We all knew about the shortcut that led to the high school. It ran along an old road and through a small tunnel before opening into the large field behind the sports field. As often as it was used to get to school by those who didn’t need another tardy on their record, more often it was used as a path to sneak away from school. The ground was littered with cigarette butts, the leftover stubs of marijuana cigarettes, glass from broken pipes, and even an occasional condom wrapper. Although the path was frequented during the day as soon as twilight came with its deep grays and blues and shadows filled the recesses of the tunnel, the path was not traveled. No one ever admitted they were afraid and there was no recorded incident of violence to keep people away. Instead there was an unspoken knowing that this was not a place to be when darkness fell. Even the most daring would not risk being in the tunnel if the sun was setting. No jokes and teasing that often accompany the fear of forbidden places were spoken of in reference to this space.
When Maria disappeared no one connected it to that place; that dark and wonderful link between here and there. No one wondered if she had walked there as the shadows lengthened because it was a given that no one would dare to. But I knew she had. I had seen her go. I never saw her again. Maybe that’s a good thing.