It’s just so perfect!” sighed Mandy.
“It really is,” replied Brad, her husband. They stood at the window of their newly purchased house, looking out over the four acres of their lifestyle block.
They were there – in their dream house, in a delightful rural community out of the big smoke. The bargain asking price was too good to resist, and the property was the kind they had dreamed of one day buying together to spend their middle ages in the tranquillity of the country side.
From the front lounge window they could see almost all of their section cascading down in rolling undulations to a stream that wandered through the valley at the edge of their land. To their left a dark clump of pines stood in neat rows. To the right, in contrast, was a weathered old shed. Outside of the shed a dilapidated tractor perched on a set of four gnarly tree stumps. The vehicle had once been red, but was now covered mostly in rust patches, dirt and bird droppings. Its wheels were missing, and it had clearly been there, a testament to bygone labour and effort, for some time.
To Brad and Mandy, it all added to the picturesqueness of the property. To Jackson and Matthew, their two sons, it added to the adventurousness of their new home.
Mandy turned to Brad, “Do you know where the boys are at the moment?”
“They went down to the stream. They’ve convinced themselves they will find buried treasure so they took the shovel.” At 11 and 7 years old, they were capable of looking after themselves.
“I guess they’ll be a while then. Is the bed set up?” enquired Mandy. She gave Brad a suggestive look. Brad met her gaze and a smile touched the corners of his mouth. Their thoughts, however, were extinguished by the sound of shrill voices coming from down the farm. The boys had finished their treasure hunt early.
Brad sighed, and Mandy chuckled. As she walked off to the kitchen, Brad opened the sliding door to the deck and went outside to meet the boys. To his surprise they were carrying something and wore huge grins across their dirty faces.
“We found the treasure, Dad!” called Matthew, “Look!” A small artefact, no bigger than a shoe box, was held aloft.
“Wow, nice work!” shouted Brad. “Let’s have a look at it.”
The boys marched up the stairs of the deck and plonked their discovery on the outdoor table. To Brad’s utter bewilderment it actually looked like a miniature chest. It was not locked but the aged hinges stubbornly resisted. As Brad prised off the lid he felt the hair on the back of his neck prickle in sudden apprehension. Inside was a single, crumpled piece of paper. Brad carefully unravelled it to view the contents. What he saw overcame him with such a terrible fear that his eyes started watering and he felt physically ill.
Dan Oliver (NZ)
Writers: Gabrielle Burt, cocobaby08, Donna McT, angelashaw, Ray Stone, Suraya, Iliena Bosu, AzadehN, dannyo77, Lrennes