At the neglected parking lot of an abandoned shopping center, one man handed a car key to another and said, “You have enough explosives in that trunk to collapse the entire opening to the mountain. Remember, all of the workers leave for lunch at the same time per their Union’s contract. Blow it then, and they’ll be too scared to come back to work. That’ll give you some breathing room to set up to tie the company up in court. No one will be putting radioactive waste in your backyard for a long time.”
Las Vegas, Nevada
“Look at this,” Brian Wilson said gesturing toward the beautiful art on display, the lavish food and drink being served, and the high-class guests conversing with each other. “It isn’t fair.”
“Your parents do love you, Brian,” Helen said.
“If they loved me, they would help me,” Brian said. He unbuttoned his suit jacket and leaned back in the chair. “They just invite me to these things so they can shove their wealth in my face.”
“Your parents hosted this party to support local artists,” Helen said. “I grew up with your parents, as you know, and they have never shoved their wealth in anyone’s face.”
“Well, they do in mine,” Brian said.
“They invited you because they wanted to see you,” Helen said.
“That’s not their only reason. They have a specific purpose for everything,” Brian said. “I bet they hoped I would network.”
“It is a good opportunity. Everyone here is interested in art, and you are a wonderful artist,” Helen said.
“I’m not an artist anymore,” Brian said. “I’m just an iron worker thanks to them.”
“Your parents want you to own your achievements. You must be both an artist and a businessman if you want wealth,” Helen said. “They want you to learn tenacity and build what you have from your own hard work.”
“Structural steel work is hard work,” Brian said. “And what has it gotten me? While they’re in museums having champagne, I’m sweating under a mountain. They’re building art collections as I’m building a waste storage facility.”
Helen leaned toward Brian. “Is the company you work for building the radioactive waste repository?” she asked.
“Yes,” Brian answered. “I’m not even contributing to anything anyone will ever see. After we’ve finished, they’ll fill it with waste. No human will go near it for hundreds of thousands of years.”
“Hundreds of thousands of years?” Helen whispered to herself. Brian stood up and buttoned his suit jacket.
“It was nice seeing you again, Helen,” Brian said as he leaned down to embrace her.
“Please wait for a moment, Brian,” Helen said. Brian sat back down at the edge of his seat and observed Helen’s face. She was the same age as his parents, but her face was younger. Her clothing and makeup encouraged observers to estimate her age to be nearer to that of his parents. “I need to ask something of you.”
“Anything I can do,” Brian said.
Helen looked around the room, lowered her voice, and said, “I need you to bury something in that facility for me.”
“What is it?” Brian asked after leaning closer to Helen.
“Nothing at all to anyone, but me,” Helen said. “It’s just something in a little jewelry box I don’t want anyone to find. Ever. I want you to bury it in that facility.”
“Certainly, Helen,” Brian said. “I can pick it up tomorrow on my way back to the valley.”
“No need for you to go out of your way,” Helen said. “I have it with me.” She opened her purse and took out a small jewelry box. She paused to look at it, took a deep breath, and offered it to Brian. He took the box from her and tried to open it. “I’ve sealed it shut. Kindly do not open it.” He watched her and waited for more information. “Allow an old woman her secrets, Brian. Would you please do this for me?”
“Consider it done,” Brian said.
Amargosa Valley, Nevada
On Monday, Brian took Helen’s jewelry box with him to work. He kept it in his pocket. All morning, he noted places where he might hide the box when his coworkers were not looking. His best idea was to tuck the box in a gap between the steel reinforcement he had installed and the wall. Later, it would be sealed in with concrete. No one would ever find it.
“C’mon, Brian. It’s lunchtime!” Brian’s coworker shouted.
“I’ll be out in a minute!” Brian shouted back.
“You better not be workin’ overtime!” the worker joked.
“Who, me?” Brian shouted. “I just need to put my tools away so I don’t lose them again!”
Brian gathered and arranged his tools as workers made their way out of the facility for their lunch break. Once everyone was out of sight, he took the jewelry box out of his pocket. He tried to shove it into the largest gap he had found, but the box was too wide. He pulled a knife out of his tool belt and tried to cut the glue that kept the box closed, but Helen had done a thorough job sealing it. He then tried to force the box open with a screwdriver. He broke the hinges, but opened the box.
Inside the box, there was a gray gemstone. It was the size and shape of a small piece of chocolate, but as smooth as glass. Brian tried to grasp it, but his work gloves were too thick. He tipped the box over so the jewel would fall out and into his hand, but it would not. So, he took his gloves off and grasped the stone with his fingers. It took a lot of finger force, but he was able to pinch it out.
As Brian looked closely at the stone, he heard an explosion at the entrance to the facility. He dropped to the ground and covered his face as a cloud of dust rushed toward him. He could not see, but he heard the side of the mountain crumble down.
Brian stayed on the ground until the rumbling sound stopped and the cloud of dust cleared. The generators near him worked, so he was able to see around him. Everything by the entrance was destroyed, so the front of the facility was obscured by darkness.
Brian stood up. He walked carefully toward the entrance. The further he was from the light, the slower he walked. He continued forward until he stepped on stone and debris. He saw the entrance collapsed. He was trapped.
“Help!” Brian yelled. The sound of his voice was swallowed by the rubble and a faint echo mocked him from the deeper parts of the cavernous facility. He growled and kicked a nearby boulder with his steel toed boot. The stone flew as if was hit by a sledgehammer. He wrinkled his brow, tucked his head back, and asked himself, “What?”
Brian looked into his hand as if he did not remember what he was clutching. He saw that he had held the jewel since the explosion. He put it in his pocket to free his hands. Then, he scanned the rubble until he found a stone similar in size to the one he had kicked. He bent down to pick up the stone, and found that it was quite heavy. He dropped it on the ground, wrinkled his brow, and stared at it.
After a minute, Brian pulled the jewel out of his pocket. He transferred it from his right hand to his left hand and held it. Then, he bent down and picked up the rock he had dropped. It was much lighter. He studied it, and then crushed it with his hand like it was just a cracker. He picked up another large stone and threw it as if it weighed nothing. Then he picked up and threw another and another and another. He began to laugh as he did it.
Brian walked up to a boulder larger than the grasp of his hand. He looked at the jewel in his hand and, after some hesitation, put it into his mouth. He bent down to pick up a boulder the size of a backpack. As he applied force to lift it, the muscles in his arms and core grew larger. He dropped the rock and examined his muscles. After the shock diminished, he approached a boulder that was the size of a large suitcase. When he applied force to lift it, the muscles he used grew. His clothing ripped around his arms and other places where the muscles grew. He picked up the boulder and threw it easily.
Brian cheered and began to dig his way out of the cave. Then, he stopped. He spit the jewel out of his mouth and into his hand. When he placed it in his pocket, his muscles became normal. He walked back to the light. As he walked, he picked up tools and other things that would be useful if someone were going to wait a long time to be rescued.
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