The Way Out

Somewhere deep in the rocky mountains, a deep mine coughed a plume of dust, in a deep earthly rumble that shook the boots of the workers on the surface.  A mighty mess of metal cables, platforms, and gears twisted and fell down the large shaft.  Rocks the size of train cars slid down the mountain and buried the mine.  It was hard to breathe.  A red silt hung in the air.  The owner of the company took his 5 year old son into the job trailer.   “Son, there are hundreds of people down there.  They are going to die if we don’t figure out some kind of a rescue.”

“What can I do?”

“We’ll take a short truck ride into the canyon, out there, we’ll find a vent pipe, that you can crawl down.  I will give you medical supplies, and a map.   You have to get the survivors to go to the opposite end of the caverns, where the soil is right for us to bore a rescue shaft to get them all out.”

“Can’t someone else go?”

“No. There is no other way.”

“Ok.”  he wiped away his tears, “Let’s go save em’ dad!”

The young boy was fitted with a harness.  His shoulders barely fit into the round plastic pipe.  A small air tank was placed in before him, and behind him, tied to his ankle was a medical kit.  The ground crew greased his entire body in a gooey sludge.  He hugged his dad, they held each other silently for a moment.  Then he crawled into the jutting tube.

Just over 650 meters down, he crawled.  The hiss of the air and his dim flashlight, were his only companions in the darkness of his new reality.  Gravity helped him, and he started to slide.  The exit of the vent pipe into the mine was as high up as one man standing on another man’s shoulders.  When the young boy emerged, his medical kit became lodged and he hung like a he had a parachute caught in a tree.   Three men, helped get him down.

“Guess you the one they send down to save us?”

“Yes, my dad says we have to go to the far end.  They are going to make a hole to get out over there.”

“Sounds good little man.  You are going to have a tough job convincing these hardened miners to listen to you.  That cave in killed about 40 of us.  The survivors are scared and angry.  We have been waiting for you, and we wanted to give you a few things.”

One man handed him a small bottle of cologne, “Hey little fella, I usually wear this to remind me that there is still beauty in the world.  My eyes have had sunlight stolen, but that doesn’t mean my nose has to suffer.”

The second man handed a pack of gum, “This is for you ears.  If you chew gum, they will pop and stay loose.  Less chance of a headache.”

The third man, took a thick gold ring off of his finger.  “I am the foreman, you should wear this to let the people know that I agree with what you are trying to do.  I need to stay here and keep looking for survivors of the cave in.  Now get going, you don’t have a lot of time.”

The young boy began his journey, underground, in darkness.  He called out in his tiny voice for anyone to follow him.  Some who found him, dug through his med kit and took what they needed and were never seen again.   As he walked, several began to follow.  When he was about half way to the bore site, where the rescue elevator would be dug, and angry mob stopped him.

“What are you doing down here?!” they yelled.

“I am the bosses kid, I know how to get you out of here.”

“The boss would never send his kid down here!  Your a liar!”

“I am here to save you, please, we have to go that way!  Down to the far end!”

“No!”

The crowd shoved the small boy into an iron mine cart and killed him.

“Lets go to the main freight elevator.  We will get out of her that way!”

The mob left.  After three hours, the three men, the boy had met when he first set foot into the darkness, found his lifeless body.  Even though he was dead, they followed his instructions.  They walked to the end of the mine.  The air was thin, and water went up to their knees.  They sat in darkness and waited.

The air became thin.  Life became fragile.  Hope flickered with the last dying flashlight.   In that moment, a scraping of metal on rock.  A tearing of earth from above.  Not another cave in this time.  A drill…

It broke through and fell.  It was a one way unit that would disconnect and light up when it found its depth.  The whole cavern lit up.  The elevator soon followed.

“You go first, and take his son with you.”

Loaded in the tube tighter than a small closet, the man rode slow to the surface.  When his darkened eyes finally held the bright glow of the sun, he whispered, “Exquisite.”

 

Copyright © 2017 Zachary W Gilbert

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