Tunnel Vision

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Welcome to another Friday Freewrite. Some days I just need to sit down and write. Some Fridays I share what I’ve written with you.

As we picked our way through the tunnel, the single orb of rusted light in the distance our only navigator, the silence settled in on us like a musty quilt. Marissa’s eyes, normally alive with curiosity, now sat disciplined in her skull. She focused her gaze on the dim yellow ball ahead.

I watched her body move. Her steps were calculated. Angry. She didn’t bother searching for dry land before placing her foot in the squelchy darkness, destroying the slim leather flats I knew she loved so much. Each step made a thick splash in the murky water whirling around our shins. My own thin cloth shoes were already soggy.

Things changed down here in the tunnels. I knew that and yet I had still suggested we take the shortcut. Hadn’t Mason tried to warn me?

“We’re almost there,” I said now, trying to apologize and provide encouragement all at once in those three words. My voice cracked from disuse. Down here we were surrounded by water but my throat was dryer than the Mojave.

“Mmm.” Her unimpressed reply stung. In a mere second her wordless grunt had managed to cut me down completely, making me feel worse than the mud we were trudging through. But still the light ahead of us grew steadily larger. We maybe had another hour left down here.

I cleared my leathering throat and tried again, desperate to fix whatever had broken between us.

“So when we get topside, Mason said there would be a safe house three miles that way.” I indicated with my index finger, hoping she’d turn around to find out which way “that way” was. But she didn’t.

I let out a small sigh and turned my attention to memorizing the pattern of slime-covered cinderblocks that formed a dome above and around us. Over the coarse bricks, something like seaweed was suctioned to areas that were still moist. I wondered how the walls two feet above my head were still wet.

Marissa and I settled into a pattern with our footsteps as we trudged on. She walked in a straight line down the middle of the tunnel but I traversed it in a constant zigzag, heading from one edge of the tunnel to the other. When I reached the far right side I stubbed my foot underwater.

I winced. Then I stepped back and kicked at the mass again. Crossing back to the tunnel’s left side, I moved my foot around under the murky water and found the same thing. A mass, raised yet still hidden. For some reason a trench had been carved out in the center of the tunnel, boarded by twin, squat walls otherwise hidden beneath the surface of the water.

Marissa trudged on up ahead, oblivious to my distraction. I opened my mouth to call out to her, but just then the ground began to shake. I looked down at my feet to see the liquid rippling with reverberations. Then my eyesight shot back to Marissa. Ahead, the sides of the tunnel quivered.

“MARISSA!” I called, challenging the deep rumblings, but it was no use. The noise drowned me out completely. I was stepping faster, pulling myself through the rippling sludge to reach her, when I felt the water quickly begin to creep up over my knees.

I started to run through the flood, straining as the water soaked the better half of my thick jeans. I added my arms to the effort, pulling my body forward as best I could as the water continued to climb.

Up ahead, the yellow light flickered unreliably. A moment later, Marissa called out to me in a voice so filled with fear that I felt my bones turn to mush.

“CAMERON! There’s a-”

Just as I managed to pull myself forward another foot, a solid wall of water fell down between us, spanning the entire width of the tunnel and cutting me off from her voice in the distance. The waterfall’s force knocked me down and I swirled around helplessly in the quickly filling tunnel.


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