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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Black (10/15/09)

TITLE: The Tunnel
By Dolores Stohler


Stop or I’ll shoot,” came the voice of Jamal.

“He’s sure to miss me in the dark,” thought Stella, as she continued to run toward the group of stores that formed the hub of the city. Overhead, the sky was a black shroud of clouds.

Reaching the shop where she worked, Stella ducked around to the back and let herself in, locking the door behind her. She’d be safe now, at least until Bill came. But fear forced her to enter the restroom and lock that door as well. Almost at once, her sharp ears picked up the sound of footsteps rounding the corner. There were two of them out there trying to hunt her down, but they didn’t know which store she was in, Thank God.

Minutes ticked by, during which time she prayed the men would leave before Bill arrived with his backpack. If he were able to get it, that is. He’d have to sneak it out if they were watching the house.

Then she heard voices, low but intelligible. “Any sign of her?”

“No, but she couldn’t have gone far. Don’t waste time if you see her -- shoot to kill. We want that Christian broadcaster and I think we can smoke him out if he sees his wife lying in the street.” Stella shrank deeper into her hiding place and her hands began to shake. Her heart seemed to jump from her chest.

More time passed. Then she heard Bill’s three sharp raps at the door. Quickly she ran to open it and fairly fell into her husband’s arms. Tears of relief ran down her face.

“No time for crying, honey. We have to quit this place before they find us.” He pushed her away from him. Then, taking her hand, he yanked open the door and raced with her down the black alleyway, leaving the heart of the city.

When Bill stopped running at last, Stella saw that they had reached an older neighborhood. Light rain had begun to fall. “Thank God for rain,” exclaimed Bill, taking a deep breath. “I heard them say they were bringing in dogs to hunt us down but the rain may erase our scent as well as our tracks. I know you’re tired, honey, but just a little bit further and we’ll be out of sight of those devils.”

Soon Della saw what he meant. In back of an old brick building lay an underground passage of sorts and Bill pulled her inside and down into murky darkness. The stench was overpowering. “Phew! Bill, this is a sewer, isn’t it?”

“Let’s call it a tunnel, dear. Hold on, I’ve got a flashlight in my pack.” The sudden illumination didn’t add much cheer. Yellow light bounced off cement walls dripping with slime, while the floor of the tunnel held black water, thick with mud and mold.

Again Bill reached out for her, dragging her with him into the bowels of the tunnel. They walked for a long time until at last she called for mercy. She stopped and rubbed her aching legs. “Oh, Bill, how much further? I think I’ve reached the limit of my endurance.”

His arms enfolded her. “Take heart. The other end is coming soon. It’s near the river, Stella, and we can rent a boat to take us across.”

“But where will we go? They’ve taken over the country, as well as the city. They‘re sure to find us sooner or later.” Bogged down with exhaustion, she was ready to admit defeat.

“I know a place of refuge, a friend in the country. If we can reach his place in the woods, we’ll be safe for a time…” his voice trailed off as they heard a noise behind them. Someone was coming.

“Who‘s there?” Cried Stella. She screamed as a large sewer rat ran past and the flashlight chose that moment to go dim as well. Blackness surrounded them now and through the dark came the sound of rain pounding the roof of the sewer. She reached for Bill and put her hand in the slime on the wall. Her screams echoed in the dark. . .

Della sat up in bed, heart pounding and shaking with fear. She reached for Bill and found him sleeping peacefully beside her. What a horrible dream, she thought, as she slid out of bed and went in search of her Bible. She was feeling the need for some comfort.

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This article has been read 418 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Debra Elliott10/24/09
A little confused with names? Your character name.. Stella or Della?
Jan Ackerson 10/26/09
A heart-thumping story!

I find that learning a story was only a dream is a big let-down, and a device that may have been over-used in fiction. You're a good writer--leave us with a bang, not a fizzle!

Really good job with the sense of suspense.