Darkness' Solace

April 23, 2008
By
As my eyes blink there is still nothing to adjust to. I had heard of pitch black, scoffed at “black as night,” but never had I experienced utter darkness. This is what space must be like. No light. No air. As I crumble back against the filthy wall of the mine, I hear the muttered breaths of what soon would become my grave-mates.

It was just another day. Was, that is. Slowly, I inhale...exhale...inhale...cough. It occurs to me that if there were only my set of lungs, I would last longer, but I don’t have the heart. The unfiltered smoke still has not left the room since the explosion. Everything changed. Light flashed and smoke rose as the geography of our underground home changed completely. The earth started to shift from under our feet, and gases that couldn’t rise out of the mine compromised by slipping into our bodies. The lingering scent is making me light headed. The fumes have already started to get to us; a few have slipped into what I presume is a deep sleep. The only thing more noxious than the fumes is the premature knowledge of my coming death.

John has started to sleep and Jeff is still wheezing softly in the corner. Across the room there are still signs of life. Muttered groans mixed with heavy sighs…sounds that would normally bring a distasteful taste to your mouth, but in these unusual circumstances they just brought us the little joy of knowing we weren’t alone. I assume the sounds are Greg’s, but now there is no way of knowing without speech. And when the darkness came, the silence followed. I can still hear the muttered prayers in foreign tongues, though.

As our breaths are getting quieter I have lost track of our numbers. Most people know someone who dies in their lifetime, but very few experience the horror when the body takes its last breath. The body all at once convulses into shock while the oxygen the brain longs for remains disobedient. As the brain, which is crippled by starvation, starts to sleep, the body releases its only energy left in one anticlimactic rattle which starts in the depths of the body and expulses only until it ends in the ears of its witnesses. I have heard death no doubt, but sadly I have heard too much to keep count. So we continue to slowly dwindle, breath by breath, slipping in and out of consciousness until finally our mind disappears forever. This has to be the worst way to die: the fumes suffocating the body, the darkness suffocating the mind. If God is the Father of Light I must be in the pit of Hell. Inhale...exhale...inhale...cough.

The fumes overcome everyone eventually. We thought we would be strong enough, but the scent still sneaks in unfiltered, unnoticed. I am so tired, so exhausted. I have this urge to rise to my feet, but all my drive is gone. I try to rise, just to prove I am still among the living, but upon six inches of vertical movement my will takes leave. The defeat is crushing; not only is my body reminded of its failure, my brain is reminded that this is my tomb. I now know I will remain slumped here awaiting my hour where my final exhale should let my croak shudder the empty halls of this forsaken tomb. Men shouldn’t die this way.

I am thinking about a lot of things. Life. I have barely lived 33 years, but I guess that is my destiny. I’ve never held more than 2,000 dollars, never graduated high school, and now I will never see my son. Kate is due next month, and sadly, I will be a lousy father by default, always gone. In truth we couldn’t afford a son, but I couldn’t live up to murder. The next couple years surely would have been hard, but we could have made it. I wish I long to be there now, not to change destiny, but just for the chance to cherish my only love once more. I guess future’s plans are always ruined by the present’s spoils. I had been born in this mine, raised in it, and buried in it. My only real consolation is that they might have money now. This company never treated us well; complaints on low wages were only responded to by lower hours, but maybe through my death the company will actually take care of my family. Ironic. The mine will take my place as father and provider…I only hope my he doesn’t turn out like me. We haven’t even named him yet.

How cliché. I wanted a chance, to be different. To Live! Fool’s plans! Inhale...exhale...inhale...cough. The prayers have stopped. There is no more wheezing. Only one heart still matches the beat of mine. Impossible to tell whose. Ben maybe? Tom? No, Tom was frail. He was just a kid who couldn’t even lift 150 lbs. He wouldn’t be working if it wasn’t necessary, but that is life…and apparently death as well. Who knows who? Who cares?

I can feel the airy scent in my consciousness. The worst part is knowing I am dull-witted and slow, but for some reason my body won’t respond. For no good reason I am thinking of fishing in the Powell River as a kid. It was only about four miles down the road from the house. Dad would send Brian and me out with poles, worms, and a pail. We would find a good tree and just cast and reel. Cast and reel. Cast...reel...cast...cast. Inhale...exhale...inhale...cough.

Only my set of lungs continuously fill, no one else’s. Imploding, exploding, in and out. My rivals for air have all fallen out and only I remain. There will be no ears to hear my croaks, no minds to cringe, and no tears to swell the eye. All that will remain here is that shrilling sound echoing off the musty air and freshly dead bodies. My eyelids are heavy and my heart is tired. My brain is now faulty and I can feel it. My air is almost gone. How long do I have: a minute, an hour?

I think I hear a sound, maybe some digging. It doesn’t really matter; I’m almost gone. I deserve to die like the rest, and it would be a sin to not share my grave with these men. It may be fate, but I am glad to cast my lot with such honorable men… veterans, fathers, and sadly, sons. Inhale…exhale…inhale…cough. But there are diggers, a crew. Probably a rescue team. My air is slowly dying like me, but there is now a crew. The question arises in my mind…my death or the crew? Which will come first? Inhale…exhale…inhale…cough.





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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

Hope_Princess said...
Jul. 26, 2009 at 5:07 pm
Very nice, I love the suspense and how you didn't tell me whether he lived or not. It gave me a feeling of hope and sorrow combined.
Keep writing!
 
saquester said...
May 3, 2009 at 12:11 am
Great piece--keep writing! I really like the emotion you put into it. It seemed so real--which, somewhere in the world, it probably is. I bow to you for your great writing. *bows* :D
 
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