The intensity of the colors nearly blinded when he looked upwards through the canopy. The sun was low, and its beams seemed to repel from the deep red leaves, dropping to the ground like rain. “Where’s the bloody path”, Peggy muttered. Chris did not respond, but admired the gleaming glory of the autumnal forest. The camera equipment got heavier with each step, but he would never admit that. This dilapidated house in the glade had been the best advice Brad had ever told him. Peggy had looked so sexy as she was leaning with an arched back against the creaking armor …
But now it was late afternoon and the chilliness crept up between the rustling leaves on the soft forest floor. They had headed to exactly the same direction from which they had come. When they had come, it had been a cakewalk finding the house. And yet the car was nowhere to be seen now, although they should have long arrived. The forest seemed foreign where they were. No way wound through the thick vegetation. And still, there had been a path when they came. They must have drifted off, probably misled by the sun. He actually. Since Peggy only trotted listlessly behind him. “What about looking at the navigation system”, she suggested and kicked leaves up to the air. “No connection”, he said. Darkness settled over the trees.
“Does that mean we cannot even call anyone to help us?” Gradually she sounded scared. He stopped, turned to look at her. No reason for panic yet, the size of the forest was not really that huge, somewhere there had to be an end. But when he saw her wide eyes and how she pulled the jacket tighter around her body, he realized that he was just as worried as she was. “We get out of here, we head to one direction and will find the road. Or another road. There will be a signal as well, very likely.” Or not. But he did not mention that alternative. The problem would be finding the car in that case. Although they should have seen it long since. Maybe if they would go back …? But the darkness ran so fast that they could hardly find their way back to the house. Without flashlights. No one had thought about things like that, it should have been afternoon fun, anything else.
“Listen. Was that a squeal? Sounds like a train, right?” They both focussed to the same direction. The noise went away. “Strange, why would a rail line be running through the forest?” he asked, but she already veered towards the source of the gone sound. “Well, probably there’s no forest any more, what would be great news if you ask me. I feel like leaving this wicked place. We can follow the rails to the next station in the worst case, that’s much better than wandering about in the dark”, she decided, and quickened her pace. And indeed, in the twilight of the now almost completely vanished light, the trees thinned up, and behind them an embankment rose from the moist soil. It was secured with wire mesh. “Oh, thank God, civilization”, she cheered, “I just wonder what people think when they build things like that in the forest, right? Or a house. Or anything really. The house was probably totally isolated, who wants to live like this”, she chatted, now eased.
“The house roots in a time when forest workers were busy here and wood was a good deal. Or do you think a poor family could have afforded such a magnificent building?” he also held on to the topic, although a strange feeling grew in his gut telling him that something was totally wrong. “Why would anyone secure a railway embankment with wire?” she asked. “Why would anyone bank up a railway in the woods?” he asked back. “Probably that’s the very end of the forest and there’s a street behind, that’s why”, she mused. But it was impossible to see what was behind the ten-meter-high hill. They were now standing right in front of it. She put her hands on her hips, while his uneasy feeling grew stronger. He would have said, “Come, let us go back.” But he suspected – and correctly, most probably – that her respond would not be understanding. Especially since there was no logical reason why the darkness of the forest should be favoured over that embankment.
“Oh, look, back there is light,” she pointed to a spot that was maybe half a mile away from them. Half a mile. The distance they had gone cross-country. There had been a parth. Just half a mile from the house. His car was parked there. And now they stood in front of a railway embankment. He dug his cell phone from his trouser pockets and activated the display. Connection failed. Of course. And it was past eight. If there was rush hour traffic here in no man’s land, they would miss it gradually. And the later it got, the harder it would be to get help. “Let’s go,” she stomped off. “Don’t you think it’s a wee bit weird that there’s a light in the middle of nowhere? We’re talking about an embankment here, hon?” But she was already gone, so he ran after her.
“Okay, that’s kind of scary,” she admitted as they stood in front of the tunnel. It was not very long, maybe 100 meters. And it was clearly built to cross the embankment. Even illuminated at four places. The light made it hard to see what was on the other side. It was completely silent. That insight struck him, and his fears got bigger. No animal was heard, not a rustle of trees, not a breath of wind. “Is this a road?” she asked, taking a step into the tunnel, leaning forward as if she could see better what was behind the lighted course. “This is-” he began, but she cut him off: “We have to cross it, there’s no other way.” – “Maybe we should just go back?” His voice reminded him of himself when he was maybe four years old and afraid of monsters in the dark. “You’re crazy,” she snapped and went off. Chris hesitated. One moment. And one more. Then he took a step in, back again. Peggy was almost at the height of the first lamp. Nothing happened. Sighing, he went after her.
Shortly after crossing the first lamp, he caught up with her. “Coward,” she laughed and turned to him, “this is better than straying in the woods, right?” – “I have a very bad feeling,” he spoke it out now. “Chris, shut the fuck up. You wanted to go to this house to take pictures. You’re so fascinated with old things. I would never have even thought of driving to the countryside. Now we have to deal with that situation, so stop complaining and talking bullshit.” They approached the second lamp. He hesitated. Stopped. “What’s the matter?” she asked, angrily. He turned around. “Nothing.” They crossed the lamp. He stopped again. “What is it, Chris? I am terrified already, stop it, this is not funny.” – “No, that’s not funny,” he repeated, and his voice trembled. “What?” – “There are still three lamps in front of us, but we have already two behind us. How is it possible? There were four, I’ve counted them…..” She looked to both directions. “Miscounted definitely,” she assumed and moved on. “We’re right in the middle of the tunnel.”
After passing another lamp, he stood rooted to the ground and felt how he started trembling all over. She stood beside him, arms crossed, tears ran down her cheeks. “Still three lamps in front of us, three behind us,” he finally said what seemed to be impossible. “How can that be?” he almost screamed. “Let us go back,” now she urged. But it didn’t work. No matter what direction they went, walked, ran, completely headless and panic-fuelled after some time, the tunnel seemed to be getting longer and longer. “This is madness,” he gasped. It was around midnight. She perched on the wall and wept. He opened his bag, took out his camera. “What are you doing?” she asked. “I’ll take pics of this hell. We will see how long the tunnel really is. The camera can’t get tricked.” He turned to both directions. Behind them: one lamp. In front of them: three. They went on to where they suspected the road. He turned again. Two behind them, two in front of them. “It works,” he crowed, although he could not believe the mere thought even. He continued taking pics nevertheless, again and again. Three behind them. And in front of them: a woman. He looked past the camera. Nothing. Switched again. A lady. In black. With a smile that made him shiver. She did something. An alluring gesture. “What is it?” Peggy asked. “Nothing,” he hastened to say. He looked at the camera screen. Nothing.
He turned again. Click. The lady looked directly at him. When he looked past the camera, there was nothing. “What exactly are you doing? What are you looking at?” Peggy urged. “Come here, please,” he pointed at the display. “What do you see?” She examined the small screen. “Nothing. The tunnel, that is. And there is still only one lamp in front of us. We imagined all this, Chris. We simply panicked. Now come out of here.” They went on. Passed the last lamp, saw the exit and behind it a paved road laying in the dim moonlight. “But you cannot get out of here,” they heard a husky female voice behind them. Both turned around. A lady in a long black robe was standing right behind them, a torch in her hand. Her eyes sparkled and her smile did not look friendly. Nevertheless, Chris could not help but admire her beauty, her almost white skin, blood red lips. “Who are you?” Peggy shrieked and tugged on her friend’s arm. “Me?” she asked with a flirtatious glance. “I was left here. Because I was uncomfortable. That’s not how a man should treat a lady, don’t you agree? Follow me, before the lights go out.” – “Never,” Chris gasped and pushed Peggy behind him. At the end of the tunnel the first lamp shattered. The light in the whole tunnel was flickering now. “Follow me, before the lights go out,” the lady repeated and turned to leave. To the very direction where now the second lamp shattered. “Never,” Chris screamed again, took Peggy’s hand and ran towards other end. They heard laughter and a singing “Oh well, people never trust me, what a shame…” Then they run into a hooting truck.
“The kids never learn.” The police officer shook his head. The early morning was cloudy and foggy. The ambulance drove away. They couldn’t help any more anyway. The officer and his older colleague leaned over the camera screen. “Maybe we can find out something.” – “Oh, isn’t it obvious what happened? The car we’ve found belongs to them, no doubt. They went to the woods to take pics in the abandoned mansion. All the weirdoes go there, the more so since we’ve found the body of Evangeline. She’s a legend now, even though she’s dead for almost 100 years. Think of the story of a woman abandoned in a hidden cellar, the freaks love stories like that. Insane idiots. And I bet they took drugs. Kids.” – “But look, he wasn’t only taking pics of the mansion.” – “No surprise, mate. Have you seen the girl and how dressed up she was?” – “Not just the girl. That’s a tunnel. That’s not the mansion.” – “There’s no tunnel in this area, trust me.” – “But this is a tunnel. And someone was with them.” – “Who?” – “A pretty hot babe.” – “Where? Let’s have a look.” – “Funny, there is nothing now. Where is it? Gone?” – “You need some days off. But now let’s call the parents.”