Free Read Friday: Alone Pt 3

You know how sometimes you're working on a story you think is headed in one direction, and it suddenly decides to go off in another. Well that's what has happened with the continuing saga of our hapless miner.

If you're new, here's a link to part one so you can start at the beginning of the story. Part 1
There will be a link for part two at the end of part one so you can follow along.

Alone Part III

He struggled against the panic threatening to overwhelm him, taking in slow steady breaths after coming to a stop. He didn’t want to get turned around in the dark. After a few moments the panic passed and he continued on his hands and knees, the sharp edges of loose stone cutting into the flesh of his palms as he carefully worked his way across the stony ground.

He’d been less than twenty feet away from his tool bag and the spare battery when his light went out. An area that could be covered in just a few steps if he could see. Less than the distance across the front porch of his house where his wife and daughter had surely heard the news of he the cave in.

Would they know he was trapped?

Surely they’d figured that out by now and had told his wife. She would be waiting by the phone for any news while his daughter, Becky played nearby, blissfully unaware of the danger he was in. Later, after it was all said and done, maybe they would tell her. Of course that would depend on whether he survived or not. If he didn’t… He let that thought die the quiet death it deserved. As long as he was still breathing he would do everything in his power to get home to his family.

Without ventilation how long would that be? The question rose up in his mind and he quickly squashed it with a stubbornness born from years of hard work, and doing the right thing.

Carefully he reached into the emptiness ahead of him. His fingers splayed out as he slowly moved his hand back and forth across the space in front of him, searching for the familiar shape of his tool bag. In addition to a spare battery it contained his water as well. Another essential to his survival.

He had to find that bag!

Without light he was unable to see the landmarks that would help keep him straight. Making it possible he could crawl around in circles for hours as his panic grew to envelope him, driving him to run around blindly as he bounced off the walls, increasing the likelihood of another cave in that could bury him beneath tons of unrelenting earth.

Maybe that would be for the best, a quick death beneath the falling ceiling was preferable to the agonizing demise that awaited him if he didn’t find his water. Already his mouth was becoming parched, and the air around him was growing stale.

How long did he have?

He moved another few feet forward, the loose stone rattling beneath his knees as he searched the emptiness in front of him. Perspiration sheathed his body beneath the heavy coveralls he wore. It would be much cooler to shed them, but at the same time he would have only a thin layer of clothing to protect him from the sharp edges of the stone that surrounded him.

A mine was not a place to go without some form of protection. The stone had been shattered by explosions and drilling as miners worked to extract the treasures it contained. Unlike natural caves formed over the millennia’s by the carving action of running water, mines were places of jagged stone faces ready to exact their revenge for man’s intrusion.

His fingers brushed against coarse fabric and he grasped at it as a whimper of relief sounded in his throat. Stretching out his arm he searched wit his fingers for the familiar shape of a battery or his water bottle. What he found instead made little sense in the dark. The fabric ended in a hem, and beneath that was an object that felt familiar, yet alien. It wasn’t his bag and as he worked his hand along the fabric he realized it was half buried beneath the stony ground.

There was something solid, yet yielding on the other side of the fabric and beneath the hem lay a cris-crossed pattern that was achingly familiar. His fingers traced the coarse fabric that made up the pattern to one side, finding a metal hole through which the  fabric passed.

What was it?

To be continued!

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