Day 732: So far down

Day 732:

I’m sorry if this is unreadable. My hands are still shaking.

The day started normally enough. I had a good breakfast even if it was ducken, then went down to the mine to continue working my way down deep enough to find diamonds.

There are risks digging next to a crevasse, especially when you can’t see the bottom. (Theoretically I could  see the bottom if I was willing to stick my head over the edge, but the only way I could do that safely would be to lay on my stomach so that all of my mass except my head was firmly rooted to safety.

And safety’s the important part here. If I lose a little bit of ore or I don’t quite get everything I want across an area, that’s ok, so long as I survive. Because I didn’t get stuck here for 732 days to die in a ravine and never be found again.

Or turn into a skeleton. I wonder if that’s what would happen to me.

Anyway, there’s a lot of cutting and bracing and wedging involved in laying a floor over a ravine and it’s unsafe work no matter how high it is, except maybe if it’s only as deep as your own body, and even then nobody wants to be buried alive by their own floor.

So I did the smart and incredibly uncomfortable thing: I built a harness.

Now, truth be told, I’ve been spinning some of the hay fibers into rope for a while now, but I don’t have the kind of equipment that big enterprise rope companies have, where you can spin small strands into larger strands into larger strands. And I certainly don’t think I’d trust this hay unless it was at least three or four cores covered with a larger binder or some tar or something.  The rope is handy for catching, say, a loose cow… but even then these cows are easily able to kill me, so it’s definitely recreational cow-catching here, not angry cow-catching.

The rope I need to keep me safe along the edge I’ve been weaving out of leather. It’s almost like knitting with leather, a tight cord that loops on itself constantly. Because of the way I’m weaving it, it’s a little stretchy and a lot solid — solid enough that I’m willing to make a body harness out of it and then  tie it to a boulder in the room where I’m working.

The goal here is not to use the harness, mind. But it’s much better to have a harness you never test than need a harness and not have one.

So today I wore the harness to work along the edge. It’s a total pain in the butt to try to work when you’ve got a very large rope tied to your middle. It’s like the worst parts of vacuuming – the cord is always where you are, it’s always in the way, but the one thing you absolutely can’t do is unplug it.

I was making good progress, considering packing up for the day even, when a skeleton appeared on the far side of the chasm.

OK, normal enough.  There’s a steady stream of monsters wandering the other side of the chasm, but they can’t get over to me so they wander around for a little while and then yell things at me or try to shoot me with their arrows, then under away again.

This skeleton didn’t do that though. This skeleton decided that instead of going back the way it came it would continue on a little…. until it found a crossing point that none of the others had found.

Still no big deal, since as said I’m putting flooring over the ravine. Having crossed to my side of the ravine, the skeleton was edging its way along a very thin cliff’s edge, and for the most part it was under the part of the floor that I had built yesterday, so it was solid and effective.

I continued mining a dozen meters away.

Then the skeleton’s skull peeked up over the edge of the floor, in a spot where the cliff’s edge was both high enough and wide enough for the skeleton to see me. Another few meters, and now both it’s head and shoulders were above the floor.

I knew quite firmly that there was no way the skeleton could haul itself up over the floor. There simply wasn’t enough cliff edge to do that successfully.

But at this point, I have to admit, I was starting to get annoyed at the skeleton. I mean, yes, I kill them all the time, and maybe the right thing to do would have been to shoot it right where it stood. The extra bones wouldn’t have affected my work any, and I would’ve been safer.

On the other hand, this was the first skeleton that had figured out how to get to me. I was somewhat impressed with its ingenuity. That didn’t mean that I wanted it shooting at me. Even now I prefer a “live and let live” approach with the monsters. I don’t like damaging my equipment by using it on zombies and skeletons if I can avoid it. Besides, as far as I can tell, the skeleton is still native to this place and I am not.

The other part is something I don’t talk about much here because there’s not much to say about it, but it still weighs on me. After years and years of training with the mining union and the Company, I’ve had it instilled so deeply in me that nobody, absolutely nobody, even your worst enemy, should be allowed on a mining site without the right equipment. That means helmet, antigravity boots, inertial dampeners, gloves, and harness, even if you have everything else. You. Cannot. Mine. Safely. Without. A. Harness.

It freaks me out every time I’m in one of these caves and I see a creature just hanging out on a cliff edge like it’s no big deal, nothing to see here. All my training, all my own experience, it all says “no you shouldn’t be there, you need to suit up, you need to move, you need to suit up and move, you are going to die.” It is everyone’s fault on a mining site when someone dies because they had the wrong equipment or the equipment failed. Equipment check is the very most important step of every day.

But how do you equipment check monsters? You don’t.

To put it in other terms, I didn’t want the skeleton to die because if the skeleton died it would be my fault for letting it on my mining site without the right equipment, but I couldn’t exactly do anything about its lack of equipment.

And I’m also going to admit that these weren’t coalesced thoughts in my head at the time. They were just a gut feel, the kind of thing that makes you clench your teeth just a little tighter in an already tense situation, and you don’t realize until later what was wrong.

The skeleton did something I never expected. It hauled its arms up onto the floor surface, as if it was going to lift itself up over the edge. Now it had my full attention, and I readied my sword.

I expected it would climb up over the edge and start chasing me.

Instead, it laid its bow flat on the stone and, with almost all of its energy going into just staying balanced on the stone, it started shooting at me.

It almost hit me the first time, too, because I was so shocked that it was actually able to do all those things at one time. Skeletons are not exactly the most nimble of fellows. (I’m not sure I’d call anything nimble here except maybe the rock rats.)

I dodged the arrows, ensured my harness was still tight, and repositioned myself… but honestly there was nowhere safe for me to go. I’d already cleaned out most of the stone pillars and other things to hide behind. I had no cover, no protection, and a murderous skeleton.

A murderous skeleton on freshly-laid floor.

Freshly-laid floor that wasn’t securely wedged in yet.

I did some yelling and cursing when it started firing at me.

When the skeleton’s floor “tile” started to slide out of the fresh mortar and the braces underneath it, both the skeleton and I realized the block was going to collapse into the ravine and both of us — I’m sure based on the look on its face — didn’t want that at all.

I started sprinting toward the edge. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do, but I had a harness to hold me up. If I could grab the skeleton before the block broke I could haul it up onto solid floor. I think I figured that if it tried to kill me somewhere safe it was fair for me to defend myself, but nobody, not even a skeleton, should fall like that.

The skeleton could have thrown itself back onto the cliff’s edge. Or it could have tried to swing up onto the edge. It could have tried a couple different things.

Instead, even as the stone was slowly giving way, it fired one last arrow… which arced in a rainbow well over my head…. and struck the very center of my harness rope.

The stone gave a groan and the skeleton’s eye sockets grew wide, I don’t know how.

I dove toward the edge to grab the skeleton. I should have had enough slack to get there easily, except the skeleton’s arrow had jammed a small but crucial wedge of the rope in between floor stones.

I slammed down onto the floor, smacking my own helmet on the edge of the skeleton’s stone. My fingers brushed it as it gave way. My fingers brushed the skelton’s arms as it gave way with the stone.

I was suddenly hanging my head off the floor’s edge, I watched as both skeleton and floor block tumbled through the air for what felt like forever, until they landed with a sickening thud.

I scrambled back from the edge, got sick, put myself together, got sick again, and came home.

I took a bath, got cleaned up, checked my gear (the rope didn’t even cut from the skeleton’s arrow), and tried to eat, but nothing sounds good and there’s a ringing in my ears.

I might have a concussion, or I might be in shock.

All I know is that every time I close my eyes, I see the skeleton falling and falling until the ravine rises up to meet it.