How long will it be before I run out of air? The question lingers around me like a noxious fume.
What am I doing here anyway? Why did I sneak over here, hoping and praying no one would know, so fearful they’d steal my gold? Right now I’d give it all to have one friend who cared enough to come and dig me out.
This is really crazy. Here I am, surrounded by all this wealth and I’d trade it this minute for empty space — space that would hold more air so I could live a few hours longer. Maybe long enough to dig myself out? Maybe not.
My mind snaps for a moment. I grope around, grab a bag of nuggets, and hurl it as hard as possible against the snow in the entrance. I hear the thud as it strikes, then falls to the ground.
Rocks. Small glistening pebbles. They won’t buy me enough oxygen to survive. They won’t buy me an air hole, never mind a hole big enough to crawl through.
If I could only melt my way through. I picture myself trying to melt some of the snow blockage with a lit candle, and I laugh. Oh, well. Maybe I should light one of them anyway. What difference can it make? Why not enjoy a little luxury as I’m dying? The candle and I can go out together.
Impulsively I crawl back to the entrance and try to move a bit more snow, but there’s no place to put it. I think about some fellow who wise-cracked one day that our town had a great snow removal plan. “It’s called Spring.”
Yeah. Spring will indeed move all this snow from the door of this cave.
And maybe next spring when the snow melts someone will think of me and come looking. If they find me they may use some of my gold to buy a nice fancy coffin for my remains and a headstone for my grave. It could say, “Here lies a very selfish man who died for his sin.” They’d choose marble, probably. Maybe that nice creamy-colored stuff with a cross carved on top. Or maybe just granite.
All depends on who finds me. Maybe some other miner will peek in and grab my bags, cover the hole, and my bones will be left here until Judgement Day.
I contemplate that day. Will the Lord come soon, like some preachers say, or will it be years and years yet? Or will He forget about us here on earth and go on to other things? I been in church a few times in my life, especially to funerals, so my mind drifts back to some of the songs and bits of sermons I’ve heard.
But I don’t want to die. Never gave it much thought before, but now I’m scared to die. Here I am, a prospector living all alone up here in the mountains, facing dangers every day, and now this. I’d better get ready, because I’m going to die.
I find myself shaking; tears are running down my cheeks. “Oh, God,” I shout into the darkness, “I’m afraid to die.”