After the accident, unease grew like a mold in the corners of his mind.
Or perhaps it was more like moss – the spongy type that covered the sides of the shaft where he lay. He was an idiot.
The number one bushie’s* rule when heading out for a bush walk: let someone know where you are going. And he hadn’t done it! He was an experienced bushwalker and knew better. Damn, he’d hiked some of the toughest treks in Australia on his own – the Stirling Ranges Ridge Walk, Tasmanian Overland Trail, Mt Bogong; just to name a few. Even though he preferred solitary hikes, he was always prepared, always cautious and always checked in with someone once he’d arrived. Except this time. He pictured his pack sitting at the top of the hole, and cursed.
He’d thought today’s hike would be easy and had been looking forward to the chance to explore the old gold mining area. The Lake Sambell-Lake Kerferd Walking Trail followed a path from Lake Sambell, Beechworth to Lake Kerferd (the town’s water supply). He had walked along Spring and Hurdle Creeks, and had been having fun looking into the many disused mine shafts along the trail.
The mine shafts had been covered with wire mesh, and he had been unable to see much into them, past one or two metres. Just as he was longing for more, he’d seen the sign “Uncovered mine shafts – stay on the designated path” and like a fool, he’d been captivated by the thrill of perhaps, getting into one. He hadn’t had to walk too far off the trail either before he discovered a beauty. The mouth of the shaft was wide and rocky and he was positive he would be able to climb down; especially if he secured himself with some rope. Taking off his pack, he had no sooner unzipped the bag to pull out the length he had with him, when the sides of the shaft gave way and he had bounced and tumbled, all the way to the bottom.
He wriggled, trying to make himself comfortable and whimpered as his left leg screamed with pain. He was sure it was broken, especially with the unnatural angle at which it stretched out before him. He looked up, trying to work out how far down he’d fallen. It was far enough that the broad daylight above, seemed no more than a torch beam.
He was lucky to be alive really. Or was he? he thought, bleakly. No one knew he was here. No one would have expected him to disobey the signs and wander off. He knew from the history of the area that there were thousands of disused mines. Even if they did know he’d been walking this trail, they may never find him.
His unease, gave way to panic. With his leg useless, he couldn’t even try and climb out. He had no food, no water, no phone. All that – lay above him; in his pack. If by some chance, other hikers saw his bag, they may not be so foolhardy as to leave the trail and investigate further. They would pass him by.
How long can I survive down here? he wondered, as a wave of hopelessness washed over him.
He screamed desperately for help, but his cries were muted by the earth and damp surrounding him. He may as well have been screaming in a vacuum. His hands clenched at the gritty soil beneath them and he threw a clump at the wall in frustration. As the eerie silence of the shaft, closed in around him, the gravity of his predicament settled upon him. He squeezed his eyes shut, lay back and waited.
Waited for rescue and waited for death.
Whichever came first.
By Sarah ©2017
* bushie – Australian slang. someone who lives in the bush; person who lives in rural Australia;