The Iron Writer Challenge #174
2016 Summer Open Challenge #11
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
An abandon mine
Gold teeth from a dead person
Main character is being pursued
“Are they still behind us?” Charlie Gable asked his brother, as the turned their horses into the canyon.
“Little brother, they will follow us right to Mexico. I don’t think they took very kindly to us robbing their bank,” Frank Gable replied with a chuckle.
“Big brother, I think you are right,” Charlie replied with a laugh of his own. “Maybe we can lose them in these canyons.”
“I surely do hope so. I ain’t liking the idea of being sent to Yuma prison or being strung up neither.”
They soon left the canyon and started their horses up a hill to try and lose the posse. Near the top of the hill, they spotted an abandoned mine.
“Let’s go in there Charlie. We can bring the horses in and let them rest.”
The two men entered the mine and brought their horses as far into the mine as they could, just so they wouldn’t be heard.
The two men decided to check out the mine and maybe see if there was another way out. As they walked deeper into the mine, they heard a whistling noise. They walked deeper into the mine to check out the sound and Frank tripped over something and fell to the ground. Charlie lit a match and they were shocked to see a skeleton of a human body. Charlie used the match to check the skeleton out and was happy to see gold teeth in the head of the skeleton. After helping his brother up, Charlie pulled the teeth out of the mouth and put them in his pocket.
Suddenly the whistling noise got louder and when they turned to look down the mine, they saw a pair of yellow glowing dots in the darkness. They didn’t stick around to see what it was. The two men quickly ran back toward the front of the mine, They grabbed their horses and ran out of the mine. They spotted the posse on the trail below them and Frank shouted to them.
The sheriff and the posse hurried up the hill.
Frank said,”Please arrest us sheriff and get us out of here, There is a ghost or something in there with yellow glowing eyes.”
Charlie Gable grabbed the bags of stolen money from the bank and handed them to the sheriff, The two men handed their guns to men in the posse and they mounted their horses.
“We’ll meet you back in town Sheriff,” Frank said as he kicked his horse and rode out of there, followed by his brother.
A deer walked out of the mine and the men in the posse laughed and hurried to catch up with the criminals.
Ray Whitten was the last CEO of what had once been one of the most prosperous companies on the planet. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. BHP. It seemed fitting it should end here. For more than a century the Earth here had willingly offered its soul to the long line of men before him who had been only too willing to receive it, in exchange for cold, hard, cash.
That was before they discovered the artefact. Even then, at first, there were scant few people on the planet who knew the secret of its existence. That was before it poisoned the surrounding landscape and the minds of those who’d once lived there.
How many had died?
He couldn’t tell. All he knew was those who remained would hunt him down until they found either him, or the artefact itself.
He stopped the car and checked the mirror to see if he could catch a glimpse of his pursuers.
It wouldn’t stay that way for log.
He scooped the cloth wrapped relic from the passenger seat beside him, hugged it close and stepped out into the hot wind whistling across the dusty red earth.
Once there’d actually been a hill here. A modern day tower of babel, stretching upwards toward God. It wasn’t so much a tower of knowledge as a tower of money. When the mines had been prosperous the mining magnates had thought themselves God’s, but it was what lay hidden beneath that was the real source of power.
In the last years, under his tenure as CEO, the only gold extracted from this place had come from the teeth of the men who’d died here.
Broken himself, Whitten trudged across the open earth. Whatever parched grass remained turned to dust under his boots until he stood at the edge of a deep scar in the Earth where once a mighty mountain stood. To his right a huge grader lay silent, slowly being buried by the wind-borne sand. Mother Nature trying to conceal the evidence. An accessory after the fact. A skeleton slumped in the driver’s seat. One of the many who never stood a chance when they’d first found the object. The artefact still wrapped beneath his coat seemed to throb against him like a heartbeat. In the distance behind him another steady metronomic thud was getting louder.
They’d found him. Soon they’d be on top of him. He had to finish what he’d come to do. To return the cursed thing to where it had come from and where hopefully, it would never be found again. He kept going. Staggering on to the left of the main pit, until he found the abandoned shaft. A cavernous maw in the ground. Behind him the thrum of the approaching helicopters grew into a roar. He knew all that remained for him to do. He peered over the edge into the abyss. He stole one last look behind, then stepped forward.
Soldat Friedrich Huber was simply doing his job. Assigned to a small convoy driving cargo from Germany to Switzerland, he had no idea what the cargo was. His wipers swished back and forth trying to keep up with the barrage of rain, but the hypnotic rhythm and anxiety of driving with blacked-out headlights was exhausting. When the deluge was at its worst, Friedrich took a wrong turn and drove many miles before realizing he was separated from the rest of the convoy.
While trying to turn around, his truck slid into a ditch and nearly turned over. Opening the back to check on his cargo, Friedrich discovered a crate had broken open.
He scooped up a handful of the contents. Astounded, he realized it was gold. As he looked closer, he was horrified. Friedrich was young but he was not stupid. This gold was certainly taken from dead Jewish prisoners in Dachau. But there was so much of it! How many human beings must they have killed? Thousands? Tens of thousands? More? Friedrich’s stomach turned sour and he vomited. His naive adoration for the glorious Third Reich – his own German government – came crashing down from its pedestal.
He would have no part in this … Except …
He thought quickly … There was something he could do!
It was in his power to return the items of gold he now had under his control.
He could turn it over to its rightful owners, the Jewish people.
He knew it would cost him his life, but it was the right thing to do.
Using the winch on the truck, he got back on the road and headed farther away from the convoy. They would soon discover his absence. He had to get far away and work quickly…
Taking the gold out of the crates, Friedrich hid the treasure in an abandoned mine.
He quickly penned a letter to a “Jewish Rabbi, Switzerland,” and gave the letter to a small group of refugees headed across the border. He refilled the crates to make the truck appear heavy and resealed them.
The SS caught up with Friedrich after he had spent several hours driving back into the heart of Germany. Pulled over, the truck was searched, but the crates now only held rocks.
Friedrich died a slow, horrible death as they tried to make him tell where the gold was.
The unopened letter was delivered 30 years later to a Jewish Rabbi in Switzerland. It simply said, “ ‘On a windy day you can hear the sound of toothless whistling underground; Rising up from all around for their lost treasure to be found.’ On behalf of the German people, I apologize for the wrongs perpetrated against your race. Signed, Friedrich Huber.”
Eventually investigations revealed the existence of an abandoned mine in the south of Germany where locals claimed the wind would make an eerie whistling as it blew through the tunnels. The World Jewish Restoration Organization found the mine and several hundred pounds of gold teeth and fillings taken from murdered prisoners of German concentration camps.
A Clipboard and a Whistle
My heart is beating in my throat, I can taste it. I can literally taste the pulse. It drones in my head with every beat of my racing heart.
I can hear the sound of crushing rocks and pebbles underneath the soles of my boots. My legs are on fire, burning more with every step up against the steep incline. The ground slips away beneath me, and my balance begins to shift, my knee crashes into the ground. I can feel gravel breaking the skin and piercing its way into the soft tissue underneath. Blood mingling with dirt. I don’t care.
I grab onto a protruding metal bar and pull myself up, everything hurts. I gasp for air as I straighten my leg and an intense pain momentarily overcomes the urge to survive. Faint voices, angry whispers, follow from the darkness behind me.
Warm tears running down my cheeks. Snot running from my nose. Mucus is obstructing my throat as I try to draw some oxygen in. It’s so hard to breathe.
I miss my family, afraid I’ll never see them, but worse is the crushing guilt that I’ll leave them behind. A weight heavier than tunnel collapse.
Nothing and no one was supposed to be in here. All I was here for was to inspect if it was safe for tours, all I brought was a clipboard and a headlight. Something grabbed my clipboard, I’ve broken the light. All I have to go by is going upwards and a faint light in the distance that I can only hope is the outside world.
The vaguest sound of a whistle haunts me, it may be the wind outside, or a draft from another tunnel. But it’s enough for me to try again. I begin to climb, with every step hurting more than the last. But I have to try, just a few more steps. Then another. Each one counts.
Behind me an overwhelming sinister is watching – following me shortly. I grab my tapeline and throw it at the darkness. A chilling cold creeps up my spine as it never hits the ground. It just disappeared into the void behind me, that is darker than night and my eyes can register. It hates me.
One final time the adrenaline shoots through every fibre still left, and I can tell that I’m about to be pounced. I throw myself forward and gain some momentum, my chest thunders like a drum to a point where I worry if it will suddenly stop. But it doesn’t matter, I’d rather die trying. Everything is in slow motion as I take bigger strides than I thought possible, my bones bending under the stress, but I’m doing it. Light is near, just a few more strides.
Behind me gains something, the whistle turning into a deafening scream, overcoming even my own. But then the sound escapes, into the open. I fall out onto grass and turn around to look back. Into pitch blackness retreats a twisted, evil face. The wail fades back into a whistling, coming from between a dead man’s golden teeth. I’m quitting my job today. I sob.
As he came to entrance to the mine, Jack looked back. No sign of his pursuer; but he knew Lucian had not given up and would still be on his trail. Jack leaned against the jamb to rest a moment. Straightening up, he took a deep breath, squared his shoulders, and entered the mine. Dangerous, to be sure; but safer than being captured.
As he turned on his flashlight and headed farther in, he thought about the time he and Lucian had spent as fellow students of the old man. He had taught them the esoteric lore that had been passed down for generations. As they progressed, learning more and more about the powers of the mind, he had promised them that one day they would be able to make full use of the arcane powers that moderns called paranormal, but the ancients knew simply as “magic”.
Jack carefully picked his way along the tracks and sighed, recalling Lucian’s impatience. The old man had said that to become a master one must be worthy. Moreover, one could receive final empowerment only by a free gift from the master. Lucian had actually laughed when the old man had said that.
“Gift?! If we learn all the techniques and have the understanding, why do we need a final ‘empowerment’?”
“This teaching is sacred,” the old man had said. “The empowerment is to ensure that only the truly deserving attain full power. The master must give the final permission to the ones he deems worthy. Otherwise, he might be turning loose horrible evil on the world!”
On the last day of training, the old man had announced that he would give the empowerment to Jack; but not to Lucian. Enraged, Lucian had attacked the old man before he could give Jack the empowerment. Stunned, Jack tried to stop him, but the old man was already dead.
“If the old man can’t give me the powers, I’ll find a way myself!” Lucian had screamed. Jack had tried to bind Lucian with his power, but they were evenly matched. At that moment, Jack realized that Lucian would use clues scattered throughout their teachings to find another route to empowerment. He realized that he must beat Lucian to that route, lest Lucian succeed.
Jack had travelled for months, pursued always by Lucian. Now, the end was near. Intuition and a cryptic remark he remembered from the old man had led him to this mine. Lucian could not be far behind. One or the other would prevail. His reverie was broken when he tripped against something. A skeleton—the skull filled with golden teeth. He knelt, and saw the sigil painted on the forehead. Touching the bones, he could feel power flowing into him—the final empowerment!
Jack suddenly heard a tuneless whistling—a habit of Lucian. He stood up and saw Lucian aiming a pistol at him.
“It ends here now! The answer is in this mine and I don’t need you anymore!” snarled Lucian.
“Right on both counts!” said Jack. He waved his hands and in a flash Lucian was unconscious. Jack was the master now.