The Old Railway Tunnel

The old railway tunnel by

I smelt it first, centuries old soot mixed with the tang of damp air. The entrance to the old railway tunnel turned footpath loomed, a black hole in the side of the jagged hill ahead. I’d left my house thirty minutes earlier following an unsettling call with my manager. Our conversation was still ringing in my ears.

 “We’re making cuts,” she’d said. “I’m really sorry. There’s a chance…”

A chance. It still hadn’t been decided yet. I told myself I’d have to try and be positive.

The temperature dropped as I entered the tunnel. It was a refreshing break from the mugginess of outside. It was still mid-afternoon, work hours, but I couldn’t bear staring at my screen any longer. I’d needed to get away, take a moment to breathe.

“Making cuts…” I heard it again and batted it away.

It took a few moments for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. As I walked deeper into the tunnel, the entrance shrunk to a small dot of light behind me. From white paint on the ground, I read the tunnel was 400 metres long. The dim orange lights on the walls flickered.

Thudding echoed through the blackness, mixed with a purring buzz, and a high-pitched squeal. The image of a steam train burst into my mind. The sounds seemed a ghostly reminder of the tunnel’s past. I could almost taste the thick smoke from the engine, feel the vibration of the brakes screeching around the corner.

“We won’t know more for another couple of weeks, but as is policy…”

I shook my head, quickened my pace.

The thudding grew louder from behind me, and I jumped aside as a runner passed, their feet pounding the ground in a constant rhythm.

As I watched the runner fade away, a dazzling light blinded me. Two cyclists entered the tunnel, shouting to one another. Their voices bounced against the walls; their conversation so clear it was as if they were shouting next to my ear.

As I continued walking, a gentler light grew in the distance. I smiled as the source of the squealing became clear. Beside the tunnel’s exit, a young girl was clinging to her mother’s legs. “But the dragon! It lives in the cave!” The girl stared wide-eyed into the darkness as if expecting a fire-breathing monster to emerge.

Leaving the tunnel, I felt the sun’s warmth on my cheeks again. I was surrounded by dense green, and the smell of wild garlic. As I stopped to rest on a bench, a robin landed beside me.

“It will be OK,” I whispered. The bird chirped, flapped its wings, and hopped forwards as if agreeing with me.

It was then I realised I’d not only left the tunnel’s own echoes behind me, but my manager’s voice had also ebbed away. Closing my eyes, I listened to birdsong, and the rustle of the leaves in the faint breeze.

“Whatever happens, it’ll be OK.” I breathed.





Sarah Hunter is a writer based in Bath, UK. When she is not walking her very excitable dog, or drinking copious amounts of tea, she enjoys writing a story or two She has previously had short fiction published in Writers’ Forum magazine, A Spot of Writing Magazine, and featured on BBC radio.


Photo – Sarah Hunter



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