The Coal Mine

coal mine Devil in the Basement

Jal was still in the tunnel with only one source of light: his miner’s hat. There were pools of water at his feet, which seemed to stem from a leak in an adjacent mine shaft wall. Jal figured there must be a creek nearby, or maybe the water was coming from a busted coal cleaning machine. Whatever the case, he had to jump over puddles in order to keep his shoes from getting soggy.

“Salvatore, where are you? Alfio? Ale? Amedeo? Where is everybody?” His voice echoed through the massive maze of tunnels. There was no reply.

His friends wouldn’t leave him, would they? They could not have left him. It would be against the rules of the Musketeers Club, the organization they had formed. Their motto was “One for all and all for one.” They were supposed to stick together.

“Salvatore?” he tried again. There was silence.

He became worried. His plan had soured. He could feel it. He was alone. He glanced at the closed-in walls of the tunnel and imagined it was a coffin, his coffin. He became scared and bolted in the direction of the exit. Seconds later, he tripped and fell—plop—into a pool of water.

“Ouch.” His face was wet and his clothes were soaked. He could taste a sootiness in his mouth. He moaned and cried. “Ahhhh. Ahhhh. Ahhhh.”

Although his ankle was throbbing, he pulled himself up and hobbled in the direction of the exit. When he arrived at the three-way fork in the road, he became confused. He could not remember which way to go.

Sobbing, he screamed, “How do I get out of here? Help. Help. Salvatore?”

He thought about Hansel and Gretel and how they’d got lost in the woods. I’m a potato like them, he thought. I’m always messing things up. I can’t do anything right. Through his tears, he did eeny, meeny, miny, moe and chose a passageway. He did not know if it was the right one. He became incensed. “Why did I listen to you, black shadow? I hate you, black shadow.”

Suddenly, the light on Jal’s hat burned out. He was in complete darkness.

Jal’s anger turned to hysteria and pleading. “I’m sorry, black shadow. I didn’t mean to make you mad. Please, black shadow. Please get me out of here.”

He felt for the wall of the mine but, in the process, tripped over something big, landing face-down in the dirt again. “Ouch.” He sobbed, wondering what the obstruction was. It seemed sharp. He could feel a stinging on his leg as if he had been cut. He also noticed that it was getting harder to breathe, so he took short, shallow breaths as he got back onto his feet and once again searched for the tunnel wall.

Jal figured he was going to die. It was surely the end.

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