by Rich Rurshell
“I’m not going in there! You go in there," said Ryan Keyes to Paul Downes. They sat facing one another near the top of the climbing frame in Kingshill Park. Rebecca Daley sat quietly with them.
“No way," replied Paul, glancing across the play area at the huge mound of earth beneath the big slide. Towards the bottom of the mound was the opening to a small tunnel that went right through the mound. “Peter Williams’ big brother said he saw Laura Burton’s cat killed by the monster in there."
“My mum said that Chris Williams is a liar and that Laura’s cat has probably just run away," interrupted Rebecca. “...and that there are no such thing as monsters."
“You go in there then," replied Paul.
“I’m not going in there," she answered, turning her nose up. “It’s dirty."
Ryan jumped down from the climbing frame. “I'm going on the swings one more time before we have to go home."
Paul nodded to Ryan, then turned back to Rebecca.
“What do you think, Becky? Do you think there’s a monster in the tunnel?"
“I’m not sure, I guess there could be. I just know it gives me the creeps. It’s so dark in there. I’m not going in to find out."
“Me neither,” replied Paul, once again staring over at the darkness within the tunnel. Rebecca shuddered as she looked over briefly, then turned to look at the picnic area where their parents were sat.
“Come on, let’s go on the climbing wall again before we have to go."
“Yeah, okay." They jumped down from the climbing frame and ran over to the climbing wall.
The children played until their parents called them. Paul sauntered over to the picnic area and picked up his school bag from beneath the table where his mother had been sat. Olivia Downes was now chatting away with Sandy Keyes and Lynn Daley as they walked towards the gates of the park with their children. Paul looked over once more at the blackness within the tunnel, then ran to catch up with everyone else.
* * *
“Let me have another beer, and I’ll do it." David Decker finished the last of the beer in his hand, tossed the can into the sand beneath the climbing frame, then lit a cigarette.
“Not afraid of the monster?" laughed his girlfriend, Dana Morris.
“More afraid of getting stuck in there," he replied. “It’s built for little kids."
Dana looked over at Carl Downes and Mark Foster.
“Hey Carl, you said your little brother and his friends are all too scared to go in. Are you?"
“I’m not scared," answered Carl, “but I did promise Paul I wouldn’t go in there." David smirked and Dana frowned.
“Are you serious, man?" she cried out. “Worst excuse ever. How about you, Foster? You chicken too?"
“I ain’t chicken," Foster replied. “I’m in." Mark Foster and David Decker both got themselves another beer each.
“Are you really not coming?" asked Dana.
“You didn’t see him," replied Carl. “Paul looked so serious. He begged me not to go in the tunnel. He pulled on my sleeve and wouldn’t let me leave until I promised. He was really spooked."
“He’s a little kid, what, seven years old? Of course he is! One of his friends told him a cat got killed in there."
“I know that, but...a promise is a promise." Dana raised her eyebrows.
“Well...okay then." She made her way over to the large mound beneath the big slide, where David and Foster now stood, finishing their beers just outside the entrance to the tunnel. Carl slowly followed.
David drained the last of his beer from the can, and hurled it behind him.