The cart bounced as it descended further into the drift. Carl didn’t mind working underground. In fact, he enjoyed it. His mind turned to Bridgette, wondering where she was. It had now been exactly one week since she left. He thought about it regularly, especially on the rides into and out of the mine. She had always worried about him working underground. Sometimes he wouldn’t tell her when it was his turn to go under, just so she wouldn’t worry about him.

He found the the above-ground work boring. Driving trucks and lifts, inventorying equipment, checking the ventilation points – it all seemed like busy work. Real work needed to have a visible result, like the banging of a pick or the pile of debris left behind by the mechanical drills.

Plus, there was something about the darkness and the dampness that Carl enjoyed. It was as if he were exploring a dark place and bringing back his discovery. Only, he didn’t actually bring anything out; all materials were sent via special carts. But for twenty five years this had been his life and it felt comfortable – or it had until Bridgette left.

He noticed the air change as they descended further. He didn’t enjoy the dank, musty smell, but it didn’t bother him either. About that time the cart shook and he felt an intense heat sweep by him.

“Fire!” someone shouted.

The cart stopped and everyone leapt from the vehicle, turning in the direction of the blast. The cart that had been behind them was engulfed in flames.

Carl instinctively ran toward the cart, holding his hand above his head to deflect falling rocks. The sight of his coworkers covered in flames was a horrifying scene. One of the miners had dropped to the ground and was rolling around. Carl removed his coat and began smothering the flames. Dirt was falling in larger chunks, but no one seemed to notice. Stifling the last of the flame, Carl moved to another worker and began swatting at the flames. This person, a lady he barely knew, was lying face down without moving.

Just as he put out the last of her flames, Carl heard his foreman yell. “Get back to our cart! Run”

Carl lifted the lady by her coat and moved toward his cart. The falling chunks of debris were larger than before. Carl felt something hit him square in the back and throw him to the ground.