The Tunnel (an overhaul on “Gravel”)

Well, now I’d done it; It took a lot of reasoning and perhaps incredible bouts of stupidity, but the consequences of not doing it will have far outweighed the benefits.

As the sun sank towards the horizon, casting long and numerous shadows on the greyness of the concrete floor, the trees above whistled and scraped and the shadows they casted also bristled and shook, almost like the actions of an insane man who felt that he had been wronged by the world. I found myself focusing intensely on the brightness of the light and its golden tinge, desperately restraining myself to look inside the dark yawning mouth of the tunnel, which spanned the hill, having been drilled through the mountain. However, it had been claimed by ruin, by years of misuse and decay, so that it was unsupported and so no longer safe. To prevent members of the community from entering, the council had decided that the sides of the tunnel would be blocked with concrete, so that entrance would be impossible. However, according to various newspaper reports at the time, the council had backed out of its proposal, and the blockage was never finished; and because of an accident in the tunnel, some of the workers had been crushed to death, under the strain of the heavy rocks which fell from the ceiling, their cries of despair and mortality echoing off the stone walls and reverberating out.

Out into the loneliness.

Again, I resisted the urge to look behind me, to be enveloped by the darkness, for it to make me its own; all my nerves were on edge and I felt panicked, nauseated by the pricking feeling on the back of my neck. My legs were exposed to the bitterly cold air from the tunnel’s core (like the breaths of a living being), and I had trouble forming rational thoughts; any thought turned to screams and howls to run, to leave, to abandon the entrance, as the tunnel was now a place of death and abandonment.

A cold whisper of air whirred around my jacket, stirring up a lone leaf that had fallen off a branch, making it spin, slowly at first, then rapidly faster, as it rose into the air, spiralling in the darkening sky; a piece of rope, twisted around a thin branch, swivelled around and around unceasingly, as the wind slowed: twisting and twisting.

Funny, I thought suddenly; the rope did not match the place it was in: it seemed like someone had deliberately draped it around the branch, and tied a thick knot at the end, securing it on the branch, so the end swayed in the wind, as if it was played upon by invisible hands and fingers. A thick, strong rope… a hangman’s noose???

The crack of a nearby (bottle? can?) pierced the air like the sound of a bullet, and I started, as my legs started to shake uncontrollably, unceasingly, along with my hands. The sound of my heart quickened and intensified, until the beating was almost unbearable; it deadened any outside sound, and it almost deafened me, filling my thoughts, making me inhuman: Thump, thump, thump…

“Dissemble no more! Tear up the planks! It is the beating of his hideous heart!”

…thump…thump…thump…

This is all a prank, I thought hopefully, as I resisted the urge to scream, to a (deserted?) area where no one will be able to hear me: The bullies at school knew that there was no threat in the tunnels, and so they are now playing tricks on me to scare me into running away from their dare, just because I refused to give them my lunch money!

But, in my heart of hearts, I knew this to be false. It was, however, interesting that I could still think of hope when in the midst of despair and doom.

From the surrounding landscape, or from the heart of the tunnel itself, a slow, steady scrape had started to overlap the silence of the night, slowly, slowly intensifying into a continuous sound that approached my position…

There was something watching me.

The workers are coming to seal the tunnel now…

slowly, slowly, slowly…

I tried desperately to open my mouth to scream.

But there was nobody to hear me.

(nobody????!)

thump… thump…scrape……………………………………………………………………..

No!

an icy hand gripped my heart. Time to go, I thought quickly; I could barely see the road from which I came from, but I had a torch. Slowly, my hand reached into the pocket, slowly fumbled around in its depths, and found some calmness in the coolness of the metal covering.  I gripped the torch like a flaming baton, as I stumbled around the mountain, crying softly to myself. I didn’t care whether the bullies gave me hell the next day; I just wanted to leave.

He had been going for the boy.

As Tony Gallor slowly scraped out of the mouth of the tunnel, his mouth bleeding and a horrible gash on his shoulder, he knew that he would have to walk all the way home, all the way out of the mountain, past the train station, since he did not bring a ticket, and into his house in the suburbs, a distance that would be hell on foot, especially when his left leg was injured; that bicycle crash had been a bad one, and he was forced to spend the night in the depths of the tunnel. And guess what? That boy had the cheek to leave before he even told him the time!

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