“The Tunnel”

Gerry came back to himself at a slow, plodding pace down a long curving tunnel that seemed to spiral on endlessly with only a glint of light to tempt him around the next bend. The spiraling passage reverberated with the pounding bass of a thoughtless youth; intermittently overshadowed by jackhammer percussion that vibrated his teeth and an air drill’s whine that reamed holes into his brain just behind the temples. As he pressed on, the walls began to taper, reducing the inner space from tunnel, to tube, to pipe. Gerry’s movement was restrictted to crawling. His heart raced, sharing tempo with the booming song that never weaved in word or instrument. Claustrophobia was making it hard to breathe and strangling his hope of reaching the light, fresh air, and blessed silence. An image came to Gerry of a snail’s shell; specifically how the wide, open end receded to the thinnest point of the spiral at the center of the hull. Panic caused him to look back the way he had come for any clue that he was headed in the right direction.

“It’s a tunnel to hell,” echoed Gerry’s hysterical thought from somewhere near the passage mouth. Then he startled awake.

Once his vision had cleared, the scene around him did nothing to comfort Gerry. Overhead spot lights glared, even through his eyelids, and the crushing pain in his skull beat to the rhythm of his own racing pulse. The walls at the edges of the light were painted an industrial shade of something between mint and battleship. Gerry registered that he was lying on a gurney, or table of some kind, and that his head and limbs were all firmly secured to it; though he could not feel the texture of those restraints. His mouth was dry and his forehead was slick with sweat. Gerry picked through his memory to uncover a reason he would be in the hospital now, “With some sort of head injury?” It was only a guess, but his head did feel as though he’d taken a serious blow.

Memories of events before the tunnel danced around him illogically jumbled, meaning taunting him from just out of reach.

“This one’s a waste of time, Ger,” said a ginger-haired man with a camera on his shoulder and a toothpick in his teeth.

“I felt all tingly and noticed that my hair was standing up,” said an overall-wearing girl of about eight with a terrible cleft lip scar twisting through a perfectly angelic face.

An angry middle-aged woman thrust a sign against the window of his town car as her fellow protesters landed ineffective blows to the hood and pelted the roof with blackened cobs of corn. He grappled with the scene but he could not remember what the sign said or the purpose behind her outcry.

None of these snapshots got Gerry any closer to a reason for his current state.

A face leaned into his field of view, then was joined by two others. For a moment in his confusion, Gerry was terrified. Then his whole life swept back into him on the hyper pulse of his piercing headache and speeding heart.  Terror turned to outrage.

“They have gone too far this time!” his brain screamed against a closed throat. He could not move his lips and his tongue lay in the center of his mouth like a dead fish. In fact, Gerry could not move anything except his eyes.

Reports of coeds dosed with GHB scrolled passed his memory, “I’ve been roofied?” he shrieked in silence.
“They will pay for this,” he seethed. “They will all go to jail. Every last man, woman, and child involved in this…this violation! This obvious lie!”

One of the faces leaned in again – tiny, faceted buttons had been sewn into neat rows above the sickly phlegm-colored ridges denoting cheeks in the hideous mask. There was no true nose on the face, but an arch composed of three dilating nostrils whiffed – in and out – over a cluster of writhing tentacles in the general proximity of a mouth. The cretin wearing the mask made intense garbling noises, presumably meant to approximate speech. Gerry fixed his eyes on the buttons, assuming the screen allowing the man to see would be camouflaged behind what were masquerading as eyes.

“I’m not a fool,” he glared wordlessly. “I know a hoax when I see one. You will regret your childish games!”

The tentacles wriggled with soft squelching noises and released an odor like boiling blue crabs on a muggy summer evening. From the center of the reeking mass slithered a thin string of mucous. It dangled above Gerry’s face for a moment, then dripped something black into his eye.

Gerry was back in the tunnel, then the tube, then the pipe, then a tightly wrapped shroud. He lay on his back, blind, trapped in the rictus of a scream, suffocating on his own saliva and something like the thick algae bloom on a long stagnant ditch. The bass that had resumed as a frantic, bouncing bongo beat stopped abruptly. It never started again.

In an official statement today, State Police confirm that a body found near Bode Lake was that of controversial author Dr. Gerald Ramses. Dr. Ramses was reported missing from a location shoot of his upcoming paranormal investigation series, ‘Debunked’. Ramses is most known for his published collection of studies on the phenomena of alien abduction discovered through hypnotherapy. The work and man made notorious upon his revelation in the final chapter that the memories of alien abduction were planted in the minds of his twelve subjects to prove out the danger of hypnotherapy as a treatment tool. Police assure the press that Dr. Ramses died naturally from heart failure while on a routine, pre-dawn stroll around the lake.

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