by justin boote
You know, scars are like roads on a map that criss-cross our minds. Some are short, the barrier at the end finally broken down by the passage of time. Others are end-less, they cross entire states and time will break down no barrier that impedes us to continue with our lives. These are the deepest scars. One such scar burns deep inside me now. No consolation may I find in the deeds that I have committed. My only release; that peace of mind may come when I abandon this Earth and He takes pity upon my ignorance and desire for prosperity.
Nothing could foresee the terrible events that took place the day we dug deeper and deeper. There are greater powers and forces in the darkest catacombs of Earth and there they must remain.
Understand that they were desperate times towards the end of the 19thCentury. The coal had all been excavated and most knew no other trade, so I, General Foreman Jack Slinger, was the one they turned to, to locate other fuels or gems among the rich, fertile grounds. And then it happened. By pure luck. Whilst already at a depth of five hundred metres, someone spotted something shining in the rocks. When I went to investigate, I discovered a bed of fluorite; yellow-white gems that were highly prized in the rest of the world. The excitement amongst fellow-workers; well you can imagine. It seemed that the village had found a new resource to provide prosperity once more.
I ordered immediately further digging, as fluorite is known to be found well beyond the usual depths of other gems. It was a mistake that will haunt me until my memory fails.
At a depth of two kilometres, something happened. The first sign of what would prevail later. All six of the first group of miners were dead. But not by gases as we first assumed when news came. Gas kills. But not by removing limbs from the unsuspected.
Of course we had to assume that some-how a bear or some such creature had penetrated the mines. What else, after all, could it be? Or was it that one of the miners had succumbed to claustrophobia and madness had taken him? Nothing could be ascertained, certainly no animal was encountered, so I assumed that it must have fallen to its death.
All I knew was that something tragic had occurred, yet the mining had to continue. We were already rich, but we wanted more. We always want more, God dammit!
The dead were buried, condolences offered and new miners hired. The prizes gained down there did not impede the scared and worried men to stop mining, so we continued. Until the next and last time.
It had been a warm evening. Families and children played in the quarry. The mine was well protected; no risk to any, yet the fields adjacent were a big attraction for everybody; football, hide-and-seek for the kids, peace and quiet for the elder. All knew of the dangers of mining and subsequently, mourning was kept to a minimum, in private. The family’s needs were great, and since the closing of the coal mines, a dark, ominous cloud hung always over their heads that new-found prosperity may whittle away and die, like the ground that was eaten up by our excavators.
The miners and myself had already retired to bed early as was custom, leaving the families alone to amuse themselves as they saw fit. I believe it was around three when I was awoken by the first screams, followed by shouting coming from outside. I leapt from bed and grabbed my shot-gun assuming that another bear may be in the area.
Outside pandemonium had taken over. Women were screaming in panic and despair, the other miners- having already woke up- were rushing around the camp like demented mad-man. I found one and asked him where the bear was. He looked at me in surprise for a moment and then what he told me left me in shock. No bear he stated was loose amongst us, but a giant monster from the depths. It had already ravaged and killed six of the children and was currently hiding inside one of the sheds we used for tools.
My nerves and brain failed me. What was he saying? Had liquor passed his lips? I am a practical God-fearing man and could not conceive what I was being told. No monsters lived any more than the space-men others might claim.
I recall shaking him violently and that he tell me if alcohol had been drunk between the others. The look of utter horror and fear on his face gave me the answer. Where are the children I asked him? Have the authorities been informed? No they haven’t he told me, and the children are beyond help. This was too much for me to assume, so I ordered that he take me to the shed where the creature lay hidden; I being the chief Foreman was also responsible for the welfare of all.
The noise that greeted me froze my very bones. What abomination hid behind those walls? A growl, long and deep, reverberated for an eternity that was so utterly alien and foul, that my habitual bravado was almost reduced to a blabber. Knowing that I was the one the others looked to for protection, I finally found my lost courage and ordered all men to bring guns immediately and prepare to destroy the creature.
On a count of three- six sturdy, hard-working men trembling like leaves- we threw open that door and began to shoot in all directions. That no-one was killed by our own bullets, I can only thank God.
When the howling of the thing had died along with its body, I entered with great caution, holding a lamp as I did so. What lay before me, bloodied and disfigured, is the source of all my nightmares and my foreboding for the future.
If it was less than eight foot tall, I be a liar. Covered in dark black fur like some giant bear, yet bear it was not. Its long arms were the thickness of my thighs. Immense claws protruded from its hands that would not shame the teeth of some great feline. And its head. So big was it, so overtly unnatural that all my rational beliefs were thrown into turmoil. No carnivore on God’s earth could possibly live with such an abnormality and survive. I reckoned that I could not wrap my arms around it should I wish to. And then its mouth. Oh, such atrocity must it cause! It was so wide that it appeared to stretch from ear to ear. Four rows of devastating teeth, larger and sharper than the biggest shark. What need could such a creature have for this foulness save complete destruction?
I retreated from the shed in disgust and horror. Horror and trepidation for what I had done. For such an aberration could not come from any natural habitat. Only one region could it call home. And it was not here with us.
Only one thing could I do. The thing’s remains were burnt and the authorities were told that a giant bear had run amok and had been slaughtered. What remained of the poor children was buried and their grieving families left the village. No blame was put upon me, at least verbally, but I could see in their eyes that they held me responsible for the onslaught. And I could not blame them.
The next day explosives were placed in the mine and it was sealed, hopefully forever. But what worries me the most is where-else may others of its kin lay, hidden away until greedy fools like myself release them from the rocky tombs. For others there must be. What gave birth to this monstrosity? How could it survive for so long without alimentation and still dare to awaken and seek revenge? These are questions that I hope will never find need for explanation.
The scars we left on the land may heal in time, but I fear that the real scars- those that no time will cure, those that penetrate the darkest recesses of my mind – may linger yet.