It’s dark in the tunnel, except for my candle. I hold the rope for the door, in case I have to open it. Mostly, I just sit and wait. I want to stand but there’s not enough room, even for me.
Ma says there are ghosts in the mine. They try to choke you, she says, but you can’t see them. You can only feel them. That’s what happened to Pa. He got choked by a ghost. Before I go to work, Ma always tells me, “If you feel a ghost, you let him out, you hear me? You open your door and let him out. That’s all the ghosts want. To get out of the mine.” I’m good at opening the doors. That’s why they made me a trapper.
I hear a putter pulling a truck up the tunnel. It’s one of the girls. I smile at her, but I can’t see if she smiles back. The girls rarely do. Hauling the trucks is hard. I pull my rope and open the door so she can get through.
No one else comes for a long time. It’s quiet. I get a weird feeling, like somebody’s watching me. My heart starts hammering in my chest like a wild bird. I feel something thick in my throat, like drinking cream.
“Hello?” I call out. It sounds like I’m underwater. My voice echoes back, only it sounds like Pa.
“Pa? Is that you?” More echoes.
I remember what Ma said. The ghosts just want to get out. I pull my rope and open the door. I feel the air moving across me and out the door, and my throat doesn’t feel so heavy anymore.
“You’re free now, Pa,” I whisper