At the end of the black tunnel – Part 2

Paulo Coelho


“The worst of it was that I saw Sorin wearing orange overalls and with his head shaven, in a video that was delivered to Al-Jazeera (the Arab channel based in Qatar),” says Cristina. “This was a sign that his execution would take place quite soon.”
“I asked God for only one thing: to die with a bullet in the heart. I had already seen videos of prisoners being decapitated; I asked, begged to be shot,” adds Sorin.
Andrea gives him a kiss. He smiles, asks if I want to stay in that restaurant or if we should go to the only karaoke in Sibiu. I prefer to interrupt the conversation at that point – it was better to go and sing together. Our group gets up, I try to pay the bill but it was “on the house” in homage to the local hero, he who had survived in spite of everything.
On the way to the discotheque, I think about the black tunnel: without wanting to romanticize a dramatic situation, I fell that this happens to everyone. When we are faced with something that really threatens us, it is impossible to look around, although this is the correct and safer procedure. We can’t see clearly, use logic, gather information that can help us and those who try to get us out of that situation. In love and in war we are human, thank God.
We reach the karaoke, drink some more, sing Elvis, Madonna and Ray Charles. Ours is an interesting group: Lacrima, who was abandoned by her mother when she was only two months old. Leonardo, who has just got over a depression that lasted two years. Cristina Topescu, who recently overcame difficult moments. Sorin and his 55 days in captivity, and Andrea, who almost lost the person she loved. And me, with scars all over my body and soul.
And even so we drank, sang and celebrated life. To have friends like these gives me more than hope, it makes me understand that the true survivors will never be victims to their torturers, because they manage to keep alive the most important thing in human beings: joy.
And where there is joy after tragedy, there will always be an example to be followed.

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  1. Dances With Crayons says:

    At the end of the black tunnel…
    I am thinking about my son, who during his high school years, assisted and befriended many young Romanians that had escaped or left their country during very difficult years. Many of these young people could not speak English, so he learned theirs. In many ways, their stories, were not all that different than my own. Although I could not communicate in Romanian, our eyes understood.
    Time and again I am reminded to appreciate every moment in the dance of life; to live each day fully, as if it were the first, and the last. And, to give back to the universe, as best I can. At the end of the black tunnel for all, I pray there be light. Thank you Paulo : )

  2. Irina Black says:

    “I don’t like such season of the year,when joyful songs aren’t welkomed anymore”.(V.Vysotsky)When the joy of Life had gone,people turn into Living Dead.

  3. kealan says:

    I waited until today to comment; so I could read the end of the story! It is a story of survival. I think some of these peoples stories will never be told…

  4. Thank you, Paulo.
    This story touched my heart so deep.
    And thanks, Savita, for sharing such a dramatic event of your life.
    It’s a great lesson.


    Rossana Curri

  5. Monika says:

    I had a similar feeling when the doctor adviced me of my diagnosis three and a half year ago: a fast growing cancer in advanced stage. Operation and chemothreapy followed. One and a half year later I had a recidive and I was operated again. This time I got radiation treatment.

    During my last after care check the doctor said to me, it must be God’s grace I recovered as well. I am not out of danger yet and I still need to take different drugs, but with each year the chance grows to stay healthy.

    Some weeks ago I had a dream. I was caught in a dark tunnel with trains running trough trying to overrun me. Then I met a woman who was walking relaxed through the tunnel. I asked her for a way out. She said it’s no problem I have a train schedule here. The next train comes in half an hour and if you always go in this direction you will get out of the tunnel before. I thanked her and I ran in the direction she showed me. I saw the light becoming brighter and came out. It was a sunny day and I went through a wonderful forrest.

    Whenever I am feeling hopeless I think of this dream. There is always light at the end of the tunnel.

  6. Heart says:

    The happy ending of your black tunnel is wonderful. Yesterday, I saw a group of young children, ‘captured’ in a sad childhood, without all the great support stable parents, stable income and a stable home could give them. A music teacher, playing the piano, had them sing and move, to very happy tones, and he transformed shy and angry little boys and girls into happy confident singing children. The joy expressed in the faces and bodies of the children, was gorgeous. I believe there are videos of them posted on you tube. I’m glad you like to sing, and being with friends joyfully, is the best thing.

  7. Savita Vega says:

    That tunnel: Once, years ago, I lived in the French Quarter in New Orleans, just a couple of blocks north of the every-busy, never-sleeping Bourbon Street. I woke up one morning to go to work and realized that I was out of coffee. It was a little before daylight, but I decided that I would walk to the store, which was only about four blocks away, on the other side of Bourbon Street. So, I left my boyfriend sleeping in the apartment and headed out to the store. Bourbon Street was alive and pumping as usual, but when I crossed it, I noticed a man at the corner, leaning with his back against the wall. He was eyeing me in a particularly intense fashion, but I really didn’t think much of it. I just thought, “Oh, he’s drunk,” and went on about my business. I went to the store, bought coffee and few other items, which filled a couple of small bags, then headed back home. But when I crossed Bourbon Street, there he was again. This time, on the opposite corner, still leaning with his back to the wall, still glaring at me. As I walked by, carrying my grocery bags, he fell in behind me. But he was far enough back that I was able to discount this. At first, I thought, “He’s following me,” but then I thought, “No, that’s ridiculous. Don’t be paranoid! He’s probably just going home. He probably lives down this street.” So, I kept walking, and he kept walking, but never gaining on me – always keeping just far enough behind me that I could justify his presence in my mind. But then, when I reached the front doorstep to my apartment building, I had to set down my bags in order to reach the door key which was in my pocket. When I did this, he caught up with me, but he walked past me. He was so smart! He knew exactly what he was doing! He took just about three steps past my door, just enough for me to let out a sigh of relief and let down my guard, then, in the next second he was on me. I never saw his face. I had long hair and it was up in a ponytail. All I knew was that in one second I was fumbling for the key, and in the next second he had me from behind by my ponytail and there was a knife under my chin, biting into my throat. His mouth was by my ear and he said something like, “Don’t say a word or I’ll….” but I didn’t wait to hear the rest – I flung my whole body forward against the panel of doorbells to the right of the door, punching them all, at once, with both hands, and, at the same time, let out a scream louder and longer than I would have ever dreamed possible – a scream that came not from my vocal cords but from some primal place deep within me.

    But the strange thing was that, in the moment that I felt that blade against my throat, time stopped. Or, at the very least, time became something else other than the substance I was accustomed to – it became not a linear succession of events but an eternity stretching out in every direction. The tunnel! Everything was happening at once, and yet nothing was happening, at least nothing that I expected to happen, like my boyfriend or my neighbors waking up and coming to the door to save me. No light came on in any window. No door opened in front of me or behind me. No one stuck their head out a window to see what was happening down below in the street. Surrounded by literally hundreds of people – all the people in all the apartments around, the whole multitude jumping and bumping just a block and a half away on Bourbon Street – and I was completely ALONE, just me and this man with this knife. In retrospect, this is the thing that impressed me the most and the thing that I will never forget – just how alone I was from the moment that I felt that knife at my throat. Everyone else, all the people sleeping or drinking their morning coffee just a few feet away, behind those walls – they might as well have been a million miles away, because even if they heard me scream and thought, “What is that?” by the time they decided to get up and look and actually made it to the door, it was all going to be too late. I was going to be dead.

    Luckily, by some chance, there was one other person on that street, a stranger who was up ahead of us several blocks. I didn’t see this man, and can only suppose that my attacker didn’t see him either – perhaps he had just rounded a corner as the whole thing happened. All I knew was that suddenly the knife disappeared and, when I turned to see where it had gone, I saw my attacker standing behind me on the street, but not looking at me at all. He was in a defensive position, looking at the man who was running head-long toward him. Just in that moment, the man who was running toward him, reached down, snatched up a bottle from the gutter, broke it on the curb and came at him like a mad man. For a moment, they were face to face – the one wielding the knife, the other with the broken bottle. Then the man with the bottle took a stab at the man with the knife and the man with the knife turned and ran. I stood there in utter silence and disbelief as the man with the bottle chased the man with the knife down the street and out of sight around a corner.

    Just then, when everything was over – when I could have been dead ten times already – lights came on in the windows up above and the front door popped open: two neighbors, followed by my sleepy-eyed boyfriend, all asking, “What’s going on out here?! Are you okay?” After another moment or two, the man with the bottle returned, this time without the bottle, huffing and puffing. “He got away!” he announced, all out of breath. “Thank you!” I began. I felt I couldn’t possibly thank him enough, but before I could even finish expressing my gratitude, something else happened that made the whole thing seem even more surreal. He said, “You wouldn’t happen to have a dollar on you, would you, Ma’am? I’m really hungry.” If I had had a thousand dollars on me in that moment, I would have given him every penny and left feeling that I still owed him much much more. I pulled out everything that I had left in my pocket from the trip to the grocery store and pressed it into the palm of his hand.

    Two things I learned from that incident: One is that, in general, we have a false sense of safety when we feel that we are surrounded by other people, such as in a public place or only a couple of blocks away from a busy street, but that false sense of safety is just that – false! We must be ever attentive to the clues that we notice in our surroundings and if, at any moment, we sense danger, we must act quickly and decisively, defensively and/or evasively. Secondly, that poor man, possibly even homeless, risked his life to save me, a complete stranger, and for no other reason than that it seemed the right thing to do. I don’t think that he did it for money; I don’t think he ever thought about asking for money until it was all over. There wasn’t time for that sort of premeditation – he just acted on impulse, guided by the innate goodness in his heart. Since that day, every time I see a homeless person or a person begging on the street, I see that man’s eyes reflected in their face. I don’t think about how they got themselves into that situation – I don’t judge in this way – I just think about all the goodness of which that person might be capable, even heroic deeds that we wouldn’t necessarily expect.

    Thank you for sharing with us your story, Paulo. I am so glad that you are here with us to tell it! You are, indeed, an amazing example to us all. The little incident that I went through was nothing in comparison your experience or the experiences of those like Sorin. Yet, you are always so full of positive energy and so willing to share your sense of joy with the world. Thank you!


    1. Thank u Savita for sharing your touching experience with us. A tear is still running down my face.. I cried reading your story it really touched my heart.


  8. I love it, the story touched me. We all face sooner or later a black tunnel in our life. This experience make us strong, make us realize that we can survive that we are much stronger than we think we are. It also teach us to appreciate life and enjoy it to the fullest

  9. THELMA says:

    ‘In love and in war we are human, thank God’!!

    We are at the mercy of our .. sentiments. We see everything through .. ‘magnifying glasses’. We are either in Hell or Paradise.. Thank God, this does not last.. Although I would prefer the ‘in LOVE’ situation to be a permanent one and be always full of joy, in ecstasy, to last for ever..

  10. aditya says:

    Hi !

    moments of acute fear have a tendency to paralyze us, stun us, and we cannot see clearly. living through, surviving ( insa allah ! ) these moments is what gives depth to one’s being.

    “with scars all over my body and soul” paulo now that u are not in that state where one is ‘paralysed’ and u have moved a long way ( vertically up ;-) ) from then, how do u see those expereinces, do u see the connection between those expereinces and your ‘wisdom’

    PS : if u so wish u may answer this question in your question answer section.

  11. Maggie says:

    This is beautiful.Thank you.

  12. Carolena says:

    Nice story dear Paulo, must be fiction though, reality is hardly ever like that. Although if I’m not wrong, you did draw from your days of torture. Happy endings are always sweet!
    Thank you dear Paulo for sharing this wonderful story with us!
    Much love.

  13. sido says:

    Sous nos yeux, chaque jour, la misère est féconde.
    Car, toujours, accablé des maux de l’existence,
    L’on s’abreuve des fruits de la concupiscence.
    Ainsi, aux flots du mal, la rive en pleurs abonde.

    Alors, pour expier ces honneurs í  l’entour,
    Voltigeant sur des eaux de sagesse éternelle,
    Allons, chantant des airs d’amitié fraternelle,
    De l’amour du pouvoir au pouvoir de l’amour.

    Puis, sachant qu’í  jamais tous les hommes sont frères,
    Faisons que notre envie, pur ce but, croí®t sans cesse.
    Et taisons parmi nous ces inhumaines guerres

    Ailleurs gaie violence ! Ailleurs folle avanie !
    Ailleurs tous ces foyers de l’ardente détresse !
    í” vie toute de joie, de paix et d’harmonie !

    Auteur :
    Hermann Emmanuel KINGUE
    Etudiant í  l’Université de Yaoundé

    Under our eyes, each day, poverty is fruitful.
    Because, always, overwhelmed from the ills of existence,
    it is abreuve for fruit of lust.
    Thus, the streams of evil, the shore in tears abounds.

    Then, to atone these honors in the surrounded,
    Voltigeant over waters of wisdom eternal,
    come on, singing airs of fraternal friendship,
    of the love of power in power of love.

    Then, knowing that never all men are brothers,
    doing our desire, pure this goal, is steadily increasing.
    And silent among us these inhuman wars

    Elsewhere gay violence ! Elsewhere folle avanie !
    Elsewhere all of these outbreaks of the ardent distress !
    í” life any of joy, peace and harmony!

    Author : Hermann Emmanuel KINGUE Student at the University of Yaoundé

    1. Olivier à Nantes (France) says:

      Merci sido pour ce joli texte
      Preuve si il en était besoin que l’écrit reste un des fondements pour communiquer avec nos contemporains d’ici et d’ailleurs, apprendre de nos anciens et transmettre aux prochains.
      Les dictateurs commencent leur oppression par museler la presse et bruler les livres.
      Protégeons notre planète, et la liberté d’expression
      Je t’embrasse
      Thank you “Sido” for this wonderfull text.

  14. Alexandra says:

    How beautiful….

  15. At the end of the black tunnel … joy, a deep inside feeling of gratitude and of recognizance that if I had the gift of staying alive, of living today, of having passed the painful moments, agonies, that I have to transmit my knowledge, my experiences … be the one for the other while he goes through the tunnel, be it physically or spiritually. Like you, Mr. Coelho, when I have scars, but which are not so more at risk of being opened again, since I asked, searched and knocked to understand them, to give them the necessary healings. And yes, sometimes, when it is the black tunnel, (a moment that comes more and more rarely now in my life), I pray God to give me the courage to pass it, the force to stay there, and His love and His understanding of what is happening, to put a little light in that tunnel … now, the light comes more rapidly … no, I see it now always at the end of the tunnel, where before I did not. And yes, I first of all thank God for He never let me go, and I thank me for being a child that believed in His Love, His will for me, “just for me”, a child that passed to action, that did not want no more to stay of victim but to become a “victim” now responsible of her choices, of taking responsibility of her decisions, of healing in relations what had to be healed. One year ago, I had more black tunnels, panic attacks, etc … than I have today. And yes, joy is there now as I write it, a inner joy!