A boy crouched in the dirt with eyes that were weary from looking down.
A whisper crept nearby. The boy could not make out the word that floated in the air like an mist. Then the whisper rose.
“Dig,’ said a voice. The boy turned away, but the voice grew. The boy clapped his hands over his ears. The voice grew louder; he could ignore it any more.
Even though he felt he could not possibly press himself any nearer to the dust, the boy began to dig. His fingernails broke and bled; the dirt became encrusted on his hands so that he could not remember what they looked like before. Sometimes he thought he could not go on digging any longer and wailed and cried in despair.
His sobs fell on emptiness.
Other times he did not care if he lost his fingers from the ceaseless scrape, scrape, scrape of hands on ground. And time, whether fast or slow, passed.
Then there was a tiny speck in the dirt. It was so tiny that it was some time before the boy noticed it, though it may have been visible for minutes or years. Then it grew larger. The boy couldn’t feel it with his hands, and he thought that was because they were numb from ceaseless digging.
Suddenly a piercing light broke out from the speck. The boy saw how grungy he was, and panic filled his lungs; he was surrounded by such darkness and dankness that he wished he hadn’t found the light. He tried in vain to scrabble the dirt back over the speck.
But the light remained. it was a golden, painfully bright light, more painful that the emptiness around him. The boy was puzzled as to how such a light shone from such a small speck. Then with a leap in his heart, he saw the speck was golden too, and warmth brushed his fingertips.
“Maybe this is the sun!” he thought. “Maybe I have been down here so long that I have dug all the way through to the sun.” The thought terrified and captivated him. But as he could not seem to cover it up but only to uncover it more, that is what he did. A glow spread around him as if from under the ground; fear became anticipation.
Clink. That can’t be right, thought the boy. The ground was now scattered around a smooth little orb, like a golden egg in a nest. The boy sat back on his feet, his shoulders slumped. It wasn’t the sun. All this, his blackened, bloody hands, his aching back and neck, for a ball?
He was about to turn away when he noticed the orb was still shining. And when he picked it up, the boy was astonished at how heavy and warm it felt in his hand. The orb was unmistakably the source of the light, though now the light had spread and was a little less piercing. The boy put it in his pocket. His back and hands and arms still ached, but he could stand up straight. He blinked, squinted, and blinked again.
Maybe he hadn’t found the sun after all.
Or maybe, he had.