Guest Post: Life in the Tunnels


A couple of days ago, I posted this excerpt from World of Shadows by Emily Rachelle (purchase it here!) If the excerpt wasn’t enough to interest you in this story, the author herself wrote a guest post describing the world where all this magic takes place–it’s well thought out, magical, intriguing. My review of the book is coming soon!

When Beila investigates her strange recurring dreams, she discovers a society of invisible people living in an enchanted world of connected underground tunnels. Life in the tunnels is an entirely foreign experience to an average New York teenager like Beila.


In the middle of the tunnel world stands a magical garden that astounds Beila. A variety of vegetables and even fruits familiar to the villagers from their lives before the curse grow in this room, the largest in the tunnels. A sizable amount of the villagers’ lives revolves around this garden. Most nutrition comes from the produce, but social life centers in this place as well. Adults meet over cooking fires to tell stories. Children play games in the open patches of dirt. The light similar to the sun does what it can to cheer everyone’s spirits as the years stretch on.

The people can also eat meat and different breads and pastries from rooms in a specific tunnel hallway. Many of these foods were inaccessible to the villagers in their lives before the curse. At first, having such luxuries available made the curse almost seem worth it. As time passed, though, the food became commonplace and no longer made up for the cramped spaces, or lack of freedom and passing time.


One of the worst parts of the curse is the boredom. Magic rooms providing for all your needs may seem amazing, but most the villagers’ lives before the curse were centered on professions to meet needs. Those professions are unnecessary now. Even if villagers wanted to work, the space and materials to do their old jobs aren’t available. Adults have resigned themselves to lives of games, storytelling, and cooking, the only activities available to them. Those who still enjoy craft work might also spend days tearing apart clothing from the little “shop” to design something new, be it a toy or garment or something else entirely. The number of people interested in this hobby varies throughout the years; on the one hand, it provides something new to do, but on the other hand, the results of your work usually vanish by the next morning.

Children do have a few toys. Some of the children owned toys before the curse which came with them to the tunnels. These include dolls and tops. One of the “shops” also contains a few toys, which vanish from wherever they’re left each night and re-appear on the same shelf every morning. Most of the children’s amusement comes from games—races, leapfrog, pretending to be adults, jokes and riddles, hide and seek, tag. Some children enjoy drawing in the dirt with fingers or sticks, as well.


Family units mostly mirror the society the villagers lived in before the curse. The passage of time caused the village’s interactions to change gradually, but these changes affected the larger society more than individual families. Marriage depends more on companionship and support than love or emotion. Parenting is a balancing act between not spoiling children and not being severe. The age determining adults from children is younger than modern American standards, but the distinction between age groups bears little familial or societal significance after years of life frozen in time, unaging.


Most physical needs—food, cleanliness, clothing—the magic meets. Social interaction is therefore the most important part of a villager’s day. The village is a tight-knit community. There is no one leader, and with little change occurring over the years there has rarely been a need for one. It is hard to keep track of the years passing, but the village tries to observe the regular holidays such as Christmas (Noel), Epiphany, and the days of the saints.

As time has passed in the tunnels, the magic has begun to deteriorate. Villagers now need to help keep the garden pruned and organized. Clothing sometimes needs mended and shoes need fixing. These signs of magic deterioration are concerning for the villagers, since the signs indicate the magic keeping the people alive could be fading. The need for these types of work do bring back some of the sense of meaning and usefulness that was present in their lives before the curse, though.

Time passing also caused a societal shift. Family and societal hierarchies faded. Certain key women became vital to the village as a whole, bringing women up to a higher level of importance than before. By the time Beila arrives, most of the village operates in an almost matriarchal style by default, since its most important figures have a female majority. However, gender has little bearing on a person’s position in the village as a whole.


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