Teaser from chapter 18:
Using the flashlight application on his cell phone, Matthew shined the light into the dark of the stairwell. Matthew then began his fateful descent.
A few steps into the basement Matthew was ankle deep in mud. The basement was rank with the smell of mildew and urine. With mold covering the walls and an inhumane musky odor, Matthew grew sick to his stomach. Placing the phone in his mouth, he tore the sleeves from his shirt and fashioned a makeshift mask that he wore around his mouth and nose.
Each stride forward seemed an unnecessary task as the ankle-deep mud sucked back with nearly an equal force to the pull of his every step. Bearing through the smell and ill mood, Matthew braved a further look.
Wondering to the far end of the disease-ridden room, Matthew could see that the outer wall had been knocked through and the earth behind it dug out. Where the end of the basement should have been, there was now a tunnel leading to the basement of the next abandoned house. Determined in his cause, Matthew didn’t hesitate to continue on. Making his way through the tunnel he could see that the walls and ceiling were barely held up by rotten timbers and twisted old metal bars; some of which were rusted through with holes almost the width of the bar itself. Several areas of wall had crumbled in, creating needless obstacles of earth and rock. Cans of beer and other trash were carelessly strewn about adding to the challenge.
The eerie sound of dripping water echoed off the walls and grew louder as Matthew neared the opening to the basement next door. A strange scratching amplified gradually behind him as he continued forward. The sound seemed to multiply with his escalating fear. Matthew wanted to run but his anxious curiosity forced a quick glance. Taking a deep breath, he spun around half-expecting to see a figure or face with the glow of his light. However, nothing but empty space and dirt walls filled his view. When the sound persisted, Matthew turned the light to the ground only to discover several large rats rummaging through a moldy nest of rotten old waste. The rats were too involved to care about Matthew’s presence.
When Matthew emerged from the tunnel he could feel a light breeze. The sound of dripping water resonated through the air. The staircase at the other end of the room was glowing with a dull burn from the diffused light shining in through the dirt-stained windows above. The poor lighting in the basement was still too dim to see anything. Matthew turned his cell phone light toward the dark. As he proceeded forward following the movement of breeze across the walls, he was surprised to find two separate tunnels; one in the wall to his right and one in the wall to the left. As he walked by he could see that each tunnel was held up by the same sloppy system of braces as the one he just exited. At the head of each tunnel was a burnt out torch held up at shoulder level by a mess of nails and wire driven into a wooden brace.
Still on edge, Matthew stood silent at the threshold of the tunnel to his right; the origin of the dripping water. The echoing ripple of each drip and drop rhythmically moved across several muddy pools. The light from his cell phone wasn’t bright enough to see too far. Something was there in the darkness watching him. Suddenly his cell phone died and everything grew even darker. The sound of the dripping water was constant as Matthew just stood there silently, allowing his eyes to adjust to the darkness. Slowly, the glow coming off the stairs created vague silhouettes and shadows. Soon Matthew was able to discern the outline of a torch, though he needed a flame.
"If there's a torch there has to be something to light it with," thought Matthew as he got down on his hands and knees to better see the ground.
Coming across a small coffee cup, he found a cheap two dollar lighter inside and was able to light the torch.
A few yards in to the tunnel, Matthew began to feel claustrophobic. The further he ventured the more difficult it was for his lungs to process the flow of oxygen. Feeling more and more uncomfortable with his choice to enter this tunnel Matthew backed away. He didn’t feel this particular tunnel was the route that would lead him to Hunter and his precious stone. Besides, this route was too eerie and Matthew didn’t want this to be the correct route. He quickly turned around and proceeded to the other tunnel.
With the torch now at full glow, Matthew noticed a dozen shovels scattered about the entrance to the second tunnel. When Matthew approached the entrance, he was again wary. Broken pipe, torn wiring and other such material hung loosely from the ceiling. Half way down the tunnel Matthew came across a patch of mud created by a fractured water pipe along the upper wall. The dirt had been trudged through so many times that a small bog had been created. Matthew waded through the muddy mess sinking to mid-calf at the lowest point. He felt something under his foot and stepped away. It was then that he noticed what appeared to be a man’s muddy face protruding through the surface of the mire. Suddenly, a pair eyes popped open. Matthew instinctively tried to jump away. But due to the overwhelming suction on his feet, he fell onto his back.The man cried out as though in excruciating pain reaching out toward Matthew. “Help me! Make it Stop! Please, make it stop!” While he continued to plead, the man slowly rose to his knees allowing the thickest portions of mud slip off his body leaving mostly stain. A suit and tie began to show from behind the thinning mud. “Make it stop!” he begged. "Make it stop!"