Amid These Crumbling Walls

by SandyX


Everyone was busy assembling the drilling machine ... the clink of metal against metal echoed off stone walls, voices murmured instructions, tools and parts exchanged hands ... and hope took shape in the form of one of Mouse’s contraptions.

She watched him work ... watched him bend to the task at hand, lost in it.

“Jamie ...” instinctively, she placed a tool in Mouse’s hand, he glanced at her, smiled. She stood close as he tinkered with the machine, finding comfort in his familiar muttering.

This has to work.

“Jamie ...”

“Yeah?” she replied distractedly as she looked over her shoulder.

Green. He had told Mouse that she had beautiful green eyes.

“Can I talk to you for a minute?” Catherine asked, indicating an unoccupied corner of the chamber with an inclination of her head.

She followed her to a spot that was likely to be out of ear shot of the others.

“We need to get to them soon,” Catherine said with quiet urgency in her voice.

She’s scared.

“I know ...”

Twenty feet of solid rock, I'm scared too.

“Will this machine work?”

She sighed, looking past Catherine to the activity around Mouse, “I think so.”

Catherine was watching now too, “Jamie ... does Mouse know what he’s doing?”

I don’t know.

“Yeah,” she said, sounding unconvincing even to herself.

“If he can’t ...”

“I know ...” she said, cutting her short.

Our world depends on this.

“We want them out too. This machine's our only chance, though. There’s no way Winslow and the others are going to get through the way they’re going. No way.”

Catherine nodded and placed a reassuring hand on her arm before returning to the drilling.

The droning whine of steel biting into stone filled the chamber, offering undelivered promise. She watched as Catherine bent close to Mouse’s shoulder, staring at the spinning drill bit as if willing it to shatter rock.

Crack.

Jamie rushed to where Mouse had landed, thrown across the room by the torque of the machine as yet another drill bit snapped against the unyielding stone.

“No good ... no good ... no good!” Mouse kicked at the machine as they helped him to his feet.

No good.
"Could go Above, find what's needed ... "

“Tell me what you need .... lead me up."


A crack ... a fissure ... the thinnest ray of hope shone through.


****

They waited just beyond the Central Park entrance.
Jamie observed Mouse's anxious movements, catching only bits of his rambling shorthand chatter. A ridge in the wall she leaned against pressed uncomfortably into her shoulder blade.

Solid rock.

She looked at the gray walls around her. As fortress, they had provided safety, separating above from below; Now, obstacle ... they presented an impossible barrier.

“This is bad,” she whispered.

“Worse than bad.”

“We might lose them both, Mouse ... there can’t be much air left in that chamber.”

“Need the explosives, drill bits...”

“I hope Catherine's good at finding stuff ...”

Finding stuff ... I sound like him.

"Said she could find," he said.

“I mean, where on earth is she going to find rock drilling bits and plastic explosives? She’s a lawyer or something, right?”

“Said she could find ..." he repeated, turning to face her.

Mouse ... always hopeful.

" ... she'll find."

Always sure.

"Has to," he said as he sat down beside her.

Always.

"Catherine will find. Mouse will fix. Boom! Vincent and Father free. You'll see."

She envisioned the walls crumbling, light infiltrating the imprisoning darkness ...

They both looked up as they became aware of approaching footsteps.


“I got everything ...”


****

Silence.

Not one imposed as archaic punishment, but the result of collectively held breath.

Catherine had managed to convince Winslow and the others to come help. The holes had been drilled and the explosives set.


She’d do it.
And she would have.

But Mouse ... his gizmos ... his friend.


The explosion rocked the tunnels. Blinding, choking debris filled the air. Pushing dust from her eyes with gritty palms, she saw Winslow and Catherine, ghosted figures, scrambling toward the opening.

Vincent ... Father ...

Safe.

She picked her way toward where Mouse had been with the detonator. Winslow brushed by and when she got to them, had a surprised Mouse locked in a bear hug.

She smiled ...
Safe.

Her vision blurred from weariness, grit and threatening tears. She stumbled a few more steps before giving way to fatigue, settling on a boulder knocked free by the shattering blast.

There was a commotion as Vincent and Winslow appeared, supporting Father between them. The gathered workers cleared way as Pascal and Randolph arrived with a stretcher. "We can take him from here."

She looked up as Mouse exited from the inner maze, “Neat ...” he said, smiling at his handiwork as he crossed through the jagged opening, “... might need more practice.”

She stared at the gaping hole. Wow. The barrier defeated, crushed.

Everything appeared softened as light reflected off fine particles of pulverized stone. She watched Vincent and Catherine disappear into the light-infused haze.

"Ready?" Mouse asked, offering a hand and pulling her to her feet.

"Yeah," she replied, kicking pieces of fractured rock out of the way, "let's go home."

****


Title from Time in the Rock, XXIV - Conrad Aiken.


Click HERE to return to the Shades of Gray project list - Eternity in an Hour

7 comments:

Vicky June 21, 2010 at 9:28 PM  

Brava, Sandy! I have a soft spot for Jamie, so this was a real treat! Thanks for changing from your inicial Mouse to her. it was great! ;-)
Hugs!

Joan June 21, 2010 at 9:42 PM  

Excellent job Sandy! Enjoyed it immensely... so very much Jamie. Love it!
Hugs,
Linn

SandyX June 22, 2010 at 5:03 AM  

Vicky, Linn, thank you both! I've always loved Jamie. She and Mouse are in that in-between territory - not really tunnel kids, but not treated as peers by the adults yet either. I wish we they had given us more Jamie episodes, I would have liked to get to know her better.

Anyway, I hope I did her justice.

Hugs back to both of you.

Sandy

Three Writers June 22, 2010 at 7:15 AM  

Sandy, I really like your spare, concise style here. Mouse was perfect. Offering his hand to Jamie at the end...a very sweet ending indeed. I thought Jamie was more flesh-and-blood-REAL than I've ever encountered her. It was telling that Catherine would ask Jamie about Mouse's chances at success! Thank you for this fascinating visit with a character we never got to know. Nancy

SandyX June 22, 2010 at 9:38 AM  

Nancy, thank you for your comments. This project was harder than I expected it to be. I knew I loved Jamie for the courage and loyalty she shows, but trying to get inside the head of an 18 year old wasn't easy - it's been a while ;-) That you found my Jamie real is encouraging.

I think Jamie and Catherine are alike in many ways, and it was interesting to think about how their relationship might have progressed from Jamie's first tentative glance on meeting her to her statement that "Catherine's my friend too," when she wanted to join the journey in TRIH.

Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Nancy, it means a lot.

Michelle K. July 17, 2010 at 7:01 PM  

It kills me that you say this was difficult. It reads as though it was effortless - truly. This was wonderful, Sandy. I felt the raw emotion in Jamie, heard in her voice. And I must say, you captured Mouse perfectly. Beautifully done!

SandyX July 18, 2010 at 7:59 AM  

Awww, thanks Michelle. This one did take forever for me to get started, though. That the end result seemed true to the characters is all I could really hope for. Thank you.

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