“The main foyer of the mine was a long, broad hall carved from the seam. Thick timbers supported the roof, each one as big as my waist, but all around me I sensed the impending crush of weight – tons and tons of stone pressing down upon us. The hot, moist, dusty air smelt like sweat and vinegar, a pungent fragrance that caught in the back of my throat and made me strain for breath. Broken lamps hung from hooks on the beams and the dirt floor sparkled with shattered glass. The explosion had rocked the area and destroyed anything fragile.
‘They brought the wounded in here, sir,’ said the man in the helmet, his faced striped with sweat and grime. If he was surprised to see a girl with the doctor, he said nothing to show it. He beckoned to us both, and I followed Father through a low-ceiling corridor, shored up with square beams that sagged in the middle. He led us into an antechamber, only slightly higher than Father’s head. Here, chunks of rock from the roof littered the sandy floor. A line of stalls, strew with hay, followed the bare rock walls.
Along a cleared space in the middle of the stable, the draegers had dumped the wounded, their only purpose to get the injured miners out of the way so that they might fight the flames that persisted in the rock. The air felt syrupy in my throat; there must still be fires burning in the maze of tunnels.” – Bucket of Blood