For the last month, I’d been pestering Mason to come with me to explore the old mine outside town. It was one of those places everyone said was haunted. You know the type. Of course, most places like that have scary legends to keep people away so the goth kids can go and fuck one another in peace. There was nothing really haunted about those spots, of course. This mine, though, kept even the goths at bay.
There were so many rumors about why the mine was haunted and downright dangerous. Some said it used to be a government uranium mine during the Manhattan Project and you’d get irradiated the minute you set foot inside. Others claimed that after the Civil War, town officials had used the place to secretly imprison and torture freed slaves whose vengeful ghosts would kill anyone foolish enough to explore. Even though there was no evidence for any of that, folks still insisted it was too dangerous to visit. It had grown to become a town legend. People were told never to go in, so they stayed away.
No one I’d ever met had boasted about going inside. A couple people had the balls to peek through the cracks in the wood they’d used to board up the place 50 years ago, but that was as far as anyone would go. Not even the cops would go in when asshole kids would prank call the station and say someone had gotten lost in there. Honestly, the whole thing seemed pretty fucking lame. I’ve never been superstitious. I couldn’t care less about ghosts of dead slaves or some ridiculous rumors about radiation. All the evidence said it was nothing but an old coal mine that’d been decommissioned before it could get finished. That’s it. And I was going in.
Mason always resisted when I tried to get him to come. I couldn’t believe how much of a coward he was. I’d always known he was shy and timid, but this was just pathetic. Why I was in a relationship with him in the first place was anyone’s guess. Well, I know why: he gave me free weed and coke. He stopped dealing and got a real job a month ago, though. He’d done nothing but annoy me ever since. Tonight was going to be the last straw. If he bailed on me, I wouldn’t go near him again.
He didn’t bail. Thank God. We showed up at the mine at sunset. We’d brought the flashlights and stuff to explore, plus some food in case we got lost. That last part was his idea. He seemed under the impression we’d be gone long enough that starvation would be a concern. Such a baby.
I had him tear the bottom boards away with a little crowbar, and while he whined and protested, I crawled under the remaining barrier and into the mine. His bleating went on and on but he eventually squeezed through the opening and joined me inside. We shone our flashlights ahead and looked at the solid rock wall in front of us and the sharp turn to the left. “Let’s go,” I told him.
We walked forward and turned the corner. Mason let out a long sigh. All there was in front of us was a shaft going straight down. There were some elevator cables at the top, but no car. No ladder, either
“I guess the scary stuff’s down there,” Mason announced, his voice echoing down the shaft. “No way we can climb down, right?” The relief in his voice was obvious.
I paced aimlessly while he talked about how he couldn’t believe the town was scared of such a boring place. I cleared my throat and spoke:
“Darryl wants you to know you promised to work for him forever, Mason. And you shouldn’t have stopped.”
I was behind Mason when I finished the sentence and I pushed him. He tried to grab me, but I’d backed up. He spun around and toppled backward from the lip of the shaft. His hands tried to grasp the edge, but it was all loose dirt and sand. Mason screamed all the way down. The wet crunch came a little while later.
I turned around and headed back to the opening, thinking about how proud of me Darryl was going to be. We’d talked about this ever since Mason got his stupid job. Now I could be with Darryl and he could treat me like the princess I know I am.
While I rounded the corner, a shrieking chorus of dissonant voices erupted from from the elevator shaft. I gasped and ran for the exit. And as I scrambled under the barrier, despite my blood jackhammering in my ears and my panicked yelps filling the air, I clearly heard the words,
“THANK YOU – WE’VE BEEN SO HUNGRY.”