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The Tunnel of Death

Down the deep tunnel, he walked on. He was tired. He was exhausted. He sat and leaned his back at the wall of the tunnel. He didn’t know how much longer he had to trudge this dark path. There wasn’t a sign of end in sight. A big rodent tried to bite his feet but he was protected by his weather beaten safety shoes. The stench was a part and parcel of him now. He had mastered the art of surviving the stench – no moaning, no whining, just keep trudging on. He had lost two friends, Jugger and Ecklewood. Could he be that one who will perhaps make it to the end? The world will need to hear their story of escape.

Jugger had had an infection and needed antibiotics badly. The sanitation was poor. They answered their nature’s call in the tunnel. How worse could things get? They were drinking water from the same tunnel. They would just mutter some incantations over the drink and scoop it with their bare hands and down it went through their oesaphagus. The very hands that did the job of toilet paper. The very hands that paved the path in the tunnel, the very same hands was the scoop, or should we say the pall bearer of the water that would send Jugger home.  Nothing made sense anymore. The key word was survival.

For eight days they had been trudging that god-forsaken tunnel. How much longer would they remain in there? They watched the ghost leave Jugger. They held him, they embraced him and told him to hold on.

“I can’t” he kept saying.

“Jugger just hold on” Ecklewood said.

“For how long?” Jugger asked.

“For as long as it takes us to get to the end of the tunnel” Darnell said.

Jugger let out a loud grunt “aaaaarrrgggghhhh”!  The pain was excruciating.  They all held him. He was panting for breath. He gasped and coughed. He spat out the specimen on the tunnel wall. It was too dark to see the colour. It smelt like blood and infected phlegm. He coughed some more. He was choking. And then in a split second, the atmosphere around them changed. It became a little mysterious and unbearably quiet like a stranger had just arrived. A little uninvited guest had made an entry into their sorrow.

“Are you ready?” he whispered to Jugger.

“Yes, I am. I have been waiting for you. Why did it take you so long to come?”

“The chord of alliance took a bit longer to break.”

“I am ready, let’s go.”

Jugger was gone. No time to grieve, no time to cry. It was time to move on. What would they do with his corpse?  Would they drag it along for the rest of the journey? They took turns to clutch his body. They cried. They left him behind and moved on. “What a way to abandon a friend in death”, Ecklewood managed to say as they prodded on.

They were both lost in their own world. The stark reality that stared them in the face was that what had happened to Jugger could have happened to any of them. Was that how they would have ended up? Dead in the tunnel of death? Abandoned in the tunnel of death to rot away. Knowing that your carcass would be meat for those rodents that lived in the tunnel was just too sad. Perhaps it might have been better to be meat for lions than rodents. That seemed and sounded a bit more dignifying than meat for rodents, pests and bugs.

Ecklewood buckled under the weight of these thoughts. He slumped to the floor. He wept like a baby. He was inconsolable.

“Let’s go back and get Jugger” he managed to say in between sobs.

“No, we can’t go back” Darnell declared. “We can’t. Forward ever backward never.”

A fat rodent scurried past. Bats squeaked, different sounds were heard. Bugs and insects that felt their privacies were being intruded, reacted and resisted.

“Listen buddy, this is tough on all of us, but we got to move on. We can’t afford to waste energy. We need every reservoir of strength in us to push on” Darnell said.

“I know, I know but we can’t leave him to be food to these pests. He was a brave man, he should be food to lions and not bugs” Ecklewood carried on.

“But if we had put him in a casket and lowered him to the grave, he would still be food to earthworms and bugs and stuff” Darnell countered.

Three days later, Ecklewood announced that he couldn’t push forward anymore. They had been eleven days in the tunnel without food, clean water and sanitation.

It was a quick move, Ecklewood got it by the tail, pulled it to itself and squeezed the neck, and within secs, it was dead. He brought out the lighter from his pocket and roasted the rodent. In three minutes a meal was ready. Darnell couldn’t stand the sight. He became sick. Some slimy yellowish stuff came out from his belly. Ecklewood munched at the poor creature squashing every bone as he cracked on.

Ten minutes later, Ecklewood became very sick. His temperature shot up. Darnell placed the back of his hand on his forehead and the temperature could almost boil an egg. Two hours later, Ecklewood passed away peacefully. “lf you ever make it to where there is light, tell Rosalind, at the attic, the chest, bottom compartment, there is an exercise book, all the details she needs to know is in there” were his last words.

Darnell was devastated. He wept himself to sleep. He dreamed that he saw light. He dreamed that he saw faces again, he dreamed that he ate real food, he dreamed that he was sleeping in a bed. He dreamed that he heard voices and people singing. He dreamed that he was back to a real house. He awoke to the cold stiffness of Ecklewood’s body. He lifted the head off him and grabbed the cold body. He moved on. It was like a new surge of energy came to him. A new charge of electrostatics enveloped him and in the strength of that energy he moved on. He walked and crawled and crouched till he felt that perhaps the time was near for him to go the way of his mates.

He started hearing what seemed like voices. He inched forward, then he bumped into something. He felt it. It was a ladder. He stepped on it, he clung on to it, he muscled all his strength and took the first step. He was drained. There was no energy in him. He took the next climb. He almost fell over. His foot slipped and he buckled. He held on to what seemed like life. ‘Could this be the end?’ he wondered. If he had made it this far, would the last lap fail him? He panted. He took a rest. Then with all the will within him, he pulled himself up and surged forward till he bumped into a metal. He knocked at it. He banged his head hard at it. “I can’t give up now”, he mumbled. “I can’t give up now”, he mumbled again.

The light struck his eyes almost blinding him. He passed out.

He awoke several hours later in a hospital. He was alive, had made it through the tunnel of death.

Three months later he was speaking to an audience about how he made it through that dark tunnel.

“What kept you through those dark hours, Mr. Darnell?”

“Hope, just hope! I had only one thing left. Faith. I just hoped that by any streak of chance I would make it. Jugger and Ecklewood were the finest men I ever worked with in my life, stronger people, yet they did not make it…”

Uwem Mbot Umana©2017


  1. *The Tunnel of Death*

    The story of the Tunnel of Death is one of exemplary mental fortitude in the midst of damning conditions. It looks at the unenviable journey of three men :Mr Darnell and his two friends, Mr Ecklewood and Mr Jugger.

    In impossible, inhumane conditions, Darnell, Jugger and Ecklewood went through a series of harrowing experiences that would bring a mere man to an untimely demise in hours. But mere men they were not. These three friends for days had to trudge through the dreaded Tunnel of Death, battling rodents, bugs and other filthy creatures that seek refuge in the sordid tunnel. These three friends braved the uncomely stink of the tunnel, finding energy where they seemed none, to keep going, to not give up, to find light at the end of their nightmarish tunnel.

    One by one, Darnell’s friends passed on. The first to fall to succumb to the malicious Tunnel of Death was Jugger. As a result of the terrible condition he found themselves in, they had to scoop the filthy water from the grounds of the tunnel and drink. This was the same tunnel that they urinated in that they were forced to drink from in such unsanitary surroundings. Jugger was in excruciating pain, having fallen ill as a result of the horrible living condition he found himself in. His only respite was when he beheld the Angel of Death who came to him and end his sorrows. A peaceful end to a tormented life. His friends could not even carry his corpse because the simply lacked the energy to carry him. Such was the untenable situation they found themselves in.

    The next to fall was Ecklewood, who in order to survive, roasted a stray, dirty rodent with the help of a lighter and devoured it much to Darnell’s disdain. Unfortunately for Ecklewood, shortly after he ran a temperature and soon after, the after effects of eating the rodent proved fatal. With his last words to Darnell, he told him what to do when and if he survived the harrowing ordeal and shortly after, Ecklewood gave up the ghost.

    Left to trudge on alone, Darnell kept going, finding new resolve stemming from his beautiful dreams as well as his desire to survive and deliver Ecklewood’s final instructions. And survive he did! He passed out just as he made it out of the Tunnel of Death, waking up several hours later in a hospital, far, far away from the cursed tunnel that brought him so much pain and sorrow.

    This is a lesson to us all, that even in the face of circumstances that seem like they cannot be conquered, even in the face of problems that seem insurmountable, there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

    A lovely read.

  2. Humanity needs hope, faith to survive life’s challenges – Umana’s new book expounds
    By Elizabeth Osayande

    We often hear this phrase “At the end of the tunnel is light.” But the question is how many of us endure the escapades of the tunnel to reach the end?
    Arranged in a chronological sequence, “The Tunnel of Death” written by Uwen Umana tells the story of the struggle of three best friends: Darnell, Jugger and Ecklewood, whose journey in a tunnel is faced with dark elements of uncertainty; the company of all sorts of creeping creatures and the lack of staple food. In search of a way out, only one of them sees the light in the end of the tunnel.

    The short story highlights the power of self determination, focus and above all hope and faith in the face of daunting tasks- the act of living as exemplify by the only survivor, Darnell.
    While all the three friends have the same challenges of survival, as seen in today’s world irrespective of one’s clime, with humanity being faced with the reality of meeting these needs: food, clothing, shelter and Love which is the nitty-gritty of living;
    Jugger and Ecklewood’s inability to hold up in the midst of the struggle to escape the tunnel make them give up at different stages of their journey.
    So in our quest for the essentials of life, as we stumble, tumble and scramble for everything for survival, for health and for love, the author, through the character of Darnell call on humanity to embrace hope and faith at everything stage of life.
    Umana goes on to point on the power of positive declaration as portrayed in the words of Darnell despite loosing both of his best friends, “I can’t give up now”, he mumbled. “I can’t give up now”, he mumbled again.”

    Another grey area the author raises is the importance of having and understanding the power of dream and vision which give essence and meaning to our existence.
    Darnell’s ability to see in his dream what real life holds spurs him to navigate through in the tunnel.
    Reading through the book “The Tunnel of Death”, although written in a simple style, will have lay readers grapple with some assumed big words as “oesaphagus”, “electrostatics”, “stench” among others.

    However, “The Tunnel of Death” points to the fact that humanity can survive anything if only we hope and have faith.
    In the words of Darnell after coming out of the tunnel, when asked how he survived: “What kept you through those dark hours, Mr. Darnell?”

    “Hope, just hope! I had only one thing left. Faith. I just hoped that by any streak of chance I would make it”.

  3. Oh, wow!

    The Tunnel of Death is another wonderful story of hope, faith and perseverance by the creative Uwem Mbot Uwana, who I can easily refer to as a writer of hope. I love the story. Hope and perseverance are the theme of the story. Putting the tragedies aside, I like the fact that it propelled Darnell to make it through the tunnel, and that he spoke highly of Jugger and Ecklewood.

    Somehow, as the writer didn’t disclose, Darnell and his two friends had found themselves in ‘the tunnel of death’ in deed. It was an awful, tough and life threatening experience, which eventually claimed two lives. Only Darnell had survived. The unhealthy water had infected Jugger, sending him a little earlier with the messenger of death;while a very weary Ecklewood had succumbed to eat a roughly prepared and unhygienic meal, and lost his life as well. Big rats, bugs and uncommon insects happened to be their unwanted companions. Darnell eventually, with his last strength, had gotten to the light area that always exist at the end of every tunnel, and had passed out, only to wake up in an hospital; saved.

    I learnt that hope is very powerful and is capable of sustaining the weakest persons through the worst conditions of life. As long as there is still life, there is hope. Also, perseverance is a great key factor in achieving success. I wouldn’t want to imagine Darnell giving up just at the foot of the saving ladder. That would have been made all the efforts futile, sadly. The moment when we feel the need to give up, where we need to exert the greatest energy of holding on, might just be where victory lies, if only we would make that leap.

    The story is really awesome. The setting is basically in a tunnel of death; the plots, well ordered; and the characters, well defined. And yes, there is enough suspense. I love how the writer personalized death, in the case of Jugger, coming for him. The writer could have told us what led the three men into the tunnel (whether it was quest or coincidence), and more information about the last words of Ecklewood.

    I personally recommend this story to all and sundry, especially those who feels that all hope is lost and are on the verge of giving up. May we all never lose hope! Amen.

  4. Ubong Emmanson
    NOVEMBER 25, 2020 AT 10:43 PM
    This is a test of man’s resilience, determination and commitment to the triumph over life adversaries. It tells of the trials of three companions, drawn together by a common challenge and path. While the story is silent about specific and remote circumstances that drove their will, clearly it demonstrates the reality and inevitability of calamities that accompanyies our existence on earth.
    Now the three friends are thrown into a similar situation, the tunnel which signifies the dark moments of our lives is filled with so many uncertainties and traps however it’s a tunnel and they must all walk through if they are to see the “light”.
    The is no particular reason in the story for the death of the two friends but therein is hidden the mystery and the whole essence of the story. Why did Darnell make it out of the tunnel? Was it luck or something that may have given him physical strength? Truth is all through the story Darnell did not give up on thoughts and in actions. When Jugger couldn’t persevere any longer and gave in to the call of death, Darnell held on, when Ecklehood could no longer persevere and succumbed to the cravings of the body, Darnell stood strong! Darnell could have given up like his friends, after all wasn’t he in the same situation! He didn’t, and that’s why Darnell saw the LIGHT at the end of the TUNNEL.

  5. The Tunnel of Death by Uwem Mbot Umana is a powerful and intriguing literary fiction set mainly in a certain ” tunnel of Death “. It is not just an emotional short story, it is also very motivating and encouraging. Although, most readers may want to classify the story as a tragic story, I see it rather as a rejuvenating story. I love this story. I love it for it’s clear message of hope, I love the way life’s trials are portrayed, I love the soul-reaching power that flows from every word in the story and believe me when I say that I love ALL the characters of this story.
    We are brought into ” The Tunnel Of Death ” to meet a certain man named Darnell struggling through a certain tunnel of Death. Darnell is the last survivor among the three who had been passing through the tunnel of Death. This tunnel of Death is totally horrible just as the name implies. It is dark, filled with stench, infested with rodents and vermin, and filled with the waiting spirit of death. Darnell and his late companions had suffered greatly in this tunnel. There was severe hunger, rodent attacks and zero hygiene. They had to defecate in the same tunnel from which they drank water. Darnell had lost his first companion, Jugger to an infection. It had been a painful experience for Darnell, and his second companion, Ecklewood. They had attempted to keep dragging Jugger’s corpse along but with their low energy level, it had been impossible. Soon after, Ecklewood also gave up the ghost after feeding on a rodent.
    With great pain and difficulty, Darnell trudges on. His hope is thinning and his life is waning but Darnell will not give up. He must live to tell the world about two brave heroes, Jugger and Ecklewood. He must live to see the light that is supposedly at the end of the tunnel. Even though, his mind, the environment, and his health tells him to give up, Darnell’s heart is not ready to give up.
    I love this story for the powerful values and lessons it has. As short as this story is, it is indeed powerful. The Tunnel Of Death portrays life’s trials. Life is not a bed of roses, At some points, we must face trials and tragedies. Life is a battle we must all fight, and in a battle there are bound to be casualties. That is why I love the characters of Jugger and Ecklewood, in a way, I love the fact that the author makes them lose their lives. The author is simply trying to emphasize the fact that in life, there are bound to be losses. Everything would not go smooth and hitch-free. We will meet losses of life, losses of opportunities, losses of properties and losses of many other things in life.
    The death of Jugger and Ecklewood tells us that ” heroes are not just those that survived but are also those who tried “. Just as Darnell is a hero in this story, I believe that Jugger and Ecklewood are also heroes. Remember, not everyone is strong enough to survive some situations, not everyone may survive the war. Jugger and Ecklewood had tried to come this far.
    Now to the main theme in this story, this story loudly and clearly speaks about hope! Hope never leaves you unless you let it go. When you face life’s storms, remember to hope. Hope can be a very powerful force. It is hope that helped Darnell to keep going on. It is hope that pushed him on.
    This story also speaks about resilience. Tough people last tough times. It teaches us to be resilient, dogged and determined in pursuing our goals. Darnell is dogged, he doesn’t let the death of his companions and the horrors of the tunnel to deter him. He presses on. He is determined to achieve his goal. When we have set a goal to achieve, we must not let ourselves be deterred or discouraged by life’s hard cards. It isn’t a lie that determination is a key to success.
    The Tunnel Of Death teaches us to always have hope. When there is life there is hope. It also teaches us to be prepared for life’s hard times, it teaches us to know that there comes a time in a man’s life when it seems like all hope is lost, we must be prepared for this time and not give up hope. It teaches us to be brave, we must be brave to face what comes our way. We must be brave enough to journey through our own ” tunnels of death”. It also teaches us to be strong and resilient.
    This story reminds me of Nature’s Fury by Uwem Mbot Umana in which we meet a woman named Maria and her daughter Juan. Juan had suffered greatly in her childhood but had risen to become successful, then a natural disaster strikes and as the life of her precious daughter hangs in the balance, all Maria can do is hope.
    I am also reminded of another story, Nuremberg – ignited hope still by Uwem Mbot Umana in which we meet Mr. Markus who despite having been frustrated and disappointed still hopes that his time in the middle East would be worth what he came for.
    Again, I’m reminded of yet another story by Uwem Mbot Umana titled For The Love Of A Mother in which we meet Abdul a very dogged and resilient young man who is determined to change his life and his mother’s.
    I believe that the author’s purpose for writing ” The Tunnel Of Death ” is to teach us about hope, to motivate us to be dogged and resilient, and to teach us the fact that trials are a sure part of life. In my opinion, the author fully achieves this purpose.
    This story is set in the fictional ” tunnel of Death ” and is appropriate to the genre. I must note that I really love the way the author describes Jugger’s dying moment. The description was great.
    The characters in ” The Tunnel Of Death ” are well developed. They think, speak, feel and act in very believable and understandable ways.
    The plot of this story is well structured. The story is not predictable and is also suspenseful too.
    The themes of this story include the theme of hope, the theme of hardships and suffering, the theme of bravery, the theme of determination, resilience and doggedness.
    Off course, this story has great lessons and values for it’s readers to harvest and apply to their lives. The author makes use of good literary devices.
    In conclusion, I must say that the author did a wonderful job in writing this story. I enjoyed this story. It was a wonderful read. I recommend it to everyone. This story, as most of Uwem’s stories are, is filled with treasures for you.

  6. This story is basically about the survival of human despite all challenges. At the end, he will see light at the end of the tunnel. When Jugger died it devastated Darnell and Eklewood but there was nothing the both of them could do. They strove hard but luck ran out of Eklewood. He was starved and had to eat something. When he killed the creature and ate it, his temperature rose up and was able to boil an egg. Later, Eklewood died. But Darnell made up his mind to see the end of the tunnel. And he was able to achieve his objective. Even when he was interviewed how he made it through the dark hours, he simply said “hope”. In the same vein, we humans should strive hard to see the light at the end of every tunnel of our lives.

  7. This is the kind of story ascribable to men of steel.It is just that most unfortunately two of the characters in the story died.I have said this because usually we human beings and truly so like to believe that adversities just like Darnell Juggerand Ecklewood passed through are not necessarily to destroy man but to make man strong, the truth of the matter is that not many people are made stronger by it.They may actually be destroyed by it through death as it happened to two characters in the story or become incapacitated through mental illness or debilitating physical illness.It would have helped to know how the three friends got into that tunnel but even then that may not be necessary if we choose to see the dark tunnel as representing any of the tragedies of life that may not be of our own making but nevertheless we have to sort out.This is where the whole story calls for sober reflection.Is this story truthfully the true story of life.Is the story trying to vindicate the claim of Darwin’s natural selection that life in the end is about -Survival of the fittest Will there be any need to think about the care of the weak if after they have done their best to survive they still collapse into a sorrowful outcome.Yes I would love to believe that the story served a good purpose of assuring us that men of steel hope and faith overcome the adversities of life.But I believe there is another side of the story to be considered and it is located in a vital question – Is this the perpetual pattern of living that life has offered man knowing fully well that as sincerely as many men may try even their physical emotional and biological constitutions might not adequately equip them to successfully overcome adversity.So it might just be that the story is challenging the creative thinking of man into the truth of his ability that he does not necessarily have to wait all the time for challenges to come in order to overcome them.He equally has the ability to visualise and anticipate such challenges and be ready for them.This is an important truth that is lacking in the education of man.If we don’t embrace this truth. Iam sorry life will still hang a despondency on all of us because not everybody is physically and psychologically equipped to face that truth that the trials of life are designed to make us strong

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