Page 67 - November 2020
P. 67

November 2020            67
                      Litterateur





                                                 THE CHARCOAL GARDEN

              Hours passed, or maybe a day or years.  We started hearing a regular pounding
              noise coming from far away.  We still could not believe the plight we were in, as
              our eyes met and then turned in the direction from which the pounding noise was
              coming. Only stopping long enough to recoup our energy, we took off towards the
              sound  as  fast  as  we  could.    The  closer  we  came,  the  louder  it  got,  but  our
              eagerness to get out of the situation in which we found ourselves propelled us
              forward.    We  kept  on  running  like  madmen  until  the  pounding  noise  almost
              pierced  our  eardrums.    We  were  only  a  short  distance  from  the  source  of  the
              sound when Sharif stopped and looked straight at me.


              “Can you believe it?” he asked.

              I raised my head, but, before I had a chance to say a single word, something came
              crashing down from above. We had landed up in the midst of a tumbling pile of
              those coal-branches next to which we had recently been standing.

              No sooner did the coal-miners set eyes on us than they dropped their pickaxes

              and  fled  in  sheer  panic.  Climbing  abroad  the  wagon  in  which  they  were
              transporting the coal to the surface, they took off along a narrow tunnel which led
              to daylight in the distance.


              I looked at Sharif and saw that he was pitch-black.  I laughed and so did he. After
              we  had  brushed  the  dust  off  our  faces  and  bodies,  we  climbed  into  a  second
              wagon—which  they  had  left  behind  when  they  hurried  away—and  followed  the
              twin tracks along the same route that they had used to escape. On the way we
              noticed the lamps hanging on the rock walls and the wooden beams on either side
              propping  up  the  roof  of  the  tunnel  against  the  mountain’s  downward  pressure
              from above and the whole universe above that.

              Just  a  stone’s-throw  away  daylight  was  waiting  for  us.    The  men  who  had  run
              away from us were lined up outside the entrance to the coal-mine, hands on knees

              and heads staring at us in amazement.  They kept panting and trying in vain to
              control their breathing as they waited for the two of us to emerge on the wagon
              that was bringing us out of this garden of coal.
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