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September 18, 2023

Good Morning? 43

By Lydia Manx

In my readings of the journal I'd found Simon Chase Harrington to be a very bitter miner. He'd resented his failure to rise up through the ranks to management during his years toiling beneath the crust of Michigan. He'd been self-taught, and as I tabbed through the pages of his journal I found some of the passages that worried me.

Another endless day. Hell, night an day if en I be truth full. Jeremy Cobb was taken out early on account of his bad ticker. We all saw him gettin mighty peeked but we had another fuckin quota to make if en we were going to get free before another day passed us. Fuck all his falling off his pick ended up with the rest of us havin to make up for his bein gone. Dunno if en he will ever make it back down agan with how green around the gills he looked. Boss said he didnt need no more problems and told us all to keep our traps shut and work.

So we have more to dig without help from Jeremy. Damn man suren could handle his self underground. The Missus Cobb will have to bury him before too many more nights I figure. She's a bitter ole woman with little resources to help so I dunno how she's goin to make it much more after he goes. Good riddance I say. Sorry about Jeremy cause en he is an upright sort but she's scary mean. No wonder he worked his self to death before he got much more than fifty.

Before I dragged my sorry ass up top I got a chance to go check on that new tunnel that Jeremy had blown the opening a week back and thought it odd. He called me over to check it with him before Friday past. Boy if he wasn't right. It was terribly odd.

The tunnel he'd blasted from was supposed to lead to a good vein of salt that was ta be easy to pull out. We needed easy cause thard been some axcidents lately that were quarrelsum to us and dangerous. Bosses don't much care how we get the salt out just that we do. The company man came down and put a giant X mark where he wanted Jeremy to blow the hole. It took a few tries to get the fire lit that Jeremy tole me that shoulda been the warnin for him to leave that spot. Twernt much more than a small doorway that he'd blew. Jeremy grabbed up a pick and begun swinging to see what was so special about that spot than he said he felt strange an thar was wind coming from the other side when he pulled his pick out from that place and a little hunk of salt fell to the ground and rolled away from him like it had a mind of its own. It was about then that the company man got called away cause another fool had a mule die on him so as to be officul and all the man went over to give a look see to make sure it weren't nobody pullin a fast one and trying to not work. The guys did that some times after workkin too many hours and when thar were too many hurt cause of the mining bein so hard.

That's when Jeremy found me out in the latest cave of salt we was chipping away at so he yanked me out from where I worked an over to the quickly growin doorway he'd made. Naturally I had my pick and he had his so we worked out the sides and with a few hard nocks put a good size passeg way for us to use to get further in the space. We had oil lanturns and went into the new tunnel space. Thar aint no other word for it. Where thar was supposed to be a vein of salt was a cubby like hole that led to another already dug out tunnel. We ducked down low and cleared the roughly carved passeg and found ourselves in a nuther small tunnel. We don't have any of those tunnels marked on any maps I ever dun seen. And in my years I've seen plenty of those maps -- hell I helped draw out a few on account of my art talents. We headed down the larger side of the tunnel and then thar was a small doorway. Carefully we walked up in that room. Weren't but a minute inside that my skin started to crawl and I felt like en someone was thar. I held on tight to my pick and swung around to see that a body was layin up against the wall. The body was all shrunk up like the dead mules git after a few years in the salt air of these mines. The clothing wasn't nothing I'd ever seen even in fancy picture books. From the long dark hair and the britches I figured it for a man that weren't much a part of the society types. His features were stretched tightern a drum over sharp cheekbones and a pinched up mouth. He had a light beard and darker mustache but with how dry he was I wasn't sure how old he was when he up and died.

Jeremy started shakin a bit and said, 'Simon, this here place is a cursed one. Thar aint supposed to be nobody down here but us miners. That aint no miner I've ever seen.' He pointed out the mans feet. Thar was a nice pretty set of leather boots on them that weren't working boots at all.

The man was right. We looked at the room quickly and saw all a manner of things that weren't nothing to do with mining. Thar was furniture and bedding and plates. If we hadn't been so damn far below the earth I would have hazzarded a guess that he'd been liven thar a really long time. Without talking we backed out of the hole and went back to where Jeremy had blown the hole into the tunnel.

Something musta happened with the company man cause he wasn't back yet so we quickly picked up all the rocks we'd smashed to the ground floor and worked them back into the side of the wall. Then we put up a sign saying danger. We'd just fixed the sign when the man came cursing us asking what we was doin. Jeremy tole him that thar was some huge rocks that dipped in and out of the walls and little useable salt. Not entirely truth full at all but the company man had seen that happen before so he said fine and had us put some machinery up agenst the broken wall so nobody else would waste any time trying to get around the boulders to get salt. He told Jeremy to forget about writtin down the spot that he'd fix it with the company so as to nobody else wasted any time trying to find a way to that section. Thar was plenty of good salt further up ahead so as to keep the man happy Jeremy took his explosives thar and shone him. I purty much forgot all about it as the rest of my week ground to a halt.

After Jeremy fell sick I went to see if en anyone else had tried to get inside that odd room. My stomach got all sickly when I saw that the machine stuff had been moved and the doorway opened back up. I couldnt resist myself and I went back into the tunnel. Thar was scraping and chisle marks that hadnt been thar when we was exploring. But what was really bad was that the body was gone and all the stuff that had been in that cave. I took my lanturn around the room and found someone had carved into the salt the words 'Good Morning?' with a two eyes and smile in a circle -- nothin more. I run as fast as I could to catch the next elevator up topside.

My heart caught a beat as I re-read that line about the smiley-faced words. I nearly popped out as a hand touched my shoulder. I swung a battery operated lantern intending on hammering it into whoever had snuck up behind me when it registered that it was just Riley.

"Whoa, Esmeralda!" He lifted his hand off my shoulder and caught the lantern before it could hit him in the stomach. His hand was rock solid and the lantern swayed between us both as it was stopped dead in motion. My hand trembled slightly at the unintended jolt of adrenaline shot through me. I let Riley keep the lantern while I caught my breath.

"I thought you were sleeping," I growled trying to cover my fear with a bit of false bravado.

Laughing he said, "I couldn't sleep, that bed is too soft and some idiot is outside yelling at the snowplow truck."

Usually the city didn't bother plowing in the middle of a blizzard; I knew from some overheard conversations earlier in the day. Puzzled as to how the hell the driver could even see in the storm, I went to the front window. Riley hadn't lied, there was a huge plow slowly working its way down the middle of the street. The headlights were coupled with some other lighting system giving the driver a small cone of visibility in front, while the snow danced around the street, still falling. I could see a heavily-bundled man that I figured lived further down the street (since both sides of my place were empty) waving a snow shovel and a fist in the air.

"At least that guy hasn't brought his gun out yet," I commented from the darkness. It was an eerie scene, lit very poorly. Winter had drained the city of any other colors but white, gray and black. The plow wasn't completely scraping the street, but enough to give passage to a car in either direction. While moving slowly, the snow was falling to either side of the blade burying any car parked and making huge snow drifts in driveways and on walkways. Pressing my face to the icy pane of glass, I could see that the man had been working on digging out his driveway and walkways when the plow had reburied the works.

Riley said, "What do you mean yet?"

I looked back at Riley and said, "Most of my neighbors are great believers in their right to gun ownership. There are at least one or two shootings around here a month. Times are tough and there have been some attempts at redistributing the locals' wealth."

"Damn, and I left home without a gun. Guess I'll just have to rip off anyone's arm and beat them with their own guns if they try to steal from us." That didn't make me feel good given he'd already run into someone in the airport trying to take his luggage, and from what he'd said there had been some damage to them. I wasn't sure that he was kidding either about the ripping off of limbs. I knew that werewolves had that kind of power and wasn't looking forward to watching it happen because I happened to have something worth stealing.

"No bloodshed please, Riley." I asked knowing it was futile.

"No promises, Emma," he winked at me while grinning a bit too roguishly for my comfort. His calling me Emma was rather forward, but Riley was a forward sort.

Ignoring his grin, I kept my face pressed to the glass watching the plow get closer to the front of the house. Something caught my eye in the cab of the truck and I jerked back, smacking right up against Riley.

"What's wrong -- the driver have a gun?" Riley smiled at me before leaning close to the glass to get a look at what was going on out front.

"No, a camera." I gulped and wondered why.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2013-07-22
Image(s) © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
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