This story was originally published Winter Solstice 2009, on the Daily Cabal. Enjoy!
It was a great golden topaz. A man in rags carried it in his last pocket across the hundred-year ice, until he came to the watch house at the mountain’s foot. The sentry took him in and gave him soup.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
“Jim Carrys It,” he said. “I’ll tell the story of it later; it ain’t a disease. Your name?”
“Annie Watches,” she laughed. “That’s the story of it, too.”
“Well,” he said gently, “someone else will have to watch, because you have to carry this now,” and he pulled the topaz out of his pocket.
Her eyes got round as soup bowls.
“The stories are true?” she asked.
“They are,” he nodded. “Except nobody knows if the ending is gonna be true.”
In the morning they decided he should stay and watch, as if they had a choice.
“You have enough food here till I get back. Feel free to carve,” she laughed, waving at ice walls covered in old stories about iPods and fields of grain and so on, and new ones, like the one about the topaz.
“It’s true?” she asked. “I just have to give it to the next person?”
“We hope it’s true.”
When she got to the village we all went down to the longhouse; she said, “Now I’ve got here the topaz that we heard the stories about. The man who gave it me is watching for me. We might be the last people to get it. The stories may be true: if we pass it to every person who was born when it was found, every person on earth…” She stopped there, too scared of hope.
We passed it hand to hand round the circle, like people had all over the world.
My name was Nicky No-name-yet. I sat by Annie, so I was going to be last, and I worried I might really be the last person of all, because I thought it should be somebody special.
When the topaz came to me it felt warm from everybody’s hands. Then it got warmer. It burst into light like the sun we’d seen once. It vanished.
Nothing else happened. Later Annie went back. A month after, she and Jim came over the peak and said, “the ice is cracking.”
“Look by your foot, Nicky Topaz,” said my sister. There was a tundra-pea sprout there, the first we had ever seen. We quick put a seal bone fence around it. Then we started dancing and shouting.