I wake up in it, and my days end in it as well. I am all alone, yet I am also being watched… constantly. The world is a weird place, throwing out white crows like me, and to where? What is this place? What did I do to deserve it, and why me, out of the billions of others who could have had to bear the weight? I don’t know where I am… I am confused. Each time I wake up, it’s in a different place. It always switches, sometimes being in what looks like my mansion, other times being in what seems to be a mineshaft or the playground I always used to go to when I was small.
This all started happening to me a little more than two years ago. I don’t know why, but there would be nights where I wake up, and I am simply not there (or more accurately, not somewhere real). It feels as if this reality I land in is of places I know, of places I have personally seen, but I can’t put my finger on it… but something is always wrong here. There is never anyone here-I am always alone. It is quite… always. No sound, at all. I can always tell when I wake up in this twisted reality. No matter what season it is, whether Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter, it is always cold. The weather here is always the same; misty, cold, dark. It looks as if it is about to rain, with dark gray clouds always hovering in the sky, but it never does rain.
I open my eyes, as I feel an icy water droplet fall on my forehead, slowly flowing down on my eyebrow and off the side of my face. I feel the dirt beneath me, and the chill temperatures indicate that I am outside. The place is dark, and sort of has a harsh musk to it. It smells like water that has been in one spot for a very long time; unmoving, untouched, uncleansed from all the years of its presence in the crevices of the rocks. I am in the Mineshaft.
My father was a business man who made a fortune on mining various minerals deep in the ground. When I was 7, he took me to visit the first mineshaft that he ever built, the “New Beginnings” Northern Pacific Mineral Industry Complex. It was a cheesy name, yes, but it was what gave our family the fortune. Even when the corporation wanted to change the name to something more professional, my father refused, and who could blame him? This mineshaft really was a new beginning for our family. I remember vividly walking through these tunnels, remembering the happy faces of workers who surrounded me, showing me around deep within the tunnels, showing the digging machinery, and how it worked. I loved it, and it was what initially made me pursue a career in mechanical engineering two years ago.
I rose up from the ground, and looked around. I always woke up in the same chamber. Tunnel H-17. In my childhood, this was the deepest tunnel of the entire mineshaft. I remember that the workers weren’t able to get past the solid bedrock that was found in this tunnel, and they had to abandon that segment. I sit up, and let out a yawn. Even though I was in the deepest part of the shaft, several hundred feet underground, with no natural nor artificial lighting (since this portion was abandoned and closed down for more than 10 years) I always found a lit lantern beside me. I would be dammed if I knew how it got there, but this not being my first time, I realized I came to find comfort in the old rusty item. I picked it up and sat up. It would be a long walk to the exit. I let out a smoky breath. My clothes were dirty with dust and a smell of dampness, but I didn’t bother dusting myself off. This is not my first nor my last time waking up here.
I stood up, and stretched myself and tweaked the gas valve on the lantern, trying to get it to illuminate as much of the dark tunnel as possible. Sadly, even though it operated on gas, with the flame gracefully dancing behind the glass, I could not feel any heat that could give off even a little bit of warmth in these chilling tunnels. I began walking, turning around to take a final look at the dead end. On the rock, I could see the same message that is written in graffiti: “This path is dead, find another Exit.” I never bothered asking myself what it was supposed to mean, maybe some sort of wording used to describe the end of tunnelling, but if that was true, why didn’t they post it at the very beginning of the entrance? I shrugged; it was all more than a decade old… I let out a shiver from the cold, and began my march to the surface.
Hopefully I won’t get lost in the tunnels like I did my first “flight”. It was probably my worst experience in the tunnels here, maybe because it was the first time I woke up in this strange place. I spent 18 hours climbing around in the various branching and intersecting tunnels, at least that was what my wristwatch showed me. I don’t know, but I lost the lantern on that journey, and had to wander around, with the faint light from the watch illuminating the two feet in front of me, while I tried to follow the tunnels clutching on to the cold, stone walls. I remember it ended with me curling up in a ball, shivering, and thinking I was going to freeze to death. I fell asleep, only to re-awaken in what seemed to be my room. I remember my mother ran in crying, and she cried for the others to come in. I was back… I was home… But I knew it was for only a short bit.
Throughout the two years of waking up in these similar locations, I became more prepared, and eventually even learned all the tunnel pathways. Where they connected… where they ended. I would even boast that I could get out of the shaft blinded, though I would rather not, since tripping on something in the darkness does not sound like a good idea. If I remembered correctly, the tunnel would go on for another 3 miles. I had a long time to walk, and I preferred to get started right away, even though I did not know what caused me to eventually awaken back in reality. My journey begins, but when does it end?