Archive for September 7th, 2011

7th September
2011
written by amber

Pillar of Salt

“This is it,” the tour guide said, “the largest salt cavern in the world.”

We stepped out of the metal mesh elevator car which had carried us deep beneath the earth. I felt relieved to have arrived safely – the coveralls we’d been given were ripped and mended with tape, the headlamps had frayed wiring and the elevator had slowed and sped up alarmingly during the descent.

I’d warned my wife that the place didn’t look well-maintained, but she’d shushed me, saying I shouldn’t be such a cultural imperialist.

The cavern was impressive up close, white and gleaming in our flickering headlamps’ illumination, yet in the distance it was as dark and gloomy as any mine I’d ever seen or imagined. And the ceiling seemed very low.

“What’s that?” demanded the annoying kid who’d kept sticking his hand through the mesh of the elevator, interrupting the guide in the midst of a demonstration of the various picks and other tools used by the long-ago miners.

“That’s a pillar of salt,” the guide told him.

“Why didn’t they mine it too?”

“It’s needed to hold the roof up. If they took all the salt out, everything above would collapse.”

The guide seemed to find this funny, and some of the tourists laughed too. ┬áBut I couldn’t stop myself from looking upwards, aiming my feeble light at the ceiling. It was full of cracks.

The guide invited us to climb onto a rickety mine ‘train’ (more like a child’s toy) and travel down a side passage to explore a deeper part of the mine. This was certainly not appealing to me, but staying behind in the deserted chamber was even less desirable, so I straddled the narrow car, held onto my wife’s waist and closed my eyes as the ragged walls of glistening salt whizzed by.

We were standing at the edge of a shaft plunging into unimaginable darkness when the mother finally realized her child was missing. Of course it was the annoying little boy.

We retraced all of our stops and searched every one, but we didn’t find him until we returned to the original chamber. He was doing exactly what I had expected him to do – working away at that pillar with a pick from the display.

I sank to my knees and prayed the elevator would come for me soon.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story posted every day on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line suggestions in the Comment section.