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They all knew about the tunnel. Everyone in town knew about it. Knowing it was there was ordinary, common. Talking about it wasn’t normal. Seeing it wasn’t normal. Going into it… That was insane. Nobody quite remembered when, how, or why the tunnel was built. It had always been there, a black, empty eye socket staring from the side of a small, mossy hill in the woods. It was made from metal, covered in rust and verdigris, eight feet in diameter. No one even knew what it was for. The only reason it was still there was that none of them wanted to go near enough to it to close it up. The reason Danny went there was just as blurry and unknown.
His memory was like a photo that’d had water spilled on it. Considering the things that happened, forgetting was good. Now, he wanted to forget more. There were three of them that night. Himself, Cameron, and Audrey. He didn’t want to go, but Audrey had insisted, and he always listened to her. He could never remember why.
It was June twenty-sixth, 1987, around eleven at night. Danny’s parents were on vacation. He sat like a half-melted candle in front of the television, hovering on the verge of sleep, when Audrey slammed her fist against the door in a staccato flurry of blows. Danny’s head jerked forward. He got up and walked to the door, as the relentless knocking continued.
“We have a bell, you know.” He said, pulling it open. Audrey was standing in the doorway, grinning from ear to ear, with her black, tangled hair falling in her face. She laughed.
“Yeah, but the bell wouldn’t have woken you up. Got the flashlights?” The safety pins covering her intentionally slashed clothes glinted in the porch light.
“Just a minute,” he called, rubbing his eyes as he made his way to the hall closet. “Cam’s coming, too, right?”
“He better be.”
“I’ve only got two with batteries in them.”
“Whatever. He can use my lighter. Let’s go.” She half-walked, half-skipped to the car waiting in front of Dan’s house. Audrey’s vehicle looked comically out-of-place in the pastel suburban neighborhood, with its scraped paint edged by rust, the plastic skeleton dangling from the rearview mirror, and one of its tires resting on the curb. Carrying the pair of flashlights, he climbed in the passenger door. Audrey hopped over the hood and slid behind the wheel, slamming the door behind her. Danny chuckled, as she revved up the engine.
“You look like Stephen King’s Christmas tree.” He said, glancing at her destroyed jeans and bleach-spattered Ramones shirt.
“Yeah, well, what if that’s how I want to look? Besides, King’s awesome.”
“That’s right. You saw ‘The Shining’ like ten times.”
“It was good, but nothing like the book.” She muttered. The conversation paused for a moment.
“Why does Cam have to live way the hell across town?”
“I don’t know. He’d better help pay for gas, though. 1205 is his house, right?”
“Yeah.” Audrey turned a corner. They were close, now. She drove a little further and parked in front of a grey house with a damaged chain-link fence around the yard.
“You go get him. The dog hates me.” Danny got out of the car, pushed open the gate, and walked through the overgrown lawn, past a huge German shepherd, sleeping and tethered to a post. He rang the bell and waited on the porch. Cameron emerged, in a tattered T-shirt and jeans, wearing an expression of mixed irritation and amusement.
“You woke me up, man.”
“Sorry. Audrey told you last week, though. We’re going out to the tunnel tonight.”
“Oh, yeah. That. I’m surprised you even showed up.” He had seen the car, and was walking toward it. Dan followed.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, you walked out of Nightmare On Elm Street, and you get really pale when anybody even mentions that movie. You’re doing it right now. You scare easy, Dan.”
“This is different. There’s nothing in that tunnel. Why should I be scared of an empty hole?”
“You sure about that?” He asked, getting into the back seat.
“Don’t do that.” Danny snapped back at him.
“What are you two bickering about?” Audrey asked.
“Apparently,” said Cameron, grinning ear to ear, “Danny Boy here hasn’t heard the stories.”
“Better inform him.” Audrey said, starting the car.
“Okay. So, they say the tunnel was built in the ‘60s by some cult, and they used to worship there, underground. A couple years later, they get caught doing stuff. Human sacrifice. All of them got the chair, but it didn’t work quite right. When they tried to kill ‘em, they caught fire, and the whole room stank like sulfur, permanently. Pretty soon after the cultists fry, dead kids start turning up in the tunnel, two of them every year. One boy, one girl. Nobody figured it out, and nobody would have anything to do with the tunnel. After a while, the cops just stopped going out there. They got reports every once in a while, people saying the woods around the place smelled like rotten meat, but they just ignore them. All the dead kids are probably still down there, and maybe something else is there with them.”
“Bullshit.” Dan spat. Cam laughed hysterically.
“Maybe.” Said Audrey, “But it’s pretty entertaining.” She turned on the stereo. The Misfits blared from the speakers.
“Jesus,” Cameron said with a look of mock-horror, “is that even singing?”
“My car, my tapes.” Audrey replied. “Suck it up.” She turned up the volume as they turned onto the highway. Other cars’ headlights provided flashes of fuzzy orange illumination inside the vehicle, like gentle flashes of lightning. The skeleton decoration on the mirror moved like a hypnotist’s pendulum as the rhythm of the wheels sent Dan halfway into a trance.
Fifteen minutes later, the car stopped, and he woke up with no memory of falling asleep.
“He lives!” Cameron said. “Okay, let’s go.” Danny looked around. The car had stopped in a small clearing, where the moon filtered down through a black filigree of branches, and damp leaves coated the ground. The headlights faded away as Audrey turned off the engine, and handed him a flashlight. Cam and Danny hopped out of the car. It was cool outside, at almost midnight, and a breeze made the leaves shiver. Dan and Audrey switched on their flashlights, and suddenly, all three of them were staring down the wide, hollow mouth of the tunnel.
“Who’s going first?” Asked Audrey. “Because it’s sure as hell not gonna be me.” The others glanced at one another. The air was thick and oppressive in the lazy nighttime heat.
“You’ve got a flashlight.” Cameron said, gesturing at the heavy metal rod in Danny’s hand. “You and Audrey can lead the way. The tunnel’s wide enough. I’ll take up the rear, and make sure nothing creeps up on us.” The last sentence was punctuated by a half-scoff, half-laugh from Audrey.
“Okay.” She said. “But if we turn around and you’re not there, I’m not going back for you.”
“Well, if you did, it’d already be too late.” He widened his eyes like a drawing in Tales From the Crypt.
“Whatever. Let’s just go.” Dan muttered. He switched on his flashlight and took a few steps forward.
“Alright!” Audrey exclaimed, and followed suit, Cameron trailing behind them.

The inside of the tunnel was far warmer than the outside. The floor was caked with mud and packed, wet leaves, and inclined gradually downward, going deeper into the earth. Lukewarm water dripped from the ceiling, splashing and reverberating off the metal walls. A thick, yellow stench filled the stagnant air. Dust passed slowly through the flashlight beams.
“Well, this is disappointing.” Dan said.
“That’s because we’re not far enough in, yet.” Cameron replied.
“How far do you suggest we go? It smells nasty in here.”
“Breathe through your mouth.”
“No way. You think I want to taste that?”
“Guys…” Audrey whispered. Neither of them heard her.
“Doesn’t bother me.”
“How could it not? Whole damn place stinks like rotten eggs.”
“Guys.” Audrey repeated, louder. “Do you hear that?”
“Hear what?” Danny asked. She held up a finger to her lips, asking for him to be quiet. She looked scared. He’d never seen her scared before. The tunnel suddenly felt cold. Cameron’s expression shifted, too, his smirk fading. A moment passed, during which no one spoke or moved. They heard it.
“Mommy…” It came from far away. Deep within the ground.
“What the hell?” Cameron breathed. “What is that?”
“Mommy… come back…” It was louder this time.
“Audrey, this is some kind of joke, right?” Dan asked. She shook her head.
“What do we do?” She asked.
“We should get out of here.” Cameron said. There was fear on his face. “I saw a gas station on our way here. We can go there and call the cops.”
“It sounds like a kid.” Audrey whispered. “What if we abandon it here, and it dies?”
“I’m not going any further into this creepy-ass hole in the ground.” Cam retorted. “This was your idea. You figure it out.”
“Don’t be like that.” Dan said. “You wanted to go here more than any of us. You’re not going to shift the blame or walk out just because you’re scared. I say we go find the kid.” Cameron was silent for a minute. The call came again. Cam shivered, then nodded.
Hands trembling, the three of them proceeded cautiously. The voice was crying now. High-pitched infantile whimpers rang through the tunnel. As the noise reached his ears, Danny had a horrible thought. He remembered the stories he’d read about bush babies in Africa. He remembered how sometimes, their calls sounded like a child weeping, and how people would hear them and disappear into the wilderness, looking for a lost infant. What if it wasn’t a kid calling for its mother? What if it was something else?
He looked down, and saw that his flashlight beam was dimming. Audrey’s, too. He tried hard to remember when the batteries had last been replaced, but couldn’t. He shook the light slightly, and it flickered. The further they went, the deeper the puddles of brackish water on the floor were, and the louder the crying got. It was so close; that it seemed like the source should be right in front of them. They rounded a corner in the tunnel, and that was when they saw it.
Standing just around the bend was an emaciated, hairless dog. Its skin was pale and waxy. Its eyes were tiny pinpricks of red so deep it was black, like twin droplets of deoxygenated blood. Its jaw hung wide open, revealing jagged, dripping black teeth, and a forked purple tongue.
“Mommy…” It called. Audrey screamed. The flashlights went out. The dog’s eyes glowed in the dark, with a light that wasn’t light. A color that human eyes weren’t meant to see. The creature laughed. The sound was like teeth against a blackboard. They ran, staggering into one another in the dark, all three of them shouting at once.
“Oh my god,” Cameron howled, “What is that thing?”
“It’s not real,” Audrey was chanting, “It’s not real. It’s not real.” All Dan could think about was bush babies, crying into the night. He trailed his hand along the wall as he ran, trying to find his way. Looking over his shoulder, he saw the beast’s eyes, so dark that they glowed.
“Save me, mommy!” It wailed behind them, “Save me from the monsters!” It laughed again, and Danny felt a warm trickle of something escape his left ear. He saw a red-tinged light ahead, and stumbled toward it.

The next thing he remembered was driving Audrey’s car down the highway. Everything between that and the red light was a blank. Sometimes it came back in his nightmares. Images of blood, and children burned black, and the hollow light of the dog-thing’s soulless eyes. Audrey and Cameron were reported missing, and Dan was questioned about them for hours. Finally, the police realized he knew nothing, and freed him.
One night, years later, he heard the beast calling again, in the night. He got up from his bed, walked to the window, and opened the curtains. It was standing in his front yard, smiling, its grin stained crimson. He stared at it, looking into its dead eyes. Eyes the color of pain. Leaning closer to the window, he whispered something that he knew it heard.
“Please let me forget.”



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