The Tunnel

Here’s another one of Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenges. Choose a picture from Flickr’s Interestingness, and write a thousand words. This is the one that caught me. I’ll try to get the picture to post, but if it doesn’t, here’s the link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/122145383@N02/17922889682/ dark perspective – street art B&W – EXPL. 21/05/2015 by Paolo

The Tunnel

Din’t matter the sun was hid behind a smear of shit-brown smog, it was still brighter on the street than in the Tunnel, and Cass stopped just inside the doors to let her eyes come right. She never been in the Tunnel before, din’t have no way to know was there stuff to trip on like in the alleys Outside, so she waited till she could see before steppin out. She din’t know no one been in the Tunnels before, and far as she knew no one ever come out, either. So wasn’t no one to tell what was it like, what they did there, what they wanted. Why they wanted street folk. Why they wanted any one at all. Just—you get your Summons, you pack your stuff, and you show.

It was cooler in the Tunnels than Outside, and Cass shivered. ‘How they get it like that, so chill?’ she thought. Her hair lifted with the faint stir of cool air and her hand come up quick and pushed it down, scared, her eyes back and forth lookin if anyone saw. Wasn’t no one there, though. Just her by the Tunnel doors and way-way down some Mac walkin away gone.

Cass looked around now, the light in the Tunnel enough, finally. The floor was clean. Not clean, like nothin to trip on, but clean, like shiny water. Throwin back light in ripples like you could see yourself in the store windows. ‘How they get it like that?’ she thought again, her head shakin just a little in wonderin it. She turned and looked behind her, on the floor, scared to see the street dirt where she stepped in. Wasn’t nothin there, though, and she frowned. ‘How it does like that?’ her thoughts ran into the walls of her head, scarin her more. ‘Street got dirt always, how they got no dirt in here?’ Behind that thought were the ones she was too scared to think: why they let the street people in when they keep the dirt out? Why they let her in? What they want her for?

She shivered again, the movement making her bag shift against her hip, and she flinched at the touch. Then she caught her breath and shook her head. ‘Don’t get answers standin,’ she thought. She stood her up tall, squint her eyes tight. ‘They want me, they get me,’ she thought hard and grim. ‘Get me like Cortez think he get in my pants and he get a s’prize. They want me, I say what they get, not them, no. I say.’ She hitched the bag higher up on her shoulder and stepped out.

Her shoes made a kind of shush-shush sound on the shiny floor, sometimes a scritch or a squeak where the plastic soles caught different. She saw movement in the side of her eyes where the light showed her back in the shiny walls, walkin. She turned her head a little each side lookin, makin sure just her was there, not somethin else tryin to sneak around her somehow, but it was her, just her, and her shoulders eased a little. She look ahead, and the Tunnel was empty; that Mac was walkin there gone somewheres when she din’t see.

The Tunnel was brighter down there than by the doors she come in by, and she saw there were doors there, too. Doors just like the other ones, glass doors with the bar for your hands so you din’t get dirt on them. Cass slowed down a little, lookin, lookin hard, lookin to see what was on the other side of those glass doors, but all she could see was light. Way bright, way bright, shine in the doors onto the clean, clean floors, shinin hard enough to show on the walls and up on the roof of the Tunnel, and Cass wondered if that was the Sun up there like they said in the stories. Like they said the Sun shinin bright as day, and she wondered was the sky really blue like they said. Because the sky wasn’t blue now, hadn’t been since the world broke and they just let things go so pollution was okay any more. Could the sky be blue in the Tunnels with the Sun shining down, when it was all brown like shit in the Outside? She din’t know—but now she hurried again, because she wanted to know if it could. She wanted to know, wanted to be on the other side of those glass doors no matter what was gonna be, because if that was Sun then she wanted to be in it, wanted to feel it clean on her skin and warm on her face, not like she had to hide it from the bad rays in the Outside.

She remembered the stories her Ma told her when she was a little, that when she was little you could go Outside and play and the Sun din’t burn you and give you cancer. When the sky was blue like her Ma’s eyes, and now Cass was runnin, runnin to get to the doors, wantin to see her Ma’s eyes just once more even was it up in the sky… She reached the doors and pushed the bar hard and the door swung open, and there was sound like she never hear before and light like she never see before and there were people and space, enough space to run and never touch a wall, and she just stopped dead standin, breathin too hard like cryin. The light come down from way high above, and the sound was water fallin down in a glittery white rush to a pool in the middle of somethin green like never was. The people come from all around the space in ones and twos, with pale faces and clean hands reachin. “Welcome to Enclave Tower Six,” the first one said. “I’m Maintenance Captain Farrell. You’ll be working with me. Welcome home!”

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