Hidden in Darkness

Beer Quarry Caves

Hidden in Darkness
by Diane E Tatlock

I am here.

At the dank, doomed mine they pay money to see where I took my last steps two hundred years ago, to hear the tale for entertainment. A man recounts the story of that day.

I recall another’s voice.

‘Boy!’ The Big Man bellows and I run to take his orders. ‘Get below. Blasting powder will be used within the half hour. Tell them to get out. Half an hour!’

I bolt into the vast cavern. Past crouching men wiping their faces, covered in sand; past horses dragging huge blocks of smooth creamy stone destined to make the homes of important men beautiful, or bound to decorate the holy houses of God. My legs speed on. Even before my first shout I feel a terrible warning. The ground twists and shakes, shuddering beneath my feet. A roar like thunder. Then deafening carnage as cold stone crashes down.

He didn’t keep his word that day. The Master had become impatient for his reward. Couldn’t wait for limestone gold to be dug up; couldn’t wait for my warning to be given so fathers and sons could dash to safety. The echoes of those screams remain, as heavy as the rock pressing on my back.

I am hidden.

A shade of my real self, I am concealed behind a massive limestone column. Quarrymen once hacked such pillars, shaping the limestone with knowledge and skill. They lived in darkness, blank faces of rock their daily view.

I stare into the lonely gloom.

Those following the guide, hear of dead men’s lives and trace signatures formed long ago by labouring stone cutters. A lady, a child held close, steps forward, lifts her hand and smiles. I reach out with confused fingers, searching for contact; searching for reassurance of my once existence.

‘Who’s the little boy?’ I hear her ask the leader.

He looks puzzled. ‘There is no little boy, madam,’ is his reply. ‘Only shadows.’ He leads the group away. She gasps, jumps back. Clutching her son to her, she turns and hurries after them.

Forgotten. I feel myself becoming a fantasy. A dream.

I wait, huddled amongst the damp and dust, to see daylight again. I wait, my shattered corpse surrounded by the bones of others, lacking in substance. Hidden in darkness, I wait for a mother’s hand to take hold of me, to lead me across Beer’s beaches to the sea’s edge where sunshine sparkles in the foam.

Diane E Tatlock has a longstanding love of words and the English language. Upon retirement from a teaching career she studied with the OU and became interested in writing short stories and, in particular, flash fiction. Some success in entering competitions has maintained this interest and she does this for fun. She lives in Wiltshire with her husband.

Image of Beer Quarry Caves, cc-by-sa/2.0 © John Scott via geograph.org.uk/p/759405.  (Image has been cropped.)