Sunday, June 8, 2014

Underground at the JFK Prep School

A brief excerpt from my upcoming novel, The Sleep Of Reason

From what the flashlight’s beam was able to tell them, someone had good reason to be weary of trespassers. There was graffiti on many of the walls and hardly a window that hadn’t been smashed. In the thirty plus years the dorms had been in disuse, generations of young partiers and adventurers had visited, some in search of scares, others with a desire for destruction. Shattered glass was everywhere on the floors, but Johnny trod over it in search of some kind of hope. He seemed to know where he was going, worked his way past rooms until he came to a door and stepped inside. Dave followed him as he walked down a set of metal stairs. Wandering around a vast basement, Johnny pointed the flashlight at an open door that led to a tunnel that appeared to be longer than the building itself.
“There’s a series of tunnels that run from building to building,” said Johnny. “Steam tunnels. The central boiler’s somewhere below the prep school, and all outbuildings were heated by that.”
Evidently, Dave couldn’t help thinking, Johnny knew quite a bit about this site. It had been no spur of the moment idea to visit here.
They walked along the tunnel, two large pipes to the right of them. Dave couldn’t help thinking they must have been plenty hot in the day, but now the air in the tunnel was as cold as the outdoor air, though stagnant. He could see his breath when the light allowed. Reaching the main boiler room, they took a turn down another tunnel, Johnny walking as though something was leading him on. Dave too seemed to feel or hear, or sense something, but he did not share Johnny’s compulsion to seek it out. He wasn’t sure which of his senses was being played upon, but there was something subtly unsettling.
They moved on down the tunnel, following pipes leading to some other building, he wasn’t sure which. His sense of direction was thrown off here beneath the ground. And like the impression he got that the graves were rising and lowering, the tunnels seemed to shift in front of him. He knew it was in his head, was certain, but that didn’t make him feel any better. If whatever supernatural forces around here were able to get inside his mind, it could be as deadly as if they were able to touch him physically. He now knew what Johnny was hoping to find, but that didn’t mean that’s what they would find. And this didn’t seem the place to find anything good. Dave stayed close by Johnny, not wanting to be far from the light. He was starting to regret trusting Johnny, regret trusting Doug and Izzy and everyone else involved. Johnny might be working for Doug, but he clearly had his own agenda. They all had their own agenda, everyone but Dave and Mindy, it seemed. They seemed to be the only two who had no vested interest in any of this.
“Slow down,” Dave yelled, too loudly. The narrow hall echoed his words, and he had no desire to call attention to himself.
“Look,” said Johnny, from somewhere up ahead. He raised his flashlight towards the ceiling, revealing pipes heading upwards. “That must be the church above us.”
“So? Now what?”
“The tunnel still goes on. To where, I don’t know. Let’s follow it.”
“Let’s not,” said Dave, attempting to hide his growing worry in sarcasm. He was concerned that Johnny’s desires might lead him to act unwisely. He wished Doug were here now, or Izzy or Mindy. He had no desire to explore any further but his only choices were to abandon Johnny or stay with him. He couldn’t imagine trying to drag him away. Perhaps Dave would have chosen to leave Johnny behind if he had any faith in his ability to find his way out again, but the tunnel system was far larger than he could have anticipated and it felt like something was actively attempting to confuse his senses. Not wanting to leave a comrade to face the consequences even of his own bad decisions, he resolved to follow but continue his complaints in the hop of changing Johnny’s mind.
“This place looks dangerous,” said Dave, trying to plant seeds of doubt, “ ghosts or no ghosts.”
The smoothness of the walls gave way to a harsher surface, as though they were now entering an older underground chamber. He suddenly realized that there were no longer any pipes in the tunnel they were following. The floor was less even, and Dave suspected that they were now walking on a cobbled floor rather than cement. Dread arose in him—along with a degree of anger—although he was not sure if there was any rational reason for it. Wherever they were, it was larger than any underground chamber should have been, especially if it was not part of the twentieth century additions. The ceiling was visible in the beam of the flashlight, but its features were unclear. It appeared rough-hewn, almost as if it had been carved out a handful at a time.
“We must be somewhere close to the graveyard,” said Johnny. “Maybe even under it.”
“We should go,” said Dave. When Johnny did not answer, Dave looked at him, found that Johnny was not paying attention to him. His gaze was towards the ceiling. Dave followed his gaze but saw nothing. Johnny, forgetting Dave’s presence, turned off his flashlight.
“Johnny?” yelled Dave, allowing the anger that he had been keeping in check to find expression. “Turn the damn light on. I’ve had enough of this shit.” Dave was losing his cool, permitting himself to lose his cool, and was ready to say or do anything he could to get back into the daylight and the outside world again. But Johnny continued to stare towards the ceiling, saying nothing.

How could he notice Johnny in the dark, Dave asked himself, and then became aware of a soft bluish glow that emanated from above. He looked up to see lights swirling slowly, at length beginning to take individual shapes. They were human, or at least in the shapes of humans.

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