What lies beneath

From the Story Arc: The Dish Best Served Cold

Previous Story in the Arc: Remembering April by Khrushchev (Thursday, September 08, 2005)

(posted Monday, September 12, 2005)

I walked quite a ways over the uneven, cobblestone road, walking and thinking. I never noticed how rough the road was nor did I notice the old lady on the side of the road with broken down car and flat tire. She begged for my help---it was either the darkness or her vision, but I would have surely scared her to death---it was best to keep on moving. All I could think of was that in a few moments I would start my revenge---my revenge for April. Not seeing her had been a torment to my heart.

I took a very deep breath as they stood at the entrance to the abandoned mining city. I'd never seen such a sight in my life in person, and rarely saw anything of such stature in movies. The archway must have reached about sixty feet up into the air, the walls around the city at least one hundred fifty feet in height. They were time worn and rough, but strong and incredibly grand looking. I rather began to think that sky scrapers were only impressive to people who've never seen a one hundred foot wall of stone stretching miles into the distance.

As grandiose as the inside was, it had an incredibly sleazy feel to it---I couldn't quite put my finger on. There were no beggars, at least not visible, but the narrow streets and passageways every few yards lead into unusual shadows that would send a shiver up your spine. I passed a few larger buildings and turned onto a well-lit path to the right, and realized that the huge entrance to the city had no doors of any kind. It suddenly seemed odd for a walled city to have no way to close itself off, but perhaps I'd simply missed something.

A small trading town, so it looked, with dark passages everywhere, filled with modest looking people in dull clothing, all trading and buying and walking by quickly. Nothing in particular caught my eye at first, but I was pretty certain I must have caught someone's attention---it’s not like I don’t stand out. I Felt a familiar tingle at the base of my spine, the one of being watched closely, I turned my head just enough to catch a glimpse out of the corner of my eye; an old man around the corner of the shop, appearing to be hiding from me. Just an old man in plain light brown clothes, hunched over and staring at me. Were I in my former neck of reality, I would have cried out for him to come over or wave like a lunatic. But, for the moment, I thought it then smartest to just pretend not to notice.

I picked up a map from one of the street merchants---he wanted fifty influence for it---I could afford it---this better be the real deal I told him as my eyes glowed red, and I showed him my trusty weapon. He cringed slightly and gulped like something was caught in his throat. Reaching into a pouch he handed me a second map. No doubt a real one.

I followed it for several hundred meters taking endless left and rights till I found a dark unmarked door at the end of a dark dank alley way.

I heard something clatter to halt a long way from where I was and didn’t sound like it had hit a wall, the echoes were louder than I would have expected and as the sound died I was suddenly aware that I was not alone. I wasn’t at all sure what told me this but I was certain I was being watched from somewhere. It wasn’t a threatening feeling and therefore unlikely to be anyone of authority, in fact I felt safe, safe enough to call out. “Who’s there?”

There was no answer and so he called the phrase out a few more times in different languages in case the watcher did not speak English.

“I understood you the first time.” A voice sounded from very close by, it was delivered in the petulant matter-of-fact manner of a young girl, exasperated with the perceived dimness of adults in a way that only a young child could be. “Who are you?”

The voice told me that there was no point arguing that he had asked first, I guessed, rightly, that a young child’s method of logic was not something to be trifled with or taken lightly. Nor was lying a particularly attractive course of action as children would not notice a badly told lie. “I honestly don’t know.”

A snort of disbelief was the immediate reply. “Everybody has a name. Even old people. What’s yours?”

I still couldn’t discern the source of the voice except to tell that it was close by and hadn’t moved since I first heard it though that didn’t mean much. The acoustics of the alley were such that the voice sounded as if it were coming from all around him with only the distance being discernible. For all he knew the speaker could have been moving around constantly since the conversation had begun. “I don’t know, I can’t remember…”

“You’re sick aren’t you?” interrupted the voice with a note of awe and childish excitement as if the watcher were familiar with the concept but had never faced it before, “Like those men and those people that come here!” In front of him a small girl dressed in a thinning night-gown and with a grimy complexion showed herself as she stepped out from behind a pillar. “I’m Jenny---“she stopped speaking almost immediately as she gazed up at the large figure standing in front of her. I took off my helmet; a quick rush of air could be heard as the seal broke open. I figured I wasn’t as scary with the mask off.

I watched her smile slightly, it seem to take away some of her fears thinking I was human rather than just a machine. “You’re very large---I mean I don’t think I have ever seen anything as big as you”.

I got down on one knee and was face to face with her. She took a step closer and began to whisper. “You don’t want to go in there…”

I looked quickly to the door and then back to the young girl…her eyes began to show true fear. Why would I not want to go through that door? I pushed the hair from aside her face and brushed it behind her ear.

“There is a bad thing that lives in there---no one can go in there---it doesn’t want people”.

I am sure I will be fine. I stood up and put the helmet back on my head, locking it down into place. I gave the young girl some of the food I had left in my storage and told her to run along. She devoured the food right on the spot, as if she hadn’t eaten in a long time and with that she turned and walked quickly off into the gloom.

To be continued…