Free read Friday: Alone

As promised in my last post I offer you a brief detour through the landscape of my mind. My intent is to weave a tale about superstition, and who would be more superstitious than a miner, after all these men who toil beneath the ground face death almost daily. When they climb onto the car for the trip down, I'm sure they wonder if this will  be the last time they see the sky.

This is a work in progress. Next Friday I'll add to the story, possibly finish it, maybe not as I work to uncover the fossil of the story that lies buried in my mind. Thanks for stopping by and don't hesitate to share your thoughts in the comments.

So without further adieu, I give you:


It felt as if the weight of the world was resting on his shoulders, and in a sense, it was, as a thousand feet of the earth stood between him and the sunlight bathing the ground above in a soft yellow light. Even with his kerchief pressed against his nose and mouth the dust that filled the air around him managed to find a way in, coating his teeth and tongue with a gritty film. He’d made the mistake of opening his eyes as he tried to assess his situation, and a piece of the grit had gotten into his right eye. Though it was tiny, it felt like a pebble had become lodged beneath his eyelid.

Given the circumstances, he did the only thing he could do, withdraw within himself, and wait for the dust to settle. Turning off the light on his hardhat, after all, he didn’t know how long he was going to be down here, he sat down and waited with his head resting on his knees.

An electrician with the Treadwell mine Pete and his crew had been removing the last of the lighting from shaft 17C in preparation for closing it permanently. Structural problems had been recently uncovered, and though the shaft was likely to produce for another six months, it would have been foolish to continue operations.

Did the others get out? He wondered.

They should have, all of them had reached the vertical shaft that would take them up to the next level when he realized he had forgotten his tool bag. Had it not been for that he’d be on the other side with the rest of them.

It was only a hundred dollars worth of tools, but hey, a hundred bucks was a hundred bucks. He dropped his hand to the tool bag next to him, comforted by its familiar shape. It was his link to who he was, and what lay beyond the plug of jumbled boulders that blocked his way out.

They should be working on it soon, he thought as a stream of pebbles cascaded down the stone on his right. 

A third generation miner who had gotten the education his father and grandfather lacked. He had not followed the path they wanted. They wanted him to become a doctor, or a  lawyer, anything but a miner who spent the better part of their life beneath the ground. But he had been drawn to the job by their stories of the deep mines, and the men who toiled in them. He wanted to belong to that select brotherhood who every day walked into harm's way to eek out a living and drive a nation.

After what felt like an hour he turned on his lamp, lifted his head, and slowly opened his eyes.  The beam of his light pierced the darkness that surrounded him, illuminating the wall of the tunnel across from him that carried the scars of their digging. Long narrow gouges marred the face of the stone. They looked like the claw marks of some ancient beast, and a chill ran the length of his spine as he turned his head to the right to illuminate the pile of boulders that blocked the tunnel.

He was alone. The realization hit him with the force of a physical blow, and though he had never been one to chatter, he now realized just how important the background noise of daily life could be.

To be continued!

Here's a link to Part 2

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