I’ve received two submissions now for my short story series, and I’m thrilled to show you the first of them. Read, comment, show your support! Interested in participating? Read the original story here, write your own (any word count, any genre – art included), email it to me at theravens.quill (at) gmail (dot) com.
Greylands: Adopted [continued]
Please note: Contains some strong language, intense violence, strong sexual content and alcohol/drug use
Alexis hesitated, but the man was persuasive: “Y’all right, lass? It’s not that high a staircase. C’mon, Mosh, hurry her up these parts if you got to.”
Mosh forcefully but smoothly guided Alexis up the steps. The three of them marched towards the even darker top of this space. Meanwhile, the crackles and hums of the countless city dwellers faded from her psyche like the very flames that kept materializing and extinguishing inside of her. She had a feeling this underworld was where she was supposed to be, or she would have felt the rumble of Jake’s familiar ghost instructing her to run—it didn’t matter where, just as long as she ran.
“So what exactly are these ‘Shadows’?” she pressed, after what felt like far too much breathing time between her and the two men.
“See for yourself, young lady,” quipped Maverick once they arrived at the top. Mosh, taking a break from the manipulation of his shirt hole, kept sudden guard behind Alexis in case she was so shocked from the sights that she tumbled back. Shocked she was, but slack and disbelieving at the same time.
If the ground level was a city, she thought, then this upper level was some kind of a cross between an apartment complex and a jungle, with compressed one-room cells in the filthy walls, bordered by slime and hanging twigs with leaves. There were some pitiful strings of malfunctioning light bulbs, which made this whole forward-stretching abyss resemble some kind of nightmare factory. She could not see beyond the first several rooms on either side; everything far ahead was pitch-black, but she assumed there were simply more of these rooms ahead, since Maverick, ruddy-faced and smug, was now leading her in a very careful way through the deeper darkness. Mosh remained behind them all the same, and swept his black hair out of his eyes—not that it would help much, since one could barely see anything in the hallway, anyway…but in every room was a different story.
“Those piggy authorities on the outside, they say we are the evil ones, the uppercased ‘Shadows’ living in these secret slums,” explained Maverick, his arm increasingly secure around Alexis’s terrified body, “but we took that shit name and turned it ’round by applying it to this particular sector: this hotbed of decadence where many of our inhabitants can come and go as they please, cool off, engage in the kind of nastiness that wouldn’t be too comfortable down in the main grounds, even though the condition is goddamn near the same as ’tis up here…”
She could feel that small but precious chicken frothing in her stomach and threatening to shoot back up, when she witnessed the kinds of images and acts that she had vaguely seen before in her childhood, but was more protected from in her family environment: old, badly-scarred and bloodied men beating each other to bony pulps in a mud pit, while their significant others watched on in admiration; a young woman being straddled by another woman atop a concrete block, both with disfigured faces and with foul oils slathered all over their naked bodies; two teenagers—they looked to be around Alexis’s age—pricking each other constantly with needles and injecting their sweet heroin into the other’s veins, all while crack-headed obese people in the background sat naked on pillows, their bodies drenched in discoloured beer and wine, with saliva and vomit messing themselves and the walls; people loudly snorting cocaine, their sweat and hyperactivity like blinding, bleeding heart twitches in the darkness; people playing dead while their partners violated them with the help of others, often taunting them with dangerous tools like knives and sparking wires for more dominating; older people taking gleeful advantage of their young counterparts by rolling around on them, and with them, in apparently raw sewage, whipping each other hard with vines and howling over each other’s oozing wounds, while smoke and exotic dance music seeped from the unseen vents of the wide, echoing black corridor…
“I’m going to throw up,” Alexis belched; she threw herself into Maverick’s arms, and no longer cared what could possibly happen. Maybe this is the ultimate trap. What if Jake had warned me away from this place but I was ignoring him unconsciously in my sadness?
Mosh cleared his throat and tried unsuccessfully to coax Maverick more quickly through this area, even bringing up the tragedy that had recently happened to the girl, to sharpen the man’s senses.
“Bloody hell, you waited until now to tell me this?!” hissed Maverick to him, “It’s too fucking late for me to speed through here, now that she’s seen more than enough of it!” He quieted down and was gentler in comforting Alexis now, as she sobbed and choked against his rough attire. “S’all right, sweetheart, there’s nobody here tryin’ to kill themselves, it’s nothing like that,” he half-whispered. Meanwhile, Mosh slipped and rushed over to the cell connected to the hall speaker system, and urged the moaning tenants to turn the music down, for the sake of their “guest.”
“No shit—we got another stray?! Mosh, you dumbass, when are you gonna stop being so friggin’ sentimental wi’ that crap…” growled the ugly, bearded, stringy-haired man in rags, spitting through broken teeth while his albino, shell-shocked partner lay curled up in the corner in a black sweatsuit, spent for now. Their cell was papered with old photographs of women and stocked with towels and sanitizing gels.
“Look, are you gonna be a bit more respectful, Toxman, or will I have to get Jack to come back here and straighten you out…?”
Toxman shivered into a hilariously alert state, his bone-rattling almost on par with the rhythm of the tribal soundtrack. “I-I’ll be good.”
Mosh then pulled a small shrink-wrapped sandwich from his back pocket that he had been saving for later, and handed it to the other man. “Here you go, Powell. I can always get one of these some other time. Looks like you need some nourishment now. Keep overstressing yourself with this mess, you’re gonna explode like a tangled mop one day like Toxy here—”
“Get out, man, this is our space!” bellows Toxman, in a surprisingly powerful belt.
“No it’s not, Tox. We’re all in this together—but by the same token, you get outta your place, and we’ll have to put you back in your place…or worse, if it has to come to that.”
He sauntered back out; Maverick had long since disappeared into the deeper Shadows with Alexis, past all these surrounding rooms—which was the better idea all along. He knew his way around, though, even in this more remote and cold end-section where it was literally pitch-black and nothing else. Even minor aids like cigarette lighters or flashlights would drown in the darkness of this spot. The only way one could navigate it was with tell-tale bumps and grooves in the ground that only the most experienced of the people could discern—and it was not a high number of people.
Soon enough he found some soft light ahead, illuminating a small and seemingly dead end; it was lit with a few torches on the cleaner, rocky walls, and the ceiling was surprisingly high and pristine-looking. Alexis looked sicker and whiter than ever, of course. Yet Maverick was smart enough to have found her some more nourishment in the form of a few candies and some water from a nearby fountain, rusty but reliable, filled with their own water that they had pilfered and preserved themselves. Also bordering the space were some narrow alcoves and boxes for more storage items, and Maverick was in the middle of patiently lecturing the girl on forms of courtesy and organization in these parts.
“…Well,” he could hear Maverick concluding, before nearing a half-hidden door, “we’ve gotten the worst out of the way for this little tour, I think. You ready to meet Jack?”