What Do You Think Happened?
Copyright© 2006 by Tony Stevens
Sex Story: Chapter 1 - This story is a little bit offbeat for me. It's intended as an homage to a couple of excellent stories with similar themes published earlier by a couple of the best writers on SOL. Readers will recognize the genre as the story develops, but I don't intend to give it away at the outset. Warning to strokers: This story has some sexual content, but it is limited and slow to develop.
I was in Colorado for summer vacation before my final year in high school, and my Uncle Willard had taken me to see his gold mine.
Having an uncle who owned a gold mine might sound pretty exotic, but Uncle Willard's mine wasn't the kind of gold mine that made a person rich. It was an old, mostly played-out corporate operation that had sold out to him when the amount of ore being extracted was no longer adequate to support mass production.
What once had been an operation employing upwards of twenty workers now was a one-man affair. How much money did Willard derive from working in his mine? Beats me. Enough, evidently, to make a living, although I know he and his wife lived pretty modestly, there in the old mining town of Cripple Creek, Colorado.
The mine had an elaborate steel structure over the narrow shaft that led to the underground chamber the two of us were in now. This was where Uncle Willard was currently extracting gold-bearing ore.
The actual "elevator" that had taken us more than 150 feet straight down into the mountain was nothing more than a very large barrel-shaped contraption hanging from some sturdy-looking ropes mounted on a pulley.
The "barrel" had taken the two of us, together, down into the mine, and the clearance around the vertical shaft wasn't much more than a foot or a foot and a half larger in diameter than the barrel. I wondered, but didn't ask, whether something more elaborate had been in use for an elevator, back when the mine had been operated by a corporation.
Down in the chamber where Willard and I stopped and left the barrel, he had electric lights that showed me what the mine looked like, inside. The chamber we were in was apparently one of several, but it seemed to be the farthest one down. It was big enough to stand up in, at least at the center, although the total area wasn't much wider or longer than a large room. There was broken-up rock everywhere, and jagged chunks of rock made up the roof of the chamber, but the whole thing seemed so solid and secure that I didn't worry, much, about such things as a cave-in.
It was interesting, being down there so far underground, and we spent more than an hour looking at the gold ore, with Uncle Willard explaining to me how to distinguish gold-bearing rock from plain old rock.
He promised, later when we went back up-top, to take me to see the gold ore refinery where he and other miners took their ore to sell. We had a lunch down there, underground, and were just about ready to go back up-top when Willard suddenly grabbed himself at the chest and keeled over.
He was having some kind of heart attack or stroke, and I started to panic, but in a minute I got hold of myself a little bit and did what I could for him. I tore open his shirt at the neck and tried to pound on his chest with my fist, trying to help him to overcome the enormous pain he was obviously experiencing.
Nothing I could do helped, though, and in less time than it takes to tell you about it, Uncle Willard got all still, and I knew he was gone.
Well, Jesus, he was a big guy -- well over 200 pounds -- and I tried to move his body but I realized pretty soon that I couldn't. Even if I could have gotten him over those sharp rocks on the surface of the little chamber, there was no way I was going to be able to lift him into that barrel and pull us both back up that mineshaft. I wasn't even sure how you were supposed to do it. I hadn't paid that much attention, on the way down, to what Uncle Willard had done.
The best I could do, I thought, would be just to go on up by myself, and find somebody and tell them what had happened. Jeez, I was going to have to tell Aunt Rachel, Uncle Willard's wife, that he had died! Man, I dreaded that.
Anyway, I got into the barrel contraption and looked at the ropes, there, that Willard had mounted on some kind of hook installed on the side of the mineshaft, but when I loosened the rope from the hook, I right away lost control of the barrel and it fell on down further into the shaft, with me in it! I was scared out of my mind for a moment while I was in freefall in that damned barrel, and I had completely lost control. But then it hit something -- hard -- below me and stopped moving.
The barrel was partially broken at the bottom, though, from the impact, and it was pitch dark down there besides.
My heart was in my throat because that freefall had scared me shitless, but I realized, pretty soon, that the fall hadn't been very far. I could see, about 25 feet above me, the lights from the chamber where Willard and I had been. Evidently I was now at the very bottom of the shaft, or at least something in the shaft, below the barrel, had stopped it from falling any farther.
The rope, however, had slipped out of my grasp altogether, and was nowhere to be found. I felt all around for it, and couldn't find it. I began to feel a little panic. Then I remembered that I was wearing a helmet with a light mounted on it, and I was able to turn on the light and see my immediate surroundings.
As far as I could tell, the partially broken barrel was resting on solid rock below my feet. I could tell because I could see the rock floor where half of the bottom of the barrel had been. OK, so at least I wasn't likely to fall any farther.
Looking up, I could make out the rope, dangling eight or ten feet above me -- almost halfway up to where the reflected light shown, from the chamber just off the mineshaft where Willard's body was. I also thought I could see a little bit of light way up at the top -- evidently daylight, coming from the mouth of the shaft at the surface.
So, OK. I had to hope that the rope above my head was still attached to something that was going to allow me to get out of this gold mine. I had to worry, even if I could regain control of the rope, whether it would provide enough leverage for me to make this barrel contraption function again, to lift me out of this hole.
It had been -- what? Mid-afternoon sometime when Willard had taken me down here. There had to be four or five more hours of daylight available. Well, no matter. The chamber, and the mineshaft itself, were lighted, farther up. Even if it got dark out, I could see to get out of here. If -- somehow -- I could just get a handhold on that rope.
I didn't know how long the battery on this helmet light was going to last, and I knew catching hold of that rope, if I was down here in total darkness, would be an impossibility, so I figured I'd better get started.
By climbing up and balancing both feet on the top of the barrel, I got to where I was less than four feet from where that thick rope was dangling above me. But if I couldn't figure out a way to get my hands on it, it might as well be forty feet. The shaft was too wide for me to use the sides for leverage to climb up. And the rocky face of the sides of the shaft, although certainly not smooth, weren't rough enough to give me decent handholds for a climb up to the rope.
I climbed back down into the barrel, and sat there and thought about it for a long time. Finally, I got worried about the battery in my helmet, and forced myself to turn it off and save the battery for later use. I could still see the light, up above, although it didn't seem to illuminate my immediate surroundings at all.
The broken barrel worried me greatly. Even if I could reach the rope, was this contraption still sound enough to carry me to the surface? I pushed on it, and the sides seemed to give some, under the pressure. They had a lot more give to them than it seemed that they should. There was, however, sufficient floor surface left, inside the barrel, to support me in a standing position -- assuming that more of the floor wouldn't fall away if the barrel were moved upward.
One of the barrel's sides was pretty well smashed. I felt one of the barrel staves hanging off, attached now only to the bottom of the structure.
Turning on the helmet light again, I thought I perhaps had a workable idea.
The barrel stave was slightly curved, about four feet long, and had a couple of evil-looking nails protruding from the upper end. They were rusted and less than three inches long, but I thought it might be possible to reach the overhead rope, poke it with those nails, and possibly use the barrel stave to pull the rope down to within reach.
Climbing back up onto the top of the damaged barrel, I got my balance as best I could against the undamaged side, rested my butt against the side of the mine shaft behind me, and stretched with the barrel stave to reach the rope.
It did reach -- but just barely -- and the necessary leverage to force the nails to penetrate the rope seemed lacking. I nudged the rope several times with my extended barrel stave, without a result. The posture was difficult to maintain, and very tiring, so after ten minutes of futility, I climbed back down, turned off the helmet light again, and rested.
Maybe this was all unnecessary. After all, Uncle Willard's wife, Rachel, knew where we were. When we didn't come back, she'd likely send somebody out to find us. A friend of Willard's with knowledge of how this equipment worked would be able to figure out, even from the surface, that something was amiss.
Hell, maybe they could just holler down the shaft, and I could answer.
I should just be patient, and we would be rescued, eventually. Well. Uncle Willard was beyond rescue. But I would be OK. The important thing was, don't panic.
About then was when the lights up above suddenly went dark.
I thought it had been pitch dark down there before, but now, the darkness was total. Oh, there was still the dim light at the entrance to the shaft, almost 200 feet above. But it was late in the day by now, and even that light seemed to be fading.
I felt cold and alone. It wasn't really cold in the mine. Willard had said it was sixty-something, or maybe a little cooler, and that it stayed that way down in the mine, pretty much the whole year round. But it felt cold, down in that dark hole.
I waited for my rescue. After awhile, there was no light at all, from the opening high above, and I knew that full night had fallen.