What Dies Beneath

When the darkness swallowed her husband, all Zhang Jiaqin saw was a wisp of black smoke emanating from the ground. It could have been a harvest blaze or the remnants of a cooking fire. But as she stood in the cornfields of this hardscrabble corner of southwest China, Zhang knew better. Like a fisherman's wife who scans the seas when the weather turns turbulent, a coal miner's spouse recognizes the fatal signs: a thread of smoke, a muffled boom and then a rush of blackness flowing from the charred earth. "I knew he had died the moment I saw the smoke,"...

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