Above even the din of the striking pickaxes and rumbling carts overloaded with coal, the high pitched wail of a newborn child could be heard with clarity by the miners. He was born in secret and would be kept hidden from the harsh coal bosses that doled out vouchers for scrip instead of cold hard cash. They would have taken the baby away with little remorse and the determined mother had been through too much to lose her child now.
Swaddled in oil stained rags and scraps of old shirts, the child continued to cry. His first breaths taking in the soot filled air of the mine. His mother, with the help of some of the other miners, had fashioned a makeshift domicile in one of the long abandoned shafts. She lay there, holding the child in her arms as her tears joined his. She laughed at the absurdity of it all.
The baby was raised in the coal mines, rarely seeing the sun or breathing fresh air. All he knew were the branching shafts and passageways underground. He was taught to read and write and he grew up strong. His mother longed for him to be able to leave the mines but she was afraid of the world that had treated her so poorly. At night while she slept in the bunkhouse near the mine entrance, when she could sleep, she dreamed of a better life for her and her child. And she wondered about the mysterious young man she had only known for a short time one Summer.
The child was a blessing for the miners. He knew the mine backwards, forwards, and blindfolded. He could smell the coal and lead the miners to prime locations. He also developed a knack for sensing when trouble was near, more than once saving the lives of a party of miners before a cave in or a gas leak. He seemed to thrive in a harsh environment that broke many a grown man's spirit.
As he approached manhood, he began to question his mother about his father and how he came to live in the mines. Long ago he could have left for there was no longer any danger of him being stolen away by his mother's employers, but she was afraid to let him go. She filled his ears with lies about the world so that he would stay. And he did stay because he loved her with all his heart. He stayed long after she died. When the mine collapsed upon him and the miners it was as if he never existed.