Tunnels

Tunnels

I never really grasped why it all ended. Civilisation I mean. My father never wanted to talk about it, nor did anyone else for that matter. I guess it brought too many painful memories on them or, like me, also had no idea. The ‘why’ something happened is usually easier to explain than the ‘how’ it happened. Even I knew that. Total Atomic Annihilation. That was in 1985. I never got to see this old world. I wasn’t born until 1988. My world is the Tunnels. Those winding, twisting tunnels where we live. The underground train stations that I call home. This is the only world I have ever known…

5th July 2003

Ethan awoke from his slumber, tired from the night before. His barracks was empty, everyone must have already left for training. It was his birthday, so he didn’t have to go to training. Reaching over, Ethan flicked the switch to the oil lamp above his bunk, illuminating parts of the room. It wasn’t a large barracks and certainly not a comfortable one, but his father told him that it would toughen him up.  Ethan thought of his father. He was a great man, but he didn’t get to see him often. He would always be busy with one job or another, being the leader of the settlement was demanding work and often kept him in his office for days. Ethan had last seen his father ten days ago when he wished him luck in training.

Ethan’s mind slowly drew back to today’s training. No doubt they would be stuck patrolling the safe parts of the tunnels again, where none of the monsters ever showed their horrid faces. Ethan was a Junior Rail Scout. His role was to patrol the tunnels that led to Malcolm Station and make sure no unwanted guests are roaming the gloomy tracks. He was paired with two other scouts, Sophia Moore and Thomas Nelson. They had grown to be close friends over the last three years, they worked well as a team and Ethan had taken, the unofficial leadership role.

His father, William, said this was good as it showed his leadership qualities which would be important when he takes over as leader of the station.

Thomas, or just Tom, could be easily described as a bookworm. He was fascinated with old history textbooks he found, always reading one any chance he got. Thomas also pretty much memorised the “Rail Scout Survival Handbook” off by heart and would quote its “Safety on Rails” section whenever Sophia would come up with another of her crazy ideas to impress the instructor with their “feats of bravery in the face of despair”.

Ethan chuckled at that last one. Sophia was always making these kinds of schemes. Last winter she had planned to travel to the Forbidden Tunnel to bring a monster back alive and she nearly went through with it had Ethan and Tom not intervened. Sophia did all this to gain the attention of her mother, the head doctor. She hasn’t seen Sophia in a long time, with work taking up most of her day. Both Ethan and Sophia had that in common, minimal contact with parents.

Ethan hoped to see his father today, although he doubted if he would. His birthdays always made him think of his mother, who he couldn’t really remember. She was killed when Ethan was three, in some kind of power struggle in a different station. From what his father told him, it was a big station, north of where San Francisco used to be, William was head of security there, a job that suited him as it was similar to life in the military. Then days of unrest turned into weeks of riots, his father had tried to keep things civil but once the violence started, it couldn’t be stopped. The rest is unknown to Ethan. He never wanted to push further for more details, as he saw the effect it had on his dad. He did, however, know, that when mom died his dad backed up and left. Those who were loyal to him left also. Six months later they found Malcolm Station, completely abandoned and claimed it as their own and shortly after, they elected William to be the leader.

Sliding out of his bunk, Ethan got dressed into his Junior Rail Scout uniform. It was a mostly black and brown mixture of boots, cargo pants and a hoodie. This along with his utility backpack is what he wore almost every day. Wiping the sleep from his hazel eyes, he turned off his lamp, bringing darkness back to the barrack as he trudged to the slightly ajar door to the common room. It was also quite a small room, it had two pool tables and a dart board to keep the scouts entertained. Ethan was happy to note that he held the all-time record for the number of darts hitting the board while blindfolded. The record is one dart. Walking past all this brought him to a hallway. To the briefing room on his left he managed to hear his instructor, Ms McCarthy, do the roll call:

“Daniel,” She said, with a tone of great authority.

“Here” Came the reply.

“Amelia” She continued.

“Here, Miss” Spoke another voice.

“Ethan” Ms McCarthy paused. “Where is the boy?”

“He’s not here Miss” Came a voice Ethan recognised as Thomas.

“And why would that be exactly?” A sense of annoyance had crept into her tone.

“It’s his birthday Miss. His day off.” Thomas spoke, clearly intimidated by his instructor.

“I don’t care whether it’s his day off or not. He has an important assignment today and I want him here in five minutes or he will be running laps of the tunnels alone!” She shouted. Very annoyed at this point.

Ethan sighed.

“I guess that means my day off is over…” He thought in his head before stepping through the door and into the briefing room.

The briefing room was a circular room which used to be a security office before the war. It now had a round table and seats all around it. A mini projector sat in the corner that would display the task lists for the day onto the opposite wall. Again, there were the same boring grey walls as in every other part of the station.

“Here, Miss” Ethan spoke. Hoping to sound more confident then he felt.

“Well, birthday boy, I am glad you could join us. Now take your seat.” Ms McCarthy said.

Slightly embarrassed, Ethan took his seat in between Sophia and Thomas. He slid his bag under the table and shuffled the seat forward, adding to the awkward silence that seemed to engulf the room. Ms McCarthy wasted no more time to start up the briefing. With the project clicker in hand, she began the presentation of today’s task.

“Alright, today is the most important day of the last three years. Today you will prove that you have what it takes to be a Rail Scout.” She began.

Sometime later…

There were four tunnels that led to Malcolm station. One of them was caved in, so it was impossible for outsiders to get in that way. This made it a great place to train for the Junior Rail Scouts. Another was a small tunnel that went north. No one has ever been seen coming from that tunnel, so it only had a small group guarding it. The remaining two, however, were constantly patrolled and guarded. They came from the south and the west. The southern one goes to their old homes near San Francisco along with many smaller tunnels that offshoot from the big one so the settlement remains vigilant. The western one was the most dangerous. It is called the Forbidden Tunnel for a reason.

Ms McCarthy once told the group, while slightly drunk, that when the settlement was first founded, a group of six foolishly brave scouts travelled down the western tunnel. They were gone for three weeks. Everyone presumed they were dead, until one day, the sole survivor rolled back into the station on their rail cart. She was a horrible sight; her face was all cut and she was missing a finger. The medical team tried their best to patch her and they did but, nothing could repair the phycological damage inflicted upon her. One day, a couple of months later, she shot herself by the entrance to the tunnel. Ever since then, Ethan’s dad William had forbidden anyone from travelling more than one hundred metres down the tunnel, regardless of how many people were with you and forbid going alone at all.

Ethan loaded his bag into the corner of the rail cart, an old mining cart with a starter cord to get the motor running so the cart could move. He fashioned the bag into a makeshift stool and sat on it while leaning on the rear motor. An uncomfortable silence was hanging over the cart, even Sophia’s usually loud voice was little more than a whisper. Ms McCarthy came walking over to the cart with a large bag swung over her shoulders. When she got close enough, she dumped the bag at Thomas’ feet. Ethan saw the barrel of a rifle poking out.

“Today, we are using the real thing. The sooner you learn the sooner you’ll become useful.” She declared.

It wasn’t the first time Ethan or any of the other scouts had handled a gun before, but they have never shot one with live ammunition. The thought scared him.

The awkward silence continued.

“Now, as I said before: You are not to provoke anything you see out there. You are only scouts.” She emphasised that word as if we were stupid enough to intentionally ride head first into a surface monster. “Once you see anything, you radio it’s location to us and hall your asses back to this point.” She finished.

With that, she left. Thomas, clearly worried, opened his Rail Scout Survivor Handbook and started silently reading to himself. Sophia, also agitated, emptied the contents of the bag Ms McCarthy gave them. Out fell three basic bolt action rifles and several cartridges of bullets. All the scouts were trained to use this kind of weapons as you never know what you may find out in the tunnels. They knew how to load them and how to maintain them.

“I hope we won’t need these…” Sophia let the sentence trail off as she wasn’t really talking to anyone. Her normally upbeat tone had become quite serious.

They all knew the dangers of their mission. After all, they were heading into the Forbidden Tunnels for the first time.

Ethan pulled at the starter cord to bring the engine to life. No success. He tried again with a similar result. On his third try, the engine revved to a start and the cart began moving, slowly at first, down the tracks.

Thomas placed his survival handbook into his bag and reached around the side of the cart, turning on a headlamp, illuminating the dark tunnel.

Several minutes pass in complete silence as the group thinks about the possible danger they could face. Sophia finally breaks the silence.

“Ok, so I don’t think it’s that bad” She starts, trying to bring the conversation to the group. “We aren’t heading down the dangerous part of the tunnel, just one of the offshoots”

“If it wasn’t that bad why did Ms McCarthy give us these?” Thomas responded, point to the now empty bag on the floor of the cart. “Clearly she thinks we will see something”

“Look if worst comes to worst, which it won’t, we can always reverse backwards at the same speed we came. No one should catch us in this.” Sophia pointed out. They were going at quite a speed now.

Suddenly the radio crackled to life. Ethan leaned over and picked it out of its holder on the side of the cart and held it next to his ear.

“There’s a crawler in tunnel 2b, approximately five hundred metres from the station.” Came the voice.

“It’s Amelia’s team, they found something.” Ethan relayed the message to the others. An audible gulp could be heard from Thomas.

“Oh, come on, it was only a crawler. I’ve seen worse.” Lied Sophia.

The monsters people so often talk about were once animals. After the war, they were mutated by the radiation brought by the bombs that were dropped. Some have been given new names: The crawler, once possibly a slug or snail that moves slowly across the ceiling of the tunnels. They vary in size but usually come in at around half a metre to two full metres. They aren’t too common and don’t pose a serious threat to anyone.

Another monster is the stalker. Once a dog or wolf. These are vicious pack hunters that like to sneak up on prey. They are very quiet hunters but are very sensitive to light, shining anything in their directions will usually send them running. Usually.

Some have grown much bigger and in turn, much more dangerous, then before mutation. When Ethan was young, his father told him about the grizzly: a mutated bear. He told him about how the muscles grew so big it barely resembled the bear it once was. It was also completely blind but had one of the greatest noses on the planet. Ethan was lucky to not have the displeasure of seeing that thing.

“We have only been in the stupid tunnel for less than ten minutes and we have already seen something,” Thomas said. “What if we run into a pack of stalkers or worse?”

“It’ll be fine”. Says Ethan, trying to calm his friend. “We aren’t completely defenceless out here. We have these.” Ethan picks up and slings the rifle over his shoulder.

“Like that will do anything against a grizzly…” Thomas whispers to himself.

As the group travel on, they see the markings on the ceiling that signal a fork in the tracks up ahead. Ethan leads over to the motor and turns it off while Thomas and Sophia take a hold of the breaks. It takes them about ten seconds to come to a complete stop. Sophia pulls a map out of her utility bag and begins reading it:

“Ok, so our route says we should take the next…” She pauses for a second. “Right.”

Ethan looks at the track. It’s set to the left. This means they would have to change it manually. He hops out and walks over to the lever that controls the tracks.

“Thomas give me a hand will ya?” Ethan says as he tries to push the rusted lever.

Thomas jumps out of the cart and moves over to Ethan. They both put their weights on the lever, and it begins to give way.

With a satisfying clunk and a thud, the lever locks down in place and the track switches.

“Ok, according to this, it should take another few minutes to make it to the Forbidden Tunnel.” Sophia recites from the map.

“Oh, I just cannot wait!” Thomas replies, very sarcastically.

“Alright, less chat. The sooner we are on the move the better.” Ethan said with Thomas nodding in agreement.

“We are too exposed out here.” Thomas follows up with, sullenly.

Thomas climbs the ladder back into the cart and unhinges the break. Ethan follows behind but pauses to look down the tunnel.

“Here,” Sophia offers out her hand.

Ethan turns to Sophia and takes her hand and climbs into the cart. Just as he is about to set over the rim an explosion could be heard off into the distance. The surprise makes Ethan slip and fall backwards onto the Tunnel floor.

“What the hell was that!?” Sophia exclaims. “Oh crap, Ethan, you hurt?”

“I’m fine.” He mutters as he begins to sit up.

Thomas goes for the radio. He violently lights it to his mouth before pressing the speak button.

“Hello? Did anyone else hear that? What the hell was that explosion?!” He shouts into the radio.

“No idea, it wasn’t us.” Came Amelia’s voice.

“Nor us. Although I think we were close. It was pretty loud.” Said Daniel from his end.

“I think it was Alexia’s team. I saw them head in the direction the explosion came.” Came Author’s voice.

Sophia was back to reading the map. She traced her finger across the map and follow Alexia’s teams’ route.

“It has to be them, no other team went that way,” Sophia says.

An uneasy silence blankets the tunnel.

What could have happened to them?” Ethan thought. “Were they attacked? Are they injured?”

Sophia reaches her hand out again. Ethan takes it and pulls himself into the cart. As soon as he is in, Thomas yanks at the starter cord and the motor splutters into life. The cart slowly begins to edge forward down the right fork in the tracks.

“Shouldn’t we go help?” Sophia asks.

Suddenly the radio crackles and Alexia’s voice can be heard shouting from the other end.

“WE HAVE STALKERS ON OUR TAIL!” She yells. “OUR LIGHT IS BROKEN, NO SCARING THEM AWAY!”

Gunshots can be heard in the background. Then, just as suddenly as it came, the radio goes silent. Thomas reaches for the radio, presses the speak button and holds it to his mouth.

“Hello? Alexia are you there? “He pleads. Nothing but static. “Stupid piece of- “. Daniel’s voice cuts his off.

“We are heading home! Screw the assignment, dying isn’t worth it!”

Thomas places the radio back into its holder and slumped against the cart wall. He seems completely demoralised by the whole situation. Their cart continues down the tunnel, picking up more speed every second they go. The headlamp illuminates parts of the track ahead.

“What do we do now?” Sophia asks.

Both Thomas and Sophia turn to Ethan. They wanted him to decide on how they would react. Do they return home? Do they keep going? Ethan honestly didn’t have an answer. After a few seconds of blankly staring at the tunnel wall behind them, he came to a conclusion.

“We keep going. According to the map, it would be quicker to keep going full speed and circle round to the station then it would to stop and reverse backwards. Plus, we could run into those things back there.” He decided.

Sophia seemed content with that answer. Thomas did not.

“So, we go deeper into the Forbidden Tunnel?” He scoffs. “The farther we go the more likely it is we find something we don’t want to find.”

“Look, it isn’t ideal but it’s our best option.” Ethan defends himself. “I don’t like this anymore then you do.”

“Why are we even here in the first place?” Thomas continues. “How did your father allow Ms McCarthy to send us to the Forbidden Tunnels? It’s practically suicide!”

“How should I know?” Ethan sighs. “I haven’t seen him in ages. He’s always too busy to visit us in the barracks and whenever I try to go to him, I always get pushed aside for the ‘more important people’.”

“Oh, she’s really done it this time.” Thomas states. “She could have gotten us all killed with her reckless missions. There’s a bloody reason no one travels these tunnels.”

Ethan opened his mouth to respond but closes it again. Thomas was right. This whole situation was messed up.

“I mean how much more wrong could- “Thomas tries to speak again but is interrupted.

“Be quiet for a second, I hear something,” Sophia says quickly.

An ominous silence hangs over the cart. Ethen strains concentrating on trying to hear what Sophia does. Several seconds go by with nothing, until he does hear it, and it made his heart sink.

A steady thud, thud, thud, thud could be heard, slowly getting louder. Ethan froze. “What the hell is that?” He thinks, his mind racing.

“Oh god…” Thomas starts. Quickly he picks up his rifle and peers into the darkness behind them. Sophia and Ethan do the same. They all crouch by the rim of the cart, rifles pointed. They searched and searched with their eyes for the source of the noise, but they hoped they never would find it.

Ethan takes the radio and holds it up next to his mouth and presses the speak button.

“To any other team still currently out there: Return to Malcolm Station!” He orders. “We are being chased by an unknown creature, do not follow us and get the hell home now!” He lifts his finger off the speak button. A few seconds later Amelia’s voice comes through the radio.

“Ethan, what the hell is going on? What’s chasing you? Where are you?” Amelia assaults him with questions.

“We are heading down route 4b right now, we are going to follow this path and swing around back to Malcolm Station.” He explains.

“Stay safe, we are on our way back now. We will make sure they are prepared for your return.” Amelia finishes. Ethan then moves to place the radio back in its holder when he hears a sound that makes his blood run cold and heart skip a beat.

The blood curtailing roar of a grizzly.

This was enough to send Thomas over the edge. He fired a shot in the darkness, however, the mussel flash lit up the dark tunnel. They saw the mutated face of the grizzly only ten metres away. This only set them further into a panic. What could they do, three fifteen-year-olds, do against the largest monster they have ever seen? They began firing blindly into the darkness, they were working on pure adrenaline now. With hearts pounding in their chests, they see a bullet lodged itself into the monster’s shoulder. It didn’t even flinch.

“Oh god, it’s getting closer!” Thomas exclaims.

“Just keep shooting!” Sophia shouts back, struggling to be heard over the sound of the gunfire.

“It’s not working!” Ethan cries. “None of our shots seem to do any damage!”

The beast draws closer and closer with each great bound it makes on those four thick, muscular legs. Ethan sees its claws. They look sharp enough to take someone’s head clean off with one swipe. The grizzly was within two metres of the cart. Ethan could even smell its breath. It smelt like blood. Every shot they fired now hit. Even in their states, they couldn’t possibly miss a target that big from this distance.

Suddenly, the monster took a giant leap forward and bashed the back of the cart with its shoulder. Instantly the cart was derailed, and all the scouts were thrown against the walls. Ethan’s head hit the wall with a thud, and everything started to go black.

Suddenly his eyes snapped open. He had a splitting headache. He glanced over and saw the upturned cart, it was practically broken in half. The grizzly used its ginormous paw to effortlessly lift the cart off the ground and sniff around. When its nose came to Thomas’ bag, it snatched it up with its mouth and swallowed it whole. Ethan saw Thomas’ survival handbook in its jaw before being sent down its throat.

It started sniffing again. Its nose started to head in Sophia’s direction. Ethan knew the grizzly had an amazing sense of smell so it would have no trouble finding them. He started to panic as he saw the monster move slowly towards his friend. He didn’t know what to do, his voice box had completely frozen with pure terror. He didn’t want to die here. He wouldn’t die here!

Without thinking he reached for the rifle that lay within arm’s length of him and dragged it back across the floor to him. The noise caused the grizzly to lift its head and start sniffing again. With only one bullet left Ethan took aim at the most logical target. Not the grizzly, but the oil headlamp just behind it.

BANG. He placed the shot nearly perfectly. When the bullet broke the glass and struck the metal casing behind it, it created a spark. That spark turned into a flame and it soon turned into a small fireball. The grizzly’s flammable skin and fur instantly caught a light. It began to thrash itself against the walls of the tunnel to put itself out.

Ethan quickly rose to his feet and stumbled over Sophia who had one of the cartwheels trapping her foot to the ground. He heaved the object off her foot and took her hand, pulling Sophia to her feet.

“Thanks.” She said, a little short of breath. “Where is Thomas?”

“I’m here and I’m stuck!” Thomas called upon hearing his name.

Sophia and Ethan moved around the side of the upturned cart and saw Thomas. His left leg was trapped under the rest of the cart.

“Please hurry, this is starting to hurt.” He cries.

Ethan and Sophia move either side of the cart and begin to lift. The thing is solid metal and was extremely heavy. Spending a lot of their lives training meant that the scouts were really fit but the day had taken a lot out of them already and they were exhausted. Then off in the distance, they hear the grizzly roar in pain. Ethan looks over and sees that most of the flames have died down on it’s back and it is starting to regain its composer.

“Quickly, before that thing comes back,” Ethan says through gritted teeth.

Thomas, sensing the urgency, uses his arm to help create space for his leg. After about five seconds he manages to wiggle his leg free. Sophia and Ethan rush round to pick him up. Thomas’ leg wasn’t badly damaged, but it had a large mark on it/

“Can you walk?” Ethan asks.

“Y-yes.” Thomas stutters back.

“Good, we don’t have time. Sophia quickly looks for your bag and especially the map.” Ethan begins. “Thomas, start going down the tunnel that way.” Ethan points into the darkness.

“We will be right behind you. We need to get whatever stuff we can find, then run.” Ethan finishes.

Thomas begins to hobble down the track, with his head looking back at the other two to make sure they were close. Thomas runs for the rifle he dropped and slings it around his shoulder, then he scans the room for his bag. He spots it behind where Sophia was rummaging through her bag, looking for the map. Ethan puts his bag on his back and turns to Sophia.

“You got the map?” He asks hopingly.

“One second…” She replies, searching through some basic supplies. “Ah, got it.” She pulls it from the bottom corner of her bag all crunched into a ball. “Let’s go.”

With that, they race off after Thomas into the darkness. Again, Ethan hears the roar of the grizzly as it searches the crash site for the three scouts. The cart makes a crashing noise as it is violently tossed aside. The group, however, do not turn back.

Thirty minutes later…

Using the small flashlight Sophia had tucked away in her bag, they made their way through the Forbidden Tunnel trying to find home. Ethan was walking with the rifle in both hands, gripping it tightly. He would take no more chances. They were lucky to find some loose bullets in his bag, so they weren’t completely defenceless. Thomas was limping slightly behind Sophia, who was viewing the map with the flashlight. They didn’t speak a word to each other as they walked. Thomas finally broke the silence:

“Are you sure you read it right?” He asks. Anxious to know where they were.

“Yes, of course. We are on the right track. It will just take some time.” Sophia replies back.

Both Ethan and Thomas were too tired to question Sophia’s reading of the map so they decided to keep quiet and not disturb her. Darkness lays heavy in the tunnel. The scouts have lived their whole lives within the tunnels, so they were used to small claustrophobic spaces but something about the tunnel kept Ethan an edge.

They continued walking for another while when all of a sudden Thomas drops to his knees. Ethan and Sophia stop walking and turn around to their friend.

“I can’t go on like this.” He pants. “I’m way too tired…” Suddenly upon hearing this, the weight of the last few hours lay on his shoulders.

“Your right.” He mutters. “We can’t get back in the state we are in now. We should rest, save our strength for the rest of the journey.

Ethan turns and sits against a wall, rifle still in hand, he planned to remain awake and keep watch while his friends slept. Sophia slumps down beside him, completely exhausted. She folds the map and places it in her bag and places the torch down between them.

“There are spare batteries in my bag just in case these ones die.” She whispers, already half asleep.

“I’ll keep first watch. You get some sleep.” Ethan whispers back, but both Sophia and Thomas are already asleep.

He sits there for who knows how long. His eyes were shut but his ears were working overtime to try and hear any would-be attacker. Ethan heard a dripping sound off in the distance. He knew it wasn’t dangerous as they passed it earlier in their travels. The constant drip, drip, drip helped his head stay clear as he focused on it more and more until he fell asleep.

He didn’t know how long he slept but since he was rather refreshed once waking, he presumed it had been for hours. They were extremely lucky not to have been attacked while they all slept, and he decided not to push it any farther. He then noticed that Sophia’s head was resting on his shoulder. Feeling kind of awkward he moves aside a bit and gently shuck her shoulder, waking her up.

“Is it time?” She asks, eyes still closed.

“Yeah, we better go.” He replied while leaning over to wake Thomas.

Ethan stood up and put his bag on his back. Thomas’ leg didn’t look any better than it did last night, in fact, it looked worse. It was swollen around the ankle and Ethan was starting to think he probably broke something. He helped pick Thomas off the ground and then asked him about his leg.

“How’s your leg?” He questions.

“Not great. It hurts if I put too much weight on it. I don’t know if I can walk the journey home.” He says grimly.

“How far is it anyway?” Ethan turns to Sophia who was unfolding the map.

“Eh…” She pauses for a second to find their spot. “It’s another couple of hours walk from here to Malcolm Station. God this would have been easier with our cart.”

“How bloody long is this route?” Thomas asks.

“We were given a senior scouts route. We should have been given a shorter one like Daniel’s team.” She points to a tunnel line marked ‘D’ that is nearly a quarter of the size their own one was.

Ethan tried to help Thomas to walk on his own but eventually gave up, realising his ankle was too damaged.

“What if you walk up against the wall and use it as support,” Sophia suggests.

This actually worked a lot better than walking normally. Thomas managed to keep a decent pace with Ethan and Sophia who only had to slow their walk a little so he could stay with them. They walked like this for another hour until Thomas’ leg couldn’t handle it anymore. Ethan and Sophia then took turns to help Thomas walk, slinging his arm over their shoulders. Even then it became clear that it was a two-person job. Ethan and Sophia both had to help Thomas walk. This slowed them down considerably.

After another hour of walking like this, Thomas collapsed and lay by the wall. He couldn’t go on.

“Thomas please, you have to get up.” Sophia pleaded but it was no use.

“I can’t. It hurts too much.” Thomas replied.

Thomas had an idea. It was a long shot and probably wouldn’t work without a lot of luck, but it was their only shot. He turned to Sophia.

“Can I see the map?” He asks.

She pulls it from her pocket and hands it to Ethan along with the flashlight. Ethan traces their route from the start and stops what he thinks is their location.

“Is this us here?” He questions.

“Let me see… Yes. You see that fork in the tunnel?” She pointed. “We are going to take the right tunnel.”

“I’m going to look ahead. I’ll be back in maybe thirty minutes.” He announces.

Sophia was too busy with Thomas to argue so she just nodded her head in agreement. Thomas left and made it to the fork. He took the left tunnel because he saw what he hoped was an abandoned station on his map. After twenty minutes, he found what he was looking for. A cart. It was prepared to go like in his own station. Suddenly he smelt something. Blood. He glanced at the entrance to the abandoned and saw the door was slightly open. A body lay half in and half out of the door frame, covered in blood. Ethan didn’t want to stay to see what caused this, so he hopped into the cart and started the motor. Luckily it had fuel and it started to move. He began picking up speed and travelled back down the tracks to his friends. When he saw them he pulled the breaks.

“Where did you find that?” Sophia asked in amazement.

“Old station, I guessed it was our only option to get out of here,” Ethan said simply.

Without much more talking they all got into the cart and they began the trip back to their own station. It was deadly quite out there and the suspense was eating away at him. Two hours went by uneventfully. A feeling of hope was starting to creep its way into Ethan. They were going to make it home. There was only a half hour left until they were safe. Even Thomas perked up at hearing this.

Then they heard it. A roar from a monster on the hunt for revenge. But this time, not behind them but in front of them. They kept barrelling down towards their station though without a second thought. They were too close to give up now. That’s when the short-range radio crackled to life.

“To anyone in range: We have a grizzly hammering down our station door. We need immediate assistance!” It sounded like a recorded message.

Ethan suddenly had a plan.

“We keep going full speed.” He said. “We will crash right into that thing and kill it once and for all.”

They all seemed to agree. Then they turned the corner. It was a straight stretch from here to the station and with the headlamps on, he could now see the grizzly. They kept moving at full speed.

“Ok, when I say jump. We jumped.” He ordered. “JUMP!”

They jumped. The grizzly was hit straight on. Killing it instantly. They collapsed to the ground. Exhausted, Ethan started to pass out when he heard his father’s voice.

“Get them inside to the hospital now.” He ordered.

Ethan then blacked out. The day really got to him but he knew they had survived the Forbidden Tunnel.