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When coal is all you've got, any change is for the better.

Goldie is a foreman at the Colburn Supreme Steamworks plant, but she dreams of a better life for herself, out of the coal dust. When a stranger named Ben turns up in her shift, Goldie wonders if he’s her ticket out of the coal.

Ben is obviously more than he’s trying to appear, and he’s just as obviously interested in her. But when a venomous ghost rat attacks her friend and would-be fiancé Ginger, it sets off a chain of events that sends Goldie out of the Colburn Supreme Steamworks plant and into a much stranger life.

Now she just has to decide what, and who, she really wants.

I thought the day was going to be one of those rare ones where nothing much happens and nothing goes wrong, until Ginger screamed.

Ginger was a weedy, red-haired bloke. He gave me my first kiss when we were both fifteen, which was recent enough that it still embarrassed me. I’d never heard him scream before.

I’d been checking the furnace gauges and Ginger was all the way across the Cavern at the coal chutes. I ran. I heard the breather-muffled shouts of “Ghost rat!” and my heart squeezed up with fear.

Ginger had a hand clamped around his left wrist. “It bit me, Goldie,” he said, his voice quavering and his blue eyes wide behind the smudged glass of his goggles.

“Go sit down in the lunch room and we’ll deal with the rat. I’ll be right along to doctor you.”

The other blokes were arming themselves with whatever they could find. Donald had a coalbar in each hand, his affable face screwed up with anger. I was glad he was on my side.

I grabbed a coalbar of my own. I felt better with a three-foot piece of metal in my hand, hooked at the end to help dislodge jammed coal from the chutes.

I looked around. It was dim in the Cavern, which was ill-lit by electric lamps hanging from the ceiling. And ghost rats have pale fur, which makes them hard to see anyway. I kept my eyes peeled for movement, but it was Ben Scholar who said, “There! It just ran past me.”

He was standing between two of the conveyers, which grumbled as they carried coal toward the furnaces. The machines didn’t care that a ghost rat was scampering about. I said, “Nobody move. Which way did it run, Scholar?”

He pointed at the floor near his feet. “It’s stopped.”

I crept toward him, my boots crunching faintly on the grit underfoot. “Stand still, Scholar. And don’t get in my way.”

  • Word Count: 22,200
  • Author: KC Shaw
  • Website: KC Shaw
  • ISBN: 978-1-61937-103-3
  • Artist: Kelly Shorten
  • Editor: Alice Loweecey

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