by R.T. Allenson
First there’s the light fading before your eyes as the last vestiges of the exit get covered by the craggy rubble of boulder and rock. What little light passing through each crevice is slowly blocked by dirt and ash, leaving nothing but darkness that slowly sets in the eyes.
Then there’s the silence, so surreal that you’d think it as noise somewhere but it’s not really. It’s just that, a quietness and stillness that goes on and on and only interrupted by your gasps of breath as the oxygen slowly diminishes. It’s a choking silence and it is painful, but it is also real.
The depths of the mines had long since been the final destination for the miners digging up the rich metals and minerals here at asteroid xpc:009, just one of the many floating space rocks orbiting the ringed gas giant Abraxas. There’s a base on one of its moons, still unnamed, but no more a settlement as it is a relay for heavy equipment. There’s little semblance of community but what little brotherhood we have is compensated by our salary. Just a couple of years is enough to provide everything for you and seven generations down but the risks, are ultimately evident and extreme. The price to pay for sloppiness is death or worse..
I had descended for quite a few thousand of feet already until my rover lost balance and I plummeted down several more thousand feet below. My rover’s busted, barely discernible and no longer functioning, exploding a few seconds later which brings me to my current situation. I crawled from the wreckage seconds before it exploded and would have turned and ran to the exit, which I somehow managed to land next to, until the rover itself exploded and caused rubble, stone and half the ceiling mast of the lower tunnels to nearly fall on top of my head and cover the exit completely. It took me three whole minutes to realize afterwards that my right leg was bleeding and the realization, sort of in jesterly irony, caused me to slip on tumble down the dusty cave floor. I had thought the fiasco little more than a nightmare, or a daymare, but the blood and the pain and the sickening taste of dust mixed with saliva made me realize the gravity of the situation. I was lost in the lower depths of the southern cave dralls, far beneath the regular passageways that we miners took and made passes through our round trips of harvesting minerals. My right leg was splintered and bleeding and all was dark save for the small glimmers of light which I found out were the Carabax ore, the rarest mineral in the asteroid. Such riches, hah, had I not felt blood on my leg I would be jumping for joy – such a large deposit would buy me a house..or a planet even!
The coolness was blistering and made everything even more surreal; the dark slowly transfixed and turned to ember-like facades of cold and storm-born flashes – a sight made hard to distinguish from the real blood which made little passings of waking into my senses. These were not the gravest of the things and far from the reality which troubled me. For in the corner of my eye, I beheld something sinister mad a glancing stare at me.
The fear was all too overcoming and I quickly passed out, as all I can remember…
… and I recall distinctly in my dreams, a nightmare of becoming nothing more but bone and rent flesh, torn sunder from my body by a long-vanished predator stalking the depths of the bowels of eternity. There was a name for this kind of place – hell. But this hell was no infernal pit but something older…far sinister. The coldness and the loneliness was no hell at all! For in bright, smoldering hell the screams of the damned would count for company. No. In this lonesome place, this sorrow-silence pit and older name is far befit.
I awoke in my bed, as my fellow miners told me, several days since they found me broken beneath the ash-pattered boulders and fallen ceilings of the lower cave systems. I was lucky to be alive, so they said and with the advanced technologies of our age, it was easy to remedy the sundered bone from my right leg. No miracles, simple science. But no science could explain a queer detail they had found upon my person when they rescued me from the depths. There was no doubt that I had fallen and broken my leg, no doubt that I had a minor concussion which might explain the sordid visions I beheld. One small detail, insignificant yet horrifying; for when the doctor had splintered my leg, she found small teeth impressions, half-forceful and not fully biting, marking the length of my leg.
There was no doubt about it, like the spewed forth from my torn leg. Each indention was real and with that, I remembered the name and the sight and the darkness in-between. Such nightmares in lonesome places; truly that place, resonating in name and gravity, is all too real.