He’d been running in the cold Las Vegas night for two hours now. He had no money or a way to contact his friends.
Lost in the underbelly of the Las Vegas strip, and sure that the group of men was still following him, he took a quick turn down a flight of stairs. A gaping tunnel stood ready to receive him. Fearing for his life, he ran inside. He couldn’t have guessed what was waiting for him.
Adrian had always been a good and responsible man. At twenty-six, he’d finished grad school and was on his way to a coveted promotion at work.
So when he found himself stranded in Las Vegas and with a mob of men chasing him, he couldn’t believe how everything had changed so quickly.
For Adrian, life was simple. He’d wake up each morning knowing what he would do throughout the day. He’d always worked on a set schedule, with no spontaneity in his life.
When his friends suggested spending a weekend in Las Vegas, Adrian saw the spontaneity in the plan. He saw this as the perfect way to let out some steam after all the work he’d been doing. He had no clue what was waiting for him.
Adrian and his friends packed for their trip and landed in Sin City in the next three hours. As one of the many rules they’d set for themselves, they wouldn’t be visiting any big hotels and casinos.
The group did a tour of the Strip and chose a hole inside a wall bar to spend their time. Unknown to Adrian, the longest night of his life was about to begin.
The afternoon blew by fast for Adrian and his friends. By evening, they’d burned through most of the activities they set out to do.
The evening started well for them, with more activities seemingly appearing out of nowhere. As Adrian’s friends had predicted, this day was one to remember. But as nighttime loomed in, trouble began brewing.
A scuffle broke out on the next table from Adrian and his friends. Interested in the commotion, one of Adrian’s friends shot a seemingly harmless comment to the table.
The glare the friends received was not friendly. The men from the table shot to their feet, and one of Adrian’s friends uttered something that made them charge.
“Sore losers,” Adrian’s friend, who’d spent the day knocking back glass after glass, slurred. The chase that ensued landed Adrian alone on the underbelly of the Strip.
He couldn’t remember where he’d left his phone or which hotel they’d checked into before visiting the bar. Then he saw the men step on the street, their black suits molded around their bodies and their eyes burning with anger.
“That’s one of them,” one shouted, and they started after Adrian. Adrenaline fired through his veins as he broke into a sprint. Adrian took any corners that came to sight, quickly finding himself in one of Las Vegas’s lonely backyards.
It was some hours past midnight, and Adrian knew the men would find and hurt him if he stopped. He was running out of options when he spotted the tunnel.
Adrian dashed into the tunnel, the darkness swallowing him whole. His heartbeat blurred in his ears, his footsteps echoing through the tunnel.
He was far into the black tunnels when his foot caught on something, sending him tumbling into the cold concrete. He yelped, pain wending up his foot. Something wrapped around his wrist, and he froze when he realized what it was.
Chilling fear mixed with the pain burning through Adrian as he gawked at the hand wrapped around his wrist. A match struck in the darkness, and he scrambled back.
“Relax,” an elderly voice said, the light from the match shining on a friendly face that stared down Adrian. The man went on one knee, seemingly assessing Adrian’s foot. What he said next made Adrian’s brows knit.
“You’re hurt,” the man observed. “I have a first aid kit.” He struck another match and hovered it over a lamp before offering a hand to Adrian.
“The others won’t be as kind,” he said, beckoning with his fingers. “I’m sure the ones chasing after you won’t be either.” Adrian’s eyes darted from where he’d come from to this man. Could he trust him?
Adrian took the man’s hand, limping into what looked like a camp. His jaw slackened when he realized hundreds of eyes were trained on him.
Tents and furniture dotted the extensive tunnel, with the residents sleeping or chatting with each other. Adrian froze with awareness. How could so many people be here so late at night? Then he realized something.
The people living down here weren’t a handful but an entire civilization. Would anyone believe Adrian when he shared his story?
Adrian was still pondering the implications of his discovery when the man came above him. A first aid kit gleamed in his hand, and a smile spread across his face. What he would share would break Adrian’s heart.
“I know what you’re thinking,” the man began as he dressed Adrian’s foot. “How could there be so many people under an entire city?” He chuckled, ”Life can be funny sometimes.”
“Some of us had jobs, homes, and families. But all that changed. Life is fickle.” He wrapped Adrian’s leg, adding, “These parts aren’t safe even for us. There are criminals and poisonous insects everywhere. Be careful where you venture.”
Adrian spent the night in the camp before reuniting with his friends in the morning. He had the wildest story to tell, having listened to the man throughout the night.
He learned that for many of the people living in those tunnels, the battles of life landed them where they were. But they were doing everything they could to rise again. For Adrian, that was enough. He’d do anything in his power to help.