FFC Feb 23 2020

editing_for_authors
Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

Vincent

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The Black Diamond Dragon woke on a cool July afternoon, shortly before the front shift was to knock off. Its roar shattered the windows of the pub and post office, and the lurching of the earth shook loose flimsy bark walls from miners’ humpties. A thousand pairs of hands fell to the ground and gripped whatever was close. A thousand pairs of eyes shot to the Black Diamond Mountain, where broken earth and rock and splintered trees flowed down the slope like filthy water sloshed from a washing copper. They stared in silence a minute, watching the dragon’s tongue rise into the sky from the pithead. It was a writhing pillar flattening at the top out like the canopy of a titanic tree, turning from fire-red to purple, to greasy black. Sheets of galvanised tin fluttered down like butterflies. And only when the echoes of the dragon’s voice had faded to nothing, and the yelping of dogs had broken the deep silence, did a thousand voices rise in screams and wails, the Black Diamond Women scrambling up the haulage track.

#

For a long time, all that Colin knew with surety was that his tallow lamp had gone out.

He took his cap off and touched the little copper pot. It was burning hot to his skin; he held his fingers to it until they began to blister, and when he could take no more snatched them back. He was, he thought, alive.

His pony was not. He found her with his stinging fingertips, running them along her sleek, still flank until he felt ragged wetness. He touched her face to be sure, and felt no breath. His pony was dead but he wasn’t, not yet, so Colin climbed to his feet and walked, feeling his way along the rough-hewn longwall.

It could have been the wrong way, he couldn’t tell. In the blackness, after his fall, he could not remember which way was the pithead. The air was hot. It was like being before an open furnace, the heat rolling over him in waves that seemed to come from all directions. But it did not stink of chokedamp, his mind still felt sharp and his fingertips stung, so Colin walked.

A tiny orange light flickered ahead.

The man who resolved out of the blackness had no name; Colin had only learned the deputy’s, and that through necessity. He’d no intention of knowing any more from among the ninety men and boys of the front shift, but now looking into this man’s frightened face, coal-blackened and running with sweat, his body naked but for his hobnailed boots and a loincloth made from a sugar bag, Colin suddenly wished he could at least greet him by name.

Instead he simply said, “we’re not dead.”

“Not bloody yet,” the man said, “but we will be if we go the way you’re headed.”

“Oh.” Colin looked back the way he’d come. By the light of the safety lamp he could see the markings on the pillars, big whitewash arrows. He’d been walking deeper into the workings. He turned back to the man. “Did you see others?”

“Plenty. Dead. Not all burned, either; some of them look like they could be sleeping, their cheeks a healthy pink.” He leaned close to whisper, as if afraid to say the word loudly. His eyes were wide and white. “Chokedamp.”

“I don’t smell it. Could there be others still alive, further in?”

“I won’t be staying to find out,” the man said, already walking past. Colin fell into step behind.




Aaaand I ran out of time. Flashfail.
 

Vincent

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Hey thank you very much, Cassiopeia.
 

Elizabeth George's book Write Away