A Shaking CaveMature

               “You drunken fool, now you won’t get a thing,” Andy wheezed and spit sideways, coughing uncontrollably. His bony fist was pressed against his lips in pain. The miner’s shadow livened face gazed furiously at his former friend, “If you woulda just followed the plan like I said, it’d be fine. I swear, you’re completely worthle-.” Something stopped him from talking, though. The boards creaked, talking in a nearly human voice. His blue eyes drifted delicately upwards. He neither spoke again, nor moved. His mind was distraught with a fear that any action would accelerate his death. The floor beneath them groaned in a loud protest. All of a sudden the walls seemed smaller, and the light much dimmer. The cave seemed longer, their legs far shorter.

                Another creak reverberated directly above the two men. Andy was nearly unconscious, and paid no attention to the noise.  A small curse slipped past the large man’s yellowed teeth. He glanced back towards where Elijah lay, unseen in the dark. Then, his eyes drifted to the burlap bag a few feet ahead of him, a lump clearly visible in the bottom. Taking a couple steps towards his child, the ceiling creaked and moaned precariously. His foot stopped mid-step, returning back quickly. He glanced again at the bag. Stretching the lamp as far as his body reached, he couldn’t see Elijah. His eyes danced in contest, flickering, pulsing in the reflection of the artificial light.

                Suddenly, with will of its own, the floor pushed up with a force of vigor. The sudden lurch thrusted everything, alive and not, into a quake of motion.  The miner caught his balance fast and sprinted towards the light of day haphazardly as small rocks bounced around him. His mind, only glorifying the real of sunlight, pushed towards the entrance. He slipped on the wet rock, and his eye again caught a glimpse of the bag near Andy. Andy had started to push himself upright, slowly. In his partner’s moment of weakness his robust hand reached forward and clutched around the thin bag.  Yet, neither the dark, nor rock, had intentions of letting life slip away from their grasp. The ceiling above them squeezed, pushing down. The wooden boards cracked viciously with the heavy weight. The crash and rocking of the angry mine was constant.

                Andy got control of his breathing and opened his eyes to see feet stumbling away. His thin arms were just long enough to extend and catch him as he tried to climb away desperately on all fours. The force caused him to jerk forward suddenly, hitting his head off the fallen mine cart. The sack flew far ahead. Not even a scream echoed, just hollow, callous breath like that of a wounded animal. Andy clambered a few more feet before contorting into a ball, suddenly unable to catch his breath in the toxic caverns of dark.

                The first rocks bounced down just inches away from the boy, whose heels pushed into view of the lamp. His fast steps were uneven in the shifting, yelling rock, his bloodied hands pushed over his eyes from the light. When they finally adjusted, he recognized Andy writhing in an unbridled pain, hands groping ahead. The floor shook and rolled. Elijah gripped the dingy lamp. The flame in it swayed like a rough breeze on the water. The kid looked back towards the crevice, the rocks starting to crumble closer as each wooden board burst. His small eyes caught his father’s body as he passed Andy. Dark liquid shivered, shook in the light of the lantern, heartily pooled around the body. His eyes drifted forward instantly, terror filling his mind.

                Again the cavern rolled viciously, and the child slightly crumbled. His legs shuffled around weakly, small hand outstretched to the wall for support. The noise of the rumbling dark pieced his body. His brain rattled with thoughts of everything pleasant, thoughts of the sunlight, thoughts of good dinners, thoughts of warm beds. A bundle of small rocks showered his thin back. His arms thrown around his head, he shuffled forward with more steps unevenly. The floor settled into inaction again for a brief moment, allowing Elijah to stand up straight and regain his balance. His small hand held the flickering lamp in front of him, his blue eyes flashing recognition at something far. 

                It was stuck underneath some shattered frame boards, limply accusing, its brown color shifting and wavering in the unstable light. The boy took his crusted palm and stretched it around the burlap bag. Behind him the mine started again, quivering and echoing through the small cavern, sending Elijah’s feet quickly sputtering to a flowing run. He had to shift and push against the wall, new rocks collapsing inches from him. He knew the light was there through the dark, somewhere above the mountain far. The fury of the worshipped lantern moved blindly, engulfing, diving, whipping, creasing the dirty walls in passionate streaks. The rush of water pushed down from the cracking rock, mists and streams at a time. Clambering onward, tired, worn, time seemed to stretch into merely the play of light and dark on the walls. He thought no more thoughts, felt neither the scrapes, nor the mental scars of the mine. His body was acting autonomously, kept alive by pure unconscious will. His legs quaked with ache, his face was covered black, the lamp swung rapidly. Foot after foot he placed ahead, and soon enough the bright white square of the day was brought into view.         

                To the shining bright of daylight, he clambered out, bathed in blood, clutching brown burlap. The child crawled on all fours as far as he could before collapsing at the base of a juniper, exhausted. The callous rock loudly ate up the whole work of the mine, and crumbled casually into places where it fit naturally into itself once again.

The End

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