071 - flesh
A new cloud of dust kicked up as the shovel once again bit into the dirt. Lowell filled it with as much dirt as he could, and then heaved it back over his shoulder. The freshly-unearthed soil hit and added to a much larger pile. His hole was a little bit deeper.
Lowell wiped some sweat off of his brow. When he had first begun his excavation projects, he had been unaccustomed to digging. The sheer mess of it all. He had tried to make sure to arrange his discarded dirt in careful piles, and he had even tried to keep his clothes and skin relatively clean.
By now, though, he knew how impossible such goals were. So, in wiping the sweat off his face, he knew that he had created a fresh smear of mud that would cling to him. He didn't care, though, it somehow made him feel more comfortable. At least those beads of sweat would not fall into the dirt below, just adding a minuscule but somehow perceivable amount of weight that would bog down his next shovelful of excavation.
And then Lowell carried on. Again, and again, he worked for what seemed like hours. He lacked a watch or any device to keep track of time. The sun was the only agent that kept track of how the day whittled away, and at times it was hard for Lowell to rely even on that. Only when it became truly too dark to see did he know that it was time to pack it in for the day.
There was a certain rhythm to the sound of the shovel digging in, his body hoisting it up behind him, and the dirt hitting the pile. Repeat, and repeat, and progress would be made. Lowell could find himself falling into a trance. Thus, he was taken aback slightly when he heard a voice suddenly break his rhythm.
It was a female voice, faint at first. He wasn't even sure that he had heard her the first time she had called, because her voice was barely audible over the process of digging. Perhaps he had just heard her by luck. Lowell stopped, letting the shovel rest, so that he could hear her calling clearly.
"Lowell, are you down there?" She asked. It was his wife, Sarah. He knew now. "Yes?" he called back up, his voiced weathered and raspy. "Can you come up? We need to talk," she said, peering down into the hole. He could only tell from the slight shadow that her body cast in the light.
Lowell sighed silently. He did not want to stop, but he knew his duties to his wife, and so he did not voice a word of complaint. He let his shovel drop to the cold earth and began to work his way up the simple ladder he brought down with him into his hole. The world rapidly grew brighter, and a few moments later, he emerged at the surface.
Looking upon Sarah, he saw that she was still as beautiful as the day they wed. She still retained her youth, but it was slightly scarred from worry. She carried their baby son, Benjamin, safely bundled up in her arms. She stared at him, her eyes piercing Lowell, as if she were trying to find something within him.
"What is it?" Lowell asked, not sounding impatient or bothered in the slightest. Sarah continued her piercing stare in silence for a moment or two more. "When will you finish with this hole-digging nonsense, Lowell?" she asked.
"When I find what I'm looking for."