April 20, 2013

No. 361

Jefferson Jackson had prowled the desert canyons for almost twenty seasons. Ostensibly looking for gold, Jackson would have settled on a mother lode of almost any marketable mineral but had, so far, proven unsuccessful.

He made his discovery three days before the rains were meant to begin.


A weathered human skeleton lay propped up on the rocks blocking the mouth of a narrow crevasse. Jackson dismounted his horse and moved closer to the remains for a better look. He searched the body for any hint of identification, but there was none. It was only when Jackson shifted the bones that he noticed something strange.

The skeleton’s left arm fell from the moldering clothes that the corpse still wore. The bones were silver. Jackson examined them and determined that they were not merely the color, but solid metal.

“How does that happen?” he said, his first words spoken aloud in almost a month. He looked up at the shadowy gap in the rocks that the dead man guarded. “Was it in there?” he asked the grinning skull.

Jackson approached the fissure, stepping gingerly around the deceased. There was something scratched into the rock.


It appeared that the letter “d” had been started but not completed. Jackson ignored the warning and peered into the dark hole. There was a faint glow from within the crevasse. The slot was too narrow to enter and Jackson worked his body around so that he could reach toward the tantalizing shimmer.


Many years later, another man rode through the same valley. He saw two skeletons. There was a word gouged into the wall behind them.


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