The Tunnel: 1987

By Sunnie Gaylord

Seven boys, ages nine to fourteen, loiter in a subway station in a prosaic afternoon throwing pieces of glass and rock across the track.  Out of earshot from their parents, each one cusses with intention, as if their tongues are trying to indulge in a rush of forbidden maturity. They swear like their fathers, the words tailoring in their mouths and becoming more natural with each use, like stones worn smooth by a river.

The boys work together trying to gimmick a way out of boredom. They dare one another to jump into the tunnel, to lie on the tracks and run back up. One by one they provoke an ethereal and delicate thread that keeps away ghosts that haunt entire lifetimes.

The last to jump is the smallest of the boys, who takes off from the platform with vigor and upon landing feels a hot potency of woe. Immediately his ankle responds with a brittle snap that echoes throughout his body and sets forth the momentum of shock. He hits the tracks hard. When he attempts to lift his leg, his foot is dead weight. His sock is warm and wet.

The call of the train runs along the sides of the tunnel and impels the boys, leaving their hearts to forever fear the sudden alarm.  They call out for the boy who lies on the tracks and each one commands the same order, their tones now more adult than they have ever been.

As his eyes open he sees the train surging towards him. The others reach forth, their small hands jut in a bouquet of palms, fingers, and peril. Each become prophetic as the train impends. The boy below screams at the others, pleading with them as if they were black angels. In the second before the train meets him, he is consumed with the foul realization of inculpable circumstance.

Before the train masticates his small body, before ribbons of meat and sinew grind against the asphalt and the boys above see the boy’s skin split and his fat and muscle bloom and breathe; before the walls of the tunnels run with what looks like ink, before this boy becomes a ghost story forever in concord with the subway station, he can smell his mother, a careful balance of floral notes, bleach, and garlic.

And each boy above would remember making direct eye contact with him, the very moment they were severed from their childhood.

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Categories: Fiction, Issue 6 | Leave a comment

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