“A Night at the Mine” by Kieron Baird

   The three teenagers made their way through the small woods and onwards to the abandoned coal mine. It wasn’t too far from their homes and provided a great escape. No prying parents or nosy neighbours with their judgmental eyes. It was always a great way to start the weekend. First, they passed the toothless warning sign and then walked right over the rusty, toppled security fence. The place had shut down decades ago but nobody cared enough to even try and keep people out anymore.

It was a bright and starry night, the full moon lighting the lonely place. The boys all had their phone torches for added light too. Typical, dated mining equipment, buildings and other discards were visible in the distance but they weren’t tonight’s destination. The side the trio entered from came out at a much older section of the mines. Mines carved out long ago by simple tools and human hands.

The scars of that long-ceased operation were still visible, with a scattering of the shaft entrances still remaining. All were now either completely boarded over or deliberately caved in, with the exception of one. This sole accessible tunnel was a favourite haunt for all the local teenagers. Slightly eerie, edgy and best of all, private.  It was the latter that had attracted Gavin, Daniel and Brad. No adults here to tell them they shouldn’t be drinking, smoking or whatever else.

Before long they’d made their way into the dark tunnel and were soon cracking open a few cans by the light of their phones. They were all hunkered down just a short way in from the entrance. It was spacious enough and the cavity’s dimensions meant the teenagers could comfortably stand up if they wanted. Nobody ever went in too deep, to ‘uncharted territory’, it was too dangerous, considering the age. Perhaps the ghost stories and folklore help discourage others too.

It was a bit cold and damp inside but it kept them out of the elements. If nothing else it made for a nice change from bedrooms and video games. The teenagers were soon a few drinks in and the banter was good. It was looking to be a decent start to another weekend. Then suddenly–

*Clink* *Clink* *Clink* The sound boomed out unexpectedly, rebounding of all the walls. Until an uneasy silence returned.

“What was that!?” asked an alarmed Daniel.

“Probably just some rocks falling or something. Chill man.” mocked Gavin.

Everyone went quiet, listening out for noises. They didn’t need to wait long until their reticence was broken again.

*Clink* *Clink* *Clink*

“Seriously guys…what’s that?” asked Daniel again.

   “Could be the coblynau… better be careful Dan,” Brad sarcastically replied. Then without warning, Brad let out a big “WOOHHH!”. Gavin and Brad couldn’t contain their laughter. Daniel’s scared expression was priceless.

But almost as soon as the pair’s laughter had faded. *Clink* *Clink* *Clink*

Daniel was really starting to freak out, it was clearly visible by the dim phone light. “That sounds like pickaxes!? What’s going on here?”

Gavin let out a long sigh. “It’s probably just another group further in trolling us. Settle down Daniel!”

“I don’t know guys,” chimed in Brad. “Three knocks mean imminent doom. According to my Grandad anyway. The coblynau aren’t messing around boys…” Only now he sounded half serious and the accompanying laugh seemed forced.

*Clink* *Clink* *Clink*

Gavin was getting bored of these games. He also partly wanted to calm down poor Daniel. “Right, one of you guys come with me! I bet we’ll find another squad just round the bend. They’ll just be chucking stones or something.”

“Nah. I’m good here.” declared Brad.

Daniel shook his head emphatically. “Towards the noises? Hell no! I ain’t stupid enough to go deeper in…”

*Clink* *Clink* *Clink* This time the sound seemed to be coming from more than one source however. It definitely sounded like a small team of people working in sync with pickaxes. Though with the echoing caused by the tunnel it was still hard to pinpoint.

“I’m not staying here! Not while some nutters with pickaxes are down there.” Daniel picked up his phone and started to head for the exit.

Brad quickly retrieved his phone too. “Come on Gavin. If someone is messing around with tools, it isn’t worth it.”

Listen to your friends, Gavin. These mines belong to us tonight. Not you humans.” came a raspy sounding voice speaking in Welsh. It was quickly followed by a cacophony of sinister laughter from various sources.

*Clang* *Clang* *Clang* rang a series of pickaxes. The sounds were much closer and unmistakeable this time.

  “We’re the coblynau and this is our mine! Clear off!” shouted the same creepy, old voice from the darkness further in.

“Screw this!” and with that Daniel was off.

“Run Gavin! Don’t stop! Run!” Brad shouted over his shoulder as he charged after an already fleeing Daniel.

Gavin made no attempt to follow the other two. He wasn’t afraid but instead felt rather annoyed. Whoever this was had put a right dampener on his Friday night. It was probably just another group messing around with an app or something, he reasoned. Gavin wasn’t a guy who liked being the butt of someone else’s joke.

“Superstitious Babies!” he yelled after his fleeing, terrified friends. Those two might buy into fairies, cursed mines or whatever but not him.

He picked up his phone and ventured further in. He was going to find the people who were responsible for trying to make a fool of him. What he was going to do when he found them, he didn’t know but Gavin certainly wasn’t running away screaming. Then just before reaching the bend, a group stepped out to bar his path.

This was no group of fellow teenagers, nor even people for that matter. These were small, ugly little things that definitely weren’t human. There was a dozen of them in total, well illuminated by the old-fashioned lanterns some of them carried.  The creatures varied in size, standing between 1ft – 1.5ft tall with the exception of one. The larger one at the front stood taller than its accomplices at 2ft.

   All were wearing strange, old-fashioned red and white clothes of various styles, all slightly stained in places by dirt, or soot perhaps. They all wore the same bandana-like thing on their heads though. Red with yellow polka dots, all remarkably clean in contrast to the rest of their getup. Most worryingly though was the fact that all of them carried sharp little pickaxes that glinted with the torchlight.

Gavin had heard the tales of coblynau, it was impossible not to, growing up next to a mine as he had. He’d never believed in them, of course, but now there was no doubt. What he was seeing were clearly twelve mean-looking coblynau. Foul looking things with beady little rodent eyes, big pointed ears and hooked noses of various sizes and shapes. All practically dripping with golden and silver jewellery. Rings, bangles, earrings and necklaces. The taller one, whom Gavin summarised was the leader, wore far more than any of the others though.

The largest one swaggered further forward towards Gavin, jingling as he did. “You didn’t heed our ‘nice’ warning Gavin. Should’ve just left. Well, now we’re going to have to MAKE you leave!”. It was the same voice from earlier but there was more malevolence in it now.

Some of the other coblynau were laughing, nudging each other knowingly, while others were brandishing their pickaxes with dark mischief reflecting in their cold eyes.

“What do you say crew? Should we introduce our new ‘friend’ here to Cath Fach?”

“Yes! Do it! Come on! Yes!” all the others egged on. Various other chants and jeers came from the gang gathered behind the instigator. Wicked giggles and spiteful laughs soon filled the mine shaft.

Gavin knew he should run, but he couldn’t seem to move. Either through fear or perhaps dark magic, he was completely immobile. All he could seemingly do was just stand there, dumbly staring, with mouth agape.

“ENOUGH!” cried the boss. All the other sounds died away immediately. Even the echoes died.

Then, the leader coblynau slowly edged his way back to the group. The only sound now was the jangle of his jewellery. Once back with its fellows, in sync, they all jumped aside and dimmed their lanterns low. A pair of giant, yellow eyes suddenly appeared, taking the fairies’ place. Whatever, this thing was, it stood taller than the spiteful little dwarves.

It gracefully stepped out into the dim light at a leisurely pace. Now out of the shadows, Gavin could see the eyes belonged to a large, shadowy, cat. Was it a panther!? Whatever it was, it appeared big, powerful and exuded predatory feline intent. To Gavin’s detriment, it looked like it was probably very fast too…

“Get ‘em Cath Fach!” – then the lights instantly went out.

   Gavin could move again and he didn’t hesitate in taking advantage of it. He ran as fast as his legs would carry him. He still had his phone in hand, the torch thankfully on. The battery was extremely low however and would likely cut out any second. It was only that single light that ensured he didn’t crash into the walls or trip on the uneven ground in his terror.

*Growl* *Roar* *Growl*

The big cat was right behind him now, snapping at him every time it closed the gap. He could hear its thunderous footfalls as its paws pounded the ground. The echo just made it all the more terrifying.  The phone died just as he cleared the shaft exit but Gavin hardly registered it. He just kept running.

“Don’t you dare come back here!” chanted a chorus of mocking voices from the mine.

He was in full panic mode. He didn’t stop when he cleared the fallen fence. He kept running after passing the warning sign. Gavin didn’t slow down through the woods, even as branches lashed out at him. Luckily, it was a full moon, otherwise he’d have easily gotten turned around in his current state. Exhausted, he still kept running, even once he was passing under safe and familiar street lights. Never once did he so much as glance backwards.


   Then, what seemed like an age later, Gavin was flopping down on the front steps. His house’s front door loomed in front of him, just out of reach. He was completely shattered, breathing hard. He was powerless now and couldn’t go any further. The exertion and harrowing experience combined, caused everything in his stomach bubble up. It wasn’t long before he was throwing up all the beer from earlier. Right on top of his Mum’s favourite shrub.

Oddly, nothing pounced him, despite being in such a vulnerable state. Once the heaving stopped, he composed himself, wiping his mouth with the sleeve of his sweat stained, white hoodie. Somewhat recovered, he looked back but nothing was there. When the giant cat had stopped chasing him, he couldn’t say but for whatever reason it was gone. Just another shadow lost in the night. Gavin had somehow survived his encounter with the coblynau and their ‘pet’.

Once safely back indoors, door firmly relocked, Gavin gradually managed to calm himself down, a little anyway. His parents were snoring upstairs but besides that the house was dark and quiet but in a familiar, safe, kind of way. This wasn’t the mine tunnel. Nothing would get him now. At least, that’s what he hoped anyway.

Events replayed in his head unbidden and it took a long time to stop the shaking. He firmly believed in the old tales now. How could he not? Gavin knew beyond a doubt it had all been real. He wasn’t high and was nowhere near drunk when everything had taken such a surreal turn. Yet, Brad and Daniel had fled before the coblynau even stepped out. At best they could vouch for the noises and weird voice but that was it. Surely, they’d believe him…right?

Eventually, in the comfort of his bedroom, he managed to quieten his mind. Until only one thought played in his mind. One internal question. Who in their right mind would actually believe him?

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