The next time I go looking for my heart’s desire, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. If it’s not there, then I never really lost it to begin with. ~Dorothy Gale, The Wizard of Oz
Of course, Samantha Sylvan wasn’t expecting to make a momentous discovery in the backyard on that sultry summer day. Would anyone, especially if that anyone was a wisp of a girl of a mere seven years, prone to an overactive imagination, but not so overactive that she expected miracles to rain down on her like so many fat, glossy raindrops.
All Samantha was expecting that day was another “adventure” of her own fashioning (her adventures rarely extended beyond the radius of her own small farm ever since the Sage girl the next farm over had gone missing four months ago). Because the nearest neighbors were ¾ of a mile away, and because the nearest who actually had children Samantha’s age were even further than that, Samantha had gotten used to occupying her time playing by herself. She didn’t really mind it, or maybe she did but was too used to it to notice anymore. The only potential, easily accessible playmate was her brother Joshua, but at twelve he was not too keen on the “baby stuff” that playing with his little sister would entail.
And so, on this particular afternoon square in the middle of the dog days of mid-August Samantha was searching for “buried treasure” around the backyard. The size of the house belied
the sprawling backyard, which was boxed in by three closely-planted rows of birch trees, now casting sharp shadows in the summer sun. Samantha had spent most of the early afternoon drawing a treasure map of the yard with her box of eight Crayola crayons, which were almost worn down to stubs after months of use. There were, of course, “X” markings in the spots where treasure was sure to be found (as unlikely as a band of rowdy pirates visiting her tiny farming town may be).
She was digging with a small spade at the third of these spots (not too far down, just the six inches or so it took to hit the layer of clay that hid just below the ground) when she found it. She very nearly missed it at first, as only a small sliver of it was protruding into the edge of the freshly-dug hole. But the sudden dazzling reflection through its multi-faceted surface brought out by the sun was enough to attract her attention.
Earnestly, Samantha began to dig above the mysterious object. She had it about halfway uncovered when she realized it was distinctly making a humming sound—quiet, but unmistakable. Her curiosity more than piqued now, Samantha shoveled dirt out as quickly as she could and in a few minutes, it was uncovered.
She spent a long moment staring at it then, filled with a mixture of amazement and fear. But her wondering got the better of her and, cautiously, she reached down and grabbed it.
Once it was in Samantha’s hand, she realized that the humming was accompanied by a gentle pulsing. The sun was reflecting the surface brilliantly now, almost to the point that Samantha could not look at it head-on. And it was a strange shape, somewhere between an elongated circle and a rectangle—the corners were sharp, but the middle of the edge was as round and symmetrical as a globe.
But none of that was the most remarkable thing about it, none of that was what made Samantha stare at it, transfixed. The thing that made it impossible to look away from it, impossible to squint even with how determinedly it dazzled, was the color. It was, much to Samantha’s amazement, like no color she had ever seen before, not at all. It was not one of the colors in her Crayola box, it was not any mixture of them, it was not the sky or the soft grass or the ragged field of corn just beyond the edge of the yard. It was something entirely new and that amazed her. She was so startled that she spent a good ten minutes staring at it, rotating it again and again in her sweaty palm and examining it from every possible angle, sure that she must be making some sort of mistake because what in heaven’s name was going on if she wasn’t?
Having no idea what else to do, Samantha finally walked, slowly, into the house (she had a vague feeling that if she moved to quickly the mysterious thing in her hand would fall and shatter). Both of her parents were away in town for their monthly trip to stock up on essentials, so the only other person home was her brother Joshua. Samantha found him reclining on the couch, reading Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. He did not look up as Samantha came in.
“Joshua,” said Samantha in a quiet voice.
He still did not look up from his book. “Yeh,” he said in his usual disinterested voice that he used when he was dealing with his sister.
“Joshua,” Samantha repeated. “I think…I think I just discovered a new colour.”
Joshua did the vocal equivalent of rolling his eyes. “Samantha, there aren’t any new colors,” he scoffed. “All the colors there are were discovered a long time ago. The only colors there can be that there aren’t already are combinations of other colors.”
“But Joshua, look,” said Samantha, and, hearing the urgency of her voice, her brother finally raised his eyes from the book, and very nearly dropped it as he did. With a look on his face that was a mixture of confusion and amazement, he sat up and placed the book face-down on the couch next to him.
He had the same long pause that Samantha had when she had first seen it, and then he spoke. “I think…I think you’re right, Sam,” he said, without the edge in his tone that he almost always used when talking to her. “That’s…that isn’t like any color either of us has ever seen before, is it? That’s not like anything anyone has ever seen before, I don’t think.”
“I told you!” Samantha said triumphantly, unable to resist the urge to revel in her (so uncommon) victory just a little. “And you should see it in the sun, the way it sparkles, I can’t even tell you…and look, it’s moving, and can you hear it? Can you hear it hum?”
Joshua walked slowly over to Samantha. “Let me see it,” he said slowly, and she handed it to him, very carefully, once again overcome by a vision of dropping it and shattering it and the fear that somehow that would make the effect of it completely disappear, would make it turn into something entirely ordinary. She shook her head slightly, trying to dismiss the strange idea.
Once he was holding it, Joshua turned it over, examining it in the same way Samantha had in the backyard. It was true, there was no denying it—it was absolutely a color that did not exist otherwise in any way, shape, or form. He couldn’t understand how this was true, but it was. His head started filling up with strange ideas of what it could possibly be—something left behind by Martians? A bizarre artifact from ancient times? A prankster scientist’s joke? Not knowing which, if any, of these possibilities was correct crowded his head so much that it pushed out his initial awe about the fascinating find. In fact, he was starting to feel very frustrated. There was no possible way to figure out what it was or how it had gotten there, no way to know if it was something left behind intentionally.
Samantha, however, did not appear to be bothered by this at all. In fact, she was growing more and more excited with every passing minute, to the point that she seemed about on the verge of jumping up and down. “We have to tell everybody! We have to tell everybody!” she exclaimed. “I can’t wait until Ma and Pa get home!”
But Joshua was starting to feel more pragmatic about the whole thing. If they could set up some sort of attraction, maybe at a carnival sideshow, get everyone to come look at it, they—he—could make plenty of money, maybe enough money to get the hell out of this nowhere town as soon as he was old enough.
“How about we don’t tell Ma and Pa,” he said to Samantha, doing his best to sound like an authority figure, someone she would listen to. “How about we just let it be our little secret, all right? We could make money from this, Samantha. A lot of money. Money to buy all kinds of things,” he added, realizing, correctly that she would be more interested in the toys and books she could get than the ticket out that she was too young to be desperate for.
Samantha’s face clouded over. “No!” she said with surprising volume. “It’s mine, I’m the one who found it, and it’s not just some thing for people to come look at! It’s more special than that!” She had never sounded so vehement in her life.
She reached up to snatch the mysterious object back, but Joshua held it safely above her head.
“Look, I’m going to go over to the Dusk’s house, all right? Mark works for the carnival sometimes when it’s in town—he’ll know what we can do about it. I’m going to leave the thing here but you better keep a good eye on it,” he said with an edge to his voice.
“Fine,” Samantha answered sullenly. But as soon as Joshua had left she ran back to the backyard, anxiously looking over her shoulder at first to make sure her brother had not suddenly returned for some reason. The feel of the vibration in her hands was beginning to be comforting, but in spite of that, she knew what she had to do. Kneeling down, she grabbed the spade she had used for the discovery and dug a new hole on the edge of the yard, which was covered only with dirt rather than grass so there would be no visible sign once she had covered it up. And then, a little sadly but mostly resolute that this was the right thing to do, she gently placed the object, sparkling once more in the sun, in the hole and covered it with handfuls of dirt. Joshua would not be able to dig through the entire yard, would he?
With a sigh, Samantha returned to the house and went into her small bedroom. And then, very carefully, she made a small, red X on her buried treasure map, on the edge of the yard, where the trees were. And this, she knew, was better than any pirate chest.