigo that reminded him of the beautiful, intelligent bird. Beside him the hole lay empty, no signs of the trap door he’d climbed down anywhere he could see.

A dream, he thought with twin feelings of relief and a sense of loss.

Just a dream. He stood up, gathered his things and went inside to wash up for work.

Behind him his neighbor frowned at the closed door, then down at the white feather with the indigo tip he held in his hand.

Places you remember

Remember when…


When I was around 11 years old, my family and I went on a beach vacation to a place called Angra dos Reis (Anchor of kings) in the coast of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. For three days we explored the numerous beaches there. On the afternoon of the second day a local told my older brother about this beach called The Secret beach and gave us directions. We drove there, and parked at the shoulder of a freeway. There was only one other vehicle there, and my 11 year old excited mind didn’t wonder about that, only that there was a beach and I wanted to swim. There was a small opening by the guardrail, I remember that, covered by all the trees and foliage that went on and on and on as far as I could see.

At the opening of that guardrail were stone steps, leading down and curving, the end hidden by the greenery. So down we had gone, able to hear the waves of the beach still hidden from sight.

It was like this: descending stone steps, trees on all sides, the music of birds, scurrying animals, the scent of salty water and the green scents of a place barely touched by humanity.

The last stone step ended onto a rocky, uneven ground, edged on both sides by trees. We moved forward, and there, at the edge of the rocky ground started the sand, bleached almost white by the sun. The sky was blue, the water just a deeper shade. Trees surrounded the beach on both sides, a sweet cascade of water tinkled like soft music to my left. That’s how I remember it.

It was the best beach we had visited during that vacation. We had been the only people there that day, and I remembered I swimmed (not too far) and splashed and played with my brothers.

I am sorry though to say that today, over two decades after that trip, the beach is no longer a secret. It is still called that, The Secret Beach, but there are people, boats, small tents erected (that look permanent), and plenty of tourists.

A prompt about ‘places you remember’

brought this place to mind, and I asked a family member to see if she could find some photos for me to place it here. She found this video that showed all these boats and people and beach towels and… no secret left.

Here’s a link to a video she found on YouTube that is closest to the place I described above:


This week’s prompt: The bridge was out…




The bridge was out. Linus glanced at the misty trail that connected this realm with the mortal land. If they were lucky, the bridge would close before Porscha noticed it. If they were lucky.

The thought had hardly crossed his mind when he heard footsteps coming up the stairs of the airy tower.

Duncan rounded the corner, his grey eyes stormy. Linus sighed, deflating on his seat.

“Porscha has gone out to the mortal realm.” Duncan announced, dropping onto the second chair with a heavy thump. “Valerian caught her at the bridge, made her return the Pegasus.”

“Someone should explain to her the rules of the mortal realm.” Linus murmured.

“We did. Thrice already. She just thinks that a winged animal would make the crossing faster.”

Duncan’s own wings shifted upward in a shrug before settling down again.

“I wonder what she will bring back this time.” Linus mused. Both men glanced at the junkyard of microwaves, TVs, washing machines, refrigerators, an industrial air conditioner, an electric oven.

Duncan sighed, a long suffering exhalation of air.

“Did you explain about the mortal electric mode?”

“Twice. I had hoped I’d have one more chance before the bridge formed again.”

Just then they heard a loud whirring noise and both men leaned to see through the mists of the bridge. They heard Valerian shout something, drowned by the noise.

“What is that?” Linus asked.

“I’m not sure.” Duncan said, quickly summoning the intelligence boost pedia and teleporting the image into it. The pedia returned the info directly into his mind and Duncan chuckled.

“What?” Linus demanded.

“It’s a combat tank. Used for political feud between two or more rival countries. According to my pedia this heavy combat tank is used for warriors – human military personnel to attack and demolish an opposite line. See that long tube it carries?”

Linus glanced at it, frowning as the thing – tank – moved steadily toward them. “Hmmm.”

“It propels cannon balls.”

Alarm begin rising in Linus’s chest. Currently that tube was aimed slightly to the side, at the emperor’s tower. But the tank was moving directly toward them.

“But it looks like Porscha is doing something there, because according to the pedia those things move no faster than 40 miles per hour.”

Both men glanced at it and measured the speed in their minds. Both concluded the tank was doing at least 90 miles per hour. It was moving steadily, and belatedly they realized Porscha couldn’t have learned to drive the tank in the time she had been gone.

“Ah, man.” Duncan rose and jumped out the airy, his wings spreading wide. He landed atop the tank, moved left, right, looked up and down. Searching for a way in. He pounded a fist at the roof, stomped his feet. Took hold of the tube and pulled at it, bending it upward with a loud, irritating metal screech. But the tank kept coming, and Linus leaned forward, eyes narrowing. Muttering under his breath about spoiled, curious brats, he moved the tower aside, along with every structure he assumed would be in its path, opening the way for the tank to move harmlessly where buildings stood just a few moments before.

The tank stopped exactly at the spot the tower had been standing. A round metal flap opened and Porscha’s red head poked out, her eyes squinting at the bright sun. She smiled brightly at Duncan, waved at Linus, then jumped out of the tank and dashed again toward the misty bridge before either man could stop her.





Writing prompt contest: Alien Lord – short story

One more short story!
This week’s prompt is:
A bartender and a patron are having a conversation. Unbeknownst to them, someone sitting close by—obscured by shadows—has been eavesdropping. The eavesdropper has trouble sleeping that night based on what he or she heard. What could it have been?

And check out last week’s prompt winner:
which is about: My main character goes back 20 years in time and notices something that makes her not to want to go back, what is it?


Special agent Bradford Bonvera moved into the bar casually, dressed in thready shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt. At twenty eight, he was the best undercover agent uncle Sam had, able to blend into whatever situation was needed.
Today he was a middle class worker, relieved to be free of work early, ready to commemorate the end of the laborious week.
He tapped a hand on the bar, ordered a coke and a burger, paid with the crumpled bills he had used earlier to play airplane with his daughter Julie. Then he took his food and moved to the shadowy cramped table on the back, where the mic he had on the left pocket of his shorts would pick up the conversation from the booth next to it.
As he sat to wait for his suspect and dealer to arrive, Brad dug into the charred burger and soggy fries with the enthusiasm of a man who hadn’t eaten for a few days.
From the corner of his eyes, he watched the man that entered the bar with a swagger and bad attitude, instinctively knowing he wasn’t good news. But he wasn’t his suspect, for this was a tall, skinny man, and according to his informant’s description, the man he wanted was short and bald with a paunchy belly.
He watched as Skinny met the eyes of the bartender, motioned with his chin and the tilt of the head to the far side of the counter, watched as Skinny swaggered toward the end of the bar, as the bartender swiped a stain on the counter and casually moved away from the patrons, where Skinny sat on a stool and waited for him.
Absently, Brad wondered if he’d score two busts tonight, listened as Skinny began talking about aliens, landing points and the gathering of the cult for the welcome.
Chuckling inwardly, Brad dipped his last soggy fry into the watery ketchup and noticed as Anderson, his partner, entered the bar and moved toward the table on the other side of the still empty booth.
Brad watched as Skinny left the bar – after having agreed upon the landing and timing – and a short, bald and paunchy guy swaggered into the bar, scanned it with a thorough sweep, moved into the booth.
Casually Brad ordered a coffee that tasted like horseshit, paid with a few more crumpled bills and sat to enjoy his drink as he listened to the deal taking place right behind him.
The bust was a total success, with the praise of Connor, his superior, for a job well done. The cocaine was impounded, a few pounds worth of drugs lifted from the streets, the dealers apprehended along with a few buyers.
But despite the job well done, Bradford Bonvera couldn’t sleep that night. His mind kept going back to the alien welcoming, the way Skinny had swaggered in and out of the bar, the way his gut had told him he hadn’t been good news.
Brad tossed and turned for an hour, until he finally decided to get up, got dressed, then drove to Belvedere castle, where the alien landing would take place . . . in twenty minutes, he noticed with a glance at his phone’s display.
He would have liked to have called his partner, but at two in the morning, what could he possibly tell him? There’s an alien spaceship landing at two thirty in the morning at central park?
He snorted, got out of his car and moved silently into the shadowy park – bright and peaceful during the day, scary and sketchy during the night, telling himself he was just checking that no alien invasions would be happening tonight so he could go home and enjoy a good night’s sleep. Or whatever was left of it.
But at night, deep in central park, this was a place for thieves, dealers and mafia, not for alien landing.
As he crouched in a darkened spot behind a tall tree near Belvedere castle, Brad had the urge to start kicking himself and his stupidity all the way to Mars and back. He pressed the button that would send an alarm to the bureau and would serve as a tracking device and counted heads. Four men, two of which he recognized as Skinny and the bartender. A suitcase full of money was parked by one of the two remaining men, another two large suitcases were parked beside Skinny, brimming with what Brad had learned to recognize as cocaine tiles. At least fifty pound on each suitcase, he thought with a horror and excitement he only felt in action, when he could almost taste the flavor of success of a well-timed bust. He knew then his informant had given him bad info, or sold the same to the other side – a risk he’d been aware of. The bust earlier had been nothing but bait, he realized now as he reached for the police issue holstered to his hips.
And a shnick sounded by his ear, followed by the muzzle of a gun being pressed to the back of his head.
Heart hammering, Brad stood slowly, hands up in the air.
All four men had turned to watch him as he stepped out of the shadow, his gun confiscated by the man he had yet to see.
He was pushed viciously to his knees once he reached the group, heard the ringing of sirens approaching. But this was New York, and the sound of sirens meant nothing to the drug lords hidden in the darkness and shadow of Belvedere castle, deep in central park.
With the gun still pressed against his head, the four men finished their deal and began closing the suitcases up, concluding their meeting.
An owl nearby hooted a cry and the gun shifted, and Brad ceased the opportunity, throwing himself sideways and kicking behind with both his legs, tripping the fifth man just as the sound of a gun went off. Something burned the side of his head, something warm trickled down.
Brad didn’t pause to check, didn’t give himself time to register the fact that he’d been shot. He dove for the fifth mans gun, took hold of his wrist and twisted even as he rolled around, pulling the man with him. He felt when the bullet hit the man now covering him, heard the sound of the FBI entering the scene. As he pushed the limp body away from him, Brad saw three of the four men being cuffed by his teammates, looked around for the fourth, found Skinny making a run for it. With a shout to let his partner know, Brad pursued, despite feeling his world tilting to the side. He dodged a tree that shot out of the darkness like a ghost, pressed a hand over the wound on the side of his head, knew he’d need stitches, even if the bullet had only skimmed by.
He sited the fifth’s man gun at Skinny, took aim and shot him on the leg. The bullet didn’t take Skinny’s leg from under him as he’d hoped, but Skinny did falter. It was enough for Brad to gain on him, tackle him to the ground and pull his hands to his back.
Later, after Brad gave his report, he went home, the sky already bright with morning, satisfied – despite his aching head – that he had done a good job, that no one out there would be overdosing from this particular batch of drugs.
This time when he closed his eyes, he fell asleep instantly, no longer concerned with alien drug lords.

Writing prompt contest: short story


            Second chance mushroom


Danny Lee Bonvera dug into the soil, weeded out the stubborn roots. The sun beat down on her head relentlessly, but she wouldn’t – couldn’t go back into the silent house to pick up her gardening hat. She’d been out here for the better part of the day, weeding, snipping, fluffing the soil for the roses and azaleas and wild lilies she’d been planting for over two decades. She’d already tended to her butterfly garden, checked her inbox, and sent Brad, her friend and ex-husband an e-mail. He’d replied right away, which told her he’d either had been waiting for it or had been about to send her one.

They had been doing this back and forth every year on the fourth of July for exactly two decades, to remind each other what they had lost . . . and that they couldn’t forget.

Julie, her baby…

Danny Lee yanked off a stubborn weed, spotted another one, this one strange looking. Like a mushroom, but yet … she yanked it too, her beautiful baby in mind, her need to hold her, even after 20 years just as strong. It had never faded, her love, her grief. There were moments she’d get distracted, think about something else, and even smile.

The sun flashed once, white hot in front of her eyes, and Danny lee leaned back on her haunches, frowning. The sun, that relentless ball of fire, beat down like a hot wave in an inferno, incessant. Danny lee stood abruptly, convinced now to go back inside for her hat, because she didn’t want a heat stroke any more than she wanted company in a hospital room, today of all days.

There was a dizzying sensation, another flash of white hot light . . . and suddenly there were shouts, laughter and a commotion that made her stomach plummet to the pit of her stomach with fear. Had she blacked out? The garden was gone, the sun no longer beating down at her like a hot hammer. She turned slowly, her heart galloping. She was inside a simple living room; scarred wood flooring, brown leather sofas she recognized were sticky in the summer, cold in the winter. A gauzy white drape hung over the medium sized window. Toys littered the floor, a doll she hadn’t seen for 20 years but remembered so well lay by the box-sized TV, where a young Larry Matt followed the progress of the July 4th celebrations with enthusiasm.

Danny Lee looked down at her hands, her young, manicured hands and whirled around when there was a creak by the front door. The doggy flap closed, and with her heart lodged in her throat, Danny Lee ran for the door, yanked it open in time to see her little daughter crawling toward the street. The busy, main street where she knew a drunk teenager would be coming …

With a cry Danny Lee ran, picked her daughter up as she continued going to the other side of the busy city street.

Her daughter, Julie, cried in fear when horns started blasting and people started shouting, but Danny lee just held her daughter tight, eyes closed, hoping to god she wouldn’t wake up in a hospital, struck by heat. This wasn’t a dream, this wasn’t a dream.

The smell of exhaust was too real, the shouts of children too loud, the fireworks too realistic.

She crossed back to her home, walked into her living room in a daze.

When Brad arrived an hour later with the groceries, Danny Lee’s eyes were puffy from crying, and Julie was still in her arms, now asleep.

Danny Lee claimed a headache, begged out of the celebrations, and mother, father and daughter stayed home, ate pasta and watched the celebration on the old TV.

When Danny Lee’s eyes finally closed that night, her daughter tucked safely between her and her husband, she dreamt of a strange mushroom shaped weed and knew to yank it again would return her to the future. She moved to it, stared down at it. Then she picked up the watering can she knew would be there and watered the weed.

Tomorrow she’d tell brad she wanted a new home in the suburbs, away from the city traffic, to watch her daughter grow and play with the neighboring kids. She already knew the house she wanted, the neighbor she had yet to meet, the kids her daughter would grow up with.

With a sigh of contentment, Danny lee turned in her sleep, grasped her daughter to her breasts and dreamt about the happiness and fulfillment of the next two decades.