2011 Honorable Mention in Prose
The Tunnel by Hannah Cole
The scarf is all-entangling. I struggle to shove it in, under the coat, over the sweater, out of the zipper. I sense my own smallness and am a bit ashamed. The scarf is too wide, too unwieldy, too intimidating.
Alex is pacing. “Come on, Hannah. Forget it. Let’s just get out.” He looks regal in his new ski jacket and pom-pom hat, so I listen. With a reckless parting glance I tug out the scarf and throw it on the table.
Outside, the snow is still falling. It sticks heavy and white on the tips of my eyelashes. It is a perfect snow, I decide. There has never been a better one in the history of the world.
“I’ll take this side,” says Alex.
We kneel down in our snow pants on opposite ends of the long snow drift pushed up by the plow not ten minutes ago. The outside is brown with sand but the inside is new and clean. I dig, I claw, I scoop. My fingers start to numb but it is much too early to complain. In the space of fifteen minutes, I hollow out about a foot of the secret passageway.
“How’s it going, Hannah?”
I stand up and grin at Alex. “I’ve got to be winning,” I holler. I walk over and to my dismay discover that he has carved out a cavernous three foot stretch of tunnel. He laughs and I sigh. “They’re just about equal,” he says.
We each reenter the tunnel, where breaths are muffled and light turns blue. I am no longer giddy but I am not unhappy. I concentrate on the melted snow dripping down through my boots, soaking my socks which are balled up at the toe. In this place, time is viscous and hibernation seems feasible. I am still digging but my gusto is diminished. I am under the impression that he is infinitely far away when I hear his voice float through the snow.
“Hannah, is that you?” A gecko print glove shoves through the wall and my heart expands. Now the work is urgent. We claw away a doorway and shafts of light slice in toward me from the other side of the tunnel. I briefly consider Lucy pushing her way through coats and pine needles to the land of Narnia. This is what she felt. We round out the portal and sit cross-legged in the middle, hearts pounding.
“Our secret hideout,” Alex says in a confidential whisper.
“It’s perfect,” I breathe. “Now let’s carve out our names in the side!” I start to trace the letter “H” into the side of the tunnel, but I dig too deep and pierce through the narrow wall. “Timber!” Alex shouts, and all of a sudden I am enveloped in snow. He clambers out, dusting himself off, but I lie for a moment more underground. The cold is not unfriendly, I think. It is all too cold and too beautiful to exist. I imagine my skin turning into rows of tiny silver crystals.
“You all right, Hannah?” I see him over me. He is concerned. If I wait a moment more, he will scoop me out. I decide I must emerge on my own. Slowly, carefully, I disentangle myself from the broken strands of snow. Inside, hot chocolate will be waiting.