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  • Writer's pictureTodd Stevens

The Secret Tunnel

When I was a Sophomore in high school I took a science class in which we bred fruit flys. The goal was to find genes that were passed down, anomalies etc. I only mention this class for one reason, it gave us a reason to enter a little storage room the size of a modern walk-in closet. That room had shelves and shelves of cool looking multi-colored containers of chemicals, minerals, glass beakers, pickled animals, and other items for which I don’t know the use. One of the things we had access to was a galvanized tin can full of ether. We used it to sedate the fruit flys when moving them from cage to cage. We also used to huff it Now don’t get me wrong, we didn’t sit and huff it to the point of passing out, just enough to giggle a little bit. One day a friend and I were back in that little room and we’d poured some of the ether onto a cotton ball. We passed it back and forth for a few minutes and laughed quietly at each other. About that time I saw something I’d never noticed before. There was a trap door in the floor of that little room. It almost blended in except for a brass handle that fit neatly into a hollowed out spot in the floor. I asked my friend to move off of the door, the ether suddenly forgotten. I pried the handle up and lifted the door. It came up with little resistance, but I could tell it hadn’t been opened in a long time because dust formed a thin little ledge all around the door. I stuck my head in the hole and could see that a brick lined tunnel went one way into the darkness until you couldn’t see where it lead anymore. I coughed purposely into the darkness and it was as if I was coughing into a vacuum. The sound disappeared with no reverberation at all. My friend asked me, “What’s down there?” I just shrugged, “I have no idea.” This secret tunnel became a curiosity after I told a few more friends. Guys took turns lifting the door and looking into the abyss over the next couple of days. Eventually someone had the idea that we should climb into the tunnel and see where it lead. That someone was not me. I’m claustrophobic, and not fond at all of enclosed spaces. But…it was high school, and I wasn’t about to lose points by being a “wuss.” The next Friday four of us gathered in the science room. The biggest kid went first, then me, then two other friends. The tunnel was about 3 feet by 3 feet, so it wasn’t like we were squeezing into something dangerously tight, but that didn’t matter, my heart was racing out of control and I would have turned back if not for the kids behind me. When the last kid climbed in and lowered that trapdoor it was so dark it felt like it was physically pressing in on me. I could even feel the nerves of the others who were so brave only a few seconds before. We started climbing south on our hands and knees, the stale smell of fifty year old dust and dirt being kicked up constantly. There were occasional branches off the main tunnel and I could envision someone finding my skeleton 25 years after the adventure, laying at the back of one of those little tunnels, 501’s rotting away, a big blue comb sticking out of the back pocket. We didn’t talk, we just climbed forward into the black, our breathing labored and nervous. After what felt like 5 minutes I asked the lead kid, “See light yet?” He answered, his voice dry and strained, “Not yet..” I was rethinking my life choices by this point. I always thought I had a tendency towards being an idiot, and this confirmed it. I don’t know if it was actually hot in there, or if it was just my body reacting, but I was having a heat flash like I could never remember. I was slick with sweat. Just about the time I was going to freak out, the kid in front said, “I see light!” The joy in my heart was as if I’d just been touched by the lord. A second later I thought, what if we reach a grate or something that’s screwed shut? Along with not bringing a flashlight, we hadn’t thought to bring a screwdriver either. We scrambled the last 50 feet and the kid in front pushed on a vented grate and, gloriously, it swung open. We all climbed out and acted like we hadn’t been panicked the whole time. Adventures conquered are sometimes worth the terror getting there. ReplyForward

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