Rain. Their constant enemy, for once seemed to be their friend. It flowed around the speeding train like layers and layers of mosquito netting, protecting them from unwanted eyes, and still allowing them to see the dim outlines of trees and the vague forms of fields to remind them of reality.
Danny, who had been looking extremely exhausted, suddenly threw up over the barrier and onto the track below. The mess he made quickly disappeared, swallowed by the rain. Coughing, he shakily sat back down, dizzy exhaustion deadening him to Sarah’s concerned words.
Then Sarah was alone while Danny slept. Alone with her fears and her thoughts. Alone with her dark-colored dress and the tingly memory of the warmth in her cheeks. Alone with questions that she was so frightened of and confused by, that she couldn’t even form them in her mind.
The train stopped with a jerk, forcing Sarah awake. Danny growled something under his breath in his sleep. The engine hissed to a stop and silence descended. Sarah nudge Danny to make him stop talking, fear of being heard and discovered planning themselves quickly in her mind and growing with ferocious speed. She nudge Danny again so that he woke up.
“Where are we?” he asked in a whisper, pushing himself onto one elbow.
“I don’t know,” she replied. There wasn’t much to see—only grey-red brick walls sloping up and away on either side of the railway and a dull black grey sky above. The rain had stopped and no stars could be seen. In fact, the sky looked flat and dull, as if covered by a low layer of clouds, or, Sarah thought for a moment, as if it were not the sky at all.
“Alright!” a callous voice broke through the silence, “time to unload. Everybody get to it!” His demands were followed by commotion farther along the train.
“We’ve got to get out of here.” Both looked about them, not sure where to go.
“We could try climbing the brick walls--they are sloped,” Sarah suggested.
“Somebody will see us.”
“Yeah, but we can’t just sit here and wait for them to arrive. Maybe they will be too busy to notice us.”
“They might not come all the way back here. Maybe the train will continue on farther after unloading some things,” said Danny.
“Move it, Lazies!” shouted the voice. “I want this train emptied—head to toe, as it were.”
“I guess not,” Danny’s deflated voice brought no encouragement to Sarah.
“Then we run for it, and try to climb the bricks?”
Both took a moment to gather what little energy they had recovered in their rest, then climbed down off the caboose. Sarah took a deep breath, and was about to dash towards the slanted brick wall to the right when she noticed a small opening in the bricks. She grabbed Danny’s arm before he could run and pointed to the little doorway. He nodded, and they ran to it. There was a small, completely black corridor beyond the opening, and they had to crawl to fit in.
The brick and concrete tunnel went straight for a while, through damp dirty darkness. Sarah scraped her knee on something sharp in the darkness, and warned Danny of it in a whisper. So far, they could hear no sounds of pursuit—just the clanking echoes of the busy unloading of the train and their own heavy breathing.
Finally, Sarah’s hands found the end of the tunnel. She refused to allow her self to panic and felt quickly around for another opening. There was one-a new passageway to her left. It was also dark and long and led to yet another tunnel.
After a while of wandering from tunnel to tunnel, some leading up, some down, others flat, Sarah lost track of turns and direction. Danny tried to keep mental notes but soon exhaustion and the repetitiveness of the place got the better of him and he too lost all sense of which way they had come. Some of the tunnels were partly filled with stale, stinking water, and there were plenty of rats about. It was very quiet in the brick tunnels. Once they heard a baby screaming in the distance, but other than that there was no noise.
“I think this must be some sort of elaborate sewage system,” said Danny during a short rest break.
“Yes,” Sarah replied, “I’ve been thinking that too. But of what city? It is so huge.”
“I don’t know.”
At last there was sound coming from ahead. It was a very distant clanking noise, interrupted by voices. Following the sound, they emerged after a while into a larger hallway, where a lighted torch sat in a ring in the wall. It was the first real light they had seen in a while.
The sounds were coming from somewhere down the new passage way to their left. Danny took Sarah’s hand and the two cautiously crept down the hall, staying by the wall, which somehow made them feel safer. Numerous smaller passageways like the one they had come from branched off of this one. Along the hall, an occasional torch lit the way. There was no sign of anyone, except for the clanks and exclamations that they were following. Finnaly they came to a larger passageway branching off the one they were in from where the sounds and more, brighter light emanated. They crept forward, Danny first, and peered around the corner.
The sight that met their eyes was very surprising. There was a group of about twenty men and woman in a large room, lit by the torches that many of them held, and some torches along the walls. All of them were dressed in dark, ragged clothes and were gathered in a large, rough circle. In the center of the circle, two men were dueling with bright swords flashing orange and silver in the flickering light. The clash of their blades was what made the clanging sound. One of the men fighting was very young-hardly more than a boy. He dashed about with great swiftness and his moves with the blade were unpolished, but very effective. His opponent was a very old man with a black cloth tied over his eyes. It appeared that he was blind, or at least blindfolded, although the excellence of his swordsmanship and the quickness of his body spoke entirely otherwise.
Neither Sarah nor Danny knew enough about sword fighting to truly asses the skill of either participant, but they knew enough to be very impressed.
Without warning, a coarse hand clapped itself over Sarah’s mouth and she felt the cold flat of a blade against her throat.