As is common with a group of twenty somethings all of whom had been drinking a little too much, we had ended up in a ridiculous situation, and now we were making it worse with loud mouths and macho nonsense.
Still, compare that with sitting on the sofa at home, and you can see how we got here.
'Here' is the end of a dark damp footpath stopping dead in front of us, enough of an indication that we shouldn't go any further. Of course, this wasn't sufficient in our state, so they had added a number of items which even we couldn't just overlook. The sign for instance. Absolutely no entry except for scheduled bus services. That didn't leave much room for doubt. There was even an inferred This means you!
In case you haven't realised, we were at the mouth of a bus tunnel. It was used as a shortcut through a major obstacle to traffic to the suburbs. During the day, buses stropped through here at great speed, controlled by a synchronised set of traffic lights at either end, and it was unusual for more than ten minutes to go by without one of the lumbering beasts to push their way through the darkness, full of fare payers all in an awful rush.
But now it was late, and dark, and I was fairly sure that no more buses were scheduled for the next hour or so. Fairly sure, but not certain.
One of the guys had quietly dared everyone to run through the tunnel instead of waiting, but no-one took him seriously, at least for a start. As the dares became double dares, and the promises became excessive, Fiona declared her willingness to give it a shot. It was Mike's offer of his Chillies CD that turned the tables finally.
I hope you understand why this made a difference. I was quite willing to ignore the whole set of veiled insults to my maleness when no-one else was going, but if one of the girls was keen, then it was the least I could do to open my foolish mouth and profess how it was nothing and how I would accompany Fiona in case of trouble.
Of course, we all knew that I had three valid reasons to go. Firstly, my ego made me do it; secondly, I wanted to get into Fiona's pants, not that I had a hope, and thirdly, well there's no thirdly, but it doesn't feel so stupid with three reasons.
The two of us stood at the mouth of the tunnel, cheered on by the sensible cowards behind us, trying to listen just in case a bus rumbled up to the other end, and then she grabbed my hand and started running.
This wasn't great for my image either, so I managed to catch up to her, and edge slightly ahead, so that I was dragging her, and not the other way around. You can see how that might be important, right?
Once we were commited, we were strangely quiet and calm, trotting along in the darkness, a little reflected light from each end shining on the wet bricks from time to time, giving a ghostly reality to what was surely an insane act.
The tunnel was very narrow, and I realised as we ran that if a bus came along, there was no way we could get out of the way. Either the driver would see us and stop, or he wouldn't Either way was trouble.
As we neared the halfway point, we were both becoming a little short of breath, but didn't dare slow the pace. We still held hands in the darkness, so we didn't lose contact. We wouldn't have a hope of finding each other here.
Somehow passing the halfway point increased the feeling of helplessness, and we pushed ourselves along as much as possible, still quiet apart from our rasping breaths, and slamming hearts.
The end of the tunnel seemed impossibly far away now, and we seemed to be getting no closer when we both felt rather than heard a rumble beneath our feet. I wasn't sure for a start, but Fiona grasped immediately what it was. My assumptions had been incorrect. A bus was near the tunnel, though we could not see it.
Staring ahead as we sprinted toward the dim light, we both strained to see any sort of movement, screaming at each other now, openly scared, no time for false courage. We just ran, and stared ahead, seeing nothing, but feeling the rumble of the bus.
Finally my head began to operate in something like its normal fashion, and I realised what was happening. Turning my head without slowing or letting go of Fiona's hand, I glanced back to see a bus rapidly approaching from behind us, and I managed a spurt of speed which took me ahead of Fiona again, dragging her hand as she too realised what was happening, and alternated between looking forward to safety, and back to the brightly lit behemoth bearing down on us.
Sprinting again, all tiredness forgotten in the surge of adrenalin, we burst from the mouth of the tunnel and leapt into the damp dark bushes as the bus surged past us, the driver apparently unaware that we had been so close to his wheels.
.... There is more of this story ...