The brine made black look more puddling; and from the puddling, a moist scent floated above it. Pitch was the second layer, the third, the fourth, fifth and sixth layers, of rot to lay in this well’s seemingly endless cavity. Like a dentist drilling in a sore tooth, they entered the grotto with drills on air, pick axes and shovels, digging; deep, deeper and deeper still. There was no mercy for the patient now. All of it had to be dug out. Wheels of the winding towers shunted out loads, cart after cart; vertical automation – a Jacob Ladder’s infinity, until the horn for a next shift blew.
Men loaded up in cages; sunk down into the abyss. The men of done-shifts stepped outside, leveled up to the surface by their weight; faces unrecognizable under thick layers of dust: In gold, steel, iron and concrete. Their skins cast of black silt, laid upto their eyes, the only place where, pertaining to black, hadn’t ‘set foot’. Eyes teared, in the burn of the sweat and tar of their ropes and the dark air.
Time for a quick smoke, as if their lungs hadn’t seen enough tar, yet. Still, and yet, for all the coughing, the thing that had bonded them even tighter together: Some coughed all the time. The silent enemy. They felt they had to fight the World: The World of being eaten by dust, alive.
Photocredit: pinterest. Hilla and Bernd Becher, Zeche Neu-Iserlohn, Bochum Werne, 1963.