It was a bright, sunny day as it always was in Jake’s small town that was nestled into the sunshine state itself. He sat up in his bed and looked out of the window, to see that his friend Louis was already up and on his bike, circling the paper boy. That paper boy was a douche though, always making smart ass remarks at school about Louis’ run down house. Even if Louis did have a weird house, that was no reason to pick on him, it wasn't his fault his parents were weird.
Louis’ house had one of those strange front yards that was filled with colourful ornaments that peered through the long grass, such as the creepy child statues with chunks missing from their cabbage patch faces, that ol’ Florida staple of wonky lawn flamingos, and of course, the christmas ornaments that stood there all year around, for as long as Jake could remember.
Jake stretched his arms above his head and let out the mother of all yawns, just in time to hear his dad calling him from downstairs.
“Jake! You up yet buddy? You ready to help me paint the garage?…”
Jake rolled his eyes and ignored his dad, hoping that his silence would let his dad think he was still asleep. He leant over to the window that was next to his bed, and pulled up the sash. Louis had given up on circling the paper boy and was now sat on the curb playing his Nintendo DS.
Jake had no intention of sticking around and helping his boring dad, paint the boring garage, so he hung out the window and whistled. To Jake’s annoyance, Louis didn’t look up from his game, so Jake looked around the room for something within reach that he could throw. The only thing he could spot that he didn’t mind sacrificing, was a pair of balled up red socks at the end of the bed, so he reached over and grabbed them, and focused at aiming them at Louis’ head. His dad called up the stairs again just as he had launched the socks out of the window.
“Jaaake?…” Jake couldn’t really hear his dad as he was mesmerised by the red streak flying though the air. It hit Louis right between the eyes and bounced off his face and on to the street.
“What the fuck man!?!?” Louis shrieked, launching himself up from the curb.
Louis frantically looked around and spotted Jake laughing to himself at the window. Louis couldn’t help but join in the laughter and held his middle finger up to his friend. He closed his DS and slipped it into the back pocket of his jeans.
“You coming out or what?” he yelled up to Jake.
Jake put his finger to his lips as if to shush his friend, and signed ‘five’ with his fingers, before pointing down the street. Louis knew instantly what his friend was saying to him, so he put up both of his arms and signalled back the ‘peace’ sign on both hands, before picking up his bike and hopped on to ride down the hill.
Jake swooshed back his bed covers and jumped out of bed. He kicked the inflated beachball out of the way, before kicking various other objects that usually littered his bedroom floor. He grabbed a pair of ripped jeans that were hung on his door knob and roughly pulled them on. Then he hopped over to his dresser with one of his feet still tangled, to grab a yellow t-shirt from the already open drawer. He fastened his pacman belt, before reaching for his socks that he had left on the end of his bed, only to remember that he’d already thrown them out of the window.
Jake scanned the floor and spotted another ball of white socks that had rolled under his desk, so he dived down to grab them, his big green beanbag cushioning the blow. He pulled them over his feet at quickly as he could and got up to walk over to the door. He opened it ever so slightly to peek into the hallway where he could hear his dad clattering around downstairs, and his sister must of been watching T.V as he could hear Barney the dinosaur’s dumb voice bellowing out from the living room.
Jake opened his bedroom door wider, taking care to be as quiet as he could, and then tiptoed across the landing and into the bathroom. He closed the door gently and went to do his business.
“Jake! Come on, get up! I’ll meet you in the garage!” his dad yelled from the kitchen.
"Yeah right!” Jake sniggered to himself as he walked over to the sink to wash himself up. He brushed his teeth frantically, as if he was scrubbing them out of his mouth. He then walked to the door and paused for a few seconds to listen out for his dad, who he could now hear was talking loudly to his deaf grandma on the phone. Jake opened the door and ran down the stairs, slipping past his little sister who was jumping up and down on the spot, trying to copy a synchronised dinosaur dance. Jake opened the front door and crept outside, closing the door quietly behind him. He picked up his bike which he had strewn on the lawn the night before and climbed on, ready to pedal to his freedom.
He whizzed past the garage at such a speed that his dad hadn’t even noticed his son’s stealthy escape, and continued streaming down the hill towards his waiting friend that had plonked himself onto another curb to play his DS.
Jake put his foot out and skidded his back wheel into an impressive drift stop.
“Heyyyy! About time!” Louis called out. Jake straightened himself up and peddled over to his squatting friend.
“Sorry man, I had to sneak out, dad wanted me to help him paint the garage.. Again!” he groaned.
“Again!? Yo is your dad nuts or something?” Louis asked only half-mocking. Even if Jake had said that he was, Louis would kind of understand, as his parents weren’t the most ‘stable’ people you’d ever meet.
“Yeah, it’s like our new bonding thing to do, y’know, since Amy left…” Jake added.
“Ah yeah? Too bad man.…C’mon, let’s go get the others” said Louis, trying his best to console his friend without to having ask any actual questions. He snapped down the lid of his DS again and climbed onto his bike, riding off with Jake behind him.
Jake told Louis everything, as not only had they known each other since they were four years old, but they had a lot in common apart from sharing the same street.
Jake had a dad that liked to drink too much, and Louis had a mom that liked to do everything too much. And Louis got a new dad almost every year, just as Jake would get a new mom for as long as she could stand Jake’s dad, which was never very long. Now that they were both twelve, they had learnt to cope with their volatile families and had formed their own little family in a way, made up of themselves and five of their other friends that also were known as the ‘street kids’ of the neighbourhood.
They weren't actually ‘street kids’, except for Ed, whose dad normally went into the city to busk, and they slept in a plethora of places such as the local parks or condemned buildings that littered the city. The rest of them had actual homes, or houses rather than homes, but they just didn’t like to be there that’s all. So they all rode around together as a substitute family of misfits, or a ‘gang’ as people liked to call them.
Louis was still ahead, weaving any obstruction that came his way with perfect ease. They rode better than they could walk, as that’s pretty much all they did. Louis shouted over his shoulder,“To the bowl, the guys are waiting for us!”.
Now that Jake knew where they were going, he sped up to overtake Louis.
“No way man!” screeched Louis as he peddled faster to catch up. The boys laughed out loud as they raced each other, until they made it to the skate park.
The others were already there, and had taken over the only skate bowl with their BMX bikes. Handfuls of annoyed skateboarders hung around at the edge of the bowl, waiting to claim it back, but none of them would dare get in the way. Even though the boys didn't particularly have a bad reputation, they were known as being ‘different’… a bit poorer than the other kids, so they gave out the vibe of being a bit tougher to compensate, and they hung out with Ed who everyone knew as the ‘weird homeless kid’.
“Yo!” Louis shouted from the edge of the bowl. The boys all rode over, one by one, each catching some air time as they exited the bowl.
“Hey!” Ed called out from the other side of the park, he was the only one that didn’t ride, as where would he get a bike, or anything else, from?
Ed jogged over to the group and greeted them all with their own special handshakes. Ed was actually the one that held the group together as they all had their own kind of bond with him.
“Guys! I found this wild place, I gotta show you! he said, the excitement beaming from his wild eyes as he bounced on the spot.
“Woah! Easy man! What place?” asked Jake curiously. He had known Ed for a few years now, and never seen him like this.
“Just trust me! I found this place that I swear was never there before! And I know this city! This place is weird man, you gotta come check it out! C’mon!”
“What do you mean it was never there before, like a new building or something?” Brad piped in. Brad was the best fourteen year old biker around, he was a little older than the others so they looked up to him and he had pretty much taught the boys everything they knew about riding.
“Uh, not exactly…Just come!” Ed yelled, finding it hard to keep still with all the adrenaline pumping through his body.
“I’m in” Louis shrugged.
“Me too..” echoed Brad.
Ed hopped onto the handlebars of Brad’s bike, and perched himself steadily on the front. As he didn’t have a bike, he always rode with Brad when the group met up. Brad would often roam the streets with Ed and they would paint graffiti around town until the early hours.
“Follow us!” Ed called back as they rode ahead.
“Okay…” sighed Jake, as he followed the others riding out to the street again, hoping today’s adventure wouldn't end in trouble like it usually did.
They rode to the run down part of town, not like their neighbourhoods where a few of them even lived in trailers, but the really run down part, where most houses had been boarded up and only the really messed up people still lived. They rode down another street of dilapidated houses, until they reached a junk yard.
They slowed right down as they peddled, taking in the desolate landscape. Ed hopped off of the front of Brad’s handle bars and started walking along the paved path in the middle.
“Hey, does this make you feel at home Louis?” Caleb called out, laughing to himself.
“Fuck you man!” Louis called back, not really bothered at Caleb’s obvious joke, he knew that none of his friends really meant to hurt his feelings, they were all outcasts at school together so they could never really offend each other, no matter what they said. Caleb especially got picked on pretty hard as his dad was a sikh and wore a turban, which you’d think was no big deal! Unless you happened to live on what seemed to be the whitest street in America, and a lot of the kids in his class seemed to have a hard time distinguishing between anyone that was brown and a potential ‘terrorist’. Good ol’fashioned racism was alive and well in Caleb’s daily life.
As they cycled slowly along the paved path, a few homeless people that had made makeshift shelters out of the junk, stared at them as they passed, and not in a particularly friendly way either, so they just kept their eyes fixed ahead of them until they had reached the other side of the junk yard. As they emerged from the yard, they were faced with a huge, sprawling industrial park that looked like it hadn’t seen any action for at least twenty years or so.
Ed led the way, and called back “It’s not far, just up there by that row of warehouses..” and pointed at the line of huge buildings that waited up ahead. When they had gotten close, Ed ran around to the side of the end building and called out to his friends “Over here! Come round!”.
The boys rode around the side to follow Ed. There at the back of the buildings, were three huge tunnels side by side, set into the hill.
“Woah!” gasped Louis as he pressed on his brakes.
The others screeched to a halt behind him and just stared at the tunnels in silence.
“Hey I know this place too, and they were never here before!” piped up Stan, their green haired friend from the back of the group.
“What? When were you last here?” asked Jake confused.
“Like a month ago!… Seriously!” Stan replied, not taking his eyes off the looming tunnels.
“I know man, these tunnels have come outta nowhere! There’s no way these were built in the last month! Ed exclaimed.
“And that’s not even the weirdest bit, last night when we found ‘em, I was with my dad and his buddies, and you know old Al…? Well he walked through that one on the end, and came straight outta that one!” Ed screeched excitedly, pointing to the other tunnel on the opposite side.
“What?!…No way!” said Brad dismissively, pulling a confused face.
“Are you baked or something? You bring us all this way to start talking crap about, what is that?…Teleportation!” said Zach as he started to laugh. Zach was probably the most socially accepted one of their group as he was pretty good at sports, but he never fully fitted in at school because he still lived in a shitty neighbourhood and still hung out with the other ‘losers’, although Zach would never use that term to describe his friends.
“Haha yeah man, like some Star Trek shit!” added Caleb as he laughed.
“Serious man! I’m not Joking!! And you wanna know what else....After Al did that a few times, he walked into the middle one, but never came out…?” Ed trailed off. “I mean, I guess he just kept going and reached the end or something, but it was weird y’know…he stopped talking and must of to got pretty far, pretty fucking quick….Anyway, I tried it! I gotta show you!!” Ed’s eyes lit up again as he started leaping around all over the place. He ran over to the tunnel on the right end, and paused whilst he grinned at his friends.
“This is crazy…” said Louis skeptically, as he dropped his bike on the ground and walked over to stand next to Ed.
“Go on then, prove you're crazy…” he sighed as he playfully shoved Ed forward.
Ed giggled as he walked into the huge black hole, and after only a few seconds, he emerged from the hole on the left.
The boys gasped in unison as they looked on. Ed was laughing and bouncing on the spot.
“Seeee!!” he squealed.
“No way!.. There’s gotta be some sort of inner tunnel that quickly leads to that one..” said Brad, frowning in deep concentration and pointing to the left tunnel.
“How can there be?! There’s a huge, hollow tunnel between them!” said Stan, shaking his head.
“Try it! Go on, try it! urged Ed.
The boys remained quiet for a moment, feeling unsure about what was happening.
“I’ll try it” declared Brad, as he hopped off his bike and ran over to the right tunnel. “I’ll find out what’s going on” he said assuringly, as he walked into the blackness and started to laugh nervously as he went. Within a few seconds, he came walking out of the left tunnel, just as Ed had done. Brad was so shocked he couldn't seem to close his mouth.
“What the fuck just happened?!” he finally said laughing, looking at his hands and turning them over to check the other sides. “I feel like I just walked through a heatwave, and how the hell did I get over here?!…”
The boys were wide eyed and excited. One by one, they walked into the tunnel and emerged from the other tunnel in fits of laughter. After all his friends had passed ‘through’ the tunnels, Jake stepped forward and looked into the deep, black hole.
He felt nervous as he slowly walked in, scared of what was going to happen to him. After only a few steps, he had disappeared into the darkness and without realising, had stepped back out in front of his friends. He looked around in wonder as he tried to figure out what had just happened.
Even though the other boys were all still giggling, Jake stayed quiet and shook his head. He thought to himself that he must just be disorientated, and turned himself around in the tunnel. But he definitely walked into the right tunnel, and now he was most definitely at the mouth of the left one.
He started to laugh quietly and quickly got louder to join the rest of his giggling friends.
He felt tingly and hot all over, just as Brad had said.
“What..what is happening?!” he exclaimed through his nervous laughter. Eventually after several minutes of the boys taking it in turns to enter the tunnel, some of them going in pairs, and some riding through as fast as they could, they eventually calmed down and stood together in a huddle in front of the three black holes.
They all went quiet, until Louis spoke up, “So what about the middle tunnel?” he said, raising his eyebrows menacingly. They all exchanged nervous glances when Ed quickly added, “I dunno guys, it was weird last night y’know, like it doesn’t feel safe. I don’t know what happened to Al…?”
“He must of ended up at the other side, but like, super quick or something? We gotta find out!” Louis replied.
“I dunno man, I think we should listen to Ed and just forget about that one” said Jake rationally.
“How can we forget about it!” added Stan.
“What, so you wanna go through!” Jake replied sarcastically.
“Hell yeah! I’m not scared, why, are you?” Stan spat back.
Jake just tutted and shook his head. Stan broke away from the group and walked over to the middle tunnel.
“Woooooo! What do you think’s gonna happen to me!” he taunted as he stuck a single leg into the hole and waved it around playfully.
“Come on! Stop fucking around!” Jake called out listlessly.
Without listening to anymore of his friends resistance, Stan turned around to face the tunnel, and skipped on into the abyss.
The boys all went quiet and listened carefully. The echoing sound of Stan’s skipping had stopped after only a few seconds. The boys started to walk slowly towards the hole, still not saying anything. Brad took his phone out of his back pocket and hit the torch button. He held out his arm and shone the bright light into the darkness. There was nothing but emptiness. The darkness appeared so dense that the light only seem to shine a little way in.
“STAN?” Ed called out. “STAAAAAN?!” he shouted again.
Ed looked around at the others, panicked. Brad stepped forward and up into the edge of the tunnel, keeping his arm outstretched with the torch still on. He slowly took a couple of steps forward and looked back to see the terrified faces of his friends. He couldn’t let them down and not go after Stan, he always looked out for them. So he turned back around to face the darkness and shouted out“STAAAAAAN!” before taking a deep breath and determinedly marching onwards. His torch appeared to be enveloped by the darkness after only a few more steps, and then there was nothing but silence.
“Ah noooooo!” Ed whined, as he clutched his head with his hands and dipped his head down, clenching his eyes tight. The other boys, Zach and Caleb, stepped forward and attempted to comfort Ed, whom always seemed more ‘on the edge’ than the others.
“Hey man, they probably just ended up at the other end or something, just like we said..” said Caleb calmly.
Ed looked up through his teary eyes and slowly let go of his ears. “You think?” he asked expectantly.
“Yeah! Look, I’m so sure of it that I’ll go through too...really!” said Zach, wanting to comfort Ed, but also still excited about what they had found. He walked over to the tunnel and paused.
“Uh, you’ll come with me, right Caleb?” he asked nervously.
“Uhhhhh…” Caleb stammered and looked around at the others.
“Aw c’mon! Who know’s where we’ll end up!” Zach added as he flashed a bright smile at his friend.
“Yeah I guess…” replied Caleb quietly as he hesitantly walked over to join Zach.
“Hey! If you guys end up in Hawaii or something, I wanna be there!” added Louis excitedly as he ran up to the Zach and Caleb. Zach stood in the centre so he linked arms with Caleb and Louis on the other side, and they trepidatiously walked onwards, giggling as they walked.
After a few seconds, the footsteps stopped again.
Ed looked over at Jake despairingly, as Jake just stood there stunned. Jake kept thinking that he must be in some sort of bizarre dream, but he had never felt so awake. Ed wiped a tear from his eye and put his hand on Jake’s shoulder.
“I gotta find ‘em!” he said desperately, and walked over to the tunnel.
Jake looked over at Ed and finally found the words to call out “But what if you don’t find them?”
“If I ain’t got you guys, I got nothing, do I…” said Ed softly as he turned around and walked off into the void.
“You still had me….” Jake quietly said, as he stood there now on his own.
Jake lifelessly walked over to his bike, and then froze on the spot, stunned into silence for what felt like an eternity. He picked up his bike and climbed on, pausing to turn back and stare into tunnel that had swallowed his only friends. He felt a chill run through his whole body, and quickly turned away to stop the terror he felt rising inside him. Jake rode off back towards the junk yard, and thought about his friends that he may, or may not, ever see again.