#SampleSunday 19th June 2011

After a hiatus from #SampleSunday, I’m back again.

This is a chapter from my current, as yet untitled, work-in-progress. It might be called “Buried”, but it might not. This is from the first draft of the novel, so there may be some elements which will change (hopefully, for the better) in the final version.

If you enjoy this small piece, I hope you’ll consider my two collections of short stories and flash fiction. They’re only 71p (UK) or 99c (US).

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Anyway, here’s this week’s #SampleSunday:

Chapter 10

“Where the fuck have you been?”

Sean looked at his watch. He knew that he was a couple of minutes late, but that didn’t excuse the outburst from Henri Jarvinen.

“We tried to call you from your dormitory. You weren’t there.”

Sean shrugged his shoulders, unsure of what to say.

“Take a look out there.”

Sean moved to the large windows overlooking the site, and saw what he imagined the aftermath of armageddon might look like. There were around a dozen ambulances, stationary near to the mine entrance, lights flashing in the early morning gloom. He could also see several mine safety trucks too. People were running around with pieces of equipment.

“Jesus Christ, what happened?”

“We don’t really know, except there was some sort of collapse in one of the tunnels in the early hours of this morning. We got one guy out, but …”

Sean turned, and started running for the door to the mine entrance.

“There’s no point – let the emergency crews do their work,” Jarvinen called, but Sean was already out of the door.

Sean approached the mine shaft at a run, and approached one of the safety crew, Bill Crane, who he knew from the induction sessions they’d shared.

“Bill, do we know what happened?”

Crane shook his head. “Not really, Sean. At about one-thirty this morning, some of the guys in the dormitories felt a shudder. They wondered whether it might have been an earthquake.”

“Is that possible?”

“No. Some of the geology guys have been onto a seismological centre in Stockholm, and although they registered something in this area, it definitely wasn’t an earthquake or even an earth tremor. The next thing they knew, the alarm was sounding, and we were on the scene about five minutes later. I was here a bit before that – I felt the vibrations, too, so I was on my way over to make sure everything was all right.”

“I presume you’ve got a team down there?”

“Yes. We’ve got the off-duty team coming in too. It doesn’t look good.”

“A collapse?”

“Yes. And a bad one at that.”

Sean looked around. “Jarvinen said you got one guy out?”

Crane nodded his head in the direction of one of the ambulances. “He’s a bit shaken up, but he’ll be all right. He’d been taking a break up top, and had just arrived back down at the bottom of the shaft when all hell broke loose. I don’t hold out much hope for the rest of them,” he said.

Sean walked over to the ambulance, and saw the mine worker sitting on the step, the ambulance doors open. Sean didn’t know him, but he thought he was Turkish or something. Poor bastard.

He looked up as Sean approached. Sean sat down next to him.

“Do you know what happened?”

For a moment, the man kept shaking his head. “Terrible,” he said, eventually.

“Looks bad?” Sean asked.

Still, the man shook his head.

Sean carefully tried again. “You had just arrived back down?” he said, in slow English.
The man looked at him. “I come for break. Up top. You know. Coffee. Cigarette. Just ten minutes.”

Sean nodded. “Then you went back down.”

“Yes. I go back down. Then …”

He turned his head down, tears rolling down his dirt-stained face.

“Were they blasting last night?”

The man didn’t answer. Sean touched his arm, and the man reacted as though jolted by an electric shock.

“Yes, blasting. I was here. I heard blast. I put out cigarette, and go down. Much work.”

Sean knew. In particularly difficult sections of the rock, they needed to blast it to create fissures and crevices, so that the drilling and boring machines could get in and do their work. But he knew that before they could do that, there was a lot of clearing away of blasted rock to do, to keep the floor area clear for the heavy machinery.

“So I go back down. I arrive at the bottom. I hear the machines, so I get on buggy to drive to face. Then it happened.”

Sean frowned. “Are you sure? Could it have been another blast? Something else?”

The man looked at him, staring into Sean’s eyes, trying to find some answers to unasked questions. “You know. After blast, you clear. Then drill.”

“And you went back down as soon as you heard the blast? You didn’t wait? Or go down before?”

The man leaned away, shocked. “What you say? I am a lier? I told you. You know. I heard blast. I put out cigarette, and go down. Five minutes.”

Sean knew the personnel lift took a little under five minutes to descend from the head of the shaft down to the mine floor. So what could have caused the collapse? Could they have set another charge? Not in five minutes. He had to believe this man, they had no other information to go on.

Sean patted the man on the shoulder. “You should go to hospital. Get checked out.”

The man shook his head. “No. I stay here. No hospital. I wait my friends.”

Sean nodded. He would do the same – had done the same, some years ago. That time, most of his colleagues got out all right. He had the feeling that it wouldn’t be the same this time.

© Gerald Hornsby 2011


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