NEWS & VIEWS OF PHILLIPS SINCE 1976
Sunday September 25th 2022

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CHAPTER 19: LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL?

RETURNING

by PATRICK CABELLO HANSEL

Imagine finding yourself in the same place you just left, but in a different time: 140 years before the time you left, to be exact. You wouldn’t just be in a different time though; you’d be in a whole different world. For our four travelers — Luz, Angel, little Angel and their captor, Brian Fleming — well, to say it was a shock would be an understatement. Fortunately for them, it was a moonless night, with fog all around. The reality that they were “some-when” else didn’t strike them at first.

Brian Fleming thought that the tunnel he had discovered when remaking the garage into his enterprise was just an escape route in case of a police raid or some other calamity. He and his “associates” had excavated the tunnel until it reached the cemetery a little over a block away. They had not reached the end of the old tunnel; there were large boulders, railroad ties and debris that blocked it. With their flashlights, they had seen that it went on for aways. But it was clear walking into the cemetery a good 40 yards, which for their purposes was enough. They dug an entrance that led behind a large pine, and practiced running through it at night, with only the flashlights from their phones.

What they didn’t know was that someone else had been working on the tunnel for a long time. Actually many people had been working on it for a long time from a long time ago. People who hid out from wars old and new, people escaping slavery, people escaping the law. When war was threatened, people took shelter there. When liquor was illegal, people hid it — and even made it — there. Some of the tunnel users were innocent people looking to survive; some were people making a buck by hook or crook. It took all kinds, and all kinds of people had left their mark on that sacred space.

As the four of them got accustomed to the fog and the darkness, it began to dawn on each of them that they were not in any place they recognized. There were plenty of trees, but no gravestones, and no houses to be seen. Angel and Luz held onto each other, while Brian Fleming kept checking his pockets for a phone that was no longer there. It was little Angel who talked first.

“Papi, mami,” he said. “Where are we? Where are all the people?”

Just then, a train crawled by to the north of them, its engine puffing clouds of smoke. Little Angel’s eyes opened wide.

“Look, it’s an old-timey train, like the one we rode by the lake this summer!” he shouted. “Can we ride it, please, can we?”

For whatever reason, without thinking, Luz grabbed the boy and started running with her husband towards the train. Brian Fleming still had the gun, and fired six times. But as the laws of the nature of that place were of the time they were in, all the shots missed. Brian Fleming threw the gun on the ground and started running after them.

As they got to the train, it began to move quickly. As fast as they ran, they could not catch it. But as the last car passed, it revealed two men on horses, sitting on top of a little hill.

Little Angel looked at his mom and then at his dad.

“Are we in a dream?”

Luz and Angel looked at each other, and then both said at the same time:

“I don’t know, mi hijo.”

To be continued…

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