They had been working in the mines for months now. It was hard, back-breaking work, and dust found its way into their masks, supposedly meant to filter in clean air. Rob hadn’t felt clean since they started.
But it was important, they said; the geeks with their computers had found massive gold deposits, they said. Rob didn’t know much about the computers. He was just here to dig.
For the most part, they had used equipment, swift-moving drills that kept a good pace and made enough noise that the deep darkness of the mines did not overwhelm them. But then, suddenly, all their equipment failed. Every piece they tried to use failed. Rob had heard that some scientist, somewhere, had panicked, tried to set off some alarm about “things man was not meant to know”, but she had been sent packing pretty early. Now it was just them and their picks and axes, kicking it old school he decided.
He just wished it wasn’t so quiet.
At that moment, over the monotonous clacking, he heard a shout, coming from far down the line. A beefy man, his long beard turned gray from dust, ran up, tearing off his mask as he went.
“I found something! You won’t believe what I found!”
The foreman walked over calmly, hands on his hips. He seemed to be the only one entirely unaffected by the darkness and the eerie occurrences around electrical equipment.
“Gold?” he asked.
“No sir, but better, oh, so much better!” Rob frowned. The guy’s behavior was almost manic. He’d probably be the next one sent to surface and told to take a long rest. How many had they lost so far…?
“Dammit, Grady. There’s nothing there.”
“What d’ya mean, there’s nothing there? Can’t you see it? It’s beautiful.” Grady’s voice lowered a notch, almost in reverence. Rob shivered. Some of the others were wandering over now to see what was going on, and Rob was torn between checking it out and staying the hell away from whatever was going on. Everything was giving him the creeps right now.
“Grady, I don’t see nothing,” someone else said. “Maybe you need to go topside for a while. Getting pretty deep now.”
“It’s there! And can’t you hear it? The light and the music!”
“Grady, son, we’ll check it out, but we need to have some space. Why don’t you just go up and get some fresh air while—”
“NO! You’ll go in without me! You’ll leave me here, here in death and decay and stupidity and hatred and ugliness and—”
At that point, two of the burliest workers approached, and at a nod from the foreman dragged Grady off, whose screams echoed off the walls.
The foreman walked over, tapped at Rob.
“Take over Grady’s spot for now, will you Rob? I gotta go topside with him and get a message through. This is bull.” Rob watched him go. Grady was, what, fifth or sixth person to get like this? Rob knew some people couldn’t handle it down here, but this was ridiculous.
Rob took off his mask briefly, drank some water, then put his mask back on and began chipping away at the wall. He saw nothing, of course. Grady was nuts. He’d heard the man had some sort of head injury years ago, had a metal plate in his head. Who knows, maybe he was picking up alien transmissions? Rob chuckled to himself, swung the axe against the wall again.
A crack sounded, like a shot gun going off, and a fissure opened up in the wall before him. Rob glanced up at the ceiling warily. Wouldn’t do to have this thing collapse in on them. Then he looked back at the wall. He stifled a scream.
Light, pure white, emanated from the fissure. He stumbled back at first. Was he the next to go crazy? The next to lose it? But no, he heard murmurs, gasps, his coworkers gathering around him.
“Grady weren’t crazy after all,” someone muttered. Rob said nothing.
Then it began, the music, and suddenly Rob stopped caring. It was beautiful, otherworldly, like nothing he’d ever heard before. Visions danced through his head, of green hills, abundant food, no mines, no dust filled mines, open blue sky above, color and light and sound and children’s laughter and suddenly he knew he had to go there, it was his only chance, and he darted forward.
The others followed, some whooping with joy. Foolish foreman! If only he had the mind to see what they saw, to hear what they heard! What glory, what joy! Rob rolled onto the ground, enjoying the soft grass, the sun on his face, the cool breeze…
Suddenly, another crack. This one louder, echoing endlessly. In an instant the light was gone, the warmth disappeared, and Rob felt not grass but stone beneath, stone growing around him, and without the music he now knew that the laughter he heard was not laughter at all, but screams...