By: Mikael Raheem
More rocks, pebbles. He casts them aside, although not in anger. He shifts three feet to the left and digs into the riverbed once more, sifts. Nothing, again. He grunts, dumping the contents of his pan once more into the slow moving current. Rinse and repeat. Nothing.
Time goes on for him in an endless circle: scoop, sift, then dump. With every movement he knows he comes closer to finding what he is looking for, yet the burden of age bears down on him harder with each day that passes. There was a time when he could reach to his chin and not feel a flowing grey beard, a time when his joints did not creak with each lunge into the riverbed. He could still see himself smiling at her as she sat on the bank, silently cheering him on, wishing for him to find what he was looking for.
His lips curve at the thought of her, twisting his face into more of a grimace than a smile. She'll see, he thinks to himself, she'll see it was worth it. His spine curves as the circle reaches its end only to find its beginning once again. A shadow appears over him, the outlines of a man in a grisly robe of black.
As night falls he returns to his home, not in defeat but in consent to the darkness of night. He can't distinguish what remains in his pan when the sun goes down. The shadow, darker than anything created by the mere lack of light, follows him to his broken home. He turns the rusted handle on the front door and steps inside. The shabby walls and floors smell of dust and mould, rotted from lack of attention.
The man forces himself to eat a meal then heads towards his bed, cast into the darkest corner of the room. He falls asleep quickly, thoughts of tomorrow's expedition to the river filling his head. His eyes flutter underneath his eyelids as dreams of untold treasures are revealed to him. The shadow closes in on him and he does not wake up.
Hundreds of miles away a woman wakes up. It is morning in the city she lives in, a busy time for all, but she does not stir from between her sheets. She sees a man before her, a man endlessly digging for gold, a man bent over a pan, constantly sifting it back and forth. Her eyes follow each motion of his hands.
She forces herself to sit up, hearing her joints creak as she does. A picture frame on her nightstand calls to her and she looks over. A beautiful young woman sits on a riverbank watching a man in his twenties whose hands are buried in the water of a shallow creek. The photo is black and white but she can still see the brilliant shade of blue the water was, the stunning green of the grass she is sitting on, the brown of his eyes smiling at her.
The woman rests her head back onto her pillow and closes her eyes. For the first time in her life she sees the shine of what has been so long looked for. His eyes are no longer brown but a brilliant gold as he beckons for her. She is glad to not have to open her own again.