Gold Rush was a flash fiction story I wrote for an online competition in 2013. It won the competition and has gone on to be included in An Anthology of Short Stories: Summer 2014.
A futuristic glimpse of an age-old era that time has forgotten.
This short story is offered free on this website for one week only. It’s also available in ebook and print, along with six other short stories here.
Paul B Kohler
The man across the table was a codger with greying hair and sideburns to match. His stern look said everything that it should about the times and lives of his ancestors. He sat resolutely, as if waiting for the purpose of life to be revealed presently. He wore a faded and tattered outfit that contributed to the illusion of having stepped out of the old west. All that was missing was the token Panama hat covered in dust.
Had he known just how foolish he looked, he might have opted to at least smile knowingly. But DeWitt, as his equally faded nametag read, was playing the role precisely. He was the quintessential gold miner.
“Come again?” I asked.
“It’s called the new gold rush, son,” said the old man with strong indignation.
“I thought that’s what you said. I wanted to be sure before I, um . . .” I stopped speaking when I noticed DeWitt appear to become more agitated.
“Before you what?” he snapped.
Honestly not wanting to offend the old man, I smiled nervously before replying. “Where do I sign up?”
DeWitt produced a sheath of papers attached to an antique clip board and shoved them into my hands. “Fill ‘em out. Next tour begins in twenty minutes.”
He returned to his desk as I sat across the room, as far from earshot as possible. I began to thumb through the paperwork. I soon realized that this was not really a “new gold rush,” as DeWitt put it, but an exploitation of the historic time period. When the famed chemist Dr. Rasmus duplicated the chemical composition of gold in a lab in 2125, the precious metal lost most of its value. I chuckled and continued to complete the forms as requested. Actually filling out paperwork, with paper and pen was quirky. I couldn’t remember the last time “paperwork” wasn’t completed on one of the latest transparent data-tablets, and signed on the dotted line with a mere thumbprint.
As I signed the last of the numerous waivers and releases, I glanced up and noticed the room had filled with many other visitors, all of them equally fascinated at the thought of an actual gold mine tour taking place in the twenty-second century. Time had moved on from the past so much so that in the bustle of city life, age and wisdom were relics in an era of newness and youth. Even in history classes, not a whole lot was taught of that time when greed and lust ruled the land. Now, what ruled the land was technology in a minimalistic culture.
Had I not have traveled hundreds of kilometers to see this place with my own eyes, for a school assignment no less, I would have most certainly turned back. But as I was already here, I was going to follow through with the ridiculous task of reviewing this nostalgic enigma of the Wild West. “It’s called the new gold rush, son,” resonated in my mind, and I uncontrollably chuckled at the irony of the old man’s superior attitude coupled with his laughable attire. DeWitt seemed to know what I was thinking; he glared wickedly at me from across the now-filled room.
I stood up and negotiated my way through the crowd over to his desk. I slid the completed paperwork across his desk and waited silently. He snatched it up and flipped through it, nodding in approval at each sheet. When he reached the end, he tossed it aside and looked up at me.
“Now alls I need is yer admission fee.”
“Well, that all depends, son. Do you want the full guided tour with all the bells and whistles, or do you want the bare bones tour with just a map and a flashlight?”
“Have anything in between?” I asked.
“Nope. One or the other. But I have to say, it’s not a big savings for the bare bones tour.”
“Then I guess I’ll take the full tour.”
“That’ll be $3,975. Just one, right?”
This guy expected me to blow a full month’s rent to walk through a run-down gold mine? “Come again?” I asked.
“Are you hard of hearin’, son? That’s three thousand, nine hundred and seventy-five dollars.” DeWitt was the cranky old codger to the end.
It was at that very point that I realized just what the New Gold Rush was all about. I thought for a moment before replying.
“I’ll just take the bare bones tour.” And I handed him my expense card.
Copyright 2019 by Paul B. Kohler
Published by Global Endeavor Publishing
First published in An Anthology of Short Stories: Summer 2014.
Cover, Interior design, and layout by Paul B. Kohler
Gold Rush a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.