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Your Research is Trash!

Flash Fiction Challenge

Prompt: Suspense, A Landfill, Goggles

Thunder rumbled ominously in the distance and John grimaced as he pulled into the drive. The familiar brick façade of his grandfather’s home brought a lump to his throat. Garbage was already piled haphazardly near the street.

“You cleaned it out without me?” John asked as he swung out of the car to face his brother.

Anthony shrugged. “You were late.”

Growling, John stalked into the house. The sight of his grandfather’s office, empty of all its contents, almost brought him to his knees. Gone were the books and collected relics of a renowned historian, the world maps and antique compasses, the meticulous research and secret theories. “We donated most of the stuff,” Anthony told him, “The University was eager to have it. Grandpa had a unique collection.”

“And what about the map?” John asked with gritted teeth.

Anthony laughed scornfully. “The map and the compass were the first items I threw away.”

“He wanted me to keep it safe. I was supposed to continue his research,” John moaned.

Anthony only laughed again. “All his secret codes and hidden maps? That wasn’t research, that was the trash of a raving old man.”

John shoved past him and ran up the stairs. His unimaginative younger brother had thrown away all of his grandfather’s theories without any regard for what John had promised to do. Deep in the back of his grandfather’s now empty closet, John located the false panel and pulled it aside with a sigh of relief to see that the goggles had not been consigned to the garbage bin along with the rest.

Shoving the goggles into his pocket, John pounded back down the stairs and, ignoring Anthony’s questions, strode to his car and reversed out the driveway. The sky grew darker as he drove and John gripped the steering wheel as he approached the front gate of the county disposal site. The employee at the gate listened to his plea and shook his head with a slight smile. No, they did not allow people to go looking through the garbage. No, not even if it was something very important.

Backing away, John cursed and glanced at the stormy sky. His grandfather had been a marvelous historian. John had modeled his career after him. Anthony might think their grandfather had lost his touch before he died, but John still believed. His grandfather had recreated the map and found the ancient compass. All parts to the greater mystery that was the long lost Croatoan settlement that the doomed Roanoke Colony had supposedly fled to. He couldn’t prove if his grandfather’s theory was correct – not without the map and the compass.

Parking his car under an old elm tree, John grunted and swore and refused to look down as he scaled the ten-foot tall chain link fence surrounding the landfill. The wind whipped against his face and caused his loose jacket to shudder and ripple in warning. Losing his footing on the way down, John landed with a heavy thump. Limping slightly up the grassy berm, his heart sunk when he saw the scope of the landfill spread out before him.

Heaps of garbage. Mountains of trash. Gravel roads, just wide enough for a dump truck, wove through the city of rotting refuse. John tried to ignore the stench assaulting his nostrils as the wind picked up. This was his only chance to find the artifacts. He had to hold onto hope that they weren’t already crushed or destroyed.

A single, gentle raindrop fell onto his face. John broke into a jog as he fumbled the goggles out of his pocket. If the artifacts got ruined in the rain, there would be no other way to piece together his grandfather’s research.

Wispy white clouds swirled mockingly against the backdrop of a night dark thunderhead looming his way. The old Air Force goggles his grandfather had saved from his days of service were perhaps the reason Anthony thought their grandfather had gone mad, but they were also the only way to detect the security ink his grandfather used to label and categorize all his secret research.

Jogging through a landfill with a storm threatening to break overhead any minute, John considered that perhaps his grandfather really had gone crazy near the end. Perhaps he was already crazy too. But the lure of the truth, of bringing long lost history to life, was too much to set aside.

Through the blur of the goggle lens, John kept his eyes wide for the telltale neon blue hue of the security ink. A gust of wind ripped through the landfill and random bits of paper and plastic bags skittered and twisted around him. He felt another raindrop on his face. Heart hammering, John broke into a run as he scanned the heaps of garbage.

There! He dived towards a box tangled up with some broken lawn chairs, only to come up holding an old children’s lunchbox with a cheap 3D dinosaur design on the lid. Thunder rumbled as he tossed the lunchbox to the ground and a crackle of lighting flashed across the sky. A lifetime of research consigned to the trash and destroyed by a storm. John couldn’t let that happen.

Rain pattered down, gently at first, and then in a cascading sheet. John could barely see through the grimy goggles. He kept running. He kept searching. A flash of lightning brightened the sky. Buried deep underneath the overhang of a broken futon, John saw his grandfather’s telltale coding glowing faintly through the goggle lenses.

Approaching slowly this time, John reached out with a shaky hand for the small wooden box that held the contents of his grandfather’s Croatoan research. The map, the compass. They would be safe and dry inside. It was his turn now to find the truth, even if it only led to disappointment. He owed it to his grandfather to try.

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