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The Tunnel

A Gothic Story

I am trapped in a tunnel. I have no idea how the hell I got here, and, at this moment, I have no idea how the hell I'm going to get out. I've been down here for about four, maybe five days. My sense of self, and my sense of time have both seemingly vanished. The ceiling above me is a stone grey arch that's mounted down on both sides of the floor–the arch stretching about five metres in width. There's not much light, but the cracks in the walls let some of the sunlight in every now and again, so at least I can tell when night-time comes. Whether that light is from the sinking sun, or the rising moon, I'll never know. I have to keep moving, maybe five miles per day just to keep away from that rising shadow that keeps following me. I've travelled far enough now that I know there's probably no end to this tunnel in sight–there's still an endless run of that stone grey arch in front of me, it fades out near the end, where my eyes can't make out anymore. Then, behind me is all the length I've travelled, again it fades to black. I normally drop my now-empty water bottle with the nozzle pointing in the direction I am supposed to be walking the next day, just to remember where I'm going. The stone floors don't offer soil to make footprints in, only the beating sound of the steps or movements of whatever's after me, gaining on my trail.

I have to admit, I've felt up the walls, and down the tunnel just to see if, by chance, there was some kind of trapdoor or something, some break in the wall somewhere. There was none. I have also tried to slam my backpack against the cracks where the light comes in, to see if I can break through. There was no luck there either. By the third day, I accepted the fact that I would probably never make it out of the tunnel, and continued my five mile walk each day.

When I talk about the shadowy figure that's following me, I'm not talking about a monster, I'm not talking about some mythical beast, or something completely unrealistic. I'm talking about a regular person, just like you or me. To this day, I have no idea what this person looks like, but I'm pretty sure they're male. I'm also pretty sure that they aren't looking for me to give me directions to the way out–instead, they seem to be more menacing, from what I can tell from their shadow. So, every day at what I believe to be dawn, I get up from sleeping upon my backpack, and I walk five miles down the tunnel. The only thing on my phone that still works is the health app that can track my footsteps, and that is how it all happens. I have no idea how I'm going to keep this up, since my phone is down to 10 percent of its battery life, my charger having no use whatsoever, since there's nowhere to plug it into; it has become dormant in its entirety. Before I use up all that's left of my paper on various ways to get out, and diagrams for how I can possibly drill an imaginary hole through the ceiling, I want to tell you about the last four days I've been here. I will write what I can remember and hopefully, you can learn from this diary that it's probably not the best idea to not fill your backpack with all the essentials. Just in case you get stuck in a never-ending tunnel...

Day 1:

As I said, I have no idea how the hell I got here, and no idea how to get out. Most importantly, I woke up with my backpack, my money, and all my stuff. This means that whoever put me here wasn't trying to rob me or anything, they just wanted to see what happened. I couldn't find light to begin with, so I had no idea it was even a tunnel. At first I thought they'd put me in an abandoned well, the floor seemed a bit damp, but after a while I realised it was just my shoes. I got up from the ground and just stood there, looking into the pale darkness around me, a mist rising from the ground made it clear that there were cracks in the walls. It falsified a belief that maybe, just maybe, I could fight my way out of here. It was, as I have already explained, quite fruitless. When some light finally did hit the tunnel, I was hit with the reality that in front of me was a tall, over-arching grey, stone wall. I looked up and then, behind me, and saw the tunnel in its entirety. The first thought I had was, if this was a tunnel then there's probably more than one way out. I quite quickly realised by simply looking in both directions up and down the tunnel that my chance of finding those "ways out" were few and far between. I picked up my backpack from beside me and began making my way down the tunnel in the direction I could see the most light coming from. All I had to do was hope that was the way forward.

By the time I reached a checkpoint, I stopped walking and started looking around. There was a small fig leaf poking through a large crack in the ceiling. Was this place in the middle of the woods or something? There was no wind coming through, and so, the fig leaf not only stuck through the hole, but blocked all possible signs of natural light that could come through the crack. Or, maybe, it was already night-time. I remember that it was at this time when I got this bad feeling in the pit of my stomach, as if someone, or something was watching me. I wanted to say that I turned around, and put my paranoia out of its misery, but I didn't. Instead, I kept looking forward, as if I was looking at something ahead of me and trying to fake disinterest to whatever I thought was coming up behind me. They say that 60 percent of people can "feel" it when someone is staring directly at them, it's a weird human behaviour yes, but when you're all alone in an endless space, that human behaviour is multiplied ten-fold. Diligence is replaced with blood-curdling paranoia, and reason is replaced with a constant feeling of pessimism and disassociation. It was the first time in my life where I had been alone, and yet, knew that something, somewhere, wanted to hurt me.

Day 2:

However the days pass around here, I'm going to take what happened next as "Day 2" for the sake of not mixing up events. Now, I already told you about that certain someone or something waiting just out of my line of sight. Don't ask me how I knew they were there; I just knew. This strange feeling of something edging itself towards me was still there by the time the light came cracking through the slits and breaks in the walls. The fig leaf hadn't moved over and yet; there was still no light passing it. I thought if the fig leaf could sway slightly, then there would probably be a shadow of whatever was following me somewhere within the walls. For the sake of my own sanity, I kept walking in the same direction, leaving the fig leaf far behind, and giving up on ever seeing that shadow I'd thought about for ages.

It was a strange second day in the tunnel, because it seemed to get colder, yet there was no space for cold air to get in or out. I started to shiver, and continued to walk, thinking the exercise would keep my body warm. It must have dropped to freezing before I decided to sit the rest of the walk out for a bit. This temperature drop couldn't be because of the cracks in the walls, it had to be actually coming from somewhere. I began to speed down the tunnel in order to find out where it was coming from, and to cover my five-mile target for that day. Again, this was of no use. I kept running and running, but nothing gave me a single hint into what was bringing the temperature down. It just stopped at freezing, it didn't get any lower, and it didn't get any higher. This was it for the rest of the day, and it would remain this way afterwards as well.

I had covered my five-mile target for that day, and so, decided to sit on my backpack and take a break. It must've been longer than just a few hours, since I could feel my body was already getting used to the cold, and my fingers weren't frozen over anymore. When I had finally stopped thinking about the cold, I could feel that incriminating sensation yet again; that sensation of someone taking silent steps towards me, edging closer and closer. My teeth were still chattering despite being a little more used to the cold. Then again, I don't think they were chattering because of the cold. It kept happening, every time I stood still for too long, my sense of dread would come back, and that sensation of something haunting behind me returned to the surface. It was as if everything else around me suddenly turned to black, and I was left standing there in the alleyway of darkness with a desperate lurking feeling that wouldn't go away. Every time I moved, it followed, I had no idea what it wanted. I just knew that at all costs, I had to keep moving if I wanted it to go away.

Day 3:

By what I thought was the third day, I felt like I could see it. I conjured up the courage to look over my shoulder just a little and, there it was. I could see it. Again, it was no monster–it was the shadow of a person. The winding turns of the tunnel were blocking it from my view quite cleverly. I could see the faint outline of a person, but this was no normal person. This person seemed, whether it be a trick of the shadow, or just by my madness, to be over eight feet tall and broad like your average man. This is why I thought whatever it was, it must be a man. It was broad, by its shoulders and waist it almost looked square. I could only see a shadow yes and thus; it could be explained as being a trick of the lighting–but I was so sure it was something else. It didn't look distorted or faint like you always see those weird shadows that increase and decrease in size, it wasn't like any Nosferatu shit. This was real. It had normal human proportions, it was just big. Tall and broad, with a sense of terrifying urgency. It was moving closer and closer, no matter how close it moved, as I moved away it always kept its distance. I could never actually see it; I always saw its shadow. I just kept moving in the opposite direction, fearing what would happen if it got too close; fearing what would happen if it ever caught up with me.

There was only one thing I could do after seeing whatever the shadow was and that was to hope it was just a trick of a shadow. You know when a shadow looks bigger, but still has normal proportions? Yeah, that's what I wanted it to be. I kept getting curious, and taking a short look over my shoulder just to try and see what it was, and yet, it was never more than a large intimidating shadow. Again, the normality of its proportions would scare me from time to time, because I'm standing there trying to figure out whether it's a monster, and yet it looks so damn normal–just very very big.

I walked through the tunnel until I'd lost it. The turns and winds always hiding it and me out of each other's sight, and around a bend or corner. The light from the strange cracks guided my way through and yet, I could only think about nightfall–what would happen when all the lights went out and I could no longer see where the shadow was? God, it terrified me. The very thought of something edging towards me in the dark made my whole body stiff and numb with abject terror. All I could think about in that moment, as the light was slowly going down, and I knew it was sunset, was what would actually happen if it caught up with me and I couldn't see it.

I tried flinging my backpack against the cracks in the wall again, hoping they'd break into bigger cracks but, it was no use. It was as if there was something behind the cracks, like a really strong glass and that someone was letting small amounts of light in on purpose. There was no thread leading me out, and I knew from then on that I was stuck in here unless I kept walking. I didn't know which direction to go in, so I just kept walking away from the large shadow man. And then, after what seemed like four hours or so–everything faded away. The tunnel had gone pitch black and darkness, night and fear sunk into my bones.

Day Four:

The light never came back. I was now relying on feeling alone, and the faint sound of tapping in the distance. It was as if it were far away from me, but continuing to get closer. Let's put it into perspective for you: I was standing in a completely dark tunnel and this giant shadow man sounded as if it were about five meters away from me. But, when I could feel it, it felt so much closer. I was lucky I remembered which direction to walk in, and so, I put my hand against the wall of the tunnel and continued to walk - leaving my backpack behind for the fact that I could not see it, and did not have time to pick it up. There was nothing ahead of me, no end in sight, and no light to guide me. There were no smells or sounds other than the pungency of the dirt on my shoes, and the tapping sound. When you listened to it, it sounded not like footsteps as you'd expect it to, but instead like someone turning up the radiator, and the tapping coming momentarily as it got hotter and hotter.

There is something about not being able to see in the pitch black darkness that makes many people uneasy. It has nothing to do with the darkness itself, but instead it is what may be waiting in the darkness. Now, I know what is waiting in the darkness for me, but I have no idea where it is. Based purely on the shadow I saw, it meant I could only see the shadow through the cracks of light. And now, it seems like it would be the right thing to give up and let it get me. But I can't do that.

I must keep moving along. No sleeping, no eating, and definitely no stopping.

Day Five:

I have lost my sense of time and space. I am still holding on to the wall and walking in the same direction I have always been. I am still scared that whatever is waiting in the darkness is catching up with me. I am still in a state of absolute terror. The sounds are louder than before, but I cannot help it. I am getting tired and slowing down–it has probably been two days since I began walking, I have no idea. There has been only one good thing to happen to me, the darkness ahead of me is gone and the cracks of light are starting to reappear, the darkness behind me however, is still there and something may still be waiting. This doesn't matter though; I must keep walking to catch up to the light.

The beating, tapping sound is now so loud, so that it echoes down the tunnel, and the sounds become more frequent, more like footsteps rather than a radiator turning up. So, what do I do? I run.

So I'm running and running, and this, whatever it may be, is not going away. It is still on my trail, and it is going as fast as I am. I stop in my tracks and wait for it. I look over my shoulder and I see the shadow, closer than before. It is moving and inching towards me. I can only see the hands now; they are as large as a small person, and look too much like average human hands to be any kind of supernatural monster. They grab on to the small turn in the tunnel where it hides behind; making itself known in person. The sound of the hands against the wall is a loud thud like your last heartbeat before you die. I feel its malice and vengeance in my bones, and stop, completely void of thought. I put my hands in my pockets and grab any material as comfort. But it is not comfortable at all. This is not comforting; no, not when the legs are finally seen, and begin to push their way around the bend. Not when the legs are more than five feet in length, and have cuts and bruises all over them. Not when the sound of them slamming against the floor means that I've made it angry. I find a piece of paper, and a small, blunt pencil in the pockets to my trousers. I slowly take it out as to not anger it anymore. I am trying to be as quiet as physically possible so please excuse my sweaty palms on this paper. I write only two small sentences:

I am trapped in a tunnel. I have no idea how the hell I got here and, at this moment, I have no idea how the hell I'm going to get out.

It's true, I have no idea how, or if, I'm ever going to get out. I know it's moving behind me and I can feel it's breath against my neck. It saw me write everything down and now, it's more than angry. Good God, I have never been so completely frightened to the point that I cannot even breathe properly.

I am now thinking about whether running away was doing any good at all.

Read next: Candyman
Annie Kapur
Annie Kapur

English and Writing (B.A), Film and Writing (M.A).

Musical Interests: Bob Dylan, Billie Holiday, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Buddy Holly 

Favourite Films: I'm Not There & The Conjuring Series

Instagram: @3ftmonster 

Twitter: @3ftmonster

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The Tunnel
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