Beneath a brightly lit city, a yawning tunnel ran away into darkness. As if to avoid attracting attention to the area, no light spilled across the wide concrete steps leading downward. Yet at regular intervals, the footsteps of one or two people passing below rang out, telling those walking along the railing above that a few more souls had breached the unknown.
Always before these journeyed on, a faint ding sounded at the decrepit security scanners lining the mouth of the passage. A green circle lit up on crackling screens, indicating this traveler carried no doubts. I felt no call to join this inexplicable pilgrimage, so I stood watching from atop the stairs.
Nearby, an ugly buzz sounded from the scanners and a red X appeared on the screen. Little sparks showered the person standing below and she ducked until they fizzled out. Once she uncovered her head, she just stood there. Unable to move forward, too desperate to turn back.
Unthinking, I held out my hand toward her. “I’ll take it for you.”
The girl turned toward me, face half cast in shadows. She was terribly young for one burdened with too much doubt to pass through. “I couldn’t find a place to drop it,” she explained. “But if you don’t mind…”
My outstretched hand remained steady. She handed me a live, squirming, slimy thing. Extreme anxiety hooked into my skin and I instantly doubted my decision.
But she smiled. As she passed through the scanners with an uplifting ding, she seemed to shine in the dimness before complete blackness swallowed her whole.
As soon as I could, I found a waste bin where I dropped the nasty doubt. It left a smear of grease across my palm that I could only hope would come out with a wash.
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