This story originally printed in Writers' Bloc, Volume IV, 1990, pages 46-7.


It wasn't legal.

It wasn't as bad as murder, and it wasn't as bad as littering.

People did it all the time. Not that they chose to, but they had no other choice but to.

Me and my friends spent the night in a deserted tunnel, in the middle of a deserted field, in the middle of a deserted valley, in the middle of two very busy freeways.

We called it Prankland, named after my friends' music group the Merry Pranksters, who were named after Ken Kesey's travelling men.

We did it on the coldest night of the year (according to us) and it was raining too. We wanted to pass the test. A test of many things. A test not to turn back, to stay dry, to survive, and to not get caught by our parents. Or the police.

We packed everything we thought we would need for a campout in the rain, that would still pass for a sleepover at a friend's house. Blankets. Clothes. Beans? Lantern?

We even brought a tape player, eight tapes, and six dead batteries.

To get to Prankland you have to follow railroad tracks. Two miles of railroad tracks. They ran alongside the MAX tracks, and come complete with three hundred car 10,000 ton locomotives. While one walks these tracks at night, scenes of Stand By Me flash through your head. Conversations are limited to, "Matt, if I got hit by a train, well, not hit by a train but like it rolled over my leg and squished it off or something, would you go get help, or try and stop the bleeding, or maybe pass out or something?"

"Shut up."

When we got to Prankland the rain came down harder than before, turning all the grooves in the earth into mud saturated rivers. The tunnel was dry, and we quickly ran and hid inside.

The tunnel is an object surrounded with mystery. Who built it? The city. Where did it come from? It came from cement mixers. And the final question: Why did the city build a large tunnel in the middle of a field between two freeways? We knew it wasn't for five teenage boys to spend the night in.

Other people had been here before, evidence like old sleeping bags, old boots, and old Playboy magazines which we burned to keep warm. Or didn't burn to keep warm.

The fire was started mainly from 27 books of matches we had accumulated. Strangely enough the tunnel was full of wood, dry wood. As if a tree grew on the floor of the tunnel, died, and chopped itself into fire-size pieces. We cooked hot dogs over the fire on a piece of a Fred Meyer shopping cart. It made a perfect grill.

We didn't tell ghost stories that night. We told crazy bum attacking us because we burned all their magazines stories.

I'd rather not go into the coldness of that night. It was impossible to explain. It's like when your tongue freezes to a popsicle and you can't get it unstuck because its frozen there and slowly making your whole body go numb. And no I won't come over and share body heat with you.

The next morning our teeth chattered viciously, no walking home along the tracks for us. We thanked the gods of warm public transportation and took Max.

What did we learn? We learned we were all stupid for going on this adventure, and we learned what a winter night was like for someone without a comfortable home to go back to the next morning.

Aleksandr Gembinski