By Russell Holbrook
Jay squinted his eyes and stared at the small sign and its simple admonishment. Know what’s below. Call before you dig! He turned to Carl.
“Management approved this dig site, yeah?”
Carl nodded. “And our coordinates are correct. This is the place.”
Jay stepped toward the sign. He scratched his chin stubble and looked closer. The sign, attached to a bright orange pole, suddenly looked like an almost perfect imitation.
“This isn’t an official county notice,” Jay said.
Carl huffed and looked the sign over. “I think you’re right. The number’s 611. Shouldn’t it be 811?”
“Yeah, it should,” Jay answered.
“Call it,” Carl said.
Quickly, Jay punched 6-1-1 into his company cell. It rang. A pleasant female voice picked up on the other end. Carl watched his partner inquire about the signage. Jay shot Carl an incredulous look. He shook his head. “This is a joke, yeah?”
“What is it?” Carl whispered.
Jay waved a hand for Carl to be quiet.
“Sorry,” Carl said.
Jay gripped the phone. “I understand that miss, but we’re official employees of the County Archeology and Treasure Hunting Division and we have our work orders.”
Jay listened. He closed his eyes and sighed. “I appreciate your concern, miss, but our work is very serious. If we don’t dig -now, today- we’ll be in deep with our employers.”
Jay listened again. His eyes rolled. Carl stood by, tapping his foot, watching, and waiting. Finally, Jay said a word of thanks and hung up.
“So?” Carl asked.
“So, this is some bullshit,” Jay replied.
“What kinda bullshit?”
Jay kicked a rock and mumbled under his breath.
“Come on, man, what?” Carl said.
Jay sighed. “The woman on the phone said we’re on consecrated ground that can never be disturbed.” He stopped and raised his eyes to his partner.
“And?” Carl said.
“And…” Jay shook his head.
“And…” Carl repeated.
“And that anyone who digs here will be cursed, even official county workers.”
Carl scoffed. “What the hell? Why?”
Jay felt his face flush with embarrassment before the words even came out of his mouth. “Because a powerful child wizard, who just happened to be her only son, buried his collection of two-thousand plastic toy soldiers here on this very spot before he ascended to heaven at the age of thirteen.”
A second of silence breathed between the two men before Carl burst into an exaggerated belly laugh. Jay smiled.
“Now that is some serious bullshit!” Carl bellowed.
Jay began to laugh. “It really is, yeah?”
“Hell yeah!” Carl shouted. “Gimme my goddamn shovel!”
The two men laughed heartily and began to dig. Thirty minutes and two feet later, Carl brought up a shovel full of dirt and tiny, green plastic soldiers.
“Look at that!” Carl said. “They’re just shitty little toys like you get from the dollar store.”
“I used to melt those kinds when I was a kid,” Jay said as he heaved up a pile of the plastic soldiers and tossed them to the side.
Carl pulled up two more hefty clods of dirt and little plastic men. “Say, what’re we supposed to be digging for anyway?”
Jay shrugged. “Dunno, man; didn’t ask, don’t care.”
Carl added his own shrug and he and Jay plunged their shovels into the dirt.
The fabric of Carl’s white t-shirt ripped. A massive wound appeared across his belly. He screamed and fell back as his insides fell out in a torrent of blood.
Jay’s eyes went wide. A scream tore halfway out of his throat, cut short by the deep gash that appeared in his neck. He gargled as his head lopped to one side, held on by mere strands of flesh and sinew.
The two men shared a final glance at one another and collapsed into the freshly turned earth.
Moments later a black SUV arrived at the dig site. A woman, a man, and a young boy exited the vehicle and eagerly stepped to the blood-soaked bodies of the dead county workers. The trio wore lab coats and the woman carried a clipboard. The man smiled wide and surveyed the scene while the woman hastily scribbled observational notes on a legal pad.
“Brilliant!” The man said. After donning plastic gloves, he pried the shovels from the hands of each of the dead workers and held them up for the woman and the boy to inspect. A toy soldier was impaled on the end of each of the shovels, one through the stomach area and the other through the neck.
“The curse is a success!” The woman said with a note of triumph in her voice.
“Yes! This will surely give us the competitive edge over Mallocorp and their simple machines!” the man added.
The man and the woman placed their hands on the shoulders of the young boy.
“We’re so very, very proud of you, Jeremy,” the woman said.
The boy smiled. “Thanks, mom. I like making curses for you and dad. It’s fun!”
The man and woman laughed heartily and drew their son in close for a hug.
“That’s my special boy!” The father said with pride.
And the little family hopped in their giant black SUV and drove away, filled with the excitement and joy of another successful experiment.