At the End of the Labyrinth

Which way forward? Light or darkness? Choose wisely.
Which way forward? Light or darkness? Choose wisely.

Whilst on my house hunting mission in the Southern Dales last weekend, I came across a solitary chimney reaching for the sky on the barren tracts of Grassington Moor in Wharfedale — just about the only structure in sound condition throughout this entire swath of infertile land, which has been thoroughly scarred with the wounds of an extensive 18th century lead mining industry — the treeless moorland pockmarked with the ulcers of various excavations, their resulting spoil heaps, and the ruins of various associated buildings.

The chimney lies at the head of a lengthy flue system, that would have exhausted the poisonous fumes well away from the main smelting mill that sits nearly half a kilometre downrange and I couldn’t resist having a peek inside. It last underwent repairs in the early 1970s so it’s far from risky as these things go — the flue is remarkably intact too, and you could probably walk (or more likely crouch and shuffle) along its entire span to the ruins below if you so wished.

I didn’t so wish, but I did snap this shot looking from the chimney’s interior, down towards the duality of sunshine, and dark maw beyond. It kind of reminds me of a potential scenario in those old ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ style books:

And finally, after days of fruitless searching you spot daylight — an exit! A way out of this seemingly endless labyrinth. Closer inspection reveals that it’s merely a partial collapse, and that the narrow corridor continues ever onwards, receding to darkness.

You ponder the choice for a moment: Towards the light, the greenery and the promise of escape? Or press on through the blackness, where uncertainty, potential untold riches, or possibly an untimely end await?

Which do you choose?

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