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She gripped my hand tight as we enter the tunnel. Her whimpering echoed as we stepped into the entrance.
She wasn't my daughter or anyone I know for that matter. However, going through this path alone does not guarantee safety. It was the shortest route back home and there may be other dangers present at this time of night. By chance, I encountered her near the entrance crying.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"My mommy," she said. "Something in the tunnel took her away."
I'm familiar with the urban legends at these parts. They say that a dog-like creature lives in the tunnel and goes out at night to attack travelers. First, you'd hear it growling in the darkness. As you take a few steps forward, it begins to bark warning you to stay away from its territory. By then, you'd be smart enough to flee as its warning becomes louder. Unless you bravely, or rather foolishly, keep on going.
The child told me what happened. She was walking with her mom through the tunnel when they saw bright glowing eyes watching them. I know this part of the story. This is where the beast would viciously attack. She was able to flee out of the tunnel but it was too late for her mom.
I took my flashlight out.
"I'm scared," she spoke.
"Don't be," I confidently replied. "I'm an expert. I know how to get out safely."
There was another related tale that came to mind. A woman and her daughter passed by this tunnel months back. The beast ripped the mother to pieces. As her daughter tried to leave the exit, the creature was able to pounce on her and finished her off. Or at least, that's what they say. The corpses were found eventually. Forensic evidences pointed to a wolf attack. But no wolves live around these parts.
We continued walking as our steps echo in the tunnel. My light caught a glimpse of blood flowing from a side. I pointed my flashlight to that direction.
"Mommy!" the girl screamed.
What a mess. I dare not describe the grisly remains of what I can only imagine was a woman. Now, it was a pile of rotten meat partially eaten.
I pointed my flashlight away and focused back on the route.
"Stick close," I instructed.
I heard growling. Her grip tightened. The beast was nearby. But I was prepared.
She seemed more passive as we walked further ignoring the growl.
"Do you know what you're doing?" she asked. Her tone was off. Was she mad?
"It's too late for me..."
She has gone through quite an ordeal. The dread she feels right now must be staggering. I could no longer feel her shivering. It's as if fear itself took over. Her hand was cold.
Barking could be heard now. I tried to ignore the anticipation of its arrival and calm down.
"I'm hurt," she dully said.
I inspected her with the flashlight. Only now did I notice blood leaking out of her head. Another detail of the story appeared in my mind. The bite marks were on the dead girl's head. Before I could check her, she pointed at the direction of the exit.
Glowing eyes floated in the dark. Trembling, I directed my flashlight towards them. Ready for what I see, I braced myself. The lights touched the path but there was nothing. The eyes were gone.
I was visibly shaking. The child however seemed too tired to even hope. As we walked further, I could not help but notice her eyes going all white. It's as if she was possessed.
"Hey," I tried to talk to her. "Are you alright?"
She didn't respond. I repeated a few times and she continued walking without replying. Finally, she spoke.
"I'm tired," she said. Her eyes returned to normal.
"We're almost out," I said.
The light of the exit was still far but it was visible. It may only be moonlight, but it felt reassuring.
I heard something moving fast behind us. I looked back and saw the glowing eyes running towards us.
"Run!" I yelled. I gripped her arm tighter as we fled towards the exit. If the myths are true, that creature can't leave the tunnel.
Finally, the exit was a step away and before I knew it, I was covered in moonlight. My hand's grip was still tight on her arm but as I've checked to look, it was all that was left of her. Blood was still dripping from the torn end.
Glowing eyes could still be seen from inside. I threw the arm towards it and it vanished. I walked away.
My plan worked.
As far as I know with the stories, the creature only takes one victim at a time. If she had fled for the exit instead of cowardly running back to the entrance, she could've used her mother as a distraction.
Instead, she dies. Just like the other victims.