Anyone wishing to read Part 1 of this mini-series can find it here:-
The short cut (Part 1)
THE SHORT CUT (Part 2)
I started the engine, and drove along the lane in a blind panic, although the twists and turns belied the fact, it soon became obvious that I was still travelling in circles. Passing the oaks, crossing the bridge, time and time again, just hoping that this nightmare would end and I would suddenly reach the main road, or wake up in my bed to discover it was just that, a nightmare.
Eventually the car, which had been low on fuel to start with, ran dry. I left it in the middle of the road, and I began to walk.
The slower pace gave me more time to take in my strange surroundings. I discovered that walking into the woods led nowhere. A few yards in, and on both sides of the lane, an impenetrable barrier of sharply-thorned briar ran the full length of the short cut. There was no escape.
The second time I passed my abandoned car I gave it a thorough search, looking for anything that may be useful.
My small shoulder bag containing a packed lunch was still on the passenger seat, I ate the sandwich and drank half of the orange juice, then slung the bag onto my shoulder, the apple and chocolate bar I would save for later.
In the glove compartment I found a small torch, kept there for night-time emergencies, not very powerful but the batteries were in good shape. I threw this into the bag alongside my half empty lunch box.
In the boot the only thing apart from the spare wheel and jack was a hefty tyre iron, which I slid into my belt, god only knows what I intended to use it for but it gave me a measure of comfort just knowing it was there.
I trudged once more along the narrow lane until again I came to the bridge, stopping in the centre of it I took a long look in all directions.
Of course! Why didn't I think of it before? The briar didn't grow across the stream, there was my escape route, my salvation.
Deciding it would be easier on the calf muscles to go with the flow, I waded into the knee-deep water and set off downstream.
The overhanging foliage dappled the sunlight on the water, a sight I would have appreciated the beauty of had it not been for the seriousness of the situation.
Trout swam lazily in the bright water, they would have been easy to catch too, it wasn't the thought of eating raw fish that prevented me from grabbing a couple, it was fear of the sign. “POACHERS WILL BE PERSECUTED” I wasn't entirely sure what that entailed, but it certainly didn't sound like something good.
On and on I went, my feet were cold and freezing, but I was driven with the expectation of discovering a break in the dense foliage on one of the banks, any moment now I would find the way out of this predicament.
There... A hundred yards or so downstream... A structure of some kind... Something!
I quickened my pace, pushing my tired legs harder through the water, eager to get to whatever it was that I could see.
As I neared the structure my heart sank, I felt like weeping, it was the bridge, the same one I had set off from.
I sat down wearily on a jutting mid-stream rock, exhaustion and despair were taking their toll.
That's when I saw it!
A tunnel! From my low vantage point I could see underneath the bridge, and there, built into the bank beneath the wooden support beams was a concrete pipe, about three feet in diameter, and heading off in the direction of the main road... and home.
The sense of relief was overpowering. I stared long and hard at the opening before plucking up the courage to approach it.
I shone the torch down the tunnel, the light penetrated a few yards, revealing a perfectly straight, and spotlessly clean tube. There was something strange about that too, I mean, I would have expected the tunnel to be slimy or muddy, or insect-infested, but no, it looked as though it had been built yesterday.
Holding the torch in my mouth I climbed into the tunnel and began to crawl.
I tried not to think about the pain in my knees or the ache in my back as I made my way along the pipe, I just concentrated on keeping moving.
After what seemed like hours, but was probably only several minutes, I thought I could see a speck of light a long, long way off. I switched off the torch, I might be needing what battery life was left later.
Yes, yes, there was light!
I moved faster, eager to be out of the claustrophobic confines of the tunnel. It had also struck me that I couldn't turn round in here even if I wanted to, which also meant it was an ideal place for someone... or thing, to attack me.
I crawled along toward the light, which grew larger and brighter by the minute.
Reaching the end of the pipe I emerged into a brightly lit but small concrete room.
I stood upright, stretching the knots out of my aching back and limbs.
The room was illuminated by a single neon light set into the far wall, to my left a vertical steel ladder rose to the ceiling and continued its way upwards through a square shaft.
I gripped the rungs of the ladder, and began to climb.
The short cut (Part 3)
©2012 Stephen. J. Green.