I. The Albino Twins
On the nights when neither moon nor stars rode across the sky, when the heavens were black and endless, and you couldn’t see your own hand in front of your face, the people of a small Kenyan town called Toi believed that something inhabited the tunnel under the highway. Nobody had ever seen this thing, although it was generally agreed that when you crossed the tunnel on such bleak and dismal nights, a dense feeling of being stalked tightened around you like a noose, and all the hairs on your body stood on end, and, suddenly, you took to your heels and sped like the wind. Sometimes the shadows shifted in front of you just as you reached the middle or the opposite end of the tunnel so that you had an indubitable feeling that something had been waiting for you there. Those who told the stories claimed that it had begun with the electric storm that had wrecked Morris’ old shop.
Even so, nobody had ever seen it. That was the most important thing. It was why what befell the albino twins, and later the university students, was inevitable. People found all manner of ways of refuting these claims: they mentioned superstition and discussed the notorious black spot on the highway just thirty metres from the tunnel. They talked about the perpetual darkness in the tunnel, and, still, some clever ones pointed out the innate nature of human minds to harbour fear of the unknown and to be prominently evoked by stories of horror.
However, these swift-talking, smooth-tongued, fear-evading sceptics could not explain what had made the seventy-year old Kariuki to scream his lungs dry and run a hundred metres in less than twenty seconds before his heart exploded right where he fell; or why a fifteen-year old girl named Njoki had become deaf-mute and pregnant after taking the route alone in the night. (She had become pregnant with something that did not want to be born. It squirmed in the confines of her belly, and she cried horrible, heartrending cries unfit for a child. She was picked up dead one day with her uterus and vagina all chewed up, a nasty hole gaping there, strange teeth marks on her buttocks and legs.) Or why all stray animals had vanished from Toi. Or why the accidents over the tunnel remained gruesome and there had never been a survivor even after the government had hired Chinese contractors to renovate the road and built better rails.
Or what had happened to the albino twins.
Theirs was the most recent incident, and quite memorable indeed it was. It started with an accident. A bus called Modern Highway Express collided with a minibus which was for some unknown reason called The Omnibus Nightshift. They had such a collision that the minibus was first cast skywards before it crashed down with a thunderous force and rolled several times. One of its front tires detached and beheaded a cyclist ten metres away. It also killed the cyclist’s wife who had been riding with him, crushing her chest to pulp, almost breaking her in half.
The bus, on the other hand, burst into unforgiving flames that gutted it like paper. Not a single soul escaped its ruin. It took two days for the police to clear the scene and haul away the wreckages.
However, on the third day, rumours began to spread across the town that a body had been left behind. It had been thrown over the rails and beyond the bush that crept and crawled on that side of the highway. Police had not located it, even after their diligent search. Those in the know explained that it was the body of the cyclist’s wife.
Now, Muguna and Miguna felt that they were very unfortunate kids. They were eleven years old—“eleven years all!” Miguna yelled in the privacy of their shared room—and had never seen a dead person. Because they were albinos, their mother did not allow them to mix freely with the townsfolk. There had previously circulated very dismaying stories about some folk in town who kidnapped albinos and sold them exorbitantly to witches who in turn used albino body parts to make juju potions for improving sexual virility in men. Muguna and Miguna were, thus, incarcerated in their compound, and whenever they were allowed to leave they were chaperoned with such severity that any fun of being away from home could not exist at all.
But they longed to see a dead person. Those two children did, with all the fiery passion in their young hearts! They had seen a dead housefly, a dead cockroach, a dead cat, and a dead dog. But a dead human, no! And they always wondered how a dead person looked like.
“Maybe people don’t completely die, anyway,” Miguna said one day.
“People die! You hear about it all the time!” said his brother.
“Maybe they just hung about somewhere and watch what you do about their rotting bodies: how loud or bitterly you cry, or how happy and cheerful you are. They gauge you.”
“Dead is dead, is dead!” Muguna said with emphasis. “Like the dog at the school gate. It looked so totally dead! Deader than the cockroach you squished in the kitchen or the housefly you burnt with super glue!”
“Do you think that if you look into a dead person’s eyes you will be able to see your reflection in them?” Miguna asked. He was serious, and he looked fixedly at his brother.
“I don’t know.”
“Would you like to know?”
“Because, if you can see your reflection in them, then the dead person can still see you.”
And so it came to pass that the two boys conspired and sneaked out of their house on the night of the day the town was rife with rumours of a forgotten body near the tunnel. They wore black clothes and masks and gloves so they would fit with some confidence in the darkness without their skin colour betraying them. They also took their faithful dog, Tyke, with them. Moreover, they had a powerful flashlight, of the kind the night guards did carry around with them.
“What about the tunnel?” Muguna asked. His voice quailed. They were getting closer and closer to the hole. It looked blacker than the night itself; a foreboding pit, it was thoroughly revolting to the senses. It was like a nasty, slimy, monstrous thing, silently brooding and calculating.
“What about it?” his brother replied. He sounded bold and defiant.
“You know what I mean! Don’t pretend.”
“I don’t believe any of it,” Miguna said confidently. “Nobody has seen a thing. There is no evidence. I am a scientist. I work with evidence!”
“If Tyke growls or barks or behaves in a funny way, I’m not entering that place. It is a Death Chamber,” Muguna said.
“Don’t call me that!”
“Coward! If you run away, that’s what you are, will always be.”
“Nothing is as reliable as an animal’s instincts, you know. It saves them from tsunamis and earthquakes while humans die like squished cockroaches!”
“Aren’t you curious to see the eyes of a dead person—if there is any reflection at all in them—if they can see you?” Miguna asked.
“Of course, I am.”
“Today we must know for sure.
“What if we find that they just rot and sink into the skull and become two stinking holes filled with pus and maggots?”
“Like maggot swimming pool?”
“Like maggot soup.”
“Well. No matter. We must find out. Something else I am puzzled about is whether a dead man looks like a dead woman.”
“They can’t look alike! One is a dead man, the other a dead woman!”
“I mean, whether they smell the same, or feel the same if you to touch them, rot at the same rate if they die at exactly the same time. But most important is whether their eyes resemble!”
“Wow! You really should be a doctor!”
“I’m going to be a Medical Examiner! Isn’t that cool?”
Tyke did not growl or bark or behave in a funny way when they entered the tunnel. But when they were almost through with crossing, shadows began to shift in front of them in manifold forms and all the hairs on their bodies suddenly stood on end, erect and stiff and prickly, and that was when Tyke did everything Muguna had said it might do. It growled and barked and leaped about in a funny way. But it was too late.
The flashlight burst and Muguna shrieked in pristine terror. Neither of them lived to tell of what bred within the tunnel. Miguna was found on the following day, drifting purposelessly on the other side of the tunnel. He was moribund, his eyes inside-out, eyelids shrunken like burnt leaves. His stomach was excessively distended—he looked pregnant!—and he was choking on something stuck in his throat.
By the time they got him to the hospital, he was dead. Upon examination, his body was found to be stuffed with the remains of his brother and their dog. He had been choking on Tyke’s intestines.
Where they buried Miguna, a curious incident occurred several hours later as the day faded to a grey evening and the sky became clouded and overcast as if with grief. A young girl named Nkatha, while playing hopscotch nearby with her friends, happened to glance cursorily in the direction of the town’s cemetery. Her attention was immediately arrested. A column of smoke, black as that of a factory chimney, was rising from Miguna’s grave. It wreathed heavenwards and then bent and flowed away.
Unbeknownst to the little girl, who was now irretrievably enthralled, the smoke flowed against the wind, and it flowed in the direction of the tunnel. Silently, lost in thought, goaded by strange forces, she followed it, and that was the last time she was seen.
Miguna’s coffin lies empty even as this story is told.
II. The University Students
That was almost three years ago. There was a media-blast about it and people gasped with horror. But memory fails people, fails them tremendously.
By the time the university students crossed through the town, the furore had died down and Kenyans had other businesses to mind. No one warned them of the tunnel. It was assumed that they knew about it. The townspeople had managed to keep off that route and believed that a person would have to be stark raving insane to use it. The tarmac was dull and littered with papers, rocks, silt, dead leaves and sticks from adjacent trees. Grass had overgrown the edges and now began to creep over it.
What’s more, the students were feared in these parts. They were a daredevil lot; openly rude and incautious, they believed life owed them a debt that had to be paid regardless. They viewed life in the manner toddlers did, resorting to violent tantrums, abuses, and causing irreparable damage to both domestic and commercial property. Shops were closed and entire roads avoided when they rampaged.
The group’s destination was not clear, but Morris, who was watching them cautiously from his shop window, ready to shut down if they should begin their characteristic frenzy, decided that they must have sought a shortcut to the Arboretum in the deep woods two kilometres beyond the highway. It was Sunday, the day the greatest number of people visited the Arboretum.
They were young, probably still in their first year, their faces bright and carefree. Young people in the prime of life, adorned in the gloriously beautiful but painfully transitory garb of youth, ripe and sweet and elegant, savouring life for the all the delicious things it offered, their indefinite futures still holding before them a plethora of choices. They chattered and laughed boisterously as they hurried down the road, gay, pert, and bold, adventurous and rash, full of erotic energy, all out to have fun, pure, unspoiled fun, unaware that fun came in multifarious facets, and that sometimes, if not most times, the onlookers had the greatest fun.
Morris was relieved when the tunnel swallowed them without incident.
Over the rails above the tunnel was perched an intrepid teenager named Kiama. He was flabbergasted when the rollicking group of girls and boys came out on the other side without incident. He heard their riotous laughter when one boy remarked: “I told you guys! Didn’t I? There’s nothing in that tunnel but superstitious gibberish and misplaced fear!” to which a girl, her voice musical, added: “When you don’t believe in superstition it has no influence over you!”
When his confoundment had subsided, Kiama contemplated the sky. A silver sliver of moon rode across it in a lonely subjugating gloom, and flocculent clouds scattered from it as if repulsed. The moon would vanish soon. The heavens would be dark. And there might be an incident. Kiama, who was fascinated by the thing in the tunnel, decided to wait for the students to return. But when it was almost seven o’clock and they had not appeared, he decided that they must have chosen a different path. So he went home, disappointed.
Soon afterwards, a keen scream brought the townspeople rushing headlong out of their houses. It was the girl who had remarked that superstition had no influence over those who had no belief in it. She seemed stricken insane. Her voice cut through the stillness of the night like a hot knife through butter. You couldn’t remain where you were after hearing that scream.
She came careering towards Morris’s shop which stood by the road. She was a wispy thing and did not seem to touch the ground at all when she moved. Long hair, slender neck, quick, graceful limbs, as agile as a reptile, she flew into Morris and seemed to perch on his chest like a bird. Such was her weightlessness that he did not feel her impact.
But she was raving mad. She would not calm down. She was shaking violently like one with paroxysms, and there was a great volume of foam spraying from her mouth. Her eyes were shut and she was uttering rapidly and incoherently, as if inspired with glossolalia.
The first thing heard, through all that unintelligible gabble—and it seemed a long time before anything could be made out—was: “Swallow!” Morris had to listen carefully because the word came out sounding more like “Sallow”. “Sallowed them!” she shrieked. After several other useless words and phrases, it became clear that the girl was saying “Swallowed them! It swallowed them! The earth swallowed them!”
“My head!” she cried and clutched her ears with desperation. “My head!”
Her ears began to bleed, and there was a greater profusion from her eyes and nose. “It is in my head. Something is in my head!” she cried, before her mouth became an overflowing dam of blood. There was a tightening around her head, her forehead bulging forwards, the sides extending. The sound of her bones and flesh tearing apart was excruciating. Suddenly, her head blew up like a squashed fruit and most of her brain fell on Morris’ face.
For a wild, turbulent second, he discovered that the brain is rather too smooth in the mouth, damn easy to swallow, and a tad too salty. Or maybe it was just the girl’s brain.
Smoke was now pouring forth from all over her body. It seemed her brain had been boiling.
The townsfolk, who had been gaping speechlessly at Morris and the girl, turned and shot like arrows back to their homes. They careered back faster than they had come.
But that night, Kiama found one of the boys from the girl’s group—the boy who had said something about superstitious gibberish and misplaced fear—lying on the roadside not far from the tunnel. His eyes looked like the eyes of a dead fish, his face ghastly and twisted like a demon’s mask. His mouth was open and he did not have any tooth left. His teeth seemed to have been uprooted one by one, his gums swollen and ruptured all through, discoloured even, seeming ploughed by a lunatic farmer. Clotted blood coated the lining of his mouth, his tongue a massive chunk of grey flesh. His stomach was bloated and grotesque; there was an appalling putrescence all about him.
Kiama, overcome with curiosity, picked up a stick and prodded the impregnated belly with it, thinking that this one too may have been stuffed with the remains his friends, as the albino twin had been. The stomach made a squelching sound and then burst like a balloon, spraying foul stuff all over Kiama.
The university boy suddenly became alive and cried: “Ah, you! Ah!” He seemed angry that Kiama had disturbed him. He reached out with his hands to grab Kiama’s legs, his glassy dead-fish eyes shifting about crazily, but Kiama jumped back, his own shriek stabbing the night like a rusty blade.
His flashlight went off. He shook it. Nothing! He shook it again, hitting it against his left hand. Nothing! He started walking backwards, cautiously, his plucky spirit finally dissolved. He turned and fled.
The dead thing got up and chased him towards the town. Kiama ran as he had never run before. He wished he could fly. He wished he had stayed in bed. He wished he had paid better attention to the story about the fabled cat murdered by curiosity.
The thing caught up with him just as he was about to reach Morris’ shop. He screamed once, fell headlong, and it landed on top of him. It was cold, very cold. It was creepy, and wet, a most repulsive thing crawling on him. Its burst intestines, now hanging like torn ropes, wrapped around Kiama. They bound him like an insect in a spider web. He was dragged into the tunnel.
III. The Invasion
The disappearance of the university students had a greater impact on Kenyans than did the previous events that had taken place in the town. Twenty two students did not (and could not) just vanish like that.
A violent furore gripped the university and a mob of students invaded the town. They crowded around the tunnel and stopped traffic on the highway. When they couldn’t see any peculiarities about the tunnel, their anger increased greatly and they started a riot.
“People cannot sublime like iodine,” the student leader announced. “We must find our comrades. We will not leave before we know their whereabouts. Somebody lied to us!”
With this last proclamation, missiles began to rain upon the traffic. Traffic lamps, posts, and shop windows suffered irreparable damages. One student brought a hacksaw and began cutting the rails over the tunnel.
Looting began. Morris shut down his shop and begged God to ward off the marauders. It seemed God answered his prayer. But that was probably because he sold foodstuff. The students craved electronics the most.
Then there were journalists. The self-righteous seekers of truth. Theirs was a different kind of riot—the media riot. Antagonistic, opportunistic, importunate pessimists, where would they be without bad news? They came in hordes. Talkative vipers with reddened inquisitive faces warped with vindictive passions and strange prejudices, anxious eyes roving about in search of deformities.
They interviewed everybody they met: children, adults. Hell, they would have interviewed dogs if there had been any! (Ever since the tunnel turned wicked, animals did not live long in the town, unless they were indoor pets). They wanted the story told and they wanted it done by any means, all means. The nature of their inquiries revealed that they thought someone or some people were behind the disappearances. Just like the students did. It was unbelievable.
Repeatedly, they were directed to the tunnel where they took imaginative photos of it, of both interior and exterior, and from all perspectives conceivable. But they were in the end dissatisfied with the absence of any remarkable features about it; they found it to be only a plain tunnel, dingy, dank, sporting mottled walls reminiscent of ancient puerile graffiti and a fractured, crevice-strewn floor, left unrepaired and unpainted for decades, now languishing in a sorry state of slow decay and desuetude.
They scurried back to the town centre to harass people with their numerous questions. Such was their cleverness that they inveigled even the most honest of the townsfolk to reveal more than was true. Their main goal was to get somebody to admit, even subtly, that there was nothing amiss or mysterious about the events in the ill-famed tunnel; that the students had been indeed victims of a diabolic scheme.
A woman named Jane said: “In the beginning we didn’t believe that there was anything wrong with the tunnel.”
“What is wrong with it now?” she was asked.
“I don’t know,” she said. “But it is—” She was cut off.
Morris was trapped in his house by thirteen reporters. Word had leaked out that the girl with the boiling brain had died in his arms. He was surrounded, his home infringed on, left with nowhere to run, to hide. He was greatly rankled. Normally, he was a reserved person who scarcely minded other people’s affairs. But distraught, as he presently was, he became tight-lipped. He had told the reporters everything he had seen, but they still wanted more from him.
“So you admit that she just died in your arms?” he was accused. “Where it gets unclear, is where you say the girl evaporates immediately after her cruel death in your hands. Would you clarify that again?”
The questioner was from Q-TV. He was thirty, had a shiny forehead and desultory eyes that seemed to see nothing. Morris ignored him.
The girl had vaporised. She had turned into smoke, consumed by something that had been inside her. Her stench had been evil, purely evil; so corrupt that Morris had almost become insane from inhaling it. It had attacked his respiratory tract and knocked all oxygen out of him, making him double over, clenching his throat, gagging, coughing, unable to breathe, to talk, to think, a man confined in a dark, unknown place reeking of death and damnation.
Morris had later told his wife that if Hell stank like that nobody would worry about fire, unquenchable or otherwise. That stink watered the eyes, corroded the nostrils, and poisoned the lungs. The black smoke had writhed its way, slow and worm-like, into the tunnel.
“The tunnel is a bad place,” he said finally. “People disappear there. Sometimes corpses are stuffed inside people. And sometimes the corpses awake to take you with them into the tunnel. Something evil lives there, something so evil that it can cause glass to crack without touching it. It has found a way through to this town. Maybe it rips opens a portal within the tunnel and takes whoever it finds.”
The reporters left him alone, though clearly disappointed. Morris, relieved, decided that such careers, as did numerous others, fed on catastrophe, grew fat on the carrion and turpitude of humanity. He was struck by the futility of warning.
“What is the point of warning anyone?” wondered he.
The police also came. But they had a different mission. While the General Service Unit officers battled with the rioting students, detectives swarmed the town. They needed culprits, and in Kenya, if the police want culprits they obtain them aplenty. They obtain them by any means, all means.
One inspector remarked that they should arrest every Toi resident they could find and lock them up at the station to be interrogated later on. His colleague praised the idea, but added that the station could not hold them all. So they went from house to house asking questions. It was a gruelling option but they had a cruel devotion. They wanted to know how each house made a living, the breadwinner and all.
Now, in any given Kenyan town, the unemployed are countless, street children are a must, and school dropouts as fish in the sea. The police made a bountiful harvest that Monday, their reasoning being that idlers are the most vulnerable to crime, are in fact criminals. It was a handicapped view, indeed, typical of the unproductive system they served.
Morris was arrested and cuffed alongside a forlorn teenager with whom he had never before had a chance to make acquaintance. His wife wept and pleaded with the cops to spare him. She said he was an honest man, kind even, an altruist who had never hurt anyone on purpose ever since she married him. “He has never even slapped me!” she shouted. But, of course, her pleas and implorations could not convince the authorities. Morris’ story about the university girl simply did not make sense.
It was evening and the sky looked mournful. Clouds hung low, dense and fecundated, casting an ominous shadow over the town. A chill breeze blew, and the families of the captives nestled outside their houses weeping in dejection and quivering in the cold as they watched their friends and relatives wrongfully taken away from them. A woman named Nyoruko who sold tomatoes and onions at the market expressed her regret for having lived in the town for too long. She should have abandoned it as soon as the first misfortune happened in the tunnel. Other families expressed the same sentiment.
The tunnel was built by the British in the 1920s. But the history of its wickedness began about five years ago. There was an electrical storm after which a fog enveloped the town for two days. A thirteen-year old girl named Soni became its first victim. The police were involved, but when their efforts did not fructify, it was decided that she had been kidnapped. The second was a construction worker with a family of four to feed. It happened on the same day. In total, seven people vanished before the question of the tunnel was even raised. When three high school boys went through it one evening and did not come out the other end, it was only then that it began to receive attention and rumours spread of an invisible monster hiding within it.
IV. Stupidity Unqualified
Once, not too long ago, two philosophers were discussing the human condition.
The first, a cynic, said: “People do not understand a situation if it’s not happening to them. You can explain it till your throat turns red, dries like sand, and cracks like clay, but they will only act as if they understand. This characteristic makes pain and suffering requisite, because, pain is the unqualified detergent of the soul and suffering evokes thought and compassion.”
The second, dispassionate, said: “The human, unique and uplifted above all animals, was bestowed with all the important faculties that every animal has. He was given them in moderation so that it is up to him to cultivate and nurture them. It means that man has the capacity to be the most intelligent animal on the planet, or the most stupid. It is up to him.”
The reporters lingered in town—and wonders of wonders, they were inside the tunnel! Many students had mixed with them to escape the GSU officers quelling the riot, so that the hole was packed. They were waiting to see for themselves what the thing did when darkness fell. They were chatting very loudly and laughing at the top of their lungs.
At the farthest end of the tunnel, where some light penetrated and the din was a bit tolerable, a man named Onyi, who worked for KTN, was hitting on a European woman named Sara, who worked for BBC.
“Why do women eat soil when they are pregnant?” he was asking.
“I don’t know,” she said, uninterested. “You can Google it.”
“Google kills conversation. I’m trying to build a conversation right now.”
“My mother used to eat salt when she was pregnant with me,” he said.
“Salt?” she frowned, interested now.
“Yes. Table salt,” he said. “Sodium chloride. She’d eat whole packets of it. 2kgs, 4kgs, 10! Scooping spoonfuls after spoonfuls, ladles and ladles. She would dissolve a whole packet in a bowl of water and drink it like soda. She craved salt.”
“And you survived?”
“Standing right here loving your pretty eyes!” he said and grinned. She blushed, looked away for a moment, and returned to him.
“Well, that is very strange,” she said.
“What is?” asked he. “Surviving the salt or loving your pretty eyes?”
“My pretty eyes have been loved before,” she said, her tone a notch defiant. “For your information,” she added as an afterthought. “But the salt thing is alien. Did you become sick?”
“Healthy as a horse!” exclaimed he. “I was—and still am—preserved by salt. I am salty. So salty that when I was fifteen, I kissed a girl and dried her mouth by osmosis. She had to consume three litres of water afterwards in order to restore herself.”
“Lol, you are lying!” she said, laughing.
He liked the way she laughed. He liked even more that he was making her laugh like that. He stepped closer.
“How can you tell?” he asked.
“I don’t believe it!”
“I am literally a walking pillar of salt.”
“I don’t believe you!”
“Would you like evidence?”
He stepped forward. “Kiss me,” he said, and something in his voice made her pause and regard him differently. He thought she would refuse and hastened to add: “I’ve been thinking about your lips ever since I first saw you here. I can’t help it.”
“That’s it then!” she broke out, laughing harder. “You’re hitting on me! You’ve been hitting on me all along! Oh my God, I should have seen it! You’re such a clever over-winding prick!”
She did not move when he took one more step and closed the distance between them.
“Can’t this be done another time?” she said, flushed, looking around warily at the rest of them.
At that moment, Onyi proclaimed himself a winner. He felt such a hot rush of triumph that his penis bulged like a rock outcrop. His heart was on fire.
He was beginning to hum “win some, lose some” when a strange shadow fell over him. He turned, spinning like a wheel, all his winsome charm and proud heart at once gone. The tunnel had become darker and ominous. There were strange movements in front of him. Shape-shifting things, incomprehensible things, amorphous things, shadowy, real. He smelled something foul, a bitter, asphyxiating corruption of flesh. He saw something like a wing. He heard a rustle of hairy, leathery things. He saw something reaching for him. It looked like a giant claw.
Onyi ducked and Sara let out a chilling scream. He had forgotten that she was there. The thing—the claw or whatever—struck her and her head went flying against the wall, bounced, and rolled on the tunnel floor. He made to rise up but her headless body fell on him and pressed him down. He could feel her blood burning his back, spurting forth like a crazed fountain, while her hands and legs jerked madly. He pushed her away with great might, scrambled up, but was suddenly covered in a horrible embrace with what he now confirmed were wings. Leathery, hairy wings, yet so large that he was lost within their eerie confinement. They tightened around him, the claws clasping his ribs, digging in, ripping his spine. He opened his mouth to scream but no sound came out. Instead, his eyes exploded, blood gushed out of his ears, and his teeth fell off like faulty ball bearings.
The university student leader, who had also sought refuge in the tunnel and had been listening with amusement as Onyi pulled a trick on Sara, broke into a frenzied, terror-inspired run when he saw what happened to the two. But something like a giant stinger stabbed him in the stomach, injecting strange fluids into him and paralyzing him there and then. He was digested inside out, becoming a small pool of brown liquid.
One Ciku, who worked for NTV, on seeing the complexly shifting images in the tunnel, did not wait to investigate. She had been thinking that the entire Toi community could not be so wrong. They couldn’t tell the same story as if they all knew one another and had discussed it. That man Morris, for instance, had not been lying. Yet there had to be an explanation for the events in the tunnel, which was why Ciku had elected to linger in it.
She fled now. But instead of coming out into the open, she fell into a hole which hadn’t been there before. She fell forever. It was dark. It was eldritch. It was endless.
The rest of the group fell after her. Some of them almost made it out but they tripped on the brown liquid, which, only a few seconds before, had been the student leader.
The cops heard the chaos and hurried towards the tunnel. They brought the prisoners with them. They could see from afar that there was nobody in it. All the journalists had vanished. But the cops were unafraid. They were the ultimate authority and they had guns. The prisoners now consisted also of unwatchful students who had been collared. The ones from Toi, however, were frightened. They knew just to what scope the tunnel could extend its malevolence. But there was nothing they could do to save their skins. If they disobeyed the police, they would be shot dead without hesitation. If they got into the tunnel, they would never make it out alive. They were herded in like sheep.
Morris had hung back from the moment he realized they were going into the tunnel. There was now just a single policeman behind him. As the others began to stream in, he stopped altogether. The policeman promptly kicked him on the butt. The next few seconds saw him flogged and dragged and pushed and called all manner of names. Needless to say, he did not budge. He had the will of a mule.
He held on to the edge of the tunnel with his free hand. He realized that he was much stronger than he had always thought. He was in fact stronger than the policeman. The problem was the kid with whom he was paired; instead of helping Morris resist the cop, he was pulling Morris towards the hole. He was also crying. A struggle ensued for sometime, but the officer, losing, began to grope for his gun.
At the same time, a great tumult erupted within the bleakness of the tunnel. Somebody cried out and a gun went off. A stampede ensued. Morris could see them coming back, running and tumbling along the tunnel, tripping on the floor, falling and trampling one another. But none of them was coming out. They were vanishing somewhere between the middle of the tunnel and the end where Morris and the boy were.
They looked vague, distorted images moving blurredly before being taken by mystery, into mystery, almost as if there was a barrier between Morris and them, a constantly shifting farrago of shadows and real images. Then there was a hissing sound, and a high-pitched diabolical cry like that of a furious cat. Something flapped like wings and a cold volume of air exited the tunnel in a gusty rush.
The cop was still distracted. Morris let go of the wall and kicked him in the stomach. The gun flew away from his hands and Morris pushed him into the heartless darkness, where something like a tentacle stabbed him and he rotted instantly. His tongue fell out and his eyes sunk into his skull.
Morris tugged the boy out, who fell hard on the stony pavement, yelped like a dog, but Morris ran, towing him aground.
He stopped after about thirty metres. His shoulder was hurting from pulling the kid along. Most of the boy’s face was bruised, lips shredded, and knees skinned. Nothing that couldn’t fixed, though. Morris scooped him up and hurried away. No one else left the tunnel after them.
V. The Thing
It is. It just is. In the supreme unknowable dark, where no light can reach and neither meaning nor logic can be found, where emptiness reigns unbound, it abides, and has abode, forever, and ever.