Estimated reading time — 7 minutes
Hunter ducked into the closet before Mrs. Abernathy could catch a glimpse of him. The blackness curled around him, and the clutter of aged textbooks and outdated curriculums made the already small corridor even tighter.
“Go into the yoga room, enter the closet on the far side, and go down the hallway,” he repeated the steps his friend Nate had told him. Light in hand, he crept towards the opposite side. He’d never felt so afraid in school before. The castaway supplies of teaching eras bygone were surprisingly sinister in the dark; that isn’t even to mention what would happen to him if he was caught.
He was filming, but he wouldn’t post it. All it would take was one snitch to Safe2Tell him and he’d be dragged to Mr. Lockheed’s office before he even left. He’d only show people in person; legend would spread fast enough, and then there wouldn’t be a way for administration to catch him.
He was beginning to wonder if the whole thing was a hoax when he reached the end of the room. Just as Nate said, a hole in the wall to his left. It was irregularity shaped, and led into a dirt tunnel just large enough for him to crouch in. He entered. Unsure of which way his destination was, he decided on a whim to take left. He traveled, taking every turn.
Save for the occasional spider, he was alone. There was nothing all that creepy, really, but nevertheless his hands trembled and he felt the tinges of panic. A voice in his head told him to turn back and even proof of the tunnels would give him enough clout. “I’m in too deep,” he whispered to himself. The tunnel seemed not to end and the darkness swallowed him as he went forward, his video light barely reaching three feet ahead.
Eventually however, he was greeted with another hole in the wall; but this one didn’t lead to any closet. It lead into what seemed to be a regular hallway, but dark, musty, and crumbling. He’d found it.
Hopping into the hallway, he half-expected some cryptid or psycho to leap out at him. To calm himself down, he started speaking to an audience as if he was vlogging. “Guys, look at this shit. I’m literally freaking right now. Check out these rusty ass lockers! I must be the first dude down here in ages.”
He walked down the hallway and through the locker room, and finally, stumbled into it. The abandoned pool, vaunted as the dark secret of Mulberry High. Rumors of why the pool was closed and the new one built floated across the school. Everything from a drowning incident to health hazards were cited. Most likely, the inefficiency of having the pool underground for classes and events, coupled with the outdated equipment, gave the opportune excuse to build the fancy new one they had now; that didn’t stop these tales from spreading.
More sinister were the rumors of what it was used for now. Mr. Lockheed’s Satanic sex dungeon? Location of a secret experiment on kids? Of course, it all sounded like comedic bullshit in the fluorescent light of the main level; down in the oppressive black, it seemed like a very real possibility.
He walked towards the edge of the pool. Splintered tile and cracked pipes lay in his path like guardians trying to turn him back as he carefully maneuvered closer. A drop of water hit his head, and he looked up. The ceiling was missing chunks, and whole pillars were collapsed.
“Damn guys, how is our school not sinking? There’s no way that the entire science department is supported by this,” he told the camera as he held it aloft, still taking small steps. As he remarked on the cracked light bulb overhead, his right foot went straight over the edge of the pool and he went with it. He screamed as he fell, and his legs cracked underneath him as he landed. His phone shattered on impact. The pain shot up, and he yelled in agony. He had went right into the deep end; eight feet as it were.
He tried to stand but his legs were useless. Reaching down, he felt the the bone jutting from his left calf. He was in utter agony. He reached for his phone, but only found glass shards. Panic set in; there was no way out. He couldn’t walk or even see. He hadn’t told anyone where he was going, saving the surprise for after. No school administrator would know where to look; teachers weren’t even supposed to really talk about the place and likely it wouldn’t even cross their minds. Nobody had been down there for over 60 years save for the rare maintenance that was done on the structure and piping.
He began shouting for help like the dying animal he was. Primal instincts had kicked in and he screamed his lungs out. He wasn’t even hoping that someone would hear him; his brain was so pumped with fear and adrenaline it was all he could feel and he couldn’t begin to think a coherent thought.
For about an hour, he lay in the dark yelling. The pain in his legs kept him shaking and sweaty, and he was unbelievably cold. His mouth had lost all moisture and the asbestos powder he’d inhaled wasn’t helping. His throat was raw and eventually he stopped but his panic hadn’t faded. In a fit of helplessness, he tried to claw up the rough wall of the pool. He tore at it with his hands. The pain of his skin being ripped from his fingers and his nails being torn out against the craggy concrete were undetectable compared to the wrenching in his legs. Giving out, he fell against the wall and wept. He cried, his sobs echoing in the chamber. He cursed himself for coming down there.
However, he wasn’t defeated yet. A rational mind, sick of being tormented by the torment his body was in, took over. He thought of his options, and he drafted a plan. If he could crawl to the ladder on the other side, pull himself up, and come out, he could crawl back to the tunnel. He could crawl through the tunnel, into the closet, and back into the yoga room. It would take quite a while, and require great strength, but he was motivated by the fear of rotting down here. He was already dehydrated and had lost a decent amount of blood; he wasn’t going to get any stronger.
He slowly crawled his way away from the wall. Using what little control he had left over his hips and legs to painfully help his arms, he wriggled up the incline towards the shallow end. Eventually, he reached the opposite wall. He remembered the ladder was on the left side, and with as much haste as he could muster he followed the wall left. Finding the ladder, his fear evaporated into hope and he grabbed the rungs with his scabbed fingers. He’d never been great at pull-ups but this life-or-death situation gave him new strength. He was clasped onto the second-to-last rung, nearly free. He didn’t give thought to the journey after; he was thinking one step at a time.
The rusted bar gave way to his weight, snapping. He fell backwards, landing hard on his back and rolling a ways down the pool. He was in far greater suffering now. The wind was knocked out of him, and his head throbbed. His hope was destroyed and dread filled the void.
He lay for some time, dizzy, miserable, and scared. He made no further attempt to move; he couldn’t have if he wanted to. He played through scenarios where by miraculous circumstances someone else made it down here to distract himself from the reality.. Maintenance workers, other explorers, even Mr. Lockheed.
His dread calcified into a despair. He realized that this was the end. Face-to-face with death, he went through his life again. Remembering his times as a little child where even the slightest danger was dashed by his parents, he couldn’t help but laugh a little. Perhaps going slightly delirious, he began giggling as he went through some of his funniest experiences. This giddiness gave way to sadness as he thought about his parents in mourning. It was even worse thinking that for possibly a very long time they wouldn’t even know where he went, making it much more terrible for them.
He began drifting in and out of sleep, the darkness remaining constant. He dreamt little, and what he did dream he remembered not when he woke. As he he came to hours later, fevered and clammy, he lay next to Nate.
He was shocked to full consciousness. He knew this wasn’t a dream and he shouted at his friend. “Go into the yoga room, enter the closet on the far side, and go down the hallway,” Nate said to him. In anger, he attempted to strike his friend, but could barely move his arm. Nate’s freckled face morphed into that of his father. “Dammit son, we don’t have the money for you to make these kinds of mistakes!” the apparition yelled at him. Hunter gritted his teeth and began crying once more. The vision morphed again and again, into his best of friends and worst of enemies, and all of them spoke at him.
He covered his ears in vain and begged for them to go away, until it morphed into Lynn. He stopped crying at once, and stared into her blue eyes. She giggled at him and stroked his face. The girl that sent him into nervousness just by being in the same room was now touching him. The girl that he had liked for so long, and if he had just had the balls, would’ve got. They had texted regularly, but he couldn’t bring himself to personal contact. But it was okay, because now she was with him.
“Heh-hey, Lynn. What’s going on?” he asked the hallucination. “I’ve got myself in a sticky situation, as you can tell…”
He continued his phantom conversation with the girl he had obsessed over ever since high school started. As he talked, his body began to fail. Blood from his head and legs had taken quite a toll, and his body was struggling to keep it’s temperature up. The lack of water accelerated the process and internal bleeding had begun taking his internal organs down.
As he lay there, dying, she faded away. A final wave of utter desperation washed over him and he screamed guttural cries of agony and panic. He clawed helplessly at the ground and flopped his body without rhyme or reason. He fell into unconsciousness for the last time, and didn’t die at peace; he fought for every second he lived in those final moments with the strength only a wounded and primitive creature could, and the last thoughts to enter his mind were not of the afterlife, nor his family, but of raw terror.
“Pretty grisly. The officers found him half composed down there, legs snapped and skull cracked. From the blood trails it looks like he gave quite the fight too.
“Yeah. Administration sealed the area and anyone found trespassing is going to be expelled; they definitely don’t want a repeat. Did you know him?”
“I did. I think he liked me last year, I remembered we texted some but he’d never actually talk to me. He seemed alright but was always weird when I was around. Poor guy, wish I had gotten to know him.”
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Many details are taken from real life. There is a tunnel system under my school you can get into from the yoga class closet and an abandoned pool underground.
CREDIT : Dane MillerHass