04 Jan Coal Mines
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"Coal Mines"Written by
Estimated reading time — 5 minutes
There isn’t much to do around Westbrook, our shitty little town in the Appalachian Mountains. The town itself only has a population of two thousand, and most of them work in the Davidson Coal Mine in the eastern half of town. My dad used to work there, before the accident. He died of sulfur poisoning down in what the workers call ‘The Gate’, the deepest part of the mine. They couldn’t even get his body; it was too deep in the hole. All they know is that after he died, the level of the mine where he died had extremely high sulfur levels. It’s alright though; I was only around six when it happened, so I don’t remember much. Just my sister was crying, and my older brother arguing with my mother about him taking dad’s old job. We needed some source of income, and my mother is a small, timid woman, not fit for the mines. So my brother picked up the miner’s helmet, and we started to recover. Over time, the memory of my father slowly faded from my memory. Until of course, my brother met his fate in that dreaded mine.
It was a cold October day, and a cold mist was rolling down the mountains. I was off school because I had the flu, so I was still home when my brother was leaving. He told me to start boiling some water for dinner, but I forgot and just laid in bed and drifted back to sleep. I awoke to my mother’s weeping, and my sister’s angry screams. I went over into the kitchen and my mother told me the whole story. He died of sulfur poisoning in The Gate, and they weren’t able to get his body. We had our little attempt at a funeral, and we tried to move on again.
That was about two years ago, and now I’m of age to work in the mine. It’s my first day, and I hope it goes well. I pick up my helmet, and I head out the door. Before I can leave, my mother hands me a small gas mask. I take it from her and observe it. It’s an old world war one mask, and it likely doesn’t even work anymore, but we’re still very poor, and it’s the best we can do. I walk across the yard and into town. It’s extremely foggy today; I can’t even see the tops of the mountains. The children are racing around the streets, decorating for Halloween. Finally, I reach the mine. I converse with the other workers for a few minutes before the elevator to the mine reaches us. We climb in, and they press 1. We start to descend, slowly at first, but then faster, and faster. We reach level one, and everyone climbs out. I remember my mask, and decide to put it on before I step off the platform. While I’m fiddling with the straps, I hear the elevator doors slam shut. ‘That’s alright’ I think to myself ‘I might get scolded for being late, but it’s my first day, they’ll forgive me’. But then the elevator starts to go down. I look at the level counter. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. Level Eight. The Gate.
The doors creak open. I frantically press the level one button, but nothing happens. I hear voices coming from the shadows outside. Hoping they’re fellow miners, I step out and try to find them. Slam. The elevator shuts with a bang. I raise my oil lamp and start to look for the miners. I’m surrounded by odd red rocks, somewhat hot to the touch. I follow the voices into a small subsection of the cave. I raise my lamp and look at the walls. Scratch marks, and lots of them. The voices are nearby. I call out to them. My reply is frantic breathing, and breathless laughter. I start to backtrack to the elevator, but a rock falls in front of my path. I slide down into a small crevice, hoping to find another way around. I look up from my current position and see strange orange lights, perfectly circular. Maybe they sent some miners to look for me. I crawl up the hill, and approach the lights. I lift my lamp to the lights
In front of me stands a creature about five feet tall, blackish-red in color. The skin appears to be coarse and thick. Two small goat-like horns protrude from the head. Five, foot long claws hang lazily from its hands. It grins. Its teeth are serrated, its face oddly human in structure. Before I can run, it slices my leg, and I fall. A small pool of blood is forming at my legs. The creature stands over me, and slices the gas mask’s filter in two. I scramble desperately away, managing to crawl in another subsection of the cave. My legs are losing a lot of blood and my vision starts to become hazy. What was that thing? It seemed so human, yet so different at the same time. I hear its claws scrape the rocks outside. It’s getting closer, I’ve gotta find a way out. I see another opening into the main chamber and start crawling over to it. My vision is failing me, and I’m becoming extremely light-headed, but I reach the opening, and the elevator is right before me, doors wide open. I use all the rest of my strength and pull myself onto the platform and press the surface button. The door shuts hard, and I hear the engine start to rev up. Suddenly, a flash of light blinds me even more. The wire to the power box has been cut.
The lights in the elevator have gone out, but I can see their eyes, coming closer. There’s at least ten of them now, laughing hysterically, thinking they’ve found their next kill. Their claws scrape the metal door to the elevator, trying desperately to rip the small holes wider so they can get it. But I am safe in here, and soon the others will discover my absence and send help. I raise my lamp up to the door and try to get a closer look at the creatures. Their eyes are about three inches wide, and four inches tall. The eyes are completely orange, with no discernable pupil. They have no nose I can see; just two small slits in its face, right blow the eyes. Smoke seems to come out of them. They stop clawing at the door and stand back. Maybe they’ve given up. One of the creatures approaches the door. It is significantly larger than the other ones, and its face has a scar going across the length of it. The beast grips the door and looks me in the eyes, furious at my resiliency. I am very close to passing out from blood loss; the world around me is spinning, but I stay awake. It’s grip tightens on the door and it closes its eyes. The slits below the eyes close up, and you wouldn’t even be able to tell that they were there. Then it rears its head back, and breathes a cloud into my face. Sulfur.
Credit To – ovectrik
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