Thursday, September 11, 2008
The mine had not been worked in nearly a century. If asked why, the locals would answer that the vein of silver that had come from it had been completely mined out. There had been a town only a mile away, but it was deserted soon after the mine stopped producing. The nearest city was over forty miles away across a rocky and unforgiving desert. The mineshaft itself was nothing extraordinary to look at. Merely a hole in the side of a butte with a few ancient boards that had enough tenacity in their dry rotted mass not to blow away in the wind. It appeared to be nothing but a remnant of a bygone era of frontiersmen and exploration; but if you asked Simon Reese or Carson Rodgers, it was a hole straight into hell.
They emerged stumbling from the mineshaft, their flashlights illuminating their escape. Both gasped. Their lungs were desperate for the cool, dry air of the desert morning. They had not spoken in what seemed to men to have been hours. Sweat poured off of them as they sprinted with whatever energy they had left in them towards the jeep Rodgers had rented.
They were filthy, with clothes hugging their bodies, drenched in sweat. The front of Reese’s clothes was covered in dirt from when he had tripped during their egress. The knee of his left pants leg was blood soaked from the fall. The injury was not serious but it stung him with every step, yet did not slow him the least. He clutched their prize fiercely in his hand.
“Dammit! The sun isn’t up yet!” Rodgers cursed as they neared the jeep.
“Can’t be helped.” Reese replied as Rodgers got behind the wheel and started the vehicle. Reese jumped into the passenger seat. Looking out at the horizon he saw the glow of the approaching sunrise. “Drive! Head east!”
“Right!” Rodgers already had the jeep moving and aimed it at the impending sunrise. The tires flung rocks and dirt, but caught and sent the men on their way. The town of Billings was to the North, but that did not matter for the moment. “Are they still behind us?” Rodgers asked between labored breaths.
Simon Reese had told himself that he would not look back. He wanted to keep focused on moving forward, heading towards anywhere that would take him home to his wife and son. The last thing he wanted was to look back at where the two men had spent the previous night. He had to know. They had to know. Clutching the seat tight, he pivoted and looked back to the mine. It was quickly shrinking from sight. What had followed them out was not.
“Oh God.” Reese uttered.
“Are they there?” Rodgers asked, too focused on the terrain in front of him to check the rearview mirror. The glow of the pre-dawn cast long shadows over the land, and the headlights did not give Rodger much warning of what was coming at the speed he was driving.
“Just keep going!” Reese called out. The flashlight slipped from his fingers and fell behind the seat of the jeep. Reese continued to clutch their prize in his fist, as his free hand took up his revolver from the holster strapped to his leg. The cool air blew his short blond hair wildly, but it didn’t obscure his vision. He leveled the weapon. His fatigue made it heavy in his grip. Rodger’s glanced at him.
“That’s not going to stop them!”
“It’s better than nothing!” Reese cried out as he squeezed the trigger. The shots echoed into the night, as the jeep cut an urgent path across the land heading for the blessed light of day.