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The Tunnel

The Tunnel

It must be quite a long tunnel, he decided as he couldn't see the end, just a blackness

Archibald Horsley was a quiet, unassuming fellow, in fact, he was very shy. Everyone who knew him liked him, but he didn't have any actual friends.

At thirty years old, he was unmarried with no children. It wasn't that he had no interest in women, he did, but he just hadn't met any

He wasn't tall, but then, he wasn't short either.

He wasn't fat, nor was he thin.

Neither smart nor untidy.

In short, he was just Archibald Horsley. No more, no less.

He was more than happy with his company and every year took a holiday by himself.

It was during one these lonely sojourns that he found it, the tunnel.

Archibald liked to explore and his holidays often consisted of long walks in the hills and over wild moors. He loved to explore caves and fissures that he chanced upon and whilst out on one these long walks, the afternoon sun high in the sky, he saw the dark entrance cut into the green/brown hillside.

Scrambling down into the cutting before the entrance, he stood and peered into darkness.

It must be quite a long tunnel; he decided as he couldn't see the end, just a blackness so he lit his lamp and began, what he expected to be, a long walk into the dark unknown.

Once inside and beyond the entrance, every step echoed against the brick walls along with the sound of water drip, dripping incessantly.

He realised that the reason he couldn't see the other end of the tunnel was because it was curved rather than straight and as he walked he shone his dim light ahead and about, examining the glistening walls and down at the floor, being very careful not to trip.

He guessed that if he was to injure himself he may not be discovered for a very long time as no-one knew where he was and no-one else might pass through and even if they did, he might not be seen in this all-enveloping darkness.

Suddenly, he stopped and listened, and he could hear voices!

Walking on, he became aware of a light ahead, just around the curve.

Two men were standing, looking up at the curving tunnel roof. Their lights were far brighter than his and attached to the white hats they wore.

The beam from their lamps illuminated the roof clearly, and they were pointing up and then writing something in a book.

“Good day, to you, Sirs,” Archibald greeted them.

Both suddenly stopped and stared at him.

“What are you doing in here?” the older appearing of the two asked, a puzzled look on his face.

“You shouldn't be in here; it is too dangerous.”

“Oh. Don't you worry about me,” he replied, “I am used to exploring dark places. What are you doing?”

“We are examining the brickwork,” the same man answered, “Seeing what needs to be done to repair the damage this water has caused.”

“Fascinating!” Archibald exclaimed, “Fascinating. Well, if you gentlemen will excuse me...”

He tipped his hat and continued on his way, disappearing into the blackness of the long curved tunnel.

The two men looked at each other and shrugged then continued with their inspection.

About ten minutes later a sudden blast of icy cold wind blew through the tunnel making them shiver, and the hairs on their neck stood up as the wind howled and echoed around the walls and then, almost as soon as it had begun, it stopped!

The silence returned, broken only by the constant drip, dripping of the water through the tunnel roof and now the thudding of two hearts.

The men looked at each other, and the older one whispered loudly,

“I think that will do for today. It'll be five by the time we get back to the office.”

The younger man agreed with a slight nod.

On the drive back the only words spoken were when the younger man said,

“I wonder what happened to that guy in the tunnel,” to which his colleague just shrugged his shoulders.

They arrived back at four-thirty, and when they walked into the office, the manager looked up.

“Finished already?” he asked, looking at the clock on the wall, “Or is something wrong?”

“Getting a bit of wind blowing through,” the older man said, “We'll finish off tomorrow.”

The manager cocked an eyebrow.

“Windy?” he asked and when the older man nodded he continued. “Did you see anyone else in there?”

The younger of the two suddenly piped up.

“Yes, a man with a very dim lamp, said he was used to exploring dark places.”

At this, the manager laughed heartily.

“Hahaha,” he roared, “You've met old Archie!”

They two men gawped.

“You know him? I wouldn't have said he was old.”

The manager laughed so much he was in tears.

“Archibald Horsley!” he said as he caught his breath. “Around a hundred and fifty year ago, an accountant from Shrewsbury named Archibald Horsley took a holiday in these parts. He liked to explore, apparently and walked along that very tunnel when it had the slate railway running through it. A little way inside he met two engineers checking the line. 'Good day to you, Sirs,' he said to them. The engineers told him he shouldn't be there as it was dangerous but he said that he was used to exploring dark places. He asked them what they were doing and when they told him he replied...”

“Fascinating, Fascinating. Well, if you gentleman will excuse me...” the older man interrupted.

The Manager stopped.

“You know?”

“It is what he said to us before walking off into the darkness.”

“Right...” the manager said slowly. “Well, anyway, shortly after...”

“About ten minutes?” The younger asked.

“Yes,” the manager replied, “Anyway, a slate train using gravity alone to keep it rolling, no loco, went through the tunnel, striking Old Archie who, unlike the engineers, had no notion of its approach. He was killed instantly.”

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

Copyright © All stories and poems are Copyright ©2013-2020 the Author. No unauthorised reproduction is permitted in any form.

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