This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Donald will be awarding an autographed copy of the Hell Holes 2: Demons on the Dalton (US ONLY) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.
After seconds that seemed to stretch into eternity, the cigarette butt tumbled past Mark and eventually reached the depth where the concentration of methane and hydrogen sulfide reached explosive levels.
There was a deafening whoosh, and a huge fireball the size of the hole erupted from the pit. Luckily, the blast from the explosion blew us backwards, away from the hole. That was the only thing that saved us from the intense heat radiating from the colossal swirling ball of fire and smoke that had roared from the crater. It felt like I was standing next to a hundred heat lamps, and I heard the sizzling sound of my hair and beard beginning to burn on the side of my head that faced the flames. Turning my back to the hole, I immediately used my hands to extinguish my burning hair before it could seriously burn me. Disgusted by the stench of a mixture of burnt hair and rotten eggs, I picked myself up and looked back towards the hole. Above us, a huge pillar of smoke rose like the ash cloud of an erupting volcano. Looking back down, we saw the burning nylon rope continue to rise until its end slipped over the edge of the hole. Only a little of Mark’s smoldering body harness was still attached to its end.
“No!” We heard Jill’s horror-filled scream coming loudly over our walkie-talkies, followed less than a second later when her anguished cry reached us from across the pit. I could just make out Jill’s wavering form through the turbulent superheated air rising up between us as she raced back around the hole.
I looked over to where Kowalski was standing, staring in disbelief at the fiery pit his thoughtlessness had created. I was beyond furious. The next thing I knew, I had him by the jacket and was screaming in his face, “You Goddamned careless son of a bitch! Weren’t you listening? Didn’t you hear me say there was hydrogen sulfide in the pit?”
“Buh, buh, but…” he stammered as he tried to back away from me.
Without realizing it, I was slowly backing him up to the hole. I might have backed him over the edge had Bill not forced himself between us. “That’s enough!” he commanded.
Suddenly, I realized what I was doing and let go. It was clear from his expression that he’d had no idea that the gasses in the bottom of the hole were flammable, let alone sufficiently concentrated to be explosive.
My fiery rage died as I turned my anger inward. Kowalski hadn’t killed Mark. I had. I was in charge and responsible for the lives of my team. I should have spotted the danger sooner. Mark was my student, so I should have sent him up first. Worst of all, I had seen Kowalski smoking next to the hole and done nothing. I turned my back on the hole and wearily walked away across the empty tundra.
A computer geek by day, Donald Firesmith works as a system and software engineer helping the US Government acquire large, complex software-intensive systems. In this guise, he has authored seven technical books, written numerous software- and system-related articles and papers, and spoken at more conferences than he can possibly remember. He is also proud to have been named a Distinguished Engineer by the Association of Computing Machinery, although his pride is tempered somewhat worrying whether the term “distinguished” makes him sound more like a graybeard academic rather than an active engineer whose beard is still more red than gray.
By night and on weekends, his alter ego writes modern paranormal fantasy, apocalyptic science fiction, action and adventure novels and relaxes by handcrafting magic wands from various magical woods and mystical gemstones. His first foray into fiction is the book Magical Wands: A Cornucopia of Wand Lore written under the pen name Wolfrick Ignatius Feuerschmied. He lives in Crafton, Pennsylvania with his wife Becky, his son Dane, and varying numbers of dogs, cats, and birds.
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“a quick, enjoyable read. Full of action and fraught with danger” Dave Robertson, author of Strange Hunting, Strange Hunting II, and The Brave and The Dead
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