As Greg Hamelin moved forward, the door to the airlock slid shut behind him, cutting off all the light. He halted for a moment, and then continued moving forward, carrying his suitcase through the tunnel’s engulfing blackness. His footsteps echoed, but he could not see his feet, or the floor they walked on.
He reached in his jacket pocket, took out his hand held multi-tasker, and switched on the flashlight feature. Now he could see a short distance ahead; enough to keep him from tripping over something, or walking into one of the Tunnel’s walls.
The tunnel walls ahead of him now turned to the right, and turned to the right, and turned to the right. Then the tunnel went in a straight line, descending at a shallow angle, into an apparently unending blackness.
He wondered, “‘Abandon all hope, ye who enter here’”?
No! He thought, This is not the “Entryway to Hell”! It’s a very long tunnel with the lights shut off. It was constructed by human beings like me. I’m going through it in the direction of a massive Building that is filled with human beings like me.
The only differences between City Building people and Wilderness people are cultural.
Pastor Luzak had told him about this.
He’d said, “We had to walk through what seemed to be an endless dark tunnel. Then when we finally got to the end, we reached a stairwell of fire stairs. We had to climb those stairs, going up ten levels; and then we entered the City Building. The entire journey from entering the Tunnel to finally getting inside the City Building, took us just about two hours.”
Two hours? Greg thought. I’m going to have to be carrying this suitcase for two hours? For a good part of it I’ll be climbing up flights of steps for ten levels? Then when the climb ends, I’ll still have a long way to go until...? Until I reach what?
The Pastor had also told him, “Before we entered the City Building I prayed.
“‘In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I ask God the Father Almighty, to send forth the Holy Spirit, and cast out the Devil before we arrive; so that no one will be harmed in any place where we are present, and that everyone there will be healthy and healed of all their afflictions; and that they will know the Way of the Lord, and follow Him. In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.’
“Then after we entered the City Building, nobody was harmed in my presence, during the entire time I was there.”
Greg stopped moving. He put down his suitcase, took a deep breath and sighed.
Now he prayed softly. “I ask the same thing Lord. I don’t want anyone harmed either, especially me, starting now. Amen.”
He picked up his bag and continued moving forward through the dark, shining the light of his multi-tasker onto the pavement in front of him. He reached the bottom of the incline, where the roadway stretched out flat, into the encircling blackness ahead.
From far ahead, from the other end of the blackness, he heard a distant sound, like an electric hum. An electric humming also began directly overhead. He raised the light of the multi-tasker to what was above him. An electric cable was stretched tight along the center of the ceiling, going from one end of the tunnel to the other.
The distant electric hum grew slightly louder, beginning to move in his direction.
An electric vehicle? He thought, I won’t have to walk.
Now at the center of the darkness ahead, he saw a tiny yellow spot of light, from where the humming came. He stopped moving and waited.
The humming grew stronger and so did the light. As it came closer, the sound became more distinct. It definitely was an electronically operated vehicle approaching at a safe speed.
He stepped all the way over to the wall on the right and waited, thinking;
So in the four months, since Pastor Domnick came through here, things have been improved. This makes things easier for City Building people, who want to bring the forbidden parts of their culture out into our world.
Now the vehicle was much closer. The light from its two headlamps illuminated the roadway and the yellowed tiles of the surrounding tunnel ahead. This was a small bus, with five double seats behind the driver, and sliding doors on both its right and left sides. A vertical pole rose from the rear, with electrodes touching the overhead cable. Lights were on inside. All the seats were occupied with two people in each row.
Now Greg was illuminated by the headlamps as it came near. He raised his hand, and the vehicle went past him, without slowing down. The woman driver looked at him, raised her hand and pointed ahead of the vehicle.
He was in the dark again.
She hasn’t stopped to pick me up here. He thought. I think she meant that I should go back to airlock. That’s the spot where I’m supposed to wait for the bus. Well, I haven’t walked that far.
He again switched on his multi-tasker flashlight, picked up his bag, and turned around heading up the shallow incline that he’d just come down. This time the yellowed tile walls of the tunnel turned to the left, and turned to the left and turned to the left.
After a few minutes, he’d returned to the bricked up entrance to the Tunnel. The airlock door was again open, casting its yellow light into the tunnel and onto the vehicle. The vehicle’s headlamps and inside lights were still on. Its only occupants were the driver, along with a man and woman in the first row of passenger seats behind her.
The driver, who was in her mid thirties, remained seated behind the wheel. She looked at Greg as he approached, smiling cheerfully.
“So there you are!” She called out, “Come on aboard!”
Greg went around the vehicle’s front to its right side. On the vehicle’s side he saw its insignia and company name, “City Building Tours”. The sliding doors were opened. He climbed aboard and seated himself in the row behind the couple, putting his suitcase on the floor to his left.
The Driver said, “Good afternoon sir.”
She asked, “Would you like to come up here and sit beside me?”
He left his suitcase where it was and moved up to the front seat, sitting on the woman’s right
She wore a modest yellow dress. Her brown hair was neatly set, with a hairclip. The clip had the same design as the one that Greg had found on Nora Delgado’s head. This woman also wore the same kind of earrings that he’d found on the Delgado girl. She also had the decapitated heads of a man and a woman, shrunk to the size of cue balls, dangling on a chord from her belt.
She asked him with a smiling voice, “So where you headed?”
“I’m not exactly sure.” Greg told her, “I know the address, but I really have no idea how to get there. Once I get inside the City Building, somebody’s gonna have to give me directions.”
“That’s okay. I’ll be letting you off at an elevator. It’ll take you up to Level 10. As soon as you get there, you’ll see our City Tours office just to your left. The people there’ll give you all the help you’ll need.”
Now the airlock doors slid shut, leaving the headlights and the brightly lit interior of the bus, surrounded by total darkness. The driver started up the vehicle, turned it around, and they were on their way, traveling comfortably through the center of the tunnel’s blackness.
She asked him, “So are you hungry?”
“Not really. I had something to eat, just before we left the Rest Stop.”
Now the woman in the seat behind him asked, “I suppose you’ve brought some of those wilderness people’s packaged meals with you in your luggage, haven’t you Officer?”
Greg looked back at her. She was the woman who’d scornfully critiqued the movie, and then scornfully addressed him, back at the Rest Stop. She sat beside the man with whom she’d been having lunch. They were both in their early forties.
“Yes.” Greg told her, “A few packages. Do City Building people object?”
“No. Not at all. We understand. You wilderness people are reluctant to eat human meat. You’ll get used to it soon enough.”
“Excuse me.” He told her, “I don’t expect to be here long enough, to have to ‘get used to it’.”
“That’s okay.” Now the man beside her spoke. “We won’t tell any wilderness people, if you don’t.”
Now the tunnel was no longer totally dark. The vehicle’s headlight beams illuminated the roadway ahead for a short distance. The light inside the vehicle illuminated the yellow walls on both sides. Greg looked to his right. He saw when they went past the halfway point, which was marked,
“<---NEW YORK|| ||NEW JERSEY--->”
The man went on, “None of us objects to anyone bringing in packaged meals of wilderness food. As a matter of fact, they are very rare, highly valued commodities.”
“That’s right. I actually know some people, who’d be glad to buy one or more of the packages you’ve brought with you, for more than 100 times what you’d paid for them out in the wilderness.”
“100 times more?”
“Right. That’s ‘more than 100 times’. You’d have all the money you’d need to get along comfortably, for as long as you’re inside the City Building.”
“That’s good to know.”
The vehicle continued on, and in less than 5 minutes they’d come to the end of the encircling blackness, entering a dimly lit area of gray cinder block walls, passing a flight of fire stairs.
He asked the driver, “Are those the steps that people use, to climb up to the occupied floors of the City Building?”
“That’s right.” She told him, “If it wasn’t for this service of ours, that’s what you’d have to be doing; carrying that bag of yours up ten levels, without any assistance.”
“Then I thank you and City Building Tours for this service.”
She drove the vehicle a short distance further, then brought it to a complete stop. They’d halted in front of a series of four elevator doors. One of the doors was open. Its lights were on, revealing the empty interior.
The three passengers said good-bye to the driver, picked up their luggage, stepped out of the vehicle and entered the elevator.
Sergeant Hamelin and the City Building couple, with who he’d just rode through the Lincoln Tunnel, now stood inside the brightly lit elevator car. Greg’s suitcase was on the floor beside his feet. The couple had a few bags of luggage on the floor beside them. The doors had shut, and the man tapped the up button. Now they waited for the car to begin to move.
While the tunnel had been chilly, the elevator car was very warm. Greg removed the State Police Uniform jacket he’d been wearing, revealing his light blue uniform shirt on which his badge was pinned. The couple zipped open and removed the windbreaker jackets they’d been wearing. The man wore a pair of dark, rugged pants and a plaid, long sleeved shirt.
The woman wore rugged slacks and a long sleeved blouse, with the same plaid pattern as the man. Greg had already noticed that she also had the shrunken heads of a man and a woman tied on her belt, along with the carved bone image of entwined snakes, dangling from her necklace.
The car began to rise.
On the wall Greg noticed a poster showing two almost totally naked teenage girls, fighting in an arena with swords and shields.
The man spoke. “So what’s your name Officer?”
“Hamelin. Sergeant Gregory Hamelin, of the Pennsylvania State Police. I’m stationed in the Pocono Mountains Region; the area around Lake Wallenpaupak.”
“Oh.” The woman smiled, “That’s where we just were.”
The man told him, “That’s right. My name’s Frank Torelli. She’s my wife Paula. We came out for the weekend with our daughter Louise, and some of the other members of her High School’s Warrior Team.”
His wife said, “It was a field trip. We went as chaperones.”
“Tell me.” Greg asked, “Did you spend any time around LakeWallenpaupak?”
“We certainly did.” Frank told him, “Two days ago we all attended a Sacred, Jephthahn Combat Sacrifice.”
“Sacrifice? A human sacrifice? Was it the one that took place on the grounds of Natalino’s Landing?”
“That’s right Officer.” The man spoke in a defiant tone. “Two of our girls fought to the death with swords. One was named Nora Delgado. The other was our daughter Louise Torelli.”
Greg looked at the poster on the wall.
Then he asked, “Torelli?”
“That’s right.” The woman spoke proudly. “Our daughter Louise killed her good friend Nora. Nora died bravely with our daughter’s sword through her boob, while all the horny boys cheered. Then we barbecued and ate Nora. That night, Louise celebrated by fucking Nora’s horny boyfriend Kevin.”
Greg asked, “Supposing things had turned out the other way?”
She grinned, “I have no doubt that Louise would have died just as bravely. Then we’d have all barbecued and eaten Louise; and that night, Nora would have been the one fucking our daughter’s horny boyfriend, of course.”
Greg pointed at the poster of the warrior girls. “Was it like that?”
“Not exactly. While our girls were engaging in healthy recreation, it was unfortunately just too cold for them to dress like the girls in this poster. They had to fight fully clothed.”
Her husband added, “Of course Nora was eaten naked, and she tasted just as good as any City Building Girl, or any of your Wilderness Girls, Officer.”
“I’m sorry.” Greg told him. ”But out there in the Wilderness we never eat people.”
“Oh that’s too bad. By the way, one of your tasty looking Wilderness Girls joined us at the barbecue. She enjoyed eating Nora. I’m sure she’d be just as good to eat herself.”
Greg asked, “Was the visiting Wilderness Girl named Charlene Luzak?”
“That’s right Officer.” Mrs. Torelli said, “Miss Luzak went on the bus back to the City Building with Louise and her other classmates. She occasionally fights as a guest on the Warrior Girls Squad of the Combat Team at Louise’s school. She’ll be fighting in tomorrow’s Game. That girl’s a brave and beautiful natural warrior with a very healthy bloodlust. She’s made a number of very good kills.”
Now the elevator came to a stop. Its doors slid open sideways, letting in the sounds and sights of the City of Manhattan Building’s interior. Sergeant Hamelin and the couple picked up their bags. Greg looked out into the thickly packed, raucous, surging crowds of busy people rushing along. He hesitated stepping outside.
“Officer.” Mr. Delgado said, “It’s obvious that you’re going to need help finding your way around the City Building. So it would just be right for my wife and I, to accompany you and be your escorts.”
Greg said, “Thank you both.”