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The Tunnel

the tunnel


Estimated reading time — 6 minutes

Hollow bodies, Hollow bodies
knocking on my brain
They haunt my dreams with silent screams
They’re driving me insane

Hollow bodies, Hollow bodies
Faceless figures in the rain
Their pinstripe suits and taloned fingers
Drill my skull in endless pain

Hollow bodies, Hollow bodies
Once human now a parasite
They live inside us trying to spread
To drown our souls in endless dread

Hollow bodies, Hollow bodies
Distorting what is real
Numbing my bones so I can’t feel
Blind to love
no chance to heal

Rain pooled and collected along the cracked pavement leading to the tunnel under the train tracks. Unkempt lawns, half-stripped vehicles, and broken chain link fences line each side of the street. The lights above cast an eerie shadow over the gloomy path, and the quiet atmosphere settles in the bones like a cold fog. Discarded needles, broken bottles, button baggies, and thrown out condom wrappers bob in the potholes, scattered throughout the neighborhood. The smell of urine creeps from the tunnel connecting Charles street to Portis street.

It’s 10:30 pm, and Ian is stumbling home from the bar. His footsteps are shaky as his vision bounces between perfect clarity and dizzying double-sightedness. The street which normally takes five minutes to walk down now looked to be as long as an airport runway. The rain poured down with increasing intensity. It took ages to reach the stairs leading down to the tunnel, the lights cast a warm glow across his field of view. A car passes on the opposite end, light flashes at the end of the barrel. There may be other ways home, safer routes, but this was familiar ground. The lights from the tunnel cast a warm glow across his field of view as Ian approached.

The last couple weeks Ian had been having trouble sleeping. Haunted by a strange bout of night terrors, he found himself waking in the middle of the night with the feeling of being watched. The dreams were always the same. An alleyway in some unrecognizable city, pursued by a group of faceless predators, almost human. The first time Ian had this dream, there was only one, but every time the dream reoccurred there would be more of these figures- he stopped counting after seven. Every dream ended the same. They would trap him in the alley on both sides, cornering him in a flooded underground parking garage. Each time it seemed that they were about to reach out and grab him, he would wake up.

Ian assumed the night terrors were brought about by stress, his work had been busier than usual lately, and they were pitifully short staffed. He worked for a landscaping company that was contracted out by one of those new gated communities going up on the nearby mountainside. The projects kept stacking up, and to make matters worse, it was being called the rainiest fall on record in the last ten years. Since the boss didn’t want Ian’s crew rolling out sod in the rain, the focus this week was building retainer walls on each property. The work was brutal. Five of the staff members had been fired the previous week, they were getting high on their break time, and so the remaining seven were carrying the load, working overtime every day for the last two weeks. The job paid well, and nobody was in the position to give that up, so Ian and the rest of the crew resigned to grumbling about the decision whenever Jack and the other two bosses, Jeremy and Tom weren’t in ear shot. Meanwhile the days grew darker while the hours seemed to stretch on, and Ian’s world became bleak and grey.

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The nightmares became more vivid. Sleep now harder to find. Staying awake all night would be less exhausting. Instead Ian lay on his back letting his mind jump from one wall to the other, from the daily confrontations at work, to the next and the next, picking and chipping at the excess of his mind like a scab. Ian knew that he needed to calm down, find a way to sleep so he could perform at work the next day, and booze seemed to sedate the demons—sometimes. Each night he’d go to the bar a short walk from home and have a plate of food and as many drinks as he could swallow. Once the walls were spinning and the bartenders spoke in broken, fragmented sentences- that was when Ian would settle his tab and walk home.

Tonight was a little bit different, almost celebratory. After work had wrapped up this evening, Tom announced to the team that they’d hired a couple young guys to help with the labor. Sure they were new and would need to get used to the rhythm, but the work was simple enough and the promise of a lighter load meant earlier days for the crew. Ian didn’t feel the need to be exceptionally drunk tonight, and instead just enjoyed a meal, a few drinks, and some small talk with the bartender. After downing his last gulp of whiskey and leaving cash on the table, Ian got up and began his journey home.

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The light from the tunnel was getting brighter in Ian’s vision as he approached the steps leading down. He noticed what appeared to be someone walking ahead of him through the tunnel. The individual was wearing a jean jacket with a red and black checkered hood, and black skinny jeans. As Ian entered the tunnel, he noticed the figure was not moving, just standing in the middle of the path. The tunnel was quite small, so passing would be a tight squeeze. A chill crept down Ian’s spine, which he attributed to the weather, and pulled the zipper up on his jacket. Wanting to make his presence known, Ian called out; “Hey, you good man?” The figure offered no response. Ian tried again. “Hello? Sir?” The person still offered no response, and Ian began to feel that maybe he shouldn’t be here. Without taking his eyes off the figure in front of him, Ian slowly backed away, carelessly stepping into a puddle with his left foot, soaking through his runners. The sound echoed through the tunnel, and Ian noticed the figures shoulder twitch. There is an oppressive atmosphere here. The air in the tunnel seemed to thicken and Ian found himself unable to move in any direction. The tunnel contorted, stretching to infinity, and shrinking back; the walls on either side curving inwards like oceanic waves whipped up by a nearby hurricane. Ian felt the urge to bolt in the opposite direction, but his feet remained planted as if chained to the floor by invisible restraints. The person turned to face him, and as he saw the details of the hooded figure Ian’s blood ran cold.

Like the demons in his dreams, this creature had no discernible features. Was this an unfortunate prank? Ian thought to himself. Bargaining. Maybe it’s just someone wearing a mask, trying to scare people for some twisted laughs? The creature approached Ian as he struggled to pull himself away. The skin over the hooded-being’s face began to tear open in the spot where it’s mouth should have been, a small stream of blood pouring from the ripping skin. The figures hands were still hidden in jacket pockets but as it drew nearer it lifted elbows, reaching out. Ian watched in awe. No longer wandering, because where fingers should’ve been there were only long talon-shaped claws.

The demon brought its talons to where its face might have been and tore into itself, leaving a bleeding wound, a Cheshire Cat-like grin with so many rows of teeth. Ian heard a chorus of wailing voices as the thing’s mouth opened wide, echoing through the rounded walls of the tunnel. “HELP! SOMEBODY! SOMEONE FUCKING HELP ME!” Ian cried out desperately, still unable to move.

Ian felt the energy drain from his body, the chills in his bones seemed to subside, almost warm, almost comforting. The hooded creature was leaning over him now. Drops of blood fell on his face mixing with his own tears. The noise all around him, arhythmic chants devoid of meaning, the screams of nameless victims.

The demon’s claws entered Ian’s face. He felt the pressure but no pain, blood poured from the two puncture wounds. The creature continued to cradle the back of Ian’s head, digging its talons into either side of his skull while the other claw slashed at Ian’s chest, reaching straight for his heart, crushing, and breaking it while still inside him. Was this a dream? Was this what dying felt like? Darkness drowned his vision as he succumbed to the void.

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Newspapers were delivered the next morning, with a front-page column on the right-hand side detailing reports of paramedic presence at the tunnel on Hedgewick street. Callers reported a young man screaming in the empty tunnel, supposedly under the influence of what they assumed was methamphetamine. Ambulances arrived on scene to find 32-year-old Ian Martin catatonic. According to the toxicology report Mr. Martin’s blood-alcohol was .12%. He was plenty drunk for sure, but not enough to explain the erratic nature of his breakdown. There were no signs of physical injury. During the interview at the psych-ward, the only words Ian could muster was a disturbing repetition, with eyes glued open, frozen in fear mumbling the words; “Hollow… hollow… hollow…”.

Hollow bodies, Hollow bodies
Tearing down my brain
Their silent screams still haunt my dreams
They’ve driven me insane

 

Credit : Kellyn Kavanagh

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