3


As Carl made his way back to the park, he replayed his friends’ last moments over in his mind. He had taken a jerry can of petrol and a handaxe from his father’s shed, a large knife from the kitchen and a box of matches from the pantry. He had dropped the axe, handle first into his trousers and put the matches in his shirt pocket. He carried the knife in his right hand, his strong hand, and carried the petrol in his left. Chris Williams hadn’t been lying after all. He saw the thing in the tunnel take the Burton family’s cat, and Carl had just watched it take his friends. Now, he was going to take care of business. As he reached the gates to the park, he remembered his promise to Paul. Hopefully, he wouldn’t have to step within the tunnel. He could hurl the petrol in from the outside and burn that creature inside the mound, whatever is was.

With the screams of his friends still echoing in his head, Carl made his way across the now silent Kingshill Park towards the tunnel. He could just make out the mound ahead of him in the moonlight. As he approached the playground, his heart began to race and he gripped the knife tighter. He stepped into the sandy area and walked onwards, past the climbing frame and closer to the tunnel entrance. There was just blackness and silence in the tunnel now. Carl slowed his pace and started to undo the cap on the jerry can. Stopping just short of the entrance, he peered inside. Nothing. No sound. No tentacles. He was going to have to be quick and careful.

He stood back from the opening a little and began swinging the jerry can back and forth, letting small amounts of the petrol spill out and into the tunnel entrance. He got a little closer and tried to direct the petrol further inside the tunnel. He wasn’t really sure how deep the petrol was running, it was too dark to see. When it felt like the jerry can was half empty, he took a step forward and hurled the whole thing into the darkness. He took the matches from his shirt pocket, slid open the box and took one out. He struck the match and it lit first time. He flicked the match at the tunnel and it landed on the ground, just shy of the entrance.

“Damn!" He pulled out a second match. He lit it, stuffed the box back in his shirt pocket, and taking a step forward, threw the match right into the tunnel. This time, with a rush of hot air, the tunnel went up in flames. The fire immediately illuminated the tunnel entrance, just in time for Carl to see a thick black tentacle snake around his shin. He tried to pull away, but it quickly tightened and began drawing him into the fire. He stabbed at the tentacle with the kitchen knife, and fumbled for the axe in his trousers. He swapped the axe into his right hand and swung as hard as he could at the tentacle. It bounced off with little effect. Panicking, he swung again, only this time a second tentacle appeared out of the tunnel and wrapped itself around his arm. It jerked him into the tunnel entrance and Carl screamed as his face was burnt by the flames, his hair catching fire and burning away to nothing. He slashed at the tentacle holding his arm with the knife, but a third tentacle had now taken him by the waist and he was right inside the tunnel. Carl twisted and turned within the grasp of the tentacles to escape the pain of the flames that licked around his body. He grit his teeth as the thing continued dragging him further inside. Carl could now see right down the tunnel. The petrol hadn't run far enough inside. Beyond the mass of writhing tentacles, he could see that there was no fire deeper within. He let go of the axe and continued trying to free his arm. As he was pulled further into the tunnel, he noticed the jerry can, leaning almost upright against the circular wall a little further in. Next to it was a bloody Reebok trainer. All that remained of Dana. Where was the rest of her? And Foster? And David? The tentacles continued to pull him closer to the centre of the tunnel. When he got close enough to the petrol can, he grabbed it with his free arm and turned it upside down, emptying its contents onto the floor beneath him. He tore at his pocket to get to the matches, but then froze. Before him on the floor of the tunnel, just visible in the light from the dying flames in the entrance, was a hole. No. Not a hole, a mouth. It was lined with multiple rings of teeth and it opened and closed, biting the air in anticipation, as the tentacles pulled Carl closer and closer. Carl pulled out the box of matches and stretched his left arm towards his right hand, still caught in the tentacle’s grasp. He managed to pull out a match and prepared to strike it. His head was now right over the mouth. He glanced down and saw the huge mouth open wide. A slippery, wet tongue lashed out and wrapped around Carl’s face. It started pulling his head down into the mouth. As he felt the teeth closing around his head, Carl struck the match. The last thing he heard was the roar of the petrol fumes igniting.

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