The frenzied scratching and bloodied paws made Callie wince and her frame shudder more. She rubbed her arms to work up some heat, but ridges of mud provided no comfort. The dog yelped as if he had been hurt, and she dropped to her knees in the five inches or so of cold water.
“What is it, boy?”
He was panting hard but wouldn’t stop. Callie was convinced by now that he knew. He knew how bad things were and that they were both stuck and could soon die. The smell of gas was growing stronger and her chest wheezed. The more she wheezed the faster he dug – time was running out.
Callie had grown up with her devoted Pup as she liked to call him. No longer a pup, the majestic stance of the animal was something to cling to in the dank, cold, gas-filled tunnel they found themselves trapped in. He was dirty, wet, bedraggled and looked half the size of his true capabilities.
He was bought as a bribe to entice her to love the small village her parents had dragged her to. Soon though they were inseparable, and Pup made it easy for Callie to love the place. He was into everything. They would take snacks down to the streams and follow old rail lines and climb the grassy slag heaps, once the old coal mines of long ago, which were now overgrown with bramble and bluebells, and it was idyllic.
Callie’s head felt like it would explode as, kneeling helplessly, she remembered that small boy up on the hill. She was surprised when he had called to Pup. The dog whined and his restless head was unsure when he stared at the small, waif like figure, but despite that, Pup bolted up the hill towards the boy who by then had simply disappeared from view.
Callie followed and was met by sounds of crying in the entrance of an old mine shaft; mounds of soil and overgrown weeds had nearly swallowed it up. The ground felt soft, and she was very wary with each step until, whoosh, both her knees sank followed by her elbows until she was up to her small neck in soil and debris. She screamed in blind panic before disappearing from sight. Pup dug furiously and was soon lost with her in an old vein of the coal mine.
Just then the boy appeared again. Pup stopped digging and whined at the boy before running towards him. He greeted Pup, then smiled and led them down the old tracks to reveal a clearing and the sunlight. Inside a nearby cart was a tiny skeleton.
Clinging onto Pup, Callie trembled as she stumbled through the water towards the figure who gently reached out. Pup gave him his paw.
‘Thank you for coming to find me, boy.’
The small figure seemed happy as he turned and faded into the crevasses of the black night walls of the mineshaft.