The Tunnel Pt. 2

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  • Jeff yelled into the tunnel.
  • "What's the matter, Kenny? Is it the bloodsuckers? Kenton, Kenton, where are you? Ve vant to suck your blood."
  • Jeff had a way of saying "Kenton" that made it sound like an even finkier name than it is.
  • "Did you go to the other place?"
  • "Where those other girls play. I think this goes there."
  • "Where does it go?"
  • "It goes under the road. I walked through it once."
  • "What other place?"
  • "Hey! Hold it. You can't go in there. You'll... you'll get your sandals wet. And I can't come. I don't fit."
  • "Okay, but look, I'll wait on this side until you're halfway through and meet you on the other side. Are you sure you're not scared?"
  • "Come on, Kenton."
  • "I fit."
  • Dirt pressing heavy against my chest, against my eyelids, against my legs which wouldn't move. Above the roaring in my ears, I heard a high snatch of song. Two notes with no words. Calling. I pushed against the concrete and screamed without a sound.
  • I feel a tight heaviness in my chest.
  • Ib pulls on my shirt. I'm big again. Huge. Like Talking Doll. After I say, "What other place?" Ib gives me The Look. Ib explains. Yeah, right. The Barbies visit the culvert.
  • "Ibbie. Answer me right now. I mean it."
  • "Hey, rotten egg, I beat you." "Ib!"
  • Ib steps into the tunnel. Ib sits on the ground and takes off her sandals. Blackwater bloodsuckers. But why would I want to scare her? And hey, it's just a tunnel. So I happen to suffer from claustrophobia. That's my problem. Ib steps into the pipe and stretches to become an X. I watch the X splash into the darkness.
  • "Elizabeth!"
  • I pick up the sandals and climb the hill. It's different, too. It used to be just feathery horsetail and now skinny trees grow there. I grab onto them to pull myself up. I cross the road, hovering on the center line as an RV rumbles by, and then I slide down the other side, following a small avalanche of pebbles.
  • I kneel on top of the pipe and stick my head in, upside down. Small, echoing, dripping sounds are the only answer. I peer into the darkness, she's teasing me. Ib, Ib, Ib-- the tunnel throws my voice back at me. I jump down and stand at the pipes entrance. My eyes adjust and I can see the dim green O at the other end. No little girl.
  • She must have turned and hidden on the other side to fool me. I don't remember getting up the hill and across the road.
  • She isn't there. Empty tunnel. She slipped. She knocked her head. Child drowns in four inches of bath water. I have to go in. I try walking doubled over. But my feet just slip down the slimy curved concrete and I can only shuffle. I drop to my hands and knees. Crawl, crawl, crawl.
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