I stared down, watching us leave the mine behind. The people and ponies below become smaller then faded as we ascended through natural rock. At some points there were spot lights of gas lamps, but I couldn’t see very far out. I was pressed against the wire mesh, the laboured breathing of the other eight people, including Dean harsh against my skin. I shut my eyes and tried to remain calm. I was also reminded myself that this was only a dream and nothing was going to happen.
The cage lift juddered under me and I had to open my eyes to look up. The mechanism was so simple; just two strands of thick cable and an even thicker rope were hauling us up. My mind wheeled, what if it all snapped? We’d plumage straight back down and crash to death. I hurriedly looked away and tried not to think about it anymore. I looked to my right and saw into the other lift cage. The men, for they were all seemed to be men, looked exhausted and covered in coal dust. A few had shut their eyes and seemed to be resting standing up. Two of them were swapping yellowed cards and another was pulling out a harmonica.
Turning my head to the left, I saw the ropes for the first cage, they were moving downwards but we’d yet to pass each other. I refocused on the natural yellow, dark brown rock surrounding us. I could see chisel marks in some places, small pools of water and the glitter of natural minerals.
‘How’s your head?’ Dean whispered to me.
I touched it automatically and rubbed my hair under the helmet. My fingers came back tipped with soot and I rubbed my hands together to get it off.
‘Well?’ Dean pressed.
‘Okay. I think. I’m still struggling to remember though…’ I paused.
‘You’ll be okay when we get out. The fresh air will help.’
‘Girls,’ a hard voice growled from behind us.
Dean and I both looked around, but we couldn’t see the speaker amongst all the tried faces.
I bit my lip and turned to carry on looking out. I felt Dean put a hand to my back for a brief moment. I part of me wanted to turn and hug him tightly, but my feet wouldn’t obey. Instead, my hand reached to secure the satchel and feel the reassuring weight of The Arcana.
‘Two hundred meters,’ Dean muttered
I looked up and saw a metal sign attached to wall with a light shining on it. The numbers flashed before me then we went passed and into a large opening. I breathed more freely, feeling better now we were not so close to the walls. Water dripped heavily from somewhere and I heard the muttering of voices growing louder. I looked to my left and saw the bottom of the other cage lift coming down. Keeping my eyes fixed, I watched us draw level and saw inside ten men and women. They were a lot cleaner than us and carrying a range of mining tools – hammers, axes, picks and I saw a dagger strapped to someone’s belt. A few had small leather rucksacks on and they were all wearing yellow helmets and carrying lanterns.
I listened and tried to pick out their conversations, but could only make out a few words as we passed them. Their cage disappeared below and I turned my head up to look were they had descended from. I couldn’t see very much.
‘A hundred and fifty,’ Dean’s voice blew into my ears and I saw another sign going by.
‘Are we almost there?’ I whispered, trying not to be over heard.
Dean nodded and I resisted grabbing his hand. I shut my eyes and breathed again. A few minutes later a heard, ‘a hundred,’ and felt the air fully change for the first time. It became easier to breath and I felt a cold wind on my face. I wrapped my fingers around the satchel’s strap and waited for the life cage to stop.
‘Fifty meters,’ Dean uttered, a hint of excitement in his voice.
I breathed in and out, keeping my mind empty and waiting.
The lift began to slow and I heard the full whirl and turning of the gears. We shuddered to a stop and I opened my eyes. We were still in the mine. Dean opened the door and stepped out. I followed him, clocking the queue of people waiting to get in. We went off to the side and I touched the natural cave wall then pressed my back to the hard, wet surface. Everyone else was getting out of the cage, walking passed the queue and into a wide tunnel.
Having caught my breath, I looked more closely at the people before us and saw that some of them were wearing red jackets. They were weaving around the lines of people, sometimes stopping to talk to them and check the items they were carrying. Also, I noticed a large red painted hut that had the word Foremen written on the sign above.
‘Let’s go,’ Dean said out of the side of his mouth as we both spotted a small man in a red jacket eyeing us.
We set off, walking up the slightly sloping tunnel and out into the early evening. I filled my lungs with late autumn air and looked up at the sky above us. It was dark grey with some puffy clouds and dots of stars. Something else caught my eye and I fully looked at it. A large airship was drifting across us, it’s white gas bag stark against the sky and it’s twin circler propellers whirling, though I couldn’t hear them.
‘Dean, look,’ I said and pointed up to it.
He glanced, ‘its fine. Come on.’
Struggling to look away, I wondered what year it was and where we were. Dean had gone towards a large three story building that had a large red cross painted over the front of it. I stole a few moments to look further around and saw that we were standing in the middle of a large town. There were wooden cabins stretching in countless rows across from me. Some had lights in the misty windows, other smoke coming out of chimneys whilst more lay in darkness.
To my right, was another red painted Foremen’s hut but beyond that were some low stables and fenced paddocks. A few gas lamps were flicking above thin grassy scrubland and I saw two brown ponies nuzzling each other against the fence. A few abandoned wooden carts sat off to one side as well as some bent railing next to them. I looked further out and saw a tall wired fence and gate behind the cabins. Above the top of which, I could make out tall towers, maybe skyscrapers? Just poking out of the sky.
‘Abs? Come on!’ Dean shouted
I hurried away, almost tripping on some large stones.
‘This is a waste of time,’ Dean mumbled to himself.
‘My head’s feeling fine, actually,’ I broke in.
We stopped in the shadow of the AID building and Dean looked me over.
‘So about the escape plan-’
Dean’s hand flew around my mouth and I chocked on the words.
‘No, no,’ he hissed, ‘not here!’
He grabbed my arm and marched me away. We went over to one of the cabins and still holding me, he opened the door and led me in. The cabin was long and filled with bunk beds along both the walls. All the beds were occupied with sleeping men and women. Dean led me right to the back then spun me to the left and down into an empty bed.
‘No talking,’ he breathed, ‘now get some sleep.’
He dumped his stuff on the floor, pulled off his boots and climbed onto the bed above me. I looked down, noticing I still had the lit lantern in my hand and the pickaxe and sack in my other. I put everything down, took off my helmet and thought about taking off my boots, then decided against it.
As Dean settled on to the bed, I curled up then pulled out The Arcana and flipped through the pages, unsure what to look up. Keywords began to enter my mind as if the book itself was suggesting them and maybe it was. I looked up whatever came then pieced it together as I had done in the forest.
To be in a mine means you are getting to the core of an issue and your subconscious is coming to the surface. Alternatively; a metaphor for claiming something. Seeing coal represents wealth and prosperity, a well as your used potential. Walking across it means you will overcome adversity and nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it. Then again it could mean you have been caught doing wrong. A cave symbolizes the womb, refuge, protection and concealment as well as an exploration of your subconscious mind.
Seeing a burning candle signifies that good luck and hope is coming. You are at a comfortable life stage, but seek spiritual enlightenment. Candles represent intellect, awareness and a search for the truth. To carry a lantern represents the feelings and wisdom coming from you that will guide you in the life’s journey.
To dream you are American or from, symbolizes independence and freedom. Also, commercialism, riches, abundance and political views are represented. A pony signifies your playful side and your unexplored, underdeveloped power. To see or dream of a wood cabin indicates you will succeed via your own means and that you are self-reliant, independent and prefer a humble, simple life. (For airship see dirigible) A dirigible symbolizes your ambition and determination to achieve your goals, but it can also mean your inflates sense of self.
I pondered over that, my fingers sticking to the page. Finally, I closed the book quietly and lay down. Most of what The Arcana was telling me made sense and I could even link back some of it to the stuff in the forest. I shut my eyes and listened to the soft snoring around me.
‘Hey, wake up. Abs!’ Dean’s voice broke through my thoughts.
I opened my eyes and saw him in the dim light coming from a slit in the curtains. He was wearing a white buttoned up shirt, dark blue trousers, a long matching blazer and a blue and white stripy tie. He had also washed and was no longer cover in coal dust. His face was clean, fresh and more handsome then I had realised. I frowned at his clothes and wondered what was going on, was this now a new dream?
‘I got you some water,’ he whispered, ‘wash up then change. Be quiet, we don’t want to wake anyone. Here’s your clothes,’ he added and put on the bed a hessian sack.
I got up and saw there was a large bowl of water on the table next to me. I washed my hands and face then peeked out of the window. The sky was turning to dawn and I could see the front of another cabin behind us. I heard Dean putting on some shoes and scrambling around.
Turning, I opened the sack and took out the same uniform he had on, only instead of trousers I had a long skirt. The clothes were big enough to put over the ones I had on and I quickly did that. Smoothing out the skirt, I fixed the tie around my neck then picked up my bag again.
‘Why-’ I started.
‘Hush,’ he hissed back with a finger pressed to his lips.
I clamped my mouth shut and watched him put a small leather rucksack on one shoulder. Around us everyone else was still sleeping and a pre-dawn stillness hung in the air. Dean gave me a nod and crept towards the door. I followed closely behind and matched his footsteps to avoid to loose floorboards. He reached the door, opened it and peered out. He slipped through and I followed him. A cold breeze felt nice on my face and I could also smell hay and warm oats.
Dean eased the door back into place and we set off towards the gate, sticking to the shadows of the other cabins. Desperately, I wanted to talk to him, but the risk felt too great. We reached the gate and I saw a large padlock and chain looping the gates together. There was also two small watch towers above us, which I hadn’t noticed before. I gulped my questions about us being prisoners and this some kind of camp down. Dean pressed himself against the fence and I did the same behind him.
Hiding in the shadows, we watched a man in a red jacket come up to the gates and unlocked them. He swung both of them open and on the other side we saw a line of horses and large carts. The man waved the first through and as the line began moving in, Dean slipped out. I was right behind him, chasing down my fear and trying not to be noticed. We squeezed passed a cart containing barrels and other containing wooden boxes full of chickens.
Dean went off to the side and along the fence. I joined him, feeling the wire shaking behind me. Stupidly, I shot a look back and saw a hooded figure on top of the chicken cart. I held my breath and almost stopped, panicked I’d been seen. Dean grabbed my hand as my legs went to jelly and he tugged on me sharply. He yanked me away, forcing my legs into a run as we raced down the street. The sound of a whistle blasted in my ears and bitterly, I told myself off.
‘I’m sorry!’ I gasped.
Dean shot me a look, but didn’t stop running. The pavement slammed under our feet and the small houses opposite us and over an empty tarmac road flashed by. Tears started in my eyes and I was crying before I knew it. My vision blurred and I lost all sense of where we were going.
To Be Continued…