Frantic Moments Such as These

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic

One William Prachert, a 17 year old coal miner, is found dead with a small note written on a flattened out matchbook.

Frantic Moments Such as These

By Ian Wolf Joost


 

“I am just a young man, also just a boy,

Trapped up in the confines of the dark, dank and lonely mine,

Give me hope, oh give me hope, that's the sole wish of mine.

I fear that my death is near, but i am just a boy” 

 

Note found written on a matchbox, found on Will Prachert, 17, found dead in a coal mine, June 6th 1885, West Virginia.


 

Will Prachert had no idea he was walking to his own doom. The doom specially picked by whichever hand guides those to it. He knew that this fate might happen, but didnt think ever in the world it would to him.

 

 He hadnt the slightest idea that when he rolled out of bed in the morning, switched from his regular clothes to his black-coal stained clothes and donned his stinking raggedy boots, that he was indeed walking towards hell's gate, the open maw into the earth.

 

He did however (and he thanks everything that is good that ever existed for doing so), right before he left, he hugged his mother as he always did, kissed her forehead as he always did, hugged his sister tightly, the brown haired little scoundrel, and walked next to his father all the way to hells gate like a real man. He died unlike most men did, not knowing when it was going to happen.

 

He remembers walking through town and looking at a robin in a live oak, and the robin accidentally dropping a fabulously picturesque acorn. 

 

For some reason, Will’s eyes fixed uppon that meteor as it crashed through the foliage and leaves, bouncing off branches, it was beelining towards the ground… making its escape!

 

The robin however dove, and right before the acorn could feel the blessed ground, the robin plucked it clean out of the air, and expertly flew back high into the branches.

 

Will wanted that acorn really badly.

 

He walked still however, now taller than his father, and almost as strong as him too... working however for the past 3 years in the coal mine has trifled with him physically and mentaly, knowing that until the day he died he would be loading coal… deep under the earth. Each day nothing has changed, and he is just as dirty, coal covered and tired as the last.

 

But he still boldly walked next to his father into the brisk early morning air and onto the gravel path and towards the dig-site. It was a short walk, only 2 miles, but during the short time walking to the mine he saw many things, one being a cat at the corner of the last house on the edge of town, it staired at him, it was a tabby, its green eyes wide with… with what, why was it staring at him? The kid wondered.

 

Was the cat curious as to who he was? Was the cat sensing something? Why on earth was it glaring at him so intently?

 

The two also passed by the local farm, run by a jewish sheep-herder, his name was Mr. Janowicz... nobody seemed to like him, but Will had never known him to do any wrong, he only traded his wool. The kid saw the flock of sheep grazing. In his mind he shook a fist at them, then spat spitefully.

 

“Bastards get to eat and sleep and shit all day with no worry save for the wolves.”

 

The more Will thought of this, the more he wanted to only worry about wolves, not of… of life.

 

They walked, the two bedraggled souls towards each other's fate, the one on the left, still alive, the one on the right, dead as stone.

 

His father was 37 years old with a wife and two kids, and if he wasn't a coal miner, he would still be a strapping young lad, just like his son would have been, until the coal industry kept growing.

 

Now he was having trouble breathing, and coughing up- nevermind, those thoughts are what make life miserable, your father slowly leaving.

 

They walked though… and the walk was now halfway done, and they passed by a couple in a carriage, a rich couple, who were entranced in what Will thought to be a lovely looking conversation, they ogled each other whilst they talked.

 

The two coal miners had to walk off the road to avoid the cart moseying on. 

 

The two rich folk looked at the miners, not with disgust, but with curiosity, “good day” the man said with a cocked eyebrow.

 

“Have a nice one” Will muttered, his dad didn't even look at the two.

 

The carriage rolled on, the couple didn't look back, but the kid did, and he saw them embrace… he felt a pang of hurt in his heart… how he wanted a lass.

 

They walked, feet crunching on gravel and breathing in dewy morning air. The sun was still to be up, but it was still light out. Birds were singing, chirping and serenading. All in all, quite the wonderful morning.

 

The site was then in view… all too quick if the kid was to be honest, and the large gaping hole leading to god's worst creation, the bastardly black coal.

 

Will often cursed god, he often cursed everything, but most often he cursed god, why in all that's good did the big man with a beard have to put it so deep below, where no hope escapes and pick axes are the tool of choice.

 

The two head to the foreman and check in, the site will not open for another 30 minutes… strange that's never happened.

 

As the short seconds tick by, the hundred men file into the camp for work. The kid learned that it was around 630 in the morning. He didn't have a watch yet, he was saving up for one.

 

He was proud of his meager savings; 30 cents saved for a new pair of boots, 76 cents for a pocket watch, 25 cents for a new pair of pants and a shirt… he still had quite a bit more to go with each item… he made 25 cents a day generally, and 20 of those were taken by his father and used to pay a debt made by his grandfather.

 

$20,000 swindled and stolen and lost by the lowercase, old good sir prachert, the bastard who gambled it all away and sentenced his bloodline to an eternity of despair in West Virginia, in some damn coal mine…

 

After taxes and whatnot, only around 32 cents a day are put away towards the debt, the family has $13,687.85 left to go last time Will checked, which was a while ago, but not enough of a long while.

 

Then the foreman came out. His grey suit was shitty, and Will hated everything he stood for. The villain issued orders and sent us into that infernal hole, some to our death and the others to just the pit.

 

This mine was deep, and Will didnt care where he was in it, as long as it wasnt in the deepest part, he would mine anywhere but the bottom... but today for some... reason... the foreman decided that it would be a nice thing, to order Will and his group of 20 miners to toil away at the bottom. 

 

While I waited and lit my candle hat, I saw the look of despair on his father's face etch out ever so slightly as fat man told us where to go. 

 

The devil really does wear a suit and tie.

 

An intrusive thought then occurred to Will, he hadn't even held a ladies hand yet. He looked at his hands, all worn and rough as sandstone. Ain't no real lady want this…

 

Will breathed deeply, inhaling coal dust every time, but inhaling deeply nonetheless. He knew he would freak out if he didn’t.

 

The group of 20 miners then began the three mile trek into the earth, where they would be mining for the next ten hours, hauling the coal and hefting it into to the mine-cart and then pushing the 700 lbs cart around a mile and a half to where we deposit it to the shovelers, then push the now 200lbs cart back to the front.

 

Its horrible work, only seeing by a candle, the silence of it, save for the sound of picks echoing through the halls, that sound was the sound that brought Will comfort in this dark scary place, the sound of other humans working and toiling away, just as special as him.

 

Not special in any way shape or form… save for the willpower to toil through a damn coal mine.

 

 

So it went like this, 300 swings of the pick, load up your canvas bag and haul it to the cart.

 

Will was the first one to empty his 50 pound sack of coal, he seemed to always be the first. 

 

This time it was strange, it was the second time he had been to the bottom, to the pit, and last time the sound of coal hitting the cart’s bottom echoed, now it didn't. It thumped into it like he had done it outside.

 

For some reason this scared him… was he imagining it?

 

He then had another intrusive thought, about the cat he saw, he wished he had scratched behind its ears, or at least roused it from its infernal glare.

 

He breathed deeply, there was air, sure, but the walls were so close, and the absolute darkness beyond his candle on his helm scared him, he was where no man should be… in the deepest darkest place on earth.

 

He heard a fellow miner walking up with a loaded sack of coal, he saw how shaken i was, i didn't know his name, but i knew him as a cranky old man. He staggered up, unloaded his coal, and looked at Will.

 

He placed his hand on his shoulder for a quick second, “I know its horrible sonny, just focus on work and it will be over sooner…” his brow was furrowed and his jaw was clenched, but the act of human contact somewhat cured Will.

 

He shook his head, steadied himself on the man, they both looked at each other and nodded silently.

 

“Right... thank you sir, snapped it out of me.” Will said.

 

“Atta boy, keep on goin kid.” he said with a slight smile, the two went their separate ways.

 

300 or more swings, another 50 pound sack slung over Will’s back.

 

He trudges over to the cart, Will does, and notices it is now almost full, three more loads and then they push. He dumps the contents into the cart, then sits down on the side of the rails and waits for two more to come back.

 

Four men drag their asses to the cart and one looks at the kid, 

 

“Aight boy, you ready?” they say, and Will gets up without a word and grabs the front of the cart.

 

Two of the men place their gunny’s down, two load up the cart, and the five of them push and shove the heavy bastard of a cart down the rail.

 

These are the worst times of the day, and it happens around 6 times a-day.

 

Everyone has around 2 turns at the cart each day. But Will, since he is young and has only been working three years has to push it three times a day until he “proves himself.” which he doesn't even know how to do, seeing as all he does is swing a damn pickaxe all day and push the shit-heeled cart until his bones burn, break, and all he wants to do is either be embraced, or be killed.

 

The day toiled on, Will had pushed the cart another time, and was waiting for the third cart to be full when he heard crumbling, and rocks falling, then a great scream that echoed and rang through the halls… you arent supposed to yell that loud dow- 

 

Another one “MY GODDAM ARM, HOLY SHIT MY ARRRRRM” 

 

Will grasped the rails, then he stood up straight, YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO YELL THAT GODDAMN LOUD SO GODDAM DEEP IN THE EARTH.

 

Then the rocks began to crumble more, Will didnt know what to do.

 

Was it a cave in, what happened. Will Prachert was panicking, he was frozen in place, thinking; was this his doom?

 

He then backed up and began to run down the opposite way of the crumbling, which was in a deeper part, but the walls behind him seemed to buckle somewhat as the dust and pebbles fell from it.

 

Will was horrified, he was experiencing a cave in, and he forgot to grab his pickaxe in his panic.

 

The buckling grew and he heard more screams behind him... they were all going to die…

 

But he ran, WHY WERE THE FUCKING MINES SO DEEP IN THE FUCKING EARTH?

 

The poor souls had to run three miles just to get out of that damn place.

 

There was no hope, the crumbling grew louder and then boulders began to fall, Will was running for his life, his candle almost snuffed itself, so Will had to slow down or he would be in the most absolute darkness ever whilst practically dying.

 

The crumbling overtook him, and he heard rocks falling behind him, blocking his path behind him.

 

This was it, he couldn't go faster, and he undoubtedly still had many miles to go, winding through corridors until he got to the surface.

 

He stopped all of a sudden, he couldn't move anymore, he sat on a rail, quaking in his boots, as the earth around him quaked as well. He brought his knees to his chin and clutched them. 

 

Kill me rocks, kill me swiftly...

 

Boulders fell from the low ceiling and blocked the way deeper into the mine, sending dust shooting up the corridor.

 

Then the crumbling stopped, the walls stopped breaking, and then silence was restored.

His father was still probabaly in there… unless he took shovel duty back at the cart dump.

 

A pang of joy surged through him, he might be able to get out of here… the rocks were not falling anymore…

 

He slowly got up, holding back that feeling…

 

He walked slowly then, sliding his feet on the rough rock so as to not tap his boots on the ground.

 

He walked and walked, he heard no screams or pickaxe sounds… or the frantic cry of the men coming to save them, strange…

 

He walked and walked more, he felt safe again, he was shaken to the bone, and cried multiple times while he walked, but he did feel better, he was probabaly getting out of this mess.

 

Then he saw the worst sight he could possibly see, it broke him, it shattered his resolve, his legs buckled and he fell on his ass.

 

There was a giant boulder blocking his way, there was no way out, and the oxygen would run out sooner than later… no hope whatsoever in any-way-shape-or-form.

 

He shook, he fell onto his back and his helmet fell off but the candle kept burning, he cried, he wept, he was a dead man crying in the deepest part of the earth… no, a dead kid crying in the deepest part of a goddam coal mine.

 

His tears wouldn't stop, how he wanted to be outside and home.

 

So many thoughts streamed into his head, it overwhelmed him, he yelped at the sudden surge of memory. He whimpered at the thoughts of his mother, he screamed for not ever having a lady to love… 

 

He wishes to be the sheep, he wishes to be the wolf, he wishes to be the foreman, he wishes to be home, he wishes to be loved, he wishes that god may go crucify himself and have satan rip his groin off and feed it to him, he wishes for water, he wishes for green things, he wishes to be happy, he wishes he had fun… he spends an hour on the ground wishing and crying and weeping tears of horror and sorrow.

 

He was only 17 dammit, just a kid, not a man, he hasn't felt the warmth of a woman yet, he hadn't felt what a heartbeat felt like, the feeling of affection was a forlorn hope for the now doomed Will.

 

He sat there and yelped horribly, snot now coming out of his nose as he wept.

 

He held his breath then, trying to hear the sounds of men frantically digging, there was no sound whatsoever, just his own heartbeat, his own heart wanting just a little more oxygen each *thump*.

 

He then quieted down, and placed both his hands on his heart, feeling it.

 

He closed his eyes and felt his heart, he watched his fingers on his chest, his heartbeat raised his chest ever so slightly, moving the fingers. 


 

Why did things have to happen, why did they have to happen in such a way that it pained everyone.

 

Why was he here, sitting in a coal mine, a 17 year old boy. What was there to gain from being down here, nothing… not a thing save for tears and lonely nights.

 

He sat now, miserable against the wall…

 

He wanted to touch someone, just hold their hand or something. But now he was to die here, either of asphyxiation or of hunger alone and terrified... what did it matter... his only wish was that he had another person here alongside him to die with… the thought that he didn't even know if his father was alive again passed through his tortured mind.

 

He had to sit here now, thinking until he died… what a way to go, he thought.

 

He then breathed slower, and closed his eyes. He tried to bring inner peace by remembering that all die sooner or later, and although he didn't believe it, he thought that it wouldn't be any different now than in 50 years while he layed in his death-bed.

 

But oh how different it would be indeed, for if it was 50 years in the future, he would have grand-kids by then, and have loved and worked all he dam well pleased… and instead of being below the surface he would probabaly be in a goose feather bed, with… with people around him.

 

These thoughts made him feel a little better, as better as he could get at deaths door.

 

Death death death, that's all that has come of this place, of the US. We arrived and killed everyone who lived here.

 

Will didn't understand why the cavalrymen had to do such things… why couldn't we all just get along, not slaughter each other.

 

He sat there and thought of the news clipping his father saved about the cavalryman's daring charges against the “Savages.” 

 

Will also remembered his grandfather telling him when he was in the Union Army that both sides were savages, they both took scalps of each other, and no quarter was the way of the sword and shot, people love scalping for some reason or another, be they Blue Bellies, Traitors, Natives or any other group of folk… Will wondered if America didnt slaughter all, if the scalpings would of happened.

 

We killed each other, why did humans kill each other… Will thought, then he remembered what the chain of command was… from him, to the shoveler, to the packer, to the foreman, all the way up to the rich folks leading us.

 

Will had never even seen a lawman, a federal, a man employed by the state or government… why the hell do they run everything, people live together, not governments.

 

Will found he hated all symbols, rituals, colors, routines, decorations, trophies, metals, feathers, and anything else that made another seem “better than the other.”

 

Will lied down again, and watched his helmet with a candle on it, the wick was still burning strong, he still had enough oxygen.

 

The dust had settled now, and Will had been sitting there a long time. But he had many more hours to go before he would expire.

 

He wished he had some paper, all he had was a matchbox… which he was thinking of writing an epitaph, one that would summarise his godforsaken life.

 

The hours went on, no sound of picks were heard, and the candle flame wasn't yet faltering, but it was on a decline.

 

It was a timer, an infernal timer, a timer that was slowly counting down to his demise, he wished he had the resolve to just blow it out, but now he was scared of the dark and silence.

 

Will then grew angry and started to cry again, he punched the wall and made knuckles bleed, he wanted to see his mother one last time.

 

He then remembered the hugs he gave to his family not seven hours ago, his mother with her brown hair cropped up and her sleeves rolled up, thoroughly washing clothes on a washboard. She got up and hugged him with her soapy tanned arms and kissed his forehead, and in turn he did so too. He then hugged his little sister, with her brownish red hair, who was sweeping, she hugged him and said, “See you at dusk!”.

 

Will wondered when dawn would be.

 

Then he remembered the debt, if him and his father died… holy mother of mary god why… WHY ON EARTH WAS HE DOWN HERE.

 

They are screwed, fucked even… good heavens why, they dont deserve it, they are just trying to get by each day like the rest of us, they are ladies… they dont get the same treatment as ugly buck toothed, grimy, sweaty men.

 

Will screamed at god and let loose a haillfire of insults, cursing the very day god created everything, and was glad that Jesus was crucified for nothing and if god was so great, why wasnt there a Jesus today, where everything is shitty and nothing is good. Where was god when men slaughtered children and women alike, taking scalps and raping...Where was god when folks hacked eachother to pieces over bread... where was god when a 17 year old was stuck in the deepest part of a mine in West Virgina. Nowhere, he favors only those who give him money.

 

“WHERE IS THE FAT BASTARD?” Will screamed out.

 

“FUCK YOU GOD, AND EVERYTHING YOU STAND FOR. YOUR WORSE THAN SWINE, WORSE THAN DEATH, WORSE THAN HELL AND ALL OF ITS INFERNAL WATER. IF YOU WERE GOOD THEN WE SHOULDN'T WORRY DAY BY DAY WHETHER WE WILL GO TO YOUR SHIT-BOX GARDEN OF EDEN OR TO THE INFERNAL HELLSCAPE OF FIRE AND BRIMSTONE, MAY YOU TOO ROT IN HELL AFTER MANKIND SLAUGHTERS YOU, AND HAVE EVERYTHING YOU LIVE FOR CRUMBLE BEFORE THINE HOLY EYES” Will took a deep breath,  “ILL SEE YOU THERE!”

 

Will smiled after this outburst, that felt good.

 

The thoughts of the dying at Shiloh hill came to Wills mind, and of the boys at Bull Run, where the water ran red as cherries, and the screams of the fatally wounded faded through the willows all too slowly… what were those children thinking… would they prefer this fate?

 

Will would have rather died fighting alongside someone, anyone, he didnt give a dam who, as long as he died a death that was worth something… this coal just kills people in the dark and another soul is put into place, no training or anything, a pick is given, and a candle as well.

 

After he blamed someone for his death, he felt a little better, and figured out an epitaph, he grabbed a piece of coal, sharpened it on his knife, and flattened out the matchbox, and wrote,

 

“I am just a young man, also just a boy,

Trapped up in the confines of the dark and lonely mine!

Give me hope, oh give me hope, that's the sole wish of mine.

I fear that my death is near, but i am just a boy”

 

There is not much else to say for William Prachert Junior. He sat and waited for his demise, and achieved it after the oxygen went out. But before his mind faded, he had a vision,

 

A vision of a black horse, on which was mounted a pale rider. It was like Revelation 6;8...

 

But this time the riders name wasnt death! Its name was life! And the pale visage was followed not by hellfire and brimstone, but by clouds and sunlight.

 

The horse trotted by in the cave, and the rider looked uppon him from its high perch.

 

The figure nodded slowly to Will, a nod of approval… she then spurred her horse and went down the passage deeper into the earth. Will could swear he could hear the call of a Robin as the horse trotted deeper into the earth.

 

Will’s fears then were brought low, and he didn't fear staring death in the eyes… she was actually quite pretty, and made Will think of those flowers that grew by the river that he didnt know the name of, of all things.

 

Will went to sleep then, smiling slightly, but still wondering if death is something to savor or worry about.

 

Four days later the miners finaly opened the tunnel, they were greeted with the corpse of the 17 year old with a flattened out matchbox on his chest… his father was among the first to see him... 14 had perished out of the 20 miners.

 

A sad story needs not a sadder ending, so this tale will end here. We must all remember sad tales and tell them just as much as good ones, for learning to suffer means to suffer less. Remember how many kids have died, how many folks scalped, and all those who were buried for no good reason.

 


Submitted: November 21, 2020

© Copyright 2020 Ian Wolf Joost. All rights reserved.

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