It was supposed to be an ordinary road trip with my buddy Dave, his girlfriend Cecelia and her colleague Amanda. We had planned to drive across the west coast of Malaysia along the North-South Expressway. Starting from the state of Penang all the way to Singapore. It's an expressway that thousands use every day. And it seems that we're the ones unlucky enough to end up wherever this is.
The last thing that I remembered, before this parade of yellow lights and dull grey walls, was a signboard telling us that we were approaching the town of Ipoh. The signboard warned us that the we were entering an accident-prone area, and that we should slow our car down as the tunnel led down a slope. Darkness enveloped the forested hills that stood guard along the road. It was a cloudy night, with the moon barely peeking from the clouds.
As we drove into this long tunnel, the dull yellow lights that hung on the sides of the arched walls provided a stark contrast to the dark expressway that we came from. The lights whizzed past us boringly. Occasionally you could spot an emergency exit along the walls of the tunnel, with a clear bright exit sign over it, the doors painted in bright red. There were also other signs to remind you to use the phones along the tunnel for emergencies.
Nothing out of the ordinary, until the longer than expected time that we were spending driving in the same tunnel.
"Is this tunnel supposed to be that long?" Dave asked, breaking the uncomfortable silence that has settled among us. I checked the clock on my phone. 11pm. None of us had a clue what time we entered the tunnel, but I was sure we all made mental notes of the timing then.
Cecilia laid her hands on Dave's shoulder, trying to reassure him. "I'm sure we'll be out from here soon."
If it's not for the hint of uneasiness in her voice, I would have believed her. The fact that our car was the only one in the tunnel so far only made the feeling worse. To take my mind off things, I started writing this note in my phone. Just so to keep track of things. And there was a strong urging that I should.
45 minutes have passed since we drove into this tunnel. Outside of the window, the scenes repeated themselves. The constant blur of the yellow lights as you zoom past them, the occasional exit door and emergency signboard. If it's not for my phone, I would not be surprised if someone told me that we have just entered this passageway. Everything looks the same, as far as I could tell.
I dozed off and on, hoping that by the time I opened my eyes, I would be greeted by the welcome sight of the starless sky and silhouettes of the night forest. Instead, we're still stuck in this place, the only constant being the sound of our car's engine.
Looking to Dave and Cecilia in front, I could feel that something was wrong. There was an uneasy silence between them. Both of Dave's hands gripped the steering wheel tightly, while Cecilia's hand was still on his shoulder. The realisation hit me that Dave had stayed awake the whole time.
"Awake, Tim?" Dave asked, noticing that I was now looking at him. His voice betrayed a trace of worry. At six feet tall and having served two tours in Iraq, this was the first time I heard him sound unsure during our trip. "Yeah," I replied, and having my curiousity gnawing at me, I asked him if anything was wrong. There was no need to really. The empty road aside from our car was a big enough indication.
Cecilia turned to me, as if she wanted to say something, but Dave cut her off. "I'm afraid that we might have gotten ourselves in a situation here. Let's hope the fuel in our car holds." He simply said without any elaboration.
I wanted to ask more, but decided not to, unsure of the answer I would get. I simply blurted out that I could take over the driving if he gets tired, but Dave simply asked us to go to sleep. I updated this note instead.
I couldn't sleep properly. I kept having bouts of nightmare as soon as I fall asleep. In my dreams I was walking along this large stretch of deserted road, filled with abandoned cars. Whenever I try to walk up to them, I was jolted awake instantly. I am not sure if my experience was affecting my dreams or if my dreams are predicting things. So I thought it would be good to keep Dave company instead, even though we did not really talk.
I don't know if it's me, but Dave's face seemed to looked worse than the last time I saw him. He had this blank stare on his face, and there were beads of sweat running across his chin, even though the car is fully air-conditioned. Although every ounce of me wanted to check if he's alright, there was this nagging feeling that I shouldn't.
The girls were sound asleep though. At least that's good. I couldn't shake the sense of rising panic inside me though. The lack of phone and radio signal is certainly not helping. But I just kept typing, as it calms me somewhat. And if the feeling of panic that's tugging me turns out to be accurate, I hope that this note would at least tell my story, just in case.
I am posting this note everywhere, despite the lack of connection. Facebook, Wordpress, Reddit, even Tumblr. Hoping that one would make it through. And right now I'm just wishing that this will just turn out to be a laughable bad experience in the end.