Short Affair challenge 27 November 2017 (Prompts: Extra. Green)
Sequel to “Wrapped in a mystery”
Sequel to “Wrapped in a mystery”
Napoleon was ahead of him in the tunnel, as they followed the light from their helmet lamps along the old rail tracks in the slate mine. Sometimes the tunnel opened out into vast, dark, cathedral-like spaces. Water dripped constantly from the roof. The walls were green with mossy growth.
“I don’t trust this roof,” Illya said later, when they both stopped on a swaying rope bridge over a lake of water that had formed.
Napoleon looked up at the low roof a little grimly. “You could be right. I’ll be glad to get out of here.” He went on into the tunnel that led to the quarry floor outside. “Can’t be much further,” Napoleon called, but Illya had stopped for a moment, curious about the initials carved into the side of the tunnel, of those who had been working there long ago.
As he emerged into the afternoon sunshine outside, Napoleon looked back, and heard an ominous creaking and groaning. “Illya!, Run!” he shouted into the tunnel. Too late. Rocks and dust blasted from the mouth of the tunnel as the roof caved in, bringing millions of tons of stone down into the old mine workings. He wasn’t aware of crying out, but Napoleon later found his throat was raw from screaming Illya’s name, and his hands bloody from tearing at the rock.
So, to say the least, the morning Napoleon found his partner, back from the dead and asleep on his sofa, was cause for celebration. When the news spread, Illya’s survival was greeted with modified rapture in some quarters, but by no means all. There was delight, for example, in the kitchens, where a rapid check of stores was also carried out, and with it a certain amount of extra ordering of supplies.
Illya’s reluctance to succumb to the tender mercies of doctors, let alone nurses, was overborne and he was persuaded to undergo a battery of tests to qualify for a return to operational duty. Napoleon, ignoring his remonstrations, left him in Medical and after seeing Mr Waverly, made for the kitchens where he looked for the optimistic, never-doubting Delia.
“Didn’t I say so?” she exclaimed when he found her.
He just hugged her and said, “Come and see him.”
“Oh, I can’t do that!”
“Sure you can, I’ll see your supervisor – wait here.”
When he returned, she was piling a tray with different containers. He laughed, and said, “You know the way to his heart – and he might even stay put in Medical with the weight of this holding him down.”
Having been x-rayed, and angrily parted from several samples of bodily fluids for testing, Illya was now unwillingly attached to various IV lines. However, his cracked ribs and the many healing contusions had been checked and now, comfortable for the first time in some days, he was asleep again.
The opening of the door roused him, however, and his sweet smile at seeing Delia broadened into a grin as Napoleon entered, carrying the tray.
“Delia, you’re wonderful,” he said, sitting up carefully and taking the tray on his knees.
Smiling, Napoleon left them.
“I knew you were alive, honey, and I’m so glad I was right,” she said, taking the lids away to display the contents of the containers.
“How did you know?”
“You may not be a believer in fate, but I am,” she said simply, “and I reckon you’ve got many years ahead of you.”
“Bit unlikely,” he said through a mouthful.
She smiled, “You’ll be OK, I know it. Oh, Illya – they’ll be waiting for me in the kitchens, but I’d really like to know what happened.”
He’d told Napoleon; he would also have to write it up – but she was owed something at least, for her faith in his survival.
Delia, seeing his reluctance, took his hand gently. “I was still at the beginning of the exit tunnel,” he said. “so I was close when it collapsed – too close, as you can see – but the blast blew me backwards into the underground lake we’d just crossed.”
“Must have been cold,” she commented.
“Very.” He paused. “It stopped me from passing out, I think. The bridge had fallen in, too. Luckily, I still had my helmet and the lamp. I had to swim and wade back across the lake.”
He didn’t tell her about the pain or the blood, or that he had turned out the lamp to save the battery and had just lain there in the impenetrable dark, unable to move.
“Then I started to look for a way out… the tunnel we had come from only led into the mine. But there was a smaller tunnel that we hadn’t noticed… I think I was a bit lightheaded by then – I just crawled along it. It was endless; I thought I might just die there…” he stopped with a little gasp. His hand gripped hers for a moment, and she squeezed it in sympathy.
“…But I was lucky. It was a pathway through a great spur of rock into another part of the quarry. My lamp failed on the way… Then, suddenly there were stars, and light – dawn was breaking. I was out.” He spoke very quietly and Delia had to lean forward to hear.
“A quarryman – Sam – had felt the collapse shake his house. In the morning, he came that way to check and found me. He carried me to his car and got me to a doctor.”
“And didn’t let us know?”
“He couldn’t. I was ill – Sam and his wife looked after me. When I was better, I told them I’d been prospecting. They lent me some money to hire a car. Then I… came to find Napoleon.”
“I’m glad – he’s been so – he’s so delighted to have you back.”
He smiled, suddenly mischievous again. “Just at the moment,” he said.
“You two!” She bent to kiss his cheek. “– But what a story! Thank you. Now, I must go.”
He returned the kiss, “Thanks Delia… for everything, and please – leave the tray, I haven’t finished.”