The Boy in the Tunnel
by Gardner Linn
Dragan spun the hammer in his hand, letting Drew get an eyeful of it. He wanted Drew to really consider what was about to happen.
“Just tell, Andrew. Is not being in trouble. Just tell. What is doing with Peter Kirkland?”
Drew couldn’t really articulate why he wouldn’t tell Dragan what was going on. It wasn’t so much that he was afraid of getting in trouble for basically kidnapping Kirkland; they had left the normal rules of conduct far behind. And it wasn’t just deep-rooted xenophobic tendencies, though those certainly played a part. It was more that Drew felt Dragan was interfering in something that was larger than he could comprehend. Dragan thought he was in control, but had no idea what was really going on. Not that Drew did either, but he at least knew that he had no idea. He could see the edges of something, but not what they contained. All Dragan was doing was blocking his view.
“Dragan is giving you last warning. Tell, or is getting the hammer.”
Drew just licked blood from his lips.
“Dragan is not wanting to be doing this, Andrew. The truth is being known.”
“Do what you have to do, Dragan.”
Dragan raised the hammer above his head. He paused at the
apex of the swing, and Drew saw in Dragan’s eyes that he was terrified; he was
a child in a game of adults—or if not adults, then at least children
pretending to be adults.
Dragan closed his eyes and swung the hammer down, but as he did Drew rocked backwards. The hammer hit nothing but the air where Drew’s nose would have been, as Drew and the chair fell to the stage, Drew tipping the chair to the side to avoid crushing his hands. Dragan opened his eyes, in disbelief that he had missed. “Andrew!” he said. “Is making things worse!”
Drew rolled onto a knee and stood up, hunched over by the chair. He nearly had the tights loose enough to free his hands. Dragan bounced on his feet, raised the hammer again. “Why is doing this?” he said, his voice despairing, the voice of a child realizing authority is not to be questioned. Some things were just not fair.
“Drop the hammer, Dragan. Things are about to get really bad for you.”
“Things is bad for you, Andrew! Is bad for Andrew!” Dragan lunged at Drew with the hammer, but Drew somersaulted forward (cheerleading skills never leave you) and the legs of the chair caught Dragan in the stomach and pelvis. Dragan stumbled backward and dropped the hammer. Drew landed on his hands this time. Dragan clutched his stomach and gasped. “Andrew...why is...doing?”
Drew rolled over onto his knees. He pulled his left hand free of the nylon and picked up the hammer. He wriggled his right hand free and the chair fell clattering to the stage. Drew brandished the hammer at Dragan. “I told you, Dragan. Go back to whatever it was you were doing and stay out of this.”
“What did you do with Kirkland?”
Charlie’s coat was off before Dick had even seen her, and then it was thrown over his head as his arms were pinned behind him and he was frog-marched into the first-floor women’s bathroom. She shoved him against the counter, and the coat slid off his head. Charlie caught it before even the belt touched the ground.
“Who are you?”
“Whoa, bitch. Chill out.”
“That’s it. We’re gone.” Charlie took Kenya by the shoulder and started for the door.
“I’m just here to talk to Kenya. I’m Dick, Chet’s roommate.”
Kenya stopped Charlie. She stepped next to Dick and stared down into his eyes. “Where’s Chet?”
Dick couldn’t maintain eye contact. He looked down, anywhere else. “I don’t know. I thought you would know.”
“Why would you think that?” asked Charlie.
“It was in Chet’s Handbook.”
“He let you read his Handbook?”
“No, there was another copy. In this like library at Wintertree.”
Now Charlie was interested. She had heard rumors of the Wintertree Library for years, but had never had its existence confirmed. If she could get access to the Library, that could change things dramatically. Still, this kid could have been sent by Marston, or even Barlow. There was no telling anymore.
“Do you know how to get there?” she said.
Charlie pulled Dick off the counter. “You’re taking us there.”
Things had been quiet for hours now in Ron Marston’s office. He didn’t like that. He should have heard from Kirkland by now. Dragan should have checked in. And what the hell happened to Julian anyway.
Marston scrolled through the security-cam channels on the monitor on his desk. Nothing was out of the ordinary. Nerds watching a movie in the Wintertree lobby. Some hippies playing ultimate Frisbee on the quad. Marston lingered on cam 132, the camera outside the first-floor south bathroom in Mary Rutherford, but even that proved boring after a few minutes.
Marston still didn’t know what was going on with Barlow and St. James, and that was driving him crazy. It was ridiculous, the DUH president not knowing what was going on at his own school. Heads were gonna roll, that was for sure. All kinds of tiny little heads that nobody gave a shit about anyway.
On the monitor, a towel dropped, but the video was so grainy it didn’t even matter. Marston turned the monitor off. The room went dark, silent and airless. Marston ran down the facts in his head: Barlow and St. James were working together, and staged a meeting to let Marston know that. He sent Julian to Sluke to investigate; Julian never returned. Marston met with Kirkland in public to draw out of the Dead Men or Creatures; he hasn’t heard from Kirkland since. Dragan never even came in today for his daily lapdogish “How is Dragan being of service?” appointment. Entirely possible that all three have been gotten to, by the Nine or the Creatures or both. Everyone’s expendable, especially Kirkland, but all three of them disappearing was a bad sign nonetheless.
There was something happening tonight. Marston could feel it, even sitting here in his windowless office in the dark. The pieces were all laid out for the game. But Marston didn’t know who was making the rules. It was now clear that if he wanted to find out, he would have to find out himself.
Flies all over the room. Big flies, little flies. All talking. All saying “Dave.” Dave dave dave. Here is the thing to do. Here is what we ask of you. Dave dave dave. The pain has moved next door. Close enough to visit, far enough away that you don’t see him all the time. He’s got his own thing going. And you, Dave, you have a thing going. You have a thing to do.
Dave your dad is upset. His thing is not good tonight Dave. Unhappy. His head a fly, a cigarette a fly mouth sucking. Says Dave you are a disappointment to me. Make a list of players for the game. Chet Tim Dad the fly all flies. Here is the thing to do. Here is what we ask of you. An ask a task a Taft. Tell Eugene it’s dinner time. We are the dead, we are the dead, we are dead. We are all dead.
The boy in the corner alive. Not a fly. Not dead. Wet with life. You Dave you tell him you say “Come here” and he comes because you Dave are the father to him. Repeat after me I what is your name. The boy not a fly says “________.” A name a void. No name no life. Repeat. Repeat. I ________ do solemnly swear to uphold the values of the University of Northwest Georgia and to protect her from enemies both within and without. If life means nothing to the dead, then death means nothing to the living. The dead are invisible and silent, the dead are remembered and honored, and so we are dead too. Dead is what we are, from Abduction to Resurrection, when we shall rise again, and in living we shall miss the peace of the grave.
You are dead now. You are dead now the boy is dead. The dead are invisible and silent. Repeat. Invisible and silent. Repeat. Remembered and honored. Repeat. Here is a thing to do. Repeat. Here is what we ask of you. So we are dead too. Repeat.
The boy now dead says your hand. What happened your hand. Dave open your mouth. Dave who hit you. Tattletale Taddlington. Tattlers get it worse. Dave who hit you. Who did this. “Dave what are you doing?” Your dad the fly. “Don’t talk to him.” Don’t talk. Both. Don’t talk. “Dave tell me what happened. Dave the Corpi are going to take you to the emergency room.” No. Dave you have a thing to do. We ask of you. The fly flies away. The boy now dead you say you tell him what you need. Tell him “Here is a thing to do. Here is what I ask of you.”
© 2006 Gardner Linn