#oneaday 9 – Short story Sunday

9 Jan

So, I said I’d use Sundays to post some short stories. Here’s one from a while ago, it’s a bit cheesy but I shall endeavour to write more, and more often. Here it is:

Tunnel

Kate stands with her face resting against the cool grit of the sandstone wall, breathing hard. It’s dark in the tunnel, and no one else can see her. No one knows where she is. She turns her head so the back of her skull makes a dull clunking sound against the tunnel wall; her eyes swivvled so far to the side in her head that should anyone else have been with her they would have only seen the whites.

Kate is watching.

The shaking of Kate’s hand is barely perceivable as she presses a cigarette to her lips and takes a long draw from it. Blue smoke is blown sideways into the night air as Kate keeps her gaze fixed on the inside of the tunnel. She dare not go in too deep; she doesn’t know what lies in there. Junkies, probably. Or monsters. Or both. Either way, all Kate wants to do is meet her match. Meet the guy who’s been on to her for so long. The letters had started back in September: nice enough at first, general ‘I’ve seen you around, can we go out sometime’ letters. It was now November and the epistolary tales had been growing more and more desperate and confused over the months. This guy wasn’t in love. He was in trouble. He told Kate he had no one else, no one in the world to help him fight his demons and solve his problems. Over sixty letters, you get to know a person. Kate hadn’t been replying to the letters, he never asked her to and she never offered. She’d seen him before, from a distance, dropping the letters through her post box. Tall, thin, hooded sweatshirt, hat. He didn’t have claws or scales. No fangs to speak of. He just seemed in need of a friend. Kate was a sucker for the little boy lost act. Her mother had said it would be her downfall. In the cold November air, Kate began to think that her mother might be right.

The tricks that a mind can play when left to it’s own devices are astounding.

Ten minutes dragged by. Fifteen. Thirty. No sign of anyone. It was really dark now, save for the spitting, flickering neon strip at the end of the tunnel. Torn between not wanting to enter the tunnel for fear of what she might find and not wanting to venture onto the street for shame that she might be seen in this squalid, degenerate end of town, Kate crouches in the mouth of the tunnel, eyes never moving from her vigil, skin contracting and dimpling with cold. Kate doesn’t know how long she’s been waiting when she hears the crunch of boots on gravel coming from the other end of the tunnel. The steps advance unevenly, sometimes an ancient, creaking shuffle, sometimes a proud thundering stomp, sometimes a childlike patter. Kate doesn’t dare to breathe, although she can hear her insides pulsing with adrenaline; her blood dancing out a crazed staccato rhythm under her skin.

Is this him? How can I help him? Kate thinks helplessly. She isn’t even sure what he wants from her. His letters say that he knows Kate’s secret. He knows about what she can do. And he needs Kate to use what she knows for him. She doesn’t know why she’s so afraid. Or if what she’s feeling is even fear at all. It was definitely anticipation. The sound of footfall grows louder until Kate is sure that he must be almost on top of her by now. And they stop.

Flicking her eyes about the tunnel, Kate forgets about the silence. She is afraid now. She can hear him breathing, feel him in front of her. But she can’t see him. Scrambling to her feet, Kate whips her head around. Her breathing is rapid, expelling itself in hard, short bursts. She holds aloft the package of letters she has been carrying.

“These are yours.” She cries, her voice wavering on the final word. “I have your letters”

suddenly, the silence around her conveys more fear into her veins than she ever felt from the sound of him being near. Kate knows he hasn’t gone. She can feel him.

“I know you’re here,” Kate ventures. “I can see you…”

The last line is an unconvincing bluff, Kate’s voice echoing off the walls of the tunnel, her head whipping from side to side, her eyes flicking up and down the stone passage. She could run if she wanted to. She could fight too. But neither of these options seem appropriate or even feasible at this moment.

There is a scuffle, and Kate feels him close to her again, although in the half light of the tunnel, she can’t quite make him out. Kate is intrigued. How does he know about her secret? And how could this secret help him?

“I can help you” Kate bluffs again, her voice stronger this time, her energy concentrated on getting through to her visitor. “I can help you get home, if that’s what you want.” The scuffling stops. If Kate can’t hear him say ‘yes’, she feels it just the same. Moistening her lips with the tip of her tongue, Kate nods. She’d suspected this all along, but hadn’t dared to quite conclude the suspicion. Bending down with careful urgency, Kate unclips her small rucksack and takes out what she needs. A bible, some holy water, a candle. Her throat dry, her voice escaping her lips in a barely audible croak, she flicks water about the tunnel, uttering the words necessary for the exorcism. Within seconds, the tunnel is cold. No one else is there. Kate turns her back on the tunnel and steps out into the icy clarity of the night.

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