I like melancholy music, the songs that take the sadness and push it outside on a strong breath. This story by Ian Nichols, though…well, I’ll be thinking about that for a bit.
I’m not walking there, Morgan tells himself under the stars, under the new Moon. It’s the beer that’s walking there, the feet in their heavy boots, the shoulders in the jacket and the hands that dig coal out of rock all day, that make their way down the hill path. It’s dangerous, that path, if you don’t know where the old mine shafts and sink holes are. A man could fall in and never be seen again. That would be a terrible thing to happen to a gypsy boy who strayed off the path. Terrible thing, it would be.
Be a good fellow, the beer in Morgan’s brain says, and warn the gypsy. Take him over and show him the old pit. Explain how strangers can miss the path and fall down, down to the old bones of the earth. Never be seen again. Not by any girl with bright eyes and a smile that’s a promise. Not by any girl. Best to warn the gypsy before he makes a mistake.
The pony’s there, and there’s a little fire in the old grate of the hut. Morgan can see the glow of it against the dark, dark field. See the way it makes the old pit-head a puzzle against the dark without lightening it one bit. Morgan knows that puzzle, played in it as a lad and heard the stories his da told about how men were lost there, down in the dark where nothing should be but coal. Stories about how it was shut down when no man would go down there. Oh, it’s deep as death, that shaft. He’ll have to tell that gypsy boy about it, show him how dangerous it might be. He goes to push open the door.
The music starts, and it’s a black, black song the gypsy sings. It’s in no language Morgan knows in his head, but in his blood, in the marrow of him, he knows that song. It’s cold wind and sad death, lovers parted and hard pain. It’s a song that shouldn’t be sung in this dark field, with that deep shaft nearby, a shaft where there’s a sighing of something hungry for sad dreams. A rustling comes from the shaft that could be coal dust falling down, down into the earth. It could be flakes of rust from old machines or punk from perished pit props, but Morgan thinks it isn’t. Morgan thinks a beast is rising to feed on the dark dreams in this song the gypsy boy sings.
The rotting door near shatters under Morgan’s hand as he bursts into the little hut.
“God, man; what do you think you’re doing?” he says. The beer’s all gone from his brain now. There’s no room for it past the fear.