Horror and Thriller Fiction posted March 16, 2012

This work has reached the exceptional level
A man gave his life to save mine


by G.B. Smith

Why am I still alive? I sat on top of one of the three peaks surrounding the little village of Kenilworth. Looking down I fumbled these words over and over in my mind along with the events of the past few weeks. This small coal mining town sits at the base of a 12,000 foot mountain in eastern Utah. It is just one of three peaks that serve as the backdrop for this little place in the world, that for nearly sixteen years I called home.

As a thirteen-year-old boy I was thrust into manhood at the death of my father, I wondered if I was the only kid in the world to wonder who I am. Where did I come from, and where am I going to when this life is over?
Six months before my daddy died from a terrible heart condition, the head of the union ran off with all of the union money to Brazil. There was over sixty thousand dollars, and in 1960, that was a huge sum of money.
Because the union was bankrupt, there was no money left in the fund, and daddy died owing over ten thousand dollars in doctor and hospital bills.
My momma did not have any marketable skills, and she tried to do a little waitressing and cooking, but it was just not enough.

I was a short fat kid, the baby of the family. I was spoiled and had never had to pull my weight until the day that Bill Jackson the mine superintendent made me an offer too good to be true.

My daddy had been the head shot fire for the mine. He was the one who drilled and placed the charges, and then blew the face to open up the coal seams. As a kid growing up, he taught me how to use and handle dynamite. I was not as good as he was, but better than most men at it.

Bill came to me on a Friday evening and said, "Son, I want to make a proposal to you and your mom. I want to have you come to the mine and work from four PM until midnight, Monday through Friday. You will not receive one red cent from your labors; however you will be paid the same as your father, five hundred dollars a month. The company will use it to pay off the hospital debt thus protecting your mother and father's reputations."

I sat there in the back porch steps just looking up into his stern face. He was a hard man, but fair. I considered the consequences of doing this. Would I have to quit school? Shoot, I was just going into the eighth grade.
We told Mr. Jackson that we would have to pray on it and would give him his answer in three days time.

Momma and I knelt that night and asked our Heavenly Father to help me make the right choice. I was concerned how I would complete my schooling. Saturday morning there was a meeting with over thirty of the town's folk who lived on our side of town. We openly discussed my plight. Finally Bishop Richards said that I needed to ask the town's kids if they would help me. We had a thirty-minute ride to and from school on the bus. Everyone agreed that they would help me get my homework done on the ride home. Momma would have my supper ready at 3:30. I ate, changed my clothes and then Mr. Jewkes across the street would haul me up to the mine, and I would work from four PM until midnight. By the time I got showered and changed, it was nearly 1 AM.

For the first week I thought I would die. I could not stay awake in class. My mind wandered and when I did sleep, I dreamed the same terrible nightmare.
After a time the work got easier to bear; however the terrible dream came every night. I began to dread going to bed.

On 14 April, I had just shot the face and Spike Jorgensen and I were walking back toward the kitchen or break area. This was a designated safe area.
Suddenly the roof bolts began to ring and the ground started to vibrate. I had heard about what the miners called a bounce, but until this night had never really been a party to one.
Spike was a big man. He stood over six feet four inches tall. He got the name Spike, because he could drive a sixteen penny nail into a board with his bare hand.

I looked up into his eyes and saw fear. Fear was not an option with Spike, but nevertheless it was spread across his face, and he became as white as a ghost.
He grabbed me by the arm and we ran toward the kitchen. The bounce came with such force, that it sent us reeling to the ground. Spike picked me up and said, "We are not going to make it out of this one alive." With that he shoved me up against the wall of the mine, and then came the awful sound of timbers snapping and the roof crashing down on us.

Spike shoved me with such force that the wall and my head reacted very differently. My hard hat went flying and my light was knocked off and on the floor somewhere in the pile, it became totally pitch black, and the dust in the air was choking. I reached into my back pocket and pulled out my bandanna. I wrapped it around my face to filter out the black damp of the fine dust particles.

I do not know how long it took until I regained my senses, but it seemed as though it was an eternity.
"Spike," I yelled. "Oh, Spike, where are you? Dammit, man, help me. I am bleeding." Silence loomed like a thick heavy blanket forced over my entire body. I knew that I had to remain calm and try to find the light.
I fumbled for my canteen and took a swig of water. I had to spit it out. The dust was so thick in my throat, I was choking. Again I took just a bit and gargled and spit it out. Then I drank deeply and felt it run down my chin. It was cool and helped to calm me. Then I soaked my neckerchief so that it would be easier to breath. The cut on my forehead was deep, but it clotted up quickly. Something I was grateful for. It is amazing how little things stick in your mind.

After the longest time of fumbling in the dark, I found my light. Thank God it still worked. I was so excited until it fell upon the last thing I ever want to see again. All that was left showing of Spike was that long, strong arm that had shoved me across the room. He was buried under what was later deemed to be about thirty tons of coal.

I fell back. I puked my guts out and began to cry like the little kid that I was. For the first time in my life I was truly mortified. I surveyed my prison. I was in a space about fourteen feet long and six feet wide and eight feet high. Up in the upper right hand corner there was still a small hole about the size of a football that the fresh air was coming through. I could breath. Thank you, God, was all I could say.

I turned off my light to preserve my battery. I had no idea how long I would be there. Before I turned off my lantern, I looked at my pocket watch, thank God it still worked. It was twelve minutes past eight. I fell to my butt and sat there and cried myself to sleep. I was so tired and afraid.

What was that? Huh? Who, what, I jumped up and put my mouth in the hole and yelled out, "Is anyone out there?" Nothing, had I heard something or was it just a dream. I turned on my light. It was twenty seven minutes after four. I shined my light out through the opening and hollered, "Hey, there is a man in here." A man, I thought. Yes, by damn a man. I turned off the light at a quarter to four and sat in my tomb in silence listening for the slightest sound.

At four fifty five, I turned on my light again. I heard someone yell, "Can anyone hear me?" I jumped to the wall and shined my light through the opening and screamed, "We're over here. Please help us."
Shortly there were men with picks, shovels and strong hands pulling down my prison.

"Man, am I ever glad to see you guys. You sure got here quickly. Spike is dead. Have you found anyone else?"
'"Quick?" was the response from Bill Jackson, a voice I knew all too well. "We have been searching for you for over sixteen hours."
I looked at my watch. It was twelve o'clock. Time has a way of standing still for some unknown reason. When that gruff, hard old man pulled me out of my cave, he held me close and cried with me for joy. I told him about Spike. He said that they would uncover him. He wrapped me in a blanket and led me to the man trip for the ride out of the mine. (Man trip is the name used by the miners for the cars that they rode in and out of the mine.)

They stopped about two hundred feet from the mouth of the mine to clean me up a bit more and let my eyes adjust to the light. When we got to the outside my mom was there with tears of agony. She ran and yanked me out of the car and showered me with hugs and kisses. I looked at all of the people standing there. I asked, "How many of us got out?"

Momma began to cry uncontrollably. "You are the only one so far."
Over the next three days they found fourteen more alive, and recovered the bodies of thirty three others.

It has been over forty-five years since that day, and the dreams never go away. I still wake up crying out in the night, Help me I'm trapped



This is pure fiction from a certain point of view. I hope that you like it
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