The Gold Hole in the Green Sea

The last of his cattle died this morning. Food would be gone by the end of the week. No money. No transportation. Times were tough. Hell, times were shit.

The last bit of milk fed the baby; she’d been hollering all morning. It was almost like the death of the cow affected her in some way. The milk put her to sleep and eased his rising stress levels, but as Anthony went to put her down the front door swung open and his eldest daughter came rushing in, her head covered in sweat, poor girl’s face full of fear. “Daddy!” she screamed.

He shushed her but too late, the baby was awake. He grabbed the child from the bed, hoping to rock her back to dreamland.

“Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.”

“Would you hush a minute?” The rocking worked; the baby was out again. Even with the pre-teen rambling her head off. “Now slow down and tell me what happened.”

“We were playing in The Green and Kenny fell down a hole.”

“He what?”

“I tried to get him out, Daddy. I tried. But—but—”

“Is he okay?”

Kenny was a wild child, seven years old, with more scars than he could count. The Green was the safest place to play. Otherwise, they wouldn’t leave the house.

“There was a dog. A big dog. It chased me away.”

That set the father off. His children had never encountered a wild animal before (everything was wild nowadays). He handed the baby off to his daughter, grabbed his rifle, and dashed out the door.

A hundred yards from his home, through dead plants and bushes and rotting trees, was The Green. Five acres of forest; a sea of beautiful trees and plants, The Green was full of life. Before the nuclear war, Anthony had always found this place to be special. But now, with the world gone to hell, he thought it to be magical. And a safe haven for his children to have some kind of childhood.

He always told them to stay on the right side of the pond, the stream of water that ran through the center of The Green. Anthony searched the right and there was no sign of his boy, then he checked the left and quickly found what his daughter thought was a dog. But it was a wolf. Full stop.

Anthony tensed up and pointed the rifle at the beast that was growling and clawing at something he only assumed was his son. Wolves were the first animal species to go when the outbreak hit, he remembered that. But here we are, there it was, and he looked around for others. Because where there’s one wolf—

“Help!” his boy cried.

“I’m here, son. I’m here.” He couldn’t help himself, and the wolf turned and attacked Anthony. Three shots it took to put it down, and the first thing he thought of was food to last them another week. Before he moved on to save his son, he made sure there were no more wolves, other animals, in the area.

As he approached the hole, he felt a peculiar energy attack him. A chill grabbed his feet and crawled up his legs before settling at his waist. He shook it off and looked down the hole, the gold hole. It shined so bright, so beautiful, that he hardly noticed his son standing at the center of the shallow pit. “Kenny, you okay?”

“I’m fine. What was that thing?”

“It was…a dog. It’s gone now.” Anthony pulled a vine from the ground and dropped it down for his son to grab. When he pulled Kenny out, he dusted him off and checked for injuries. All good. “You run straight home, okay? I’m gonna fill in this hole.”

But he didn’t fill in the hole. When Kenny left, Anthony wanted to know why the hole shined the way it did. So, he shinnied down the vine and looked for a source and, in the wall, he felt something poking out. He dug around the object and pulled it out: a gold vase. His eyes lit up and he looked inside and saw nothing but darkness. But when he reached his hand in, a puff of smoke blew out of the top and knocked him on his butt.

“Be careful with my home.”

The voice brought Anthony to his feet and he lunged for his weapon and looked up. It was not what he expected. It’d been almost a year since he’d seen another person outside of his family. This was a little person, short, red hair on his face, and dressed like a leprechaun.

“You alright there, friend? Get yourself stuck there, friend?”

Anthony showcased his friendliest smile, but this was a stranger, his grip was strong on that handle, a finger teasing the trigger. “Oh, no. A short climb up this vine and I’m free. I was just—uh—looking for something.”

“Well then…” The little man disappeared before his eyes and left a cloud of smoke. “Allow me to introduce myself…”  Now the stranger was in the hole with him.

Anthony jumped back and fired a shot at the little man. It blazed through the stranger and tore through the dirt wall, the little man still standing and smiling.

“What the hell are you?” Anthony asked, the tip of his rifle pushing toward the green man’s chest.

“You can call me L. Mr. L. I am here to grant you three wishes. Only three. And your reward would be my pot of gold.”

“Your pot of gold? You mean your gold vase there?”

“Yes. That pot of gold there. Three wishes. Whatever you want. You wish. I give. And your reward, my pot of gold.”

Anthony thought this to be too funny and weird. A joke. A crazy man loose in the wilderness. First, a wolf. Now this. A strange day indeed. “Okay, Mr. L.” Anthony looked at his rifle. “Turn this rifle into a candy bar.”

“Must say the words, sir. ‘I wish…’”

“I wish for you to turn this rifle into a Butterfinger.”

“Your wish is my command. One, two, three…Poof!”

And the rifle turned into a Butterfinger.

Anthony didn’t think it a joke anymore. All he could do was set his eyes on the vase (or the pot of gold). He picked it up, examined it, and looked inside once more. It was still dark and when he reached his hand in, still empty.

“Two wishes, I give. And your reward will be my pot of gold.”

Mr. L was bizarre, that’s for sure, but he turned the goddamn gun into a candy bar. Still, where’s the gold? Anthony wanted the gold. He had two more wishes. It seemed too good to be true, but remember, times were shit.

“I want my farm back. What my granddaddy had and his daddy before him. A herd of cows, a family of goats, all of it.”

“Well, say the words.”

“I wish for a full-functioning, populated farm.”

“Your wish is my command. One, two, three…Poof!”

Anthony couldn’t tell, he was in the hole. But as he started to get out Mr. L reminded him, “One more wish and your reward, my pot of gold. Must make final wish now.”

Anthony was annoyed, but one more wish and he could see his beautiful new farm, with gold, and return home to his kids, his family. If only she could see— “My wife! I want my wife back. The world swallowed her six months ago. Give her back to me.”

“Well, say the words.”

“I wish for my wife to be alive.”

“Your wish is my command. One, two, three…Poof!”

“Is it done?” Anthony was so excited that he couldn’t wait to get his gold and get out of that hole. As he made the climb, the little man grew. His little green suit transformed into a plain t-shirt and jeans. His hat faded away and his red hair fell from his head and face. And his skin turned brown. The damn thing’s face changed, too. Anthony was horrified at this sight, because Mr. L looked exactly like him.

“What’s happening? What is this?”

“I’m sorry,” Mr. L said. He even sounded like Anthony now.

The same chill he felt before he saved his son returned with a force. And that evil energy tossed his insides. He screamed and tried to fight it, but he didn’t have a chance. He was not himself anymore. His skin was orange now, and his plain clothes transformed into a green suit. And before he knew it, he was looking up at the stranger instead of looking down. “What have you done to me?”

“I thank you, Anthony. You have freed me. I’ve been stuck in that hell for four-hundred years. It is your turn now. You will have your gold, yeah, an ocean of it. The pot is yours.” Mr. L cracked his new bones in his neck and arms and smiled, salvation screaming from his new body.

“Wait—wait—” Anthony shrieked as he was pulled into the pot of gold.

“I’ll take good care of your family.” Mr. L laughed.


Mr. L dropped the gold vase in the center of the hole, climbed out, and looked for a large stick to shovel with. Once he found one, he filled the hole with dirt, burying Anthony and the gold vase.

Concealing that magic killed The Green, and the magical forest rotted in seconds, blending with the surrounding wilderness.

When Mr. L found the cabin, he hugged the children and kissed the wife.

Find this story and more like it in M. Sydnor Jr.'s short story collection, Nothing is Natural.

© 2020 M. Sydnor Jr.

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