In response to the Local Colour | Daily Prompt .
He pushed the little box towards me through the thick dusty air. The patterned surface was various shades of grey, like everything else around us. His ashen face, covered in soot, had a wry grin smeared across it. We were both having to make every effort not to slide down the slag heap; our lives lived out on these vast piles of coal were anything but static.
“What is it?” I hissed, exasperated by the effort of trying to hold ground and hold my attention on his face. I’d grown used to being desperate and flat and his little bursts of enthusiasm had increasingly frustrated me over the last week.
“I’ve found what we’re after, the thing we’ve been look for. A thing with colour.”
I stared up at his face, then back at the box.
“Inside”, he said in answer to my questioning gaze, shown only through minimum movement of my face, animating the dirt upon it.
“Show me”, I screamed.
He delicately opened the little box, dribbling slightly and giggling in a way that unnerved me. This was not a place for lunatics. He was a danger to me, I felt.
With the lid removed I carefully bent towards him and he angled the little container so I could see. Inside, in the dark recess was, “a tiny lump of coal!”
I couldn’t believe him, giving me such hope. He was insane and I hated him. I could live without hope better than living with occasional expectation.
I knocked the box out of his hand. And he gasped and started grovelling around in the heap to try to find the bit of coal. The bit of coal, now amongst millions and millions and millions of pieces of coal. The high whining noise he was making made me feel sick with rage, like I was turning inside out, a million finger-nails running down a blackboard. The anger washed away my restraint and I raised my shovel and brought it down on the back of his head. He fell forwards and his body jerkily shuffled down the side of the hill until he was about twenty slanting paces away. I could just about make out the grey liquid jetting out of his head before it subsided to a trickle. But something else caught my eye.
Between me and the dead man, there was something different that I couldn’t put my finger on. I moved down, slowly, careful not to displace too much of the jet shale in my wake. There lay the piece of coal from the little delicate box, I was suprised that I could recognise it. But there was something about it. I picked it up, put it right up to my eye. Reflected in the cinereal sky I realised that indeed, little specks of colour salted its surface; little pock marks like a crystallised rainbow.
In a world without colour, a world of coal, I had come now into contact with a little reminder of another universe. I stood looking at it and looking at the dead man, for a long time. I couldn’t fathom his senseless murder and my discovery of this special object through such a pointless and violet string of actions.
I placed the precious rock in the box again and moved off over the leaden landscape. I knew my wits were spent and I prayed whoever I encountered to show my treasure to would accept it more patiently than I had. Perhaps I just shouldn’t show it, keep it to myself. But then, what use would it be?