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Author Topic: Jenna's writing storage area  (Read 746 times)
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Jenna Silverbirch
Wandering Storyteller
Approved Character
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Gender: Female
Posts: 562

Hafling, Dogodan

« on: September 20, 2009, 12:55:56 AM »

Important note: This is where I shall post my writing, to keep my main creations page uncluttered for any comments. If you'd like to make a comment, head over here.

-Jenna  heart


The world’s so full of wonder, it’d be a shameful waste to live without seeing as much of it as you could’ve.
Jenna Silverbirch -  Burrow by the Sea - Jenna's hobbit hole
Jenna's Creations
Jenna Silverbirch
Wandering Storyteller
Approved Character
Offline Offline

Gender: Female
Posts: 562

Hafling, Dogodan

« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2009, 01:07:09 AM »



A fear of the dark

im an urban legend.

im the bone-rattler, the skull-smasher, the shadow-lurker, the teeth-chatterer. oho, yes, all of them is me. now you might think they is high n mighty statements much much puffed up but i can reassure you little friend they is all true. what reason does i have to lie now hmm?
so you must be askin yourself what manner of beastie is i? well now i could not tell you that little friend. even i could not tell you that, for its a tricksy thing to be explainin an I don’t have time nor words nor likin to do so. watch and wait, my little friend.
watch me now.
i slip through a gap in the wall and im away. up, up, up the walls n through the shadows in the deep streets where theres none to see me go. i stalk. i slide. i spill like as mercury down over the roof of a lektric house n land to scuttle longways round the backplaces, up closer to the great stations where all them creakin clankin beasties rise n land n rise again, oh how loud an ugly they is my little friend, with all them fleshy figures scurryin bout them, fixin an climbin board them or off them or else just looking. what will I be finding here hmm? now I’m really speedin through the dark spaces, up n away, up n away. looksee all the places flashin by, the bone yards n charnel houses n shiny lektrik places cracklin n the blackest corners n the filth oh the filth everywhere n high rich places n neon lit chambers full of rows of  brightest boxes where they’s scrabblin to reach the lastest pack. around my dark spaces all is sound an rush yet i is cuttin through it all, a razor, a scalpel, a white noise in the airways.

By the time Sig had disembarked, checked out, convinced the baggage-depot guard that yes, this was his equipment and luggage and no, he would really rather prefer it if they left the port intact, and was sitting in the docking post’s dismal noodle bar holding a polystyrene cup full of tepid liquid and unidentifiable meat, he had decided today was going to be unpleasant. By the time he was finally out of the port, pulling his luggage behind him in a floating trunk, running to try and catch a taxi, he was certain it would be. His feelings were all but confirmed when he was beaten to the taxi by another luggage-laden traveller and it promptly began to rain.
Once I get a gut feeling, I am rarely wrong, he thought to himself, striding though the downpour. Today is going to be extremely unpleasant.
The city looked even worse in the rain. Here in the lower level half the shop signs were missing and beggars and tramps crouched in the alley spaces, shapes in the darkness. The rain heightened scent, so it was hard to breathe without gagging at the stink of raw sewage. He  was glad when he reached the lift up to the covered streets, where at least it was dry and clean, even if the men and women, many grossly obese, eyed him suspiciously from behind shop fronts and along wide metal pavements twisting through the straight, neat streets. For a moment he wished he’d had time to change, but there was little point wishing. It didn’t change anything. Only actions could do that. He was clearly an offworlder. His two piece grey bodysuit, so much sleeker than anything worn here down earthside, told them all that. It hardly helped that he was soaked through, but there were more important things to worry about than the impression he gave.
Half an hour later and he stood outside the Terra-bright™ headquarters, a tall smooth building whose metal structure gleamed even in the grey light of the rain clouds. All the employee vehicles in the tiered vehi-park beside the building were new models from expensive hover-car manufactures, he noted. The tower itself stood at the head of a square, planted with artificial trees, where the city was laid out like a fetid map before him, clearly visible through the glass encasing the street. He glanced out, saw the way the covered streets stood in contrast to the tangled slums below them, tubes and bubbles of glass joining  and splitting apart in neat 90 degree angles, with the high rise complexes towering like sentinels above them, monoliths in the sea of the slums. The covered streets reminded him very much of an old map he’d seen in a museum, from when Old London had just been London, of the trains that ran beneath the surface of the city.
But he was already two minutes late.
He climbed the building’s steps and watched the hydraulic doors slide back, taking more interest in the door’s mechanism than the archaic logo stamped across it - that of two crossed spades.

“Gosh, you’re punctual.” said the secretary, chewing bovinely on some gum as she turned to her computech screen. “Most ‘f the techeads we get in, they’re always late.”
“Actually it’s three and a half minutes after I was told to arrive,” said Sig. The secretary’s eyebrows raised, but she didn’t comment.
“Yeah, so. Um, I need your name and some identification just so we can check you’re really our man and all that.”
He nodded and handed her his data chip. “I’m Richard Sigismund.”
“Richard?” her voice oozed incredulousness.
“It’s my name.” said Sig. His name being laughed at was one of  the few things that really got on his nerves. “the family name. Passed down through generations for hundreds of years. It’s just a little old. It’s perfectly English.”
“Fine.” her plucked eyebrows arched again, as she inserted the chip, scanned the profile that flashed up on the screen before handing it back to him. “Yeah, that’s all chill, so you can head up to your room or whatever. You know where you’re working, right?”
“The mines, yes?”
“Well yeah. Want your keys?”
“Yes, please. Ah- do you know if I’ve been brought in to deal with something confidential?”
“Uhm. You’d have to ask Mr. Peters or someone bout that. But I shouldn’t think so. Why?”
“Because companies usually hire techeads when they’ve got something to hide.”

The accommodation the company had provided was, in Sig’s eyes, adequate. Nowhere near as bad as some of the rooms he’d been holed up in. It was clean and light, if a little sparse, and he had a workbench where he could lay out all his tools. He was just contemplating heading back out onto the streets to find some real food, towelling his hair dry, when the room’s com.-set rang. Almost as soon as he picked it up an excited, breathless voice burst from the speaker. He turned the volume down a little and listened, waiting for the video link to load.
“Hi! I’m Reks. Your partner. I do surveying and checks and stuff down the mines so the companies’ assigned me to you for this job. Leena said you were in your rooms. You’re there, aren’t you? Hello?”
“Hello.” said Sig, smiling.
“Rich-ard Sigsimund? asked the voice as the video link fizzed and the face of a man in his twenties’, a few years younger than Sig, flashed up on the screen, bright eyed and grinning. Sig wasn’t sure, but he thought by his accent the man was a Merican.
“Yep. Call me Sig. Have you got any info on this project?”
“Uh-I’ve got files-” Reks’ grin widened. “But I was thinking...I’m down in the lobby, so if you like we could meet by the doors and go and find some lunch. Talk it all over.”
Now, this seems less unpleasant, thought Sig.
“That sounds lovely.”
“Great! See you in a few, then.”
“Yes. Goodbye, Reks.”
He terminated the transmission, and went to collect his coat.

oh my little friend, how i is speeding.
this is life. this is light, this is power an this is freedom. if I stops I shall surely sink back into dark dark fear where all is noise, oh so much noise it makes my body quiver, all them foul evil stinks that drives into me till I is cryin inside.
but what is this?
what is this?
what does i smell?
i pause, sniff, n turns back. quick, quick, before that delicious smell is gone I must catch it find it snatch it feast-
here it is, that smell. i pause again n sit on the glass like a great sly fly. in there. in there is he, my new prey. now this is glorious. i has a hunt to be about, little friend. im gone, slid down the side into the underbelly so the huntin may begin.

Sig found Reks leaning against the desk at the centre of the wide lobby, where Leena the secretary still lolled in her chair.
“Hey” said the Merican, grinning as much as he had over the com.-set.
“Hello.” The two young men shook hands.
“You been in Old London much?” asked Reks, moving away from the counter.
“No, not really.”
“Well, then. Want to head to the Cherry Blossom? Japanese food.”
“I’m sure you know the best places.”
Sig was glad to leave the Terra-bright building. It was all very well-presented and tasteful, yet there was something unpleasant about it. Oppressive, that was the word.
For a while the men walked in companiable silence. Reks, a foot shorter than Sig, kept glancing up at him, and when he caught Sig’s eye he’d grin. Sig was very much reminded of an overlarge puppy, cheerful and desperate to please.
“Off worlder, huh?” said the Merican, scanning Sig’s smart outfit. “You come down here much?”
“I was born here, actually, this very city. But my family left when I was six, for the Britannia colonies. I’ve been earthside for a year now, though. I had some jobs in the Asias, headed back to the GreenElm colonies for a month, then docked here this morning. What about you?”
“Born in the Mericas, raised in Mericas and been living in the city for four years now. Working for Terra-bright the past two. I’ve only been off to the colonies once, and that was just the ones on the moon!” His grin became sheepish. “ You must think I’m some dumb earthbound salary man, huh?”
“Not at all. Did you like the colonies? Honestly.”
Reks laughed nervously. “Well…not really. It’s all kinda...artificial, y’know?  
“Not kinda. It is artificial.”
Reks laughed again, with more confidence.
“That is true. See, I mean, down here we got freak weather, we got flooding, we got pollution so bad we’re all drugged up with the old folks coughing to death- you know the Hunan province got classified inhospitable last month? Refugees all coming into Old Hong-Kong-but I mean, this is home.” He indicated the cityscape beyond the curved glass wall, where huge ships and smaller vehicles sailed through the ocean of smog above the buildings, sometimes dipping down into the lights of the high rise complexes. Like fish, Sig thought, swimming through a drowned city. Reks continued: “ This is were we belong. We screwed up and now we’re paying, Why should we run off into space where we do piss-all all day, no use to anyone? Ah, geez, I’ve gone off on one. Sorry, I just-”
“No, don’t apologise. If you have views, stand up for them.”
“Hey, thanks. But they’re kinda more the view of the whole earthbound population than my personal opinion. Oh, and here we are.”
The Cherry Blossom turned out to be a small restaurant with mock Japanese décor, diner-booths and an alarmingly friendly waiter. So far the politest man Sig had met in Old London had very briefly made eye contact and grunted when Sig had asked his way to the nearest lift.
Once everything was ordered, Reks produced a docu-reader, slid a memory card into it and waited for the screen to load.
“Here” he said, handing  it across the table to Sig. “There’s problems in the lower shafts. Pitfalls, equipment failures. They want you to head down there and take a look at it all.”
Sig raised his eyebrows as much as Leena had.
“I’m not a labourer. Or a pit pony.”
“Well, they seem to be expecting us to go down there and get our hands dirty.”
“Hm. Sounds suspicious.” Sig scanned the details of the problem - there was info that should have been sent up from the pits to the offices simply disappearing mid line, even though the connection cable was still working and unbroken, the collapses and failures even though there was no fault in the power supply. No source or cause could be identified. Things simply went wrong and broke down. Whoever or whatever was tampering with the lines left no trace they could identify.
“It does sound suspicious, doesn’t it? Hey, thanks-” Reks accepted their food and Sig began eating straight away. It was perfectly edible, which made it several hundred times better than the noodles he’d eaten earlier.
“Look like a hacker” said Sig between mouthfuls of rice. “Some kind of sabotage. Possibly internal. But very suspicious..”
As the saying goes, trust a hacker to catch a hacker, he thought. We know each other’s habits and can smell another’s tracks a mile off. No doubt that’s why they hired a techead.
“We’ve had a few protesters recently.” said Reks. “Folks complaining that we’re hardly doing the environment a favour by tunnelling miles down for minerals to synthesise and ores to convert. Could be them.”
“It’s likely” said Sig, draining his glass of water. “But I thought since that research was published - showing that mining did comparatively little damage - and produced fuels that negated it’s impact - the envi-mentalists calmed down.”
“Yeah, but there’ll always be a few who want us to go back to living in mud huts.” Reks rolled his eyes. “So, how ‘bout we meet at the shaft tomorrow? Eight o clock. You can assess the situation.”
“Definitely. In the entrance hall?”
Reks nodded. “I’ll see you there.”
The conversation turned to inconsequential things. By the time the two young men left the Cherry Blossom and parted, Sig had decided he rather liked Reks, and the day hadn’t been so unpleasant after all.

That night, up in  his little room in the Terra-bright building, Sig slept uneasy. Maybe it was the new surroundings, but he doubted that. He could sleep anywhere, easily. As a boy, his mother had often found him curled up at the top of the stairs, in cupboards and often out in the artificial garden. He liked sleeping in different places.
Inside the covered streets there was no weather, no wind or rain to disturb him. Any noise of the storm far off, outside the glass, was brief and it was only when he lay completely still that he heard anything at all.
Yet the uneasiness remained. He felt distinctly uncomfortable - not a physical thing, a mental discomfort. It was almost, but not quite, like fear. Not sharp enough to be fear. Besides, he was a rational man brought up in a world of science and artificial light to illuminate the night time streets and halls. He dismissed it and tried to ignore it.
But the feeling remained.
A man born in past millennia would have recognised it well: the primeval, gut knowledge that he was being watched.

When Sig descended the next morning, equipment bag on his back and the memory of his restless night already fading, he found a small crowd gathering in the lobby. They appeared to be huddled around a middle-aged woman, in the mining company’s uniform, who was on her knees, crying like a child.
“Hey- hey-” a man, possibly her friend was patting her shoulder in some desperate attempt to calm her, when Sig approached. “I’m sorry, but-”
“No no no” bawled the woman “It happened again, it happened again-”
Sig was naturally inquisitive, and he had half and hour to get to the mine. He could wait ten minutes.
“Excuse me-”
A young woman in the same one piece uniform as the older woman turned to face him, frowning slightly.
“What’s happened?”
“Yuni’s son has been killed. In the mines. She only found out a minute ago.” The young woman turned back to watch the grieving mother with indifferent eyes.
“Don’t you see, don’t you see” the woman had calmed a little, and was shaking her head, desperate. “No don’t you see- it was- he was- he wasn’t- it wasn’t an accident-” she took a breath and when she spoke next, her voice was very quiet. “It was them.”
The crowd murmured, company employees turning to whisper to each other. There was questioning on the faces of some, fear on most.
“They made him go down into the Fracture area. Right down past level sixty-six.” the woman continued, quite steady now but with fury at the back of her voice. “so they took him.”
Sig’s curiosity burned.
“Ah, ma’am… who took him?”
 The glare he got in response from the woman was so icy he couldn’t help look away.
“Oh don’t mind him” said Leena the secretary with a sneer. She had been leaning over her desk, avidly watching. “He’s just an offworlder”
The crows turned to stare at him with just as much ice  as the grieving woman. Sig tried to think of a response, decided that would only make things worse, and turned to leave.
Some bright spark shouted after him “Yeah, clear off back to your shiny spaceship!” The crowd jeered.
In a way, he timed his exit well, as soon after some personage from  the higher offices came down to see what was causing all the fuss, and order the workers back to work.

It took only twenty minutes to reach the mines, on the very outskirts of the city, travelling on the hyperline.
He could smell the mines before he was in sight of them. A sulphurous, chemical smell, metallic too, and with a faint edge of sewage. The ground was flat, so he could not see the pit, only the low, ugly buildings by their side, in front of him, yet he had a sense of the space beyond. He could almost feel the great hole in the earth, just out of his sight.
The wide entrance hall of the mine’s building was far shabbier and darker than the company buildings had been. But then he supposed normally only the workers would see it. There was little point trying to impress.
Reks was easy enough to find. Apart from the receptionist, who glanced once at Sig and paid him no further attention, he was the only one there.
“Hey!” said Reks, coming towards Sig, grin wider than ever. “I signed in for you.” He jerked his thumb towards the receptionist.
Reks lead the way, through a small unlabeled door and down empty corridors reeking of that same chemical odour.
“You okay?” said Reks, giving Sig one of his sideways glances.
“Yes. Well.” Sig told him, briefly, of the woman in the lobby.
After his story, Reks was disconcertingly quiet.
“Reks?” Sig glanced down at him and saw his grin had vanished. His lips moved slightly as if trying to work something tricky out. “Had you heard about his death?”
“What? Oh.” Reks blinked hard, and his grin returned. “No, I hadn’t. That woman was probably Yuni Aaldenburg. The whole family’s in the company. She lost her other son, last week, in the mine. With Reiss dead…” he mouthed numbers, silently counting “that makes thirty-one we’ve lost down there over the last two years. Though most of them’ve  been in the last what- six, seven months. Not good.”
“Funny they didn’t mention deaths on the file” said Sig, sarcastic.
“The big guys up top want to keep it quiet. I mean, not good publicity if the media find out there’re folks dying and disappearing. It’s a wonder it hasn’t already, not properly. It’s fair enough.”
“Mm. So- how do they die?”
“Like I said, some disappear and never show up again. Some we find. Always dead. Normally it’s from heart attack -but our workers are healthy guys- or it’s from electrocution, if they’re near failed equipment or bots. But recently...a few have been turning up with pretty nasty injuries. Like they got attacked by animals. And, we always find them in the deepest parts of the mine. It goes miles down, you know.”
Sig considered this information with slight annoyance. He disliked puzzles that could not be immediately solved by logic or knowledge of science and technology.
“Reassuring.” he said. “But what about ‘they took him’. Do you know who she meant?”
Reks stopped in front of heavy metal doors with a keypad set beside them. Then he turned to face Sig. His expression was serious.
“Up in the colonies I guess your mama never read you fairy tales or told you stories. Well down here, we keep all that going. Oh, you’d be surprised by how superstitious we all are. There’s a story going round the workers that there’s something lurking in the deep shafts.
“What, exactly?”
“They don’t say.”
“Do you believe it?”
“A part of me does. Until you solve this mystery for us, mister techead, we don’t have any other explanations.”
He keyed in a long sequence, bent to have his eye scanned, and the doors slid back to reveal the stinking, sprawling mass of the Old London Pit.

hello there, my little friend. welcome to my humble abode. make yourself at home. whats mine is yours, i am not worthy of your presence, ono guests first eksetera eksetera.
here in the dark i am safe an snug with no screamins to bother me. here i can be layin my trap an waitin. for waitin is the most important part of a hunt, o yes.
my web is large and it shall catch me a juicy little fly.

For most of the journey down the open centre of the pit, the two young men were silent. Not because of any cold feelings, but because Sig was marvelling at the feat of engineering, the colossus of industry that was the Old London Pit.
Once they’d passed the security and stepped into the open topped lift down, a bodyguard either side, Sig was free to stare. The central pit was essentially a gigantic hole in the ground, measuring at least half a mile across. It was covered in walkways and lifts like theirs, bars of metal and ladders coating it’s surface, connecting to make one great network, that from a distance looked like the circulatory system of some steel giant. Workers scurried over this framework, with the automated machines gliding smoothly along their tracks around the frame. The humans and machines -tiny specks to Sig- although they moved differently, were much the same in their patterns of movement, ascending, descending, stooping at checkpoints and booths and eventually disappearing into the dark cavities, honeycombed across the pit, leading into the earth and the true mines.
It was so different to the Terra-bright headquarters. So noisy, so chaotic and full of life, so dark and filthy and earthy, where the building that controlled it all from afar was clean and orderly and very lifeless.
“You like it then?” yelled Reks over the whir of the lift engine and the wind.
“It’s beautiful!” Sig shouted back, leaning over the wall round the platform.
“Oh yeah?”
“Yes! Extraordinary. Quite extraordinary!” One of the guards sniggered. Sig ignore him.
“I guess it is. Well, we’ll stop at the level twenty-three office. It’s the last place with direct access to the main server. From there…we’ll see what you find, I guess.”
Sig looked up and saw they were already more than a mile down. Electric light was fast replacing the sun’s grey morning rays. He felt exhilarated, and was itching to begin his work. Already his mind was racing along possible options, possible solutions and methods and he could visualise the world of wire and signal and communication laid out beneath the surface of everything in here, waiting for him to tap into it.
Reks grinned at him, and he grinned back twice as wide.

Miles down, Sig clicked :‘retry’. Nothing happened. He tried to wave the cursor. It wouldn’t move.
Reks had been sitting at the back of the dingy office, beside a furiously typing, thin clerk.
“It’s frozen!”
“I said the computer has frozen! I haven’t even started working and the damn thing’s frozen!”
“What? Look, come over here, I can’t hear you over that drill-”
Sig was tempted to throw one of his devices, little tools he’d constructed from scratch to open and pry into and uncode any machine, carefully unpacked and laid out beside the tiny office’s master tech-unit. He resisted, stood up, walked to the Merican and repeated himself.
“Huh. That normally happen?” this last sentence was addressed to the clerk.
“Sometimes.” said the clerk, still typing. “It’s a very old model. Be patient.”
All Sig’s frustration had turned to jarring annoyance. He groaned, and the sound of the drill above them cut off.
“Thank God for that!” said Reks. Sig sat back down, clicked retry again. The screen flickered, and the page he had been trying to access began to load.
That was when all the lights went out.

For along time there was only silence
Sig could hear his every breath, every heartbeat and pulse. He could feel the blood pumping through his toes and thumbs and in his ears. But he could see absolutely nothing.
Finally he dared to speak into the blackness.
No answer.
Still no answer.
He stood. Uncertain, arms held before him like a newly blind man, he took a few steps and hit his shin on a low table. Gritting his teeth, he felt for the table and edged round it.
He lumbered forward in what he hoped was the direction of the door. His mind was strangely empty. He prayed it would stay that.
As he was thinking he must be close to the walls, his foot kicked into something soft.
Something at floor level groaned.
“Hello?” he said. Another groan.
Sig took a few steps back.
“Hello?” he repeated.
“Uhn… whosat?”
“Sig. Who’re you?”
“Mmf- Reks. Y’okay?”
“Yes, fine.” Sig bent down and pawed the air till he had found Reks’ arm and helped the Merican stand. They stood, keeping a hand loosely on each other’s shoulder, in the complete darkness.
“I’ve got a flashlight” said Reks. “Just a sec…” there was some rattling as he searched, then a click, and weak light spilled over them. Reks shone the torch’s beam around the room.  The clerk was gone, his chair knocked over, but nothing else had been touched.
‘Did you hear anything?” said Reks, keeping the light moving from side to side, making sure no corner was left in the dark for more than a few seconds. Yet there was always one place where the light didn’t reach, and Sig hurried to the light switch.
“I heard a crash.” he said. “But that was it.” Reks nodded, always, watching the light.
Sig found the switch and flicked it up and down a few times to no effect. “Broken. Let’s check outside.” Reks nodded again, eyes flashing side to side as Sig collected his equipment and repacked it.
“Alright.” he said and Reks pushed the door open. The corridor beyond, that ten minutes ago had been lit by hospital-white lights, was pitch black.
“Oh God..” moaned Reks. “They’re gone as well…” Both guards, who they had left waiting outside the underground office, had vanished.
“We’ve got to get out.” said Sig. “Quickly.”
“Yeah, yeah, right.” Reks licked his lips and strode forward. He was trying to look decisive, but it came across as panicking. Sig hurried after him, back up the route that, ten minutes ago had been so ordinary and dull. Now, looming from the darkness, the high metal walls were ominous and every corner turned into darkness.
Reks breathed out, relaxing. “There it is.” he said, staring gratefully at the door to the lift that would take them back into open air. Sig almost fell on it, stabbing it’s manual opening button.
Nothing happened.
He tugged on the handle, put all his weight on the door.
It did not shift.
“No…” murmured Reks. He pushed past Sig and kicked at the door, pounding it till eventually he gave up and sank back, panting.
“I’ve got tools” said Sig “I could cut it open.”
“No” Reks said, his voice a weird mix of resignation and fear “No, once a lift door’s locked you can’t get out. It’s more than a foot of bomb proof metal.” He laughed shortly and hysterically. “Safety precaution. So we can cut off a floor. To stop fire or gas or whatever spreading. Oh God.” he ran a hand back through his hair. “Mkay. Okay. Right. Hold this-” he thrust the torch at Sig and pulled out his mobile com.-set “Mmf. No signal.” There was a sad deflating sound , and mobile’s screen turned black “Ugh! Dead battery.” he jammed it back in his pocket and produced a basic walkie-talkie, holding it up to his mouth. “Hello. This is Reks Bachman, junior executive. We are on floor twenty-three and there appears to have been a power failure. Do you read? Over.” The crackle of the airwaves was his only answer. He frowned and tried again. “Reks Bachman, junior executive. We are on floor twenty-three and there appears to have been a power failure. Requesting assistance. Do you read me? Over.”
Nothing. The line was dead.
Reks swore and raised his arm as if to hurl the radio down, changed his mind, and slotted it back into his belt.
Sig handed him the torch, which he refused. “There are other ways out, aren’t there?” asked Sig.
“Yes. Of course.” Reks answered, very dull. “But - God, Sig, we’re gonna have to go right down into the old mines and God I don’t like the idea of navigating in the dark.” He sighed and ran his hand through his hair once more and patted his hip, searching for something. “Here we are.” He held out a small docu-reader loaded with a satellite fed plan of the mines. “Thank God this works at least. C’mon. You hold the light, if you don’t mind.”
“Of course not. I’m sure you’ll find the way.”
“Yeah, well.” Reks began to walk. “We’re too far down for satellite to get through, so I’ll have to set our position manually. Then it can count steps.” he did so, touching the screen at the top of a series of straight corridors leading down to a mess of tangled passages and shafts. A small red dot appeared on screen, moving along their path as they moved every few seconds with a small beep. That beep will drive me mad by the time we’re out of here, Sig thought.
“You really didn’t hear Marx leave? Or get taken?” said Reks, glancing back at Sig, and reminding him very much of a rabbit in the headlights.
“No. I was conscious the whole time, and I only heard that crash.”
“God…” Reks shook his head like a dog trying to rid itself of flies. “That is creepy.”
“Just a little bit, yes.”
Reks turned “The great British understatement, huh? Hey, imagine if this is one of those reality TV shows where they set up a prank or something and film it. You know the ones. I heard Marti saying he’d love to apply for one of them.”
“That would be nice.”
“Yeah, I bet there’s night-vision cameras everywhere right now,” Reks continued, speaking more to himself than Sig.
“And in an hour the host will jump out and shout: you’ve been pranked!”
“And we’ll be  taken back to the studio to tell everyone how scary it was and how we thought we really where trapped in the mines. That’s what’s gonna happen.”
He sounded so certain, Sig kept quiet. They remained quiet for a long while afterwards, the docu-reader’s regular beeps becoming louder and louder, filling the hall until Sig’s body automatically tensed a millisecond before it sounded. He didn’t mind, though. It was better than listening to the silence that filled the darkness crowding at the edges of the lamplight. He could feel it pressing into his back and he knew he must not, could not, turn around and face the absolute blackness right behind him.
Reks walked briskly, stopping now and then to double check something on the reader, and continuing. They passed openings into darkness now, in which wind moved, speaking of greater cavities beyond. Gradually, Sig slipped into a half-conscious state as he followed Reks. He was lost in thoughts and memories.
In Sig’s old house back in the colonies, every family member had a remote with which they could activate any device in the building, and switch on any light. Every waking moment was illuminated, and trips to the bathroom carried out under bright electric bulbs. Even if he’d chosen to keep the lights off he would have had plenty of light to see by, thanks to the street lights outside that kept the town in permanent twilight. But once, just once, he’d known the unexplainable terror generations of children dealt with every night.
The Sigismund family had come down earthside for a holiday, renting a very old fashioned house in what remained of the Scottish countryside. His father had wanted something ‘nostalgic’ and he got it. The house only had switches for the lights, which seemed to the offworlder Sigismund children so antique as to be actually quite interesting, at least at first. The switch for the landing was an arms length from Sig’s door. When he stayed up late he would dash to his room, turn on his bedroom’s light and reach out to turn of the landing light. He would keep his head facing into the room, into the light, yet h could still see the awful darkness outside, from the corner of his eye. He’d turn off the bedroom light and jump into bed in two great leaps, screwing his eyes shut so he wasn’t surrounded by that darkness anymore.
But nights he woke and felt his bladder was tight were the worst. When he had to make the trip to the toilet. It was horrible, even when he left the bedroom light on. In a way that was worse, as the shadows were deeper and the pit of darkness at the bottom of the stairs looked even blacker in contrast to the bedroom’s light. Having to cross the landing, past that gaping hole at the bottom of the stairs, into the bathroom, where countless nameless fears could hide in the corners was terrifying. He would close or half-close his eyes, squinting straight ahead, to make that dreaded journey but he’d have to open them at the end, in the dark dark room, the sound of his piss ridiculous in the silence. After a few nights of this the nameless fears crept into his bedroom. He would stare into the darkness beneath the room’s desk and he’d see it move, see it unfolding, and he’d jam his eyelids tight shut bit it was inevitable, inevitable that he’d open them again, without really wanting to, and see it slowly, very slowly, moving out from under the desk, black as the shadows, and raise it’s head, looking side to side very slowly and he knew that eventually it’s eyes would fix on him yet he was powerless to look away.
The worst part was that the fears were gone in the morning. They were ridiculous in the daylight, and how could he ever tell an adult the sheer terror he felt crossing that landing? So the fear was banished by daylight, and the memory of it gradually erased over the years.
But now he remembered.
The adult Sig remembered every nameless fear that had kept him awake in that dark house.
He felt it all again.
I am afraid, he thought, holding the torch very tightly. Dear Lord I am afraid.
“Hey, Sig!”
Reks turned to face him. “You were out of it just then. I said, we got to climb down this” he kicked the top of  a ladder poking up where the path ended “to get to the mines lower down, that’re still open, where we can get out. Okay? Good. Shall I go first? I’ll take the flashlight-”
Even now, Sig’s logic hadn’t deserted him. “Yes, but let me keep the light. If I put it in my belt, facing down, we’ll both be able to see.”
Reks whistled. “Glad we hired you! Well, c’mon then.” He tucked the docu-reader away and began to descend. His grin returned. “I know most of the way from here,” he continued as they climbed. It was surreal, as by the torch light Sig could only see Reks and a short stretch of ladder. All around was complete darkness. They were floating in it. Instead of the close, claustrophobic quality they had had in the tunnels, there voices echoed. “It’ll take a few hours but it’s pretty straight forward. We just got to make sure we don’t go down into the actual mines. The docu-reader’s no good there. Hell, even if you thought you knew the way you could get lost down there, easy.”
“So…how much of the mine is disused?”
“Hm. Bout three quarters. We have to keep digging down. When a top level is depleted, we dig another one. We can’t go too wide now, else the whole thing’ll collapse.”
“That’s a lot of empty space.”
“Yeah, and most of the new levels are on a pretty poor seam so we just keep on digging down. Lots of space to get lost in.”
Nasty injuries, like they got attacked by an animal you said, thought Sig. If a shapeless creature could live in my bedroom, what could be lurking down here, in all the miles of tunnels?
Stop it, he told himself. You are being ridiculous. There was a never a creature in your bedroom in the first place.
But to the child Sig, it had been real, and that was all that had mattered.
For half an hour they climbed, walked, then climbed again, in the silence and the darkness.
Sometimes, Sig swore he saw movement, briefly, in the openings to the mine shafts, and scuttling sounds. Reks saw them too, but simply said- “Hell, there must be lots of rats down here, huh?” But his cheerful tone didn’t quite reach his eyes.

They stopped for a rest in an excavated room leading to a split in the path, one going down to a mine shaft, one along to the next ladder down. The walls were earth, slightly damp, and still disfigured with marks from the old digging machines, years after they’d been am abandoned. The air was damp too, an earthy smell instead of  chemical.
He found himself breathing in time to the docu-reader’s breathing. In-beep-out-beep-in-beep-out-beep. It was quite relaxing.
“You got a drink?” said Reks, leaning against the rock wall.
“I do, actually.” They passed Sig’s flask back and forth, taking short swigs, not wanting to hog it all. It was pleasantly companiable.
The room was small, so the torch illuminated it all and Sig could look around it without that dry fear rising in his throat. Men worked here once, he thought. Men and women and machines filled these tunnels. They ripped open the earth and left the wound bleeding, and a few miles below us they’re dong it all again. He shook his head and told himself  - stop that! You’ll turn into an envi-mentalist
“You ready?” said Reks.
“Yes. Come on, then.”
“Not that much further now, you know.”
Reks had been saying this with increasing regularity, and said it more and more as they went on, crossing bridges and over cavernous shafts, or climbing down ladders, or crouching to pass through the smallest tunnels. It began to blur together. Sig followed Reks, head full of shadowy hallways and environmentalist rallies. The only thing constant in his mind was the knowledge that he could not, must not, turn around to face the darkness. He never had as a child switching off the bathroom light or crossing the landing. He still couldn’t now.
“Not far now” said Reks, pausing by a huge rusting drilling machine, standing at a drunken angle beside a very large tunnel opening. “Not far to go.”
I’ve changed my mind, though Sig. You’re going to drive me mad, not that beep.
“Want a drink?” said Sig.
“You sure? Shouldn’t we save it?”
“Well, if we’re so close a small one couldn’t hurt.”
“True. Pass it here then.” They both took a quick swig then stood still for a moment. Sig looked up at the drill.
“How long has that been there, then?” He indicated the drill with his head.
Reks considered for a moment. “Hm. Fifty years? But there’s things left down here from centuries back.”
“Yeah, going up through the levels is like going through a timeline of mining equipment through the- hey - y’okay?”
Something had made Sig jump. For a second he wasn’t sure what, then he jumped again, and realised.
The reader was beeping out of time.
No, not out of time. It was beeping twice. A second beep, sounding a moment before the first.
Struck dumb, they stared down at the map screen.
A few passages away, a second dot had appeared.
Every beep it flashed up several metres closer. It was unmistakably coming their way.
Very slowly, the two young men raised there heads.
“But,” said Reks, his voice trembling- “there’ no satellite link-”
Sig finished his sentence for him “So how can it be updating?”
Reks bolted for the tunnel.
“Reks, wait!” yelled Sig. Their path was through an small archway through which whatever it was would have to come. But the tunnel lead to the mines, the true mines, the labyrinthine mines.
Reks sprinted. Sig ran after him.
“Reks- no! Be reasonable-”
The Merican suddenly stopped sprinting. He turned and glared at Sig. His tone bordered on hysteria.
“Superstitious, remember? We’re all superstitious down here. And with plenty good reason, I’m sure you will agree. I am not taking a chance Sig I am not I am not-” he jabbed his finger at some point over Sig’s shoulder “when I could end up being take or eaten or having a heart attack!”
“Yes, but you could get lost, and I have the light…”
Reks glanced at the reader and whimpered. “Oh God it’s nearly here oh god” he made a choking sound and began to sprint. Sig grunted and ran after him.
They had only been going a minute or so when the second beep stopped. So did they.
When he was breathing evenly, Reks checked the reader.
“Gone.” he confirmed.
“That cannot be good.”
“Mm.” Reks kept staring at the screen, biting his lip.
“I bet you it starts again even closer,” said Sig. “Or right on top of where we are.”
They simultaneously glanced up. The tunnel ceiling was clear.
“Sig.” said Reks. “Do not joke.”
“Well come on!”
“Back the way we’re supposed to go, of course.”
“No I am not!”
“I’d rather take the chance than get stuck in the mines. If there is something still there… Well, as I said. Let’s take a chance rather than wait for it to reappear.”
Reks eyed him for a second longer, then nodded.
They walked as fast as thy could up the tunnel.
“So,” said Sig. “ What exactly are they saying prowls around down here?’
“Can’t I know what’s trying to kill me?”
“Sig, do not joke.” Sig raised his eyebrows Leena-style. “You really want to know? Well. Round here we got lots of stories, urban legends. But there’s one that comes up all the time. There’s this…thing…like a shadow, that runs through the streets. Always in the darkness. When people disappear, they say it’s got them. If you go out alone in a dark alley it can get you before you ever know it’s there,  they say. But then…” he was quiet for a moment, breathing deeply. “Then when more people really did start vanishing...not just in the mines. There’s been cases on the surface too. So the  we started paying more attention to the stories.”
They had come to the small archway beside the abandoned drill. They hesitated for only a second before they passed through it.
They did not speak again.

behind you.
i is always behind you. does they never learn, little friend? you must always look behind you.
i scuttles forward, hidden. this is becomin a most interestin hunt, little friend.
a great shame it is comin to a close.

Sig nodded. He had heard it too. A slight scuffling noise, too large to have been made by a rat. Sig guessed it had come from only about ten metres behind them.
They stood completely still.
There. He heard it again. Shorter, more abrupt, but closer.
“We’re so near” hissed Reks, despairing. Sig ignore him. “Shall we go on?” Sig ignored him again.
In his mind he was back on the dark landing. He had to keep going, had to keep on, he could not turn around, he could not, he knew what he would see. When you turned around, that was when they got you-
But now he had to.
He swallowed, and glanced over his shoulder.
Fear crawled down his spine and his innards tightened.
In the shadows, a dark shape was unfolding itself and inching towards them.
His voice was cracked. “Run” was all he said.

They ran. Feet pounding, hearts pounding, heads pounding. Reks kept taking sharp turns, through the smaller passageways and upper mine tunnels. He could have been navigating, but Sig suspected he was simply trying to throw it from their trail.
He could hear something behind them, feet or claws or paws, scratching horribly on the metal as it came after them ,and sometimes there was a wet, snuffling breathing sound too. He was sure it could have caught them easily, if it had wanted to.
Aha yes I does play with my food, cat an mouse cat an mouse
The voice went through his head without entering his ears, quick and garbled and yet very distinct. He could understand each word.
He kept running, desperately trying to ignore the dull pain starting up in his chest and thighs.
Don’t think about it, he told himself. Concentrate on getting away.
The torch, secured to his belt, bounced on his thigh, so the way ahead was constantly shifting, Reks appearing and disappearing, the light moving jaggedly.
Reks was starting to tire. His breathing was rough, with a hysterical note, and with every pace he slowed.
But they ran, and ran, and ran.
Until Reks tripped.
Sig didn’t register he was gone for a few seconds, and it took him a few more to come to a halt.
Juts as he was about to turn, shining light behind him, a long, choked scream ripped through the air around him.
“Reks!” he yelled, running back towards the figure lying face down in the patch of torchlight.
Reks moaned.
“I’m alright.” he said in a flat voice as Sig pulled him up.
“I think it’s gone.” said Sig. “I can’t hear it.”
“Yes.” said Reks in that flat voice, eyes hollow.
Behind you, Sig thought. You can never see what’s behind you. With a little more courage than before he slowly swivelled around. His torch beam reached all the way to the end of the corridor. It was empty. All was silence.
Sig breathed out.
“No.” said a voice that sounded something like Reks’ from just over his shoulder. “Still behind you.”
He did not even have a chance to turn before it pounced and he was knocked unconscious.

Sig awoke slowly.
First he was at peace, in the unknowing half-state between sleep and conscious life. Then he became aware of himself, but still couldn’t recall where he was. Then he remembered.
He sat up and squinted through the dark. He was more stunned than relieved to find he was still alive. There was some light in the smallish room, roughly hollowed out from the earth, coming from the screen of a little device facing away from him. By  it he could make out the shape of a man, beside the earth wall opposite the one Sig had his back to, clutching his knees to his chest. Eventually he recognised it as Reks. He was naked.
Sig could still remember Reks’ voice, or what had sounded like Reks’ voice. He kept still, watching Reks. He felt wary, on edge, his every nerve tense as he listened for any sound other than the ringing in his ears and watched for movement,
His foot was deadening. He shifted, and Reks turned his head towards him, very slowly.
The Merican began to smile, and Sig smiled back, relieved, then froze. He saw Reks’ already half-shadowed face begin to droop, the eye-sockets widening, widening, becoming hideous, and when it opened it’s lips to grin rows of needle teeth spilled from its mouth and its smile widened to its ears.
Sig screamed.
The thing chuckled, a dark, rippling sound that he felt and heard in his mind more than with his ears.
Sig backed away, hit the earth room’s wall and felt for a door, for something, but no, glancing round the room he saw there was nothing, no opening or way out. He was trapped, miles beneath the earth, a tomb-
No. He calmed. If the thing had got him in, it could get him out. His mind was still screaming- you’re not real, you can’t be real, this is not real yet he was already accepting the thing’s  ,there was no other word for it,  reality Sig had always said he would believe in such things when he saw them, and now he had.
The creature crouching in the half-darkness was translucent-skinned, albino pale, a thing born in this darkness. The horrible face, with it’s protruding teeth and pupil-less, bulbous white eyes like spider’s eggs, made him think of angler fish, who had once lurked in the ocean’s abyss’, waiting to catch prey with their light.
scared? said the voice. The creature's mouth twitched a little as it spoke but did not form the actual words. is you afraid richard sisgsimund? is you afraid?
"Yes." said Sig his voice flat in the small space.
It chuckled, and it's face seemed to gather inwards, becoming Reks.
such a clever trick. such a very clever trick.
"Yes. Very clever." agreed Sig. Some far off part of his brain was still screaming at him to run and fight and shout, but he pushed it away. What would be the point?
The Reks-thing edged closer.
"You killed him, didn't you?"
yesssssss hissed the thing, but there was less triumph in it's voice than before.
"Are you going to kill me?"
It edged a little closer, squatting in a feline crouch. It was unspeakably surreal, staring into a face that looked like Reks' but wore such an animal expression it was clearly not his.
i does not know. once yes o i would have killed you watched your face twist an shriek oho yes but now i does not know.
It's face shifted, and became his own. When it spoke it was with Sig's voice.
"You are quite the little conundrum, hm? This was to be my finale, my grand show, oho yes-" it came closer, and straightened till it was on eye level with him, reaching out to touch his face with a hand exactly like his own, except that it was ice cold. "But now I does not know. I sees into your mind Richard Sigismund and what I finds there is strange. you accepts you is afraid of me. You is simply afraid of this fear if you pardon my cliché, yes? You is..." the Sig-thing's eyes narrowed. "you is not screamin' like the others. You thinks things out, you thinks everything out. It is most puzzlin' oh yes.”
It drew it's finger back and in one fluid move it was back on the other side of the room, it's face hideous again.
"Why do you do this?" said Sig, privately amazed at how calm he sounded. "I mean, you seem...intelligent. What are you?"
It’s eyes popped and it’s jaw gaped as it hissed i is urban legend urban crawler bone cruncher skull smasher teeth rattler eye popper heart shaker fright maker i is fear i is what they fears when they goes out alone at night i is- i does not know. It moved back, and seemed to melt into the shadows. Only the glimmer of white eyes and the suggestion of a black shape told it was there. It wasn’t simply in the darkness though, he realised. It really had lost form and clarity. A creature made of shadow. i was awakened in darkness by great loud noises and stinks and i did not know what i was or where i was though before that i thinks i moved through some greater darkness and praps there was more with me asleep down there yet i cannot say.
“So...the mining disturbed you?”
yesssss but this great filthy city, this whole great world was twitching me from my sleep also.
Hands made from darkness  reached for the device and pushed it towards him. It was a battered movie-player. A group of teenagers were shouting at each other around a car parked at the edge of some night-time woods. At first he did not understand, then the film sped up and stopped at another point.
It would speed up now and then, to reach the key events, and eventually changed to a different film altogether. He was watching old horror movies. No, more than that, he was watching the events of the past two days, as well as the strange events that must have been shaking the city for years. The newcomer, arriving in the strange place. The disappearances, the stories of something nasty waiting to pick off the unwary. The hero finding his or herself trapped, with that something always lurking nearby. The pursuit, the stand off. Sometimes the heroes won, sometimes they were killed. Sometimes the evil whatever-it-was, supposed dead, came back  for vengeance.
As the villain was terrorising some of the main characters, the shadow-creature pointed at the screen, then at itself, watching him.
“Yes,” said Sig. “I understand.”
Finally the shadow-creature pulled the player back and came forward again. It’s eyes were the only distinct thing about it, slitted and almost luminous in the darkness. Everything else was just a suggestion of shape that might have been there in the shadows.
“So,” said Sig, still calm. Adrenalin, his natural logic and the sheer flexibility of human belief was keeping down any base instincts. Besides, his curiosity burned. “You tried to copy the films.”
i did copy the movin pictures said the creature, it’s voice slower, less garbled. when i sees them i is thinkin- that is me. for that is all i is good for in this world. i is thinkin that is what i is here for. but now i does not know. i is not sure. my grand final is all gone out, see?
“Oh, I don’t know” said Sig “Sometimes the villain tells the hero all his plans before he kills them.” He hated himself even as he said it, and quickly added “Or before they get away.”
The creature chuckled, face opening out into the angler-thing.
such a strange one. such a strange strange one who laughs when he is trapped deep in the earth with one such as i.
“Logic will win out.”
Its eyes narrowed. and what is your logic saying about i? how can your logic talk about i richard sigsigsigsimund? you see you is the epitome of your age you is. logic will win out you is saying. is i something you can be explainin with logic? this is why i is not belongin here. I try to copy the movin pictures I try to find a purpose but you is not afraid like in them not truly THIS IS WHY I CANNOT KILL YOU I CANNOT  FOR I IS URBAN LEGEND I IS SOMETHING TO LIVE IN DARKNESS AN PUT TERROR INTO THE HEARTS OF THOSE I STALKS YET YOU- you is not afraid.
Sig did not flinch. You have killed tens, maybe hundreds of people, thought Sig. You killed my friend. There was no pain as he thought that, only a dull ache. He suspected grief would come later. Yet you’re not evil. Nothing is really evil, is it? Evil is a human invention. It was true, for as he looked at this hideous, terrifying thing, Sig got an impression of innocence. A childlike innocence.
yesyesyes it hissed, drawing back itself back into the shadows. evil is a strong word to be usin.
“Um.” said Sig. He hadn’t once taken his eyes off the creature. “Can I -um- go now?”
The creature shrieked with laughter.
Sig tensed.
But the creature calmed, and drew back so far into the shadows its eyes were barely there.
yes. it said in a voice that was strangely human and very weary. yes, you can.
It moved forward in another single fluid motion, opening out as if spreading great black wings and in a second he was enveloped.

i speed up through the soil, miles up, carryin the fleshy creature.
this is power this is speed this is where none can touch me nor hurt me.
i an hear his mind askin questions an i does try to answer them. i will go back into the deep places of the earth. i will sleep for this is no place for me here. i has no true purpose. praps when the worlds an ashy wasted land an the humans scrabble to live off the dirt an soil when their great tall towers has fallen as surely they must, then praps i will return and skulk the shadows once more, praps with brothers and sisters we who i guess must live and breed and sleep eternal in this dark. but now i is empty an i shall return to dark, to nothingness.

The miners found him soon enough. They brought him, bruised, shaking and shielding his eyes from the morning light, up into the real world again. The police took over and the stories of the mines leaked out, flooding the papers. Everyone knew how the forwarder techead hired by the mining people had been trapped underground for a day and had been discovered wandering on one of the in-use levels, He swore he could remember little of his ‘ordeal’ as the papers put it, nor how his companion, a clerk, two bodyguards and a drill operator had vanished. No, he said, if there was a monster down in the shafts it had kept itself very quiet.
Of course, Sig did remember.
Every detail of it ran round and round his head, as he waited in the departures lounge for the ship that would take him up to the colonies, going through his plans.
He would see his parents and sisters, catch up on old friends and organise himself. And then? He hoped to rerun to earth. To do what, he did not know. To make the word better? One man couldn’t do that. But he knew he felt much more at home on polluted soil than he did on sterilised metal.
A few people whispered as he boarded, pointing. He’d become something of a minor celebrity. But once he reached the colonies he would become another face in the crowd.
The ship launched, and through his cabin window Sig could see Old London shrinking, until it was a map of tangled blacks and greys, a scribble, overlaid with smog. He remembered, briefly, the indescribable sensation of moving so fast that everything blurred and the body could somehow move through matter. He imagined what it would be like to speed like that through the streets. To know that freedom. For a moment he felt powerful and free, and then he was back, in his own clumsy body, with his own slow brain and in the mundane little cabin, as the ship turned towards the stars.

« Last Edit: September 20, 2009, 01:12:17 AM by Jenna Silverbirch » Logged

The world’s so full of wonder, it’d be a shameful waste to live without seeing as much of it as you could’ve.
Jenna Silverbirch -  Burrow by the Sea - Jenna's hobbit hole
Jenna's Creations
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