I’m Rush Allen James, named for my father, Allen James.
A man of integrity, my dad respected all life. In his journal, he wrote about friends, family and the secret we kept hidden from the world.
April 7, 1988
The mines are supposed to be secure now. The words, Safety First, are written on signs, paperwork, even on the back of my gray uniform. But somehow the meaning has been lost in production. Quantity. The foreman pushes us harder every day.
April 8, 1988
Hired this week, my friend Mike Night worked his first full day on the job. His position at ICC, Indiana Coal Company, is the same as mine—the belt line.
I gave him a bright pink apron with the words, New Kid on the Block written across the front, as a joke. I can’t believe he wore it all day. The guy has a great sense of humor.
April 9, 1988
I talked with her today. Only a couple women work below ground at ICC. She drives around in a front-end loader. Lori is the most beautiful machine operator that has ever lived. I want to ask her out, but I haven’t gained the courage. The coal mine trouble maker, Devin Ripley keeps hanging around her.
April 10, 1988, was the day my father’s life changed forever. As I read his journal, the story came to life in my mind . . .
The main housing held two elevators. The one we rode was ready for a one-way trip down. Our destination—vein two, deep into the depths of coal mine hell.
A call to hold the doors rang off of the first tower’s metal braces. I nodded a go to the controller. Too late. Devin Ripley slipped in before the gate closed.
“Don’t want to be late.” He winked.
Lori, Mike and I hung our heads. Ripley again.
My safety helmet fell loose, so I gave a pat to the hard casing. “Here we go.” I sighed. “Another day, another fifty cents.”
We each coordinated in our gray uniforms except for Mike.
“I can’t believe you’re wearing that stupid apron again?” I chuckled.
The big man twirled like he had a hula-hoop on his hips. “I’m gettin’ used to the look. It makes a good sweat rag too.” As he leaned forward and grabbed the ruffed bottom, the elevator shifted. It made a loud screech.
Lori grabbed my hand as we stopped and sat completely still.
Her scream rang out as my feet came off the ground. The lights flashed, then the breaks squealed and the descent slowed to a stop. We had fallen at least 10 feet.
I pressed my palms against the wall. “Whoa, baby.” It happened so quickly, my life didn’t have a chance to flash before my eyes, and it wasn’t over. The elevator dangled with a slight slant to the floor.
Mike moaned. He had toppled over and now held his head.
“No one move.” I straddled my legs and reached for him. “Easy big boy. Are you okay?”
“Yeah, dude. I think so.”
“Damn. They don’t pay me enough for this!” Ripley kicked the wall, and the loud bang echoed down the shaft.
“Don’t,” Lori yelled. She had landed on the steel floor next to me. “Oh my God, you’re going to make us drop!” She bowed her head to examine her leg.
“Are you hurt?” I asked.
“It’s not bad.”
I tapped the signal button, and the elevator screeched once more. All eyes went up, and we waited, but it didn’t move.
“Did you see the flash of light?” I helped Lori to her feet. “I think we passed vein one.”
The frightened look in her dark eyes—I’m sure they matched my own. The twisted pleat of her raven black hair brushed against me, and I didn’t mind that she leaned close.
Mike pressed his back against the wall. “My heart is pounding.” His hand rose to his chest.
“Maintenance will get a handle on it.” Ripley snickered. “Don’t cry in your tutu.”
That’s all it took. The bully had started a ten minute argument. The two threw sarcastic remarks at one another until Lori couldn’t take more.
“Please stop,” she yelled. “I’m surrounded by testosterone in a broken elevator. Do you want me to go insane?”
And she was right. What a nightmare—to be stuck in a box with my biggest crush since high school, the mine’s nastiest bully and a guy in a pink apron that resembles a tutu. Come on, get this baby going.
The cable must have slipped again,” I said. “Maybe the winch. But Ripley is right. The controller will alert maintenance.” I nodded, wiped the sweat from my brow and prayed.
Ripley grinned. “Hope they don’t drop us 100 feet down the shaft.” He took a step toward Lori. “You know a sexy girl like you has no business down here with us dirty old men.”
“You’re the only dirty old man I know.” Lori wrinkled her nose. “And I’m going to run over you with my bucket when we get out of this contraption.
The elevator finally moved. It seemed to have caught and straightened.
“You’re a brave girl,” I whispered to Lori. “Can I watch when you run over Ripley?”
Today I close the journal knowing the elevator was only the beginning. My father had no clue of the horrors about to unfold.
Read how methane gas ignites deep in the mine shaft, and causes Rush James to become a Plasmetric in the human world. A Fantasy, Science fiction, romance, mystery--Click Polarity and follow the link.