Clink! Clink! Clink! The sharpness of the miner’s hammer upon the anvil pervaded the thick air of the mine. Callus sat on a rock that protruded from the side of the tunnel. He had a sandwich in his hand and was gobbling it greedily. He turned to the miner next to him who was called Chen, who was busily hammering a coal vein on the side of the dimly lit tunnel, and poked his shoulder roughly, enough to catch his attention.
“Huh?” he said, with a sliver of annoyance creeping onto his ashen face as he turned to look at Callus. Callus jumped up from his rock and sprang in front of the other man. He glared at him before he said, “Hey, watch it. You better respect me or there will be consequences.” A smirk spread across his face as he narrowed his gaze and locked them on the Chan. The miner kept his gaze right back and for a moment the tension was palpable. Finally, he acknowledged Callus’ superiority and said, “Yes Sir. How can I help you?” in a gruff voice.
Callus stepped a little further back and whistled a tune then turned to the miner. “Do you know what song that is?” he asked Chen letting out a giggle. The miner grunted a hesitant yes and turned back to his operation. Callus looked silently at Chen and walked away, a visible sway in his steps.
Callus kept going for about an hour, listening to the steady thumps and grunts from each miner as he passed them. He stopped to rest near a hole that was covered with a large plastic sheet. “So many holes, “Callus thought.
Even though Callus didn’t have a strong build like the other miners, he was not weak either. He wore a long white tunic that was almost fully brown due to all the mud and dirt down in the tunnel. The tunic barely covered his stomach and had small patches of old clothes stitched into it. He had a pair of leather boots on that had been worn down so that his toes stuck out. His head had a bandage wrapped across his eye giving him a sort of pirate look except that his eye patch was white and torn at the edges. And since he was a lead miner, he was not as shabby looking like the other miners who only had tattered brown shirts and grey shorts. The tunnel was not shabby either. Yes, it was dirty. Yes, it was quite near collapse from all the mining. But it was definitely not shabby. It had pike wood torches hung up on the wall with intricate design patters etched on the handles. The torches could be removed from their brackets in case of an emergency but other than that reason they were always slotted in their respectful places. The ceiling was a sort of oval shape and holes along the tunnel were common from past mining expeditions. Some holes had been covered by tarquin covers. This indicated that these holes had been mined into and on the other side lay fatal dangers from huge rock collapse to water runoffs.
So, when Callus heard some slight murmurs coming from one such hole, it immediately caught his attention.
Callus heard some whispers coming from the far end. “How strange! I didn’t know any miners were on this side.” He followed the hushed noises that were coming from the one of the covered holes and leaned his ear against the wall. He stood there for a while; ear drawn close to the cold cover. For a moment he couldn’t decipher the words. “Am I dreaming?” he wondered. He was about to stroll on around the tunnel when he heard it again but this time louder, almost like the people in there were arguing in hushed voices.
“They’ll hear us!” a manly voice whispered. The other voice spoke up after a second; “If they catch us, we’re done!” a softer voice warned.
Callus stood still while he wondered what mystery he had just encountered. Fervently, he crouched closer to the hole, an ominous feeling slowly creeping in. “What an incredible find!” whispered the gruff voice. “We’re going to be rich” replied the woman in a whisper.
The space was dimly lit, with a slight glow emanating from the corner of the wall that turned to face a large canyon. Callus stared at the edge until a voice sounded from the deathly canyon. “How dare you think you can force me to do your bidding? I am not and shall never be your minion to do as you please!” The man’s voice thundered within the cavernous space. Callus thought the platform on which he slouched on would crack and fall just by the sheer force of the voice. A couple steps were all he heard after that and then…silence.
Callus shivered with fear from what he thought had occurred when a crisp, smooth voice spoke up from behind him; “Mr. Callus, of all the people I would expect to be wandering about instead of working!” Callus spun around with immense speed that he almost swept himself of his feet, he regained his balance by leaning to the side of the cavern and looked up to see a dark figure peering at him with huge eyes as large as balls from a slight distance of about 10 meters.
The figure emerged from the darkness in which it had been speaking from and revealed a face covered with grime and mud all over. From all the mining, thought Callus. He examined the face until he could discern some features aside from the obvious ones, like a huge scar across the forehead, going down to the mouth and a dull shade of chestnut that covered the face. He had never seen this miner before as he knew all his miners but had never set his beady little eyes on this particular one.
He tried to inch closer to capture a better image when the figure spoke again but much lower this time; “You would be wise to leave you know before …” Suddenly, a rough voice crept up from the treacherous drop of the cavern; “You aren’t safe up there Polly, you of all people should know that.” Polly contorted with fear and ushered Callus to slip away behind the tarquin cover and then she answered in a soft voice, trying to maintain her calm but a tiny croak escaped her before she could quiet herself. “I am quite alright, you wait there and I will be just down. My darn shoe got stuck in one of the holes on the side of this stupid canyon. Just wait up.” The man grunted a reply and walked a bit away as they could still hear him from there.
Polly looked at Callus in a manner he had never seen before: pleadingly. He felt like she was looking through his soul with the way her intensity never feigned. Polly shook her head and the coolness that was in her voice vanished as she said to him: “I have no idea your intention here Mr Callus but I beg of you to speak of this to no one.” She gave him one last sad stare and then started towards the canyon edge. “I am on my way Shawn. “She shouted to the man who had been in the canyon.
Callus woke up the next morning, dazed from everything that had occurred the day before. He got up and walked groggily towards his bathroom in which he applied a wet gel across his forehead. At that he cursed silently in the depths of his mind. The water coming from the dam in the valley was specifically used for drinking which meant they had to use a gel like substance to substitute water for other things like washing up and cleaning. He quickly rubbed away at his face with an old rag wishing he instead could afford water.
He crossed the room and eyed it thoughtfully; it had a small but comfy bed to the corner of the room. A lone desk and chair sat across the door, on it he had kept a few pictures of his family and his book and pen lay neatly besides the photographs that were propped on the wall. A large window that overlooked the valley covered one wall. Callus stepped towards the window and gazed down at the window. A huge gaping hole sat at the very centre of the otherwise wide expanse of land. The valley sort of reassembled a ripple in a calm lake, a disruption if you will in the peace of the land. A dozen or so lines were etched along the edges. These lines were actually roads and paths built from long ago. Callus stared in wonder as he thought about how much he had yearned to see the landscape when he had been a young boy. He shook his head vigorously and stopped any thoughts from coming in his mind and ran into the bathroom to change for he was no longer a young boy that he could wander around and think of nothing else but his dreams. He was much more than a boy now.
Callus left the room in a hurry, slamming the door shut much louder than he wanted to. He rushed down the steep stairs of the second mine and dashed through the long and narrow tunnels until he reached his destination of the second mine. He stopped at the entrance to fix his messy hair after all that running he had completely spoilt all the effort he had put into making it. He dusted himself to and straightened himself as he marched into the second mine, waiting to see his fellow miners working. Instead, what he saw was immensely surprising…
The miners were arranged in rows of ten and at the stark front was none other than Inspector Jeffery. Callus swallowed hard as he began to remember why Inspector Jeffery was present here. He stepped shabbily towards him with all his confidence gone down the drain, Callus looked quite scared. Inspector Jeffery had been telling off a bunch of miners about their uniforms when one of them tilted his head to alert him of Callus’s appearance. He whipped around and saw Callus standing shyly at the entrance with his head facing down slightly.
“Nice of you to join us Callus.” He said icily to Callus in a sarcastic voice. Callus immediately lifted his head up in the air as he looked to the Inspector. Callus never took well to sarcastic people and Inspector Jeffery knew just as well. I mean, brothers knew each other better than anyone else.
Inspector Jeffery had light brown locks of hair that had been oiled down to create an illusion of straight hair. His face was stiff with a resting frown that seemed to never leave. Jeffery’s eyes were a deep-set green that looked like a cat’s eyes. His body was sleek and he wore blue overalls that covered his chest and legs completely. His black chauffeur shoes were thin and long with an intricate pattern of flowers that stretched along its length. Callus immediately noticed that Jeffery was limping slightly to his left.
“Are you ok? “He asked Jeffery in a whisper. He cocked his head vaguely towards his leg. Jeffery gasped faintly and cleared his throat before yelling at Callus in a loud voice; “How dare you disrespect me like that! I am your leader and you dare speak to me with such childish behavior! I was going to leave you be as Lead Miner of this sector but your incompetence and insolence has disregarded my previous decision. You are a completely useless Lead Miner and since no one has taken any action to prove that, I am going to take that initiative and send you to the place you truly belong in; The Ghostly Sector. You will either accept this or leave the mine all together. I would like Abby Tety to take your place and to ensure the upkeep of this sector.” After Inspector Jeffery finished staring menacingly at Callus, he walked away, his limp hidden under his long overall.
Callus stood still for some time as he gathered his scattered thoughts. He struggled to breath as the weight of the situation fell on him; he was no longer relevant, he was no longer in charge and worst of all; he was a Lower Miner which meant he had to abandon his sizable flat for a bunk bed in a room full of many other people. He fell on his knees after his legs could no longer hold him up any longer. Tears run down his rough cheeks ceaselessly.
The other Miners came to comfort him after the Inspector left. But nothing they could say could calm him down, as he lingered on the thoughts of despair and fear for what awaited him next. When Callus could no longer hear the words of “I am sorry” and “It will get better”, he staggered to his dusty feet and lumbered towards the doorway and up the stairs.
Callus reached his flat an hour later. He had purposely delayed his arrival by taking many long routes and waiting in the lines of human traffic so that he could rethink his situation. After his emotional breakdown in front of all his coworkers and friends, he felt embarrassed but one question kept persisting behind in his mind; Why did Jeffery shout at him and why was Jeffery limping? Throughout their childhood together, Jeffery was always a well-tempered boy who never shouted. So that got Callus extremely suspicious but what troubled him even more was that only when he mentioned his limp, was when Jeffery burst out in anger. Callus wondered what he could have done to instigate such a harsh wound to cause him to limp. Callus sighed heavily and continued the long stretch towards his flat. “Well at least it for now,” he thought.
The door stood ajar, allowing a crack of light to escape from the inside. Callus stretched his hand to the knob and heaved the door open. Once he got in, the door banged shut as he stared in disbelief as he looked around the room: everything was gone, apart from the bed and the dresser that sat opposite to the bed. No trace was left behind to even show that Callus had been a resident in the flat for over five years. His gaze fell straight onto the window as he pondered what his stupidity had left him with: Nothing he thought. Everything filled him with anger as he turned around and around, looking around his room. He fell limply onto the freezing hard floor; nausea flooded his body as he shivered from the cold.
Memories of his childhood washed over Callus: Jeffery and Callus, playing with sticks, pretending to mine a coal vein; or running through the woods playing hide and seek.
Callus’ eyes watered as he curled into a little ball, remembering everything young Callus had worked for, his long hours spent working deep in the mines, his precious medals that he won on countless occasions and knowing that all of that was gone just because he couldn’t mind his business. He wailed and cried as hard as he could.
Nothing could calm him when suddenly, he heard sniffles that didn’t belong to him. His tears stopped falling as he clambered up to his feet, clinging to the wall for support. He opened the door and with one swift movement, he was in the corridor. He started creeping towards the sound. Callus kept his pace until it reached a turn when he accidentally tripped on a broken torch. He fell hard onto the floor. The fall blew all his breath out of his lungs and his knee started to throb painfully and created a loud BOOM! He staggered back on to his feet when he heard a voice, a harsh yet calm whisper; “Who are you?”
The mysterious voice rung clear in Callus mind as if he had just recently heard it. He turned the corner quietly to see … Polly crouched on the floor with her hands tied behind her. Callus wondered why she didn’t move when he realised her neck was chained to the socket in the wall.
Her face was facing the floor. “Once again I ask, who are you?” she said in her quiet harsh whisper. Callus approached her slowly and said, “It is me Callus.” The answer astounded her as she hoisted her head to face him. Her face was scarred even more than the last time they had spoken. Some wounds were still fresh on her parried face. Her eyes were a light brown that twitched slightly. She looked relieved to see him. She attempted to hug him, jostling the chains that bound her but to no avail as they held her tightly. She panted slightly and then said to him: “I have no idea why I am so happy to see you, after all it is your brother, that has forced me into this situation.” Polly chuckled faintly at her own remark. Callus, who had now started to dab her fresh wounds on her arm with his white shirt, was hardly listening when she was talking. His eyes were hard with focus. Once he finished his cleaning, he started tearing his shirt, that was covered with faint blood marks, to make bandages for her.
She grunted and then began to laugh maliciously while swinging her head around. Callus stopped abruptly, trying to hold her head still as he asked her what had happened. She continued laughing and then answered him: “You stupid boy,” she had a grin as big as a cheshire cat, “ You still don’t know what I am talking about do you?” She paused as she cackled again. Callus watched her with confusion. “What do you mean I don’t know what happened to you, of course I don’t know what happended to you, I just found you!” he screamed at her. This didn’t stop her chortling so he asked her: “Who did this to you then?”
She stopped laughing and the room filled with an uneasy silence. The only sound came from a torch that produced slight flickers of fire every now and then. Her eyes peered at him menacingly as she finally answered him. “Jeffery” she said plainly with a crazy smile plastered on her dull face.
Callus sat stunned upon hearing his brother’s name and he sighed deep to control his thoughts. “What do you mean ‘Jeffery?” He asked her quietly as he slowly stood up. “Where are you going?” Polly asked in a hoarse voice.
Callus walked lightly to the bend in the corridor and starred down the passage way. He stayed there for a minute and turned back to Polly. She had haggled her way out of the chains as far as Callus had cut them and made her way to Callus and he silently helped her to the room. “But why did he attack you?” Callus said softly almost as if he didn’t want to upset her. Polly merely chuckled and said “Callus, I need to tell you something important.” She had slumped down to the floor and was breathing heavy. Her deep cut along her arm had stained Callus’ shirt bandage and she whispered “Callus come closer; I need you to listen.”
Callus approached shocked and treaded carefully. “Me and Jeffery started working together a long time ago,” she coughed up some blood and continued, “He was the lead miner of our sector and we became close and one day we found a vein of Blueite and we were awestruck. We tried to hide it away from everyone by placing all the tarquin covers to avert everyone’s curiosity. At that point, since he had the authority to enter the library, he researched about it and found out that the first person to touch the Blueite was one of the most valuable minerals on earth. I had no idea about this.” Callus shifted uncomfortably as Polly continues. “On the day you found us, were going to harvest it but were interrupted by the noise you were making and then he realised you under the cover and so he stopped and asked me to go and check.”
Callus listened with shock as he came down to a crouch next to Polly. He placed a hand on her forehead and felt the immense heat on the skin of her head. He stared back at her and urged her to continue. Polly swung her head lazily, as if she were intoxicated and began again, “He then came down the next night and harvested it. He must’ve thought I would tell everyone about the vein after realising what he’d done and so he attacked me. I could do nothing except kick and luckily, one kick landed straight on his knee. That’s why he was limping around like a dog with rabies. Although he was able to handcuff me and cut me, I had sent him sprawling on the floor, crying in pain.” Polly laughed at that.
Suddenly a thunder of footsteps approached their hiding spot and Callus could hear Jeffery from the other side; “Find them! I don’t care if you have to tear down all these walls but find me those rats!” he shouted furiously to his guards who immediately started running from one corner to another.
Polly let out a hushed scream and hopped to her feet but unsuccessfully landed on her knees because she was weak from the wounds and cried out in pain. Callus tried to calm her down, but she couldn’t be calmed and then Callus heard Jeffery scream to his men: “Get those traitors out of there!”
The men hurried to the room. Callus attempted to attack them but his fatigued state weakened his attacks and instead they fell on them like feathers. The men grabbed Polly, who was quivering on the floor with her head hunched down, and pushed Callus out with a rough shove. Waiting outside was a smug-faced Jeffery who stood leaning up against the wall. He smiled menacingly at Callus and approached Polly. Callus struggled to keep against the burly arms of the guard who held him tightly but try as he might, Callus couldn’t break his grasp and instead slumped down in despair.
Jeffery held Polly’s thin cheek in his giant hands and tilted her face slightly and then said, “Things would have gone just according to plan if you had been a good girl and stayed down like I asked you to.” Polly shook her head vigorously and Jeffery let go of her chin. Polly breathed heavily and lifted her face to look at Jeffery. Her eyes, Callus noticed, glistened with anger. “Keep your dirty words to yourself, you coward!” she shouted. “I had the dignity to keep it a secret unlike you who wasted an ounce of magic on yourself.” Polly grunted loudly.
Jeffery scowled at her and turned to face his brother with fake pity plastered over his face. “Callus why believe her? I am your older brother, your family. Who is she in your eyes? Nobody! So why believe her over your own dear brother?” he asked in a mocking voice. Callus could feel his muscles itch with the feeling to punch Jeffery and he said to Jeffery, “Because what she says is the truth. She speaks with honour not deceit. I have believed in your stupid answers for a long time but now, I am a changed man who can spot a liar like you from miles apart. You, Jeffery are no brother of mine.”
Callus hung his head while he finished and smiled slightly to himself. “Enough! I will no longer listen to filthy worms speak to me in such horrendous tones.” He shouted. “Dispose of them,” he said to his guards.
They nodded in agreement and turned to face Callus and Polly. They placed them down and reached for their steel axes when suddenly voices along the corridor came. Jeffery turned pale in fear and the guards turned to look at him to ask what to do. Jeffery shouted, “Well be done with it already!” The guards shifted uncomfortably as they stared back at their master.
Jeffery looked like he was about to explode with frustration. He cursed and looked around him when it suddenly dawned on him that the Operational Manager of the mining operation stood a few feet away from the entrance to the corridor. Jeffery smiled quickly at them and he tried to come up with a reasonable excuse as the scene that lay before them but all he could do was stutter a bunch of nonsense.
The Operational Manager ordered his guards to capture Jeffery and his guards and place them in the prison mines and they freed Polly and Callus. The two of them gave each other tired but happy looks as they were guided by the Operational Managers guards to the infirmary. Callus knew that he would not have to worry about his elder brother for a long time and he revelled in the thought.