Everything felt numb. Slowly, he tried to make a fist but while his mind commanded his fingers to move, his muscles remained still. He groaned stiffly. His finger tips and toes were beginning to tingle, life sluggishly returning to his being. Sensation flooded his mind.
There was water, slow flowing water passing around his submerged body. Christian felt the gentle current running around him, water breaking against his torso and arm. It was cold and slimy. His senses came rushing back to him, each sparking alive as if a switch had been flipped. The stench of rotting sea life and stale water burned his nose. Instinct demanded that he hold his breath but as his mouth unclenched, Christian felt something caught in his throat. Choking, he snapped out of the lucid state, his hands shooting towards his mouth. From the back of his throat water came spirting out of his mouth, shooting like a geyser from behind the palms of his hands. Between the rushes of liquid, Christian gasped for air. His lungs were burning.
The rushes of water slowly subsided until only a tiny trickle followed the contours of his face, seeping leisurely from between his lips. Christian spat into the steam to expel the salt taste between gulps of air but to no avail. It lingered despite his efforts. Pressing his face to his shoulder, Christian took in his surroundings as he attempted to clean his dampened face on his shirt.
Small slivers of light seeped through arched stone walls, barely illuminating the tunnel. Through the dark, Christian could see the mold and algae encasing the walls. Little bits of muck filled the water; he watched as a chunk of rotting fish bobbed past him. Little crabs and distorted creatures scuttled past, their steps echoing into the hollowed darkness.
His eyes began to burn as his chest tightened. He struggled to get on his feet but his shoes could not grip the slimy surface below the waterline. His feet flew from underneath him, water splashing into his face and mouth as he plummeted back into the stream. Christian could not hold it in any longer. His cries ripped out of his mouth, the tears streaming down his face. He wanted out of the watery prison. He wanted to be back home with his parents and pets. He wanted to encase himself in the warm sheets of his soft, dry bed and cuddle with the stuffed fish he had gotten for Christmas. He wished as hard as he could, wishing to wake up from his horrible dream but every time he opened his eyes, the blurry vision of the tunnel remained his reality.
He screamed harder, screamed for his mom and dad. He screamed when more fish bits floated past, brushing against his skin. He threw himself against the wall to avoid the rotting corpses only to have the muck on the wall cake his hands. He began kicking and screaming, slapping his hands down on the water. He felt his anger bursting from his body and then-
Emptiness. He felt hollow.
Christian stared down at his knees. His shorts were worn from bending and crawling along the ground. He was smaller than most boys his age but that didn't bother him much. His size let him get into a lot of places other couldn't. He loved hiding in cupboards and crawl spaces. They made him feel safe as he watched legs walk back and forth, each unaware of his presence. He wondered if he had been hiding and fell through something. Looking up, nothing appeared to be broken.
He couldn't remember anything.
Christian threw his head back and let a scream tear from his mouth as loud as his voice would allow. He listened to the echoes bounce along the walls. Then all was still. He remained frozen, waiting for something to happen. Only flowing water answered as it sluggishly flowed past. Christian carefully got on his knees and began to trudge through the muck. Skin rapidly became raw, hurting as his knees rubbed against the hard surface, scraping along rocks and pebbles. Minutes passed slowly as he made his way through the foul bits and pieces floating in the water. Pausing to rest, Christian's ear rung with an unfamiliar sounds. Steps? He cupped his ears and listened closely…
Christian vaulted himself through the water, spitting out what got into his face. As he desperately paddled through the stream, passing a sharp corner, he felt his heart jump in hope. Light! Light was spilling into the tunnel. The stream began to pick up in speed.
A large, dingy pipe was protruding from the wall leading into a separate chamber. Grasping the edge, he hauled himself onto his feet. He braced his arms against the walls as the current's speed erupted under his feet. Frantically, Christian clawed his way up the pipe but he could feel his grip slipping as the water swept his feet from underneath him. He could feel his softened nails pulling up as he held fast.
The force of the water was pulling him, his body sliding out of the pipe. Desperately, Christian tried to find his footing. Every time his shoe was able to connect with the ground the current intensified. His body, caked in muck, conspired against him. He wasn't gaining any ground.
A scream ripped from his belly. Violently, he blindly kicked out his legs hoping to fight the current as he screamed for help. His legs began to burn as he kicked faster, his eyes shut tight, his teeth bared while he tried to ignore the pain. It was too much. He wanted to go home…
Something warm enveloped his wrists. His eyes shot open to see a girl heaving him up into the pipe. Her small frame was shaking as she struggled to hoist him out of the rushing water. "C-Come on. You have to help," she grunted as she threw her body back. Christian felt his torso being pulled inch by inch into the pipe. He kicked harder, trying to push himself inside. The water burst into a ragging torrent, propelling him forward. He slammed into the girl, entangling their limbs.
The girl scrambled onto her knees, darting toward the light. "Hurry!" she yelled back.
Christian followed her lead, the open wounds on his knees stinging as flesh scraped the rough surface. He bit his tongue, continuing to scuttle after the girl. Behind him, he heard a low and guttural groan echo from the water. The groan suddenly shifted into a shrieking, high pitched scream; Christian shrunk back in pain.
The girl quickly glanced back, her skin paling as her expression twisted into one of utter horror, "Hurry! Something's coming!" she hollered.
Terror clutched his heart. Eyes focused ahead, Christian concentrated on the chamber, welcoming the light as it flooded his senses. Racing with the small bit of energy he had left, Christian threw himself out onto the hard stone floor thick with dirt. In front of the opening, a large wooden door sat on a bit of steel tracks bolted to the wall. The girl ran to it, slamming her small body against the door. Jumping forward, it slowed, inching its way gradually but not fast enough, "Come on!" the girl grunted as she dug her brightly coloured sneakers into the dirt, "H-help me!"
Looking back into the partially covered pipe, Christian saw a shadow scrambling toward them. Following the girl's lead, he slammed into the door with all his might. The door, gaining speed, came to a crashing halt as it hit the end of its tracks. Christian's legs gave way. He could feel his entire body violently shaking.
"No!" the girl cried, swiftly snatching Christian's collar and yanking his wet and bloodied body to the adjacent wall. A blood-curling scream filled the air as something smashed into the door. The wooden panels bowed outwards against the iron holdings, dust cascading from the surrounding walls. Thin sprays of water shot into the chamber with a ferocious intensity. His lungs filled to scream when a hand cuffed his mouth. His eyes darted over to see the girl shaking her head rapidly, her eyes filled with terror. She mouthed her instructions- "Quiet!"
Eyes snapping back to the door, Christian swallowed the scream back into his gut, his body shuddering uncontrollably in fear. Moments stretched into what seemed like eternity as they waited for the silence to return. When it did, it left a terrifying stillness- quite the opposite of the calm Christian had hoped for.