Author : Jonah Lensher
The tunnel is long and dark; the smell of mould and must penetrate the darkness, the steady drip of water the only way to measure time as it unravels, unnoticed, past the weeks, years, and decades. Nothing breathing lives down here, there is no scampering of rats or creeping of insects; the tunnel is a silent tomb, sleeping in its eternal night.
The tunnel, and others like it, used to be part of an underground system, until they were abandoned overnight, many years ago, and they fell silent, gradually filling up with water, or succumbing to the gradual pressure from the land above. But this one remains, a silent, dead testament to those who carved it out of the bedrock.
Above them, in the once great city, Nature has started her own war of reclamation against the steel and glass jungle; bushes and vines grow unchecked on every surface, while small jungles have sprung up on corners and in parks. But still, nothing moves, there are no animals to prowl the deserted streets, no birds to fly in the empty sky. The city, like the tunnel, is a silent tomb.
Suddenly down below, light pierces the tunnel, a lancing beam of light that is soon swallowed whole by the darkness. Soon more join the first, and the sound of footsteps and crunching gravel echo down the walls. Gradually a group comes into view, backlit by the light from an electric lantern as they make their way down the empty, dead miles of the tunnel. Invisible to the human ear, brief, unnecessarily whispered conversations carry out over the airwaves, their participants hushed by the dead silence around them and the haunting, cathedral like ambience of the tunnel.
“-We shouldn’t be here-” This comes from a figure in the back, it’s hunched figure and nervous hands betraying anxiety, even through the thick plastic of the suit. The replay comes from the figure leading the way, “-We’ll do our duty-” the scowl that is hidden by the polarized visor obvious in the tone of voice. Suddenly a third voice chimes in,
“-We’re here-” it says simply, and one of the figures points to a ladder rising up into the gloom.
One by one the suited figures climb the ladder, gingerly placing each glove and boot, any cut or rip in the suit could prove fatal. They emerge in another tunnel, this one lit from above by light filtering in through drains and open manholes. They climb another ladder, and exit onto a wide-open boulevard, staring at the desolate scene around them.
“-Just think-” One of the voices says, “-We’re the first people to set foot here for what? 80 years?” the other voices mumble in agreement, too dumbstruck to say anything more, until a second voice speaks up,
“-What did they used to call this place? Noo Yawk?”
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