Friday, June 14, 2024

Beneath the Bunker

By Czhan Leigh Calimlim | The Sillimanian Magazine

Rumors swirl around Guy Hall, hinting at a mysterious bunker. Nobody knows what lies underneath. A million dollars, some say. A treasure trove or remains of fallen soldiers. Or a subterranean labyrinth, bridging certain areas in town.

One afternoon, at the campus by the sea, Miguel finishes off his extra clean-up duty with one of the senior wardens.

“You should get going,” the old man says, weary from working all day long.

“You sure, Manong?”

“Yes. Now, go. It’s getting late,” he insists.

“Oh. Well. See you tomorrow, Manong Lester!” Though Miguel had no plans of going home just yet. 

At six o’clock, Manong Lester, the old man, heads to Guy Hall to mop the floors. It’s the same pattern every night. Back and forth the mop goes from one end of the corridor to the other until Manong Lester himself fades into a faint appearance, like a ghost, with nothing but his mop and the keys dangling from his pocket.. Not this time—Miguel thought, inspecting the grass area on the other side of Guy Hall. There Manong Lester was, standing by the hatch with a kerosene lamp and his keys. At the creak of a padlock, the hatch opens and the old man alights into the earth. Down the hatch they go, through the curbstones and along the pipes stretching across the ceiling. The chase led Miguel to a dimly-lit room. A shelf lines its walls but the treasure he’d expected is nowhere to be found. There’s only a bunch of cleaning equipment. Perhaps, this had all just been a waste of time. Dismayed, Miguel turns to walk his way back up, when suddenly, he hears a grating screech. Manong Lester had rammed the shelf open. A secret door. Behind it shows a cavernous bunker, built like one of those air-raid cellars.

“You can come out now,” the old man bellows. 

Miguel stops.  He knows. A noise, close to the sound of a bongo drum, starts to fill the air. It strikes once, and once more until the whole bunker vibrates. Bam. Bam. Bam. 

“What the hell?” Miguel looks around. Hell indeed it was. There’s no sign of gold at all. No million dollars. No vestige. No hidden shortcuts. All there is, is a gold plaque that labels: In Loving Memory of Miguel Cruz.

Gently, Manong Lester laid his kerosene lamp down, along with a vessel of blood-red wine, before retreating back to his cleaning duties.


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