Authors: Joan Lennon
To Readers, Every One of You, Everywhere!
It was dark in the tunnel. Dead dark. But Sam didn't need to see. He knew every tunnel and cave in the Mine.
It was too bad the Gang chasing him did too.
Sam could hear the Gang getting closer. He covered his breathing mask with his hands and tried not to make a sound.
All the miners wore masks to keep the deadly Mine dust out of their lungs.
“Nice work, kid,” one of the Gang shouted. “You've run into a dead end. There's no way out.”
“You've been making trouble â again,” shouted another voice. “You've been asking too many questions.”
“We don't like people who ask questions,” called another man. “We are going to teach you a lesson. You've had your last chance.”
Somebody laughed. Cold sweat ran down Sam's back.
Sam tried to think. He knew there must be a way into the air shaft from this tunnel. There should be a small opening covered by a metal grill. But where was it?
At last his fingers found the metal grill. The opening was tiny, but the air shaft on the other side would be big enough to crawl through.
“You're already in trouble, boy. Don't make it worse,” shouted a voice.
The Gang was right behind him now!
Sam ripped the grill out of the wall and jammed himself into the opening.
He pushed with his feet and pulled with his hands and finally managed to squeeze through the tiny hole.
They're too big to get in here
, Sam told himself.
But he was wrong. One of the men was already forcing himself through the tiny opening.
“I'm going to get you for this, boy,” growled the man.
Sam backed away. He felt like a rat in a trap.
Suddenly, Sam felt something move under his hand. It was hard and smooth, like a bottle.
He didn't stop to think. He grabbed the bottle, swung his arm and hit the man in the face.
Sam heard the man's breathing mask crack. He heard the man shout and swear. But he didn't wait to see what happened next.
Sam turned and fled into the darkness.
The Miners had lived underground on Planet Hell for hundreds of years. They drilled Ore out of the rock. Then they turned the Ore into power.
The power was sent up to the Surface of Hell, and beamed back to Planet Earth.
People always said that if you worked very hard, the Mining Company would send you home to Earth, as a reward.
Sam's dad had been sick with lung rot from the Mine dust. Sam kept saying, “Please, send him back to Earth. He's worked hard in the Mine all his life. He deserves to go back home to Earth!”
But nobody listened. And then, it was too late. His dad was dead. The lung rot killed him.
That was why Sam began to ask questions. If his dad didn't deserve to go home, who did?
He asked everyone, saying, “Do you know anybody who got sent back to Earth? Do you? Anybody?”
Everybody knew stories about someone who had been sent back to Earth. But nobody knew anybody real, with a real name, and a real life. All they had were stories.
Soon the Gang found out about Sam's questions. And they were very, very angry.
Sam's mum had died when he was a baby, so his dad had brought him up.
When Sam was little, his dad told him stories about Planet Earth.
“Earth is all blue and green, and you can live on the Surface there,” he said. “The sun shines in the sky and the air is fresh and clean. That's where our people come from.”
“Will I get to go there one day?” Sam asked.
“One day, if you work very hard,” said Sam's dad.
But it hadn't turned out like that.
Now Sam was all alone, and the Gang was after him.
“I wish you were here, Dad,” Sam whispered in the darkness. “I wish you were here.”
Sam was still hiding in the air shafts. He was panting hard. He could hear a huge digging machine bashing out a new tunnel nearby. BAM â¦ BAM â¦ BAM â¦
Sam lit an electric candle and looked down. He still had the bottle in his hand. Suddenly, he saw something inside the bottle â¦
He took the top off the bottle, turned it upside down and shook it. A piece of paper fell out. It had writing on it in large letters.
If you're really down there, come and get me!
I'm not afraid of you!
Sam turned the piece of paper over. On the back in much smaller writing it said:
I only wrote that message
because they made me. If you are real,
please, please don't come up!
Sam read it three times. It didn't make any sense.
Who can have written it?
Sam's dad had taught him how to write all the letters â but not like this. Not with all those loops and curly bits. Sam didn't know anybody in the Mine who could write like that.
It was almost as if somebody from the Surface had written the message. Put it in the bottle. Thrown it down the air shaft.
But that's just stupid â no one can live on the Surface!
Sam thought. Of course, there were lots of stories about horrible monsters living up there. They had no eyes and ate rock and drank each other's boiling blood. But the stories were just to scare little kids.