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Chapter Thirty One

Colt descended the PARKING – WEST stairs into the tunnel and started to retrace his path. He had now wasted 45 minutes and began to walk faster. His boots pinched at every step and he wondered how he had ever worn them. As he proceeded, the tunnel still seemed to slope upward. Shouldn’t it be going downhill if he were going back in the opposite direction? He thought the incline might be an illusion; it was hard to maintain a sense of up and down walking through the long tunnel. The rough-hewn stone on the walls was familiar, but after a few minutes, Colt noticed water pipes and conduit running along the ceiling. He was certain he had not seen that before. He passed an unmarked Y-shaped intersection. He looked both ways. Fluorescent light illuminated the passage to the left. The other passage was dark. Had he passed this way before? Ahead, the tunnel once again had a smooth cement lining, but a large metal air duct emerged at ground level and ran along the ceiling. Nothing looked familiar. He looked at his watch—now it was close to midnight. He had somehow spent another 30 minutes underground. Colt realized he was losing track of time as well as distance.

He walked for a few minutes and began to feel claustrophobic. The tunnel now sloped downward and the farther he went, the steeper the descent. He stopped, looked behind him, looked ahead and knew he was lost. The walls around him were marked with drawings and words. Colt saw a crucifix, coffins, daggers, and wolves and humans with bared teeth. Next to the images were words written in red: BLOOD, BLUT, KREW, LE SANG, KHUNA, DUGO,LA SANGRE and KROVI. Beneath the drawings and words, on the cement floor of the tunnel, he saw a large red stain. It could have been red paint, but Colt thought it looked like dried blood. He bent down and placed his flashlight on the ground, the beam shining on the discoloration. He looked at the spot more closely and scraped at it with his fingernail, bringing up bits of red flakes. He was certain it was blood.

While he rubbed the substance between his fingertips, a sound of voices broke the silence. He listened, straining to hear above the ringing in his ears. He thought he heard the screams of a woman and then a man. The sound bounced off the walls and reverberated through the tunnel. Colt had no idea from which direction it came and saw no one. While he listened, a blinding burst of light came from the sloping passage ahead of him. The bulb in the ceiling shattered. For several seconds, white spheres drifted across his eyeballs. When the spheres disappeared, Colt was in total darkness. He had encountered the pitch black of the flash chamber after the doors were closed for fire training, but this was thicker and deeper than anything he had ever experienced.

His flashlight was gone. He knelt down again and patted the floor, trying to find it in the darkness. He wished for his fire helmet with the high-power headlamp. Colt crawled around. He was having difficulty breathing. He was smothering, running out of oxygen. He couldn’t see the walls of the tunnel, but felt they were closing in on him and would soon squeeze the air from his body. He was caught in an underground maze and would never see daylight again. He would turn to dust and not even the men at 88’s would ever find him.

Firefighter paramedic Colt Lewis felt nauseated; his heart was pounding and a cold sweat washed over his body. He had survived many dangerous situations, but now he was having a panic attack, knew it, and could do nothing to prevent it. He slumped to the floor of the tunnel and tried to take deep breaths. He remembered a moment from his childhood when he had accidentally locked himself in a closet at the ranch. After a few minutes, he was screaming and pounding on the door. He couldn’t have been more than four or five, and his mother hadn’t left him yet. She rescued him from the terror of the crushing darkness. In the dark tunnel under the CU campus, he knew there was no one to rescue him.

As his respiration slowed, he began to recover and saw his flashlight, just inches away. Had it been on all this time? He took hold of it, stood up and watched the beam flutter in his shaking hand as he stumbled to a juncture in the tunnel where the overhead light glowed. The passageway was level. The walls were free of graffiti and the only image was an arrow that pointed down a passage marked STADIUM. He followed it to the exit, climbed three flights of stairs, pushed open a metal door and emerged into the dry California night.

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