It was dark in the tunnel. They probably should have gone left but the corridor to the right felt like east and that was the direction of the river. There was no real way to tell.
None of them had ever been down that far without an escort. Let alone without the lights. Certainly, never in those shoes. The echoes from the lady’s heels hammered the walls that echoed them back but unlike bats, she couldn’t read them.
They continued on in the darkness. Each had been instructed to smash their phones and leave behind any electronic devices. Anything with a frequency could be traced. The ashy puddles spit mud on the patent leather soles of the hunters now hunted. The beasts who usually circle the openings of caverns were now the ones crouching, sweating, afraid monsters in the dark.
Following the sounds of themselves they reached a protrusion. Was this the end? No. It was the bulge in floor the cement makes when it has to accommodate large plumbing. They must be close. A faint dripping. A small wind. No light just yet.
He had promised them they could go all the way through South America. He had assured everyone that this passage was the way to the south pole. He kept saying that this was the way. East. To the river. His confidence was blinding but it didn’t matter here. No one could see anything anyway. He was glad of it. He was relieved they couldn’t see the sweat on his brow, his hand trembling, the slight of doubt sitting in the room of his eyes that revealed his worry that maybe they should have taken a left. He had to keep pressing on. He had to think of the future. He had never considered dying until now. But there was hope in that small wind.
They walked single file following the trial of the walls. Walls had gotten them into this. Maybe walls could get them out. Would that be justice? For predators, success looks like caught prey. For trappers, success looks like a caged animal. Kings build fortresses and their enemies starve them out. Anything can become a rat when cornered. The fallen planks weren’t saving them now. These walls encircled their forms, screaming their sins back at them in the voices of panicked heel steps of shoes not suited for their environment.
A flash from the long end caught their heads in its light. They were frozen but the echoes ran away. In the faint shadow cast, she saw the outline of a handle. The light was growing. The light was speaking. Louder and louder, it was saying, “Stop! Don’t move!”
It was the humans they couldn’t see as people. Those who they had wished to cage were tracking them. It was all those mocking bird calls that made them speak. It was all the times the dogs were called to the fences. It was a simple forgetting that cats are multi-lingual and won’t be caged or hunted. Cats are good at catching rodents. Justice is blind and not withheld in the darkness. The scales didn’t want to wait. It was time to unearth this.
The light was a mirror. The sound was a bang that went off right when she pulled the handle. The rush was water that was drowning in a sigh. He dodged the fires by pushing the others in front of him. Too quickly to notice what it was doing to his hair. Too driven to see the son between him and the flames. Too eager to survive. He pushed past them and through her and into the wash that was backed by the small wind. She swung around the door behind him. These shoes don’t run. This is no place for dancing. All the walls had turned to water. All they could do here is fall.