Monday, September 19, 2005

Down Into Endless Night

We found the abandoned mine when we were about fourteen years old--still riding bikes and exploring anywhere we could pedal. Tucked away in an unused stretch of an industrial park, the building lurked among overgrown trees. From the closest road, it could easily be missed.

We had been following trails through a modest patch of the western Pennsylvania forests, when we emerged at the rear of a crumbling building. Fascinated, we tossed the bikes and easily scaled the chain link fence. The cinder blocks sealing the window in the picture resulted from someone discovering us. However, during the first weeks we spent there, the doors and windows stood open. Inside, we explored the rusting machinery, the basket to transport the miners down, and boxes upon boxes of core samples. We even flipped on the circuit box and powered those few lights which harbored enough life to shine.

Dangerous, you say? Not a place for kids? Now, I wholly agree. But then, if it weren't for my unnatural, 14-year-old curiosity, my friend probably would have overlooked the cement pad out front and the huge metal door, 6 feet by 6 feet. I saw the hinges. I saw the handle. I saw the old winch still spooled with cable. A simple operation, really. I opened that mine shaft, which gauges on the cable car marked as over 400 feet deep. Our first glimpse was awe-inspiring. Straight down. Seemingly forever. And vanishing to a single point where all lines converged.

As we stood on the edge, I remember thinking I was staring into the mouth of death. One slip would have bounced me off those concrete walls and committed me, no longer recognizably human, to the watery depths. Yet, I perched over the shaft with my head on the half-open door. I dropped huge stones straight into the abyss, and we watched them. Never wavering, they simply shrunk smaller and smaller, until the endless night finally enveloped them. Soundlessly. We never heard them hit. I wish we did.

I felt the profoundness of death that summer, and I taunted it. I don't go looking anymore. It can stay locked in the forever cold.

I just hope it doesn't remember me.

Or hold a grudge.


Bernita said...

I know.

This is good.

Diana said...

Creepy yet facinating. I'm not sure if I'd be curious or afraid.

anne frasier said...

jason, i love the photos. i have to confess i haven't taken the time to read your story, but i hope to!