Alex, clearly intent on keeping to herself, threw open the back seat of the Jeep and hopped inside, slamming it behind her and almost immediately adopting a bored stance and staring out the window. Joshua, on the other hand, got into the driver's seat and ushered everyone inside in a somewhat overly joyful manner - a true example of "boys and their toys."
"Come on, everyone, hop in! Sit wherever there's room. Aah, I only ask that you wear your seatbelts. Can't be too careful, you know."
Derek jumped into the passenger seat with enthusiasm, not missing a beat in his constant yammering. Alice quietly helped herself into the backseat, sitting opposite Alex in a quiet, courteous manner. The young girl still seemed annoyed, and she had no doubt that her complaints about her brother ran much deeper than those shared in the kitchen. Either way, it really wasn't her business. She did feel oddly protective over the girl, but the possibility it was a manifestation of her own paranoia towards men was great. She sighed, and rested her arm on the door, draping her weight down in anticipation of what could only be a long day.
Contradictory to his overly-careful preparations, he quickly started the car and recklessly shot out onto the road, ending up going about 10 to 15 over the speed limit. Alex was unfazed; this was usual for him.
After a minute or two, he finally broke his chatter with Derek to speak to their reluctant guide, "So, Alice, where are we headed, anyway? You said you knew the way to that church?"
"Oh, yeah." Hearing her name all of sudden breaking through what had already become white noise snapped Alice out of her daze, "You'll want to take a right at the next sign. It'll say 'Dead End,' but that's only one of the side streets. Once you go through a tunnel you'll see the road to take, it'll have another sign pointing out the way to the old district." She ran through the route in her head, trying to remember any "shortcuts" along the way, something winding that would impede their progress, "After the church you'll be able to go to the park, there are a few monuments there that you'd enjoy." She sat forward in her chair a bit and crossed her legs, letting her knee dig into the seat in front of her robbing the comfort from Derek, hopefully.
Derek coughed, and shifted in his chair. He really wasn't as stupid as this hotel woman seemed to assume with her passive-aggressive tactics. "Monuments to town martyrs, correct? There were a few photographs published in a travel magazine a few months ago, actually. I suppose there may be something of interest there with a little cross-referenced research."
Alex noticed the motion on Alice's part, and sent a grin her way, with a low-aimed thumbs-up. She was definitely thankful that the other woman had come along - already the two boys were being irritating beyond reason. Still, she held onto a tiny shard of hope that they'd eventually snap out of it.
Joshua took the turn that he was told to, flicking on the lights of the car as they rolled into the long, dark tunnel. In the headlights, he could see that the tunnel wasn't in the best of shape, to put it lightly. "Geez. Don't taxes pay to repair stuff like this? I mean, this is just freaky looking."
Alice stared out her window. Something seemed wrong immediately. The tunnel they were supposed to be going through should have only lasted a moment. It was nothing more than an archaic overpass. She hesitated. It was possible that Joshua had taken a wrong turn along the way, and that her directions had only led them further astray. If that was the case, she wasn't about to stop him. While she laughed off his comments, there was a hanging unease in the air.
Alex felt nervous as well, looking up at the barely-lit, decrepit ceiling of the tunnel. Swallowing hard, she took her earphones out and leaned over slightly, trying to see light from the end of the tunnel, with no luck. However, she felt her heart seize up a bit as she caught the reflection of the rearview mirror - no light from the back either. "Josh," she finally spoke, in an insistant manner, "You must have gone the wrong way. Come on, turn around."
Frowning, he chastised her, "I have the best sense of direction of anyone you know. This is the right way, I know it."
"Just turn around!"
At her raised voice, he turned around in his seat to snap at her, but caught something odd in his peripheral vision. What happened next happened almost too quickly to discern in what order the events had occured.
Joshua had slammed himself back into the seat, forward-facing, and suddenly hit the brakes hard. "Shit!" In a panic, he swerved the wheel.
Alex let out a scream, and the little Jeep flipped, skidding against the road, crashing up against the side of the tunnel, and eventually sliding to a stop on the other side.
Derek slammed shoulder-first into the dash, he'd been turned towards Joshua to talk to him easier. The last sensation he could recall before waking up on his side against a slightly-crumpled car door was the digging of his seatbelt into his skin.
Alice had come out of things less shaken. Reacting to the moment of panic she'd seen in Joshua's eyes just before he'd sent them into the crash, she'd ducked down and braced herself Derek's seat. Her next instinct was to snap back in Alex's defense. Claims of "sense of direction" meant nothing in a strange town. It all seemed trivial against the prospect of injury and hitching their way back to the hotel.
Alex slowly roused herself, having briefly lapsed into unconsciousness. The window beside her was shattered out, and the cool wetness she could feel running down her face she quickly figured to be blood. In a daze, she touched her fingers to her forehead and winced - sure enough, there was a gash, though nothing too awful. Bracing herself on the ceiling (which was now technically below her), she unbuckled her belt and rolled to her knees, taking in a few breaths and making sure nothing else was physically wrong with her. Nothing, so far as she could tell. "Is...is everyone okay?" She was surprised at how flat her voice sounded, like they were in a vacuum. Clearing her throat, she spoke again, "What happened? Is everyone all right?"
At his sister's voice, Joshua snapped out of his daze as well. The airbag of his car had deployed, so his face stung quite a bit, but he was fine aside from that. "I-I think so..."
Alice came out of her almost-meditative state at the voices of the young girl and her brother, "I'm fine," she let herself slump down, following gravity to the ground and regaining a sense of reality and dimension, "Any chance of getting out of here?"
Alex winced again, looking around, then pointed towards the back of the car. "We should be able to get out through the back, I think..." Turning her attention forward again, she looked at Derek, and felt a little tremor run through her. "Oh god, is he okay? He's not...he's not awake."
Releasing himself from the buckle as well, Joshua leaned over to check on the other man, clearly frightened. "H-hey...Derek, yo, wake up!" He looked back at his sister and Alice, trying to look supportive and confident, saying, "He's breathing, at least...I mean, he looks fine, so I bet he is..."
Derek shifted his eyes back and forth, slowly working them towards opening. He flexed his hand and concentrated on the fact that he could hear voices. With effort, he answered them, with mutters and a few audible "ows," but answers. Alice had moved towards the back of the car to feel around for a handle to open the door, or even the window.
"Is he up? Good. You two start trying to get out up there, and we'll try back here. One of us ought to have a little luck."
Alex, satisfied that Derek was all right, moved to the back with Alice and went for the handle, not surprisingly finding it wrenched and useless. "We might have to break out the window...Josh, any luck up there?"
"Not up here...my door's too badly busted up, and we're right up against the wall on his side. We might be able to break out the windshield, but..."
Derek pulled himself into a sitting position, shaking off the aftereffects of the shock that had thrown him into a faint. "But, what? Long as we have something hard enough, we should be able to bust out a window. Hell, some windshields'll kick out whole." He looked up, holding back the quiver in his voice. He was only used to things going along with his plans, and had not expected such a drastic interruption as this.
Looking out the window in some desperate attempt to see something other than the blackness that seemed to engulf the car, her voice quavered a bit as she spoke, "I have a better question. Does anyone have a flashlight, or anything? Even if we get out, we won't get far in here without one..."
Derek piped up, "I've got a small one! It's a stupid pen my ex-girlfriend gave me, the back half of it's a penlight. She thought it was hilarious."
That relieved her, and she nodded, crawling up beside him. "Thank god for that. Can I see it? I'll see if I can see anything out the back...the windshield may be the best way to go, in the position we're in."
Derek nodded, and pulled out his handful of pens. The light was easy to find, it was slightly longer and heavier than the others. He passed it over to Alex without a word. Alice eyed his suspiciously. His behavior had gone from weird to extremely weird: he didn't seem the type to stay quiet in a situation like this, let alone offer less-than-expert advice on everything. She decided to let it go, however. If he was going to drop a facade, all the better for them. She turned her attention to Alex instead. "Got any plans in mind?"
She laughed, a sound that was full of all the anxiety she felt. "Are you kidding? I'm just trying not to completely freak out. All I know is that we need to get out of this car, then out of this tunnel." Turning on the light (which was more powerful than she had originally thought it would be, thankfully), she shined it out the back. "Can you see anything...? God, it shouldn't be this dark."
Alice squinted out the window, following the beam of light to where it finally rested on a patch of gravel-littered road. "Maybe the tunnel collapsed. It could be blocking us in."
"It couldn't have collapsed on both ends...not without the whole thing falling in. Josh...try to get through the windshield, okay? It's bigger, so we'll all fit through easier..."
"All right, all right," he sighed shakily, too nervous to snap at her for suddenly taking command where he felt he should have it, and, bracing himself on the seat, he pressed his feet into the windshield. Most of the pressure was aimed at the top, in hopes that it would all come out in one piece...hopefully the adhesive was cheap. "Derek, help me out, will you?"
"Yeah..." Derek trailed off, but moved in obedience, pressing his weight against the windshield. He winced a little at the feeling of it beginning to splinter under the pressure. Little by little, it began to give under the strength of both men.
"Just...a little...more...!" With a final grunt of exertion, the windshield gave and broke away from the car, with a minimal amount of splintered glass. "There...thank god. Let's get out of here..."
He went out first, then extended his hand back inside to help the other three. Alex seized the initiative, and scrambled out quickly, feeling a wave of claustrophobic dread hovering on the horizon of her mind. Once on the ground, she took a couple of deep breaths to calm herself, and started to look around with the flashlight.
"What...what the hell...?" she murmured, eyes widening as the beam of light traced over the complete disrepair of the tunnel...not only the walls and ceiling, but the asphalt as well. Just what the hell was going on here?