The Darkest Hour

Everything happened so fast that time itself seemed to run together. The hydraulic door hissed, metal screamed, Kamarov howled, and Murphy uttered half a curse before his arm knocked me into the wall. 

The arm hit the floor with a dead squelch, and the nightmare went in for the kill. I caught one last glimpse of Murphy's face, transfixed in paroxysms of terror, one hand hovering over his stump of a shoulder.

I blinked, and it was over. A serpentine tongue flicked out to taste the air, claws the size of scimitars emerged red and dripping from the wreckage that had once been a torso. An eye as grey as death fixed on me.

I ran. Through the gap where the door had been, arms pumping wildly, skidding around corners willy-nilly, I neither knew nor cared where I was going. Blood was rushing so loud in my ears that I could scarcely hear my own breathing. And every thump was echoed by another in my mind; the thump of bone and muscle on hard linoleum floors.

Then, suddenly, there was no more floor, only impassable rough concrete. A dead end. I slammed my fist against the concrete, my blood turned to water by panic. Out. Out. Had to get out

Voices. Shouting. Close.

I flung myself at the left-hand wall in desperation. Something gave way, and through I went, scrabbling blindly as oblivion rushed up to meet me. I scrabbled forward on my hands and knees, blind and mewling with fear. Metal scraped and thumped me at every turn; thin pipes, thick pylons, things that clinked hollowly when my bruised and aching body connected with them. Back and back I went, until my flailing hand found the back wall. I crushed myself into the corner, willing myself to absolute smallness.

The voices came closer, and I made out the dim wail of a siren. I made out the imperative sound of orders among the blur. I pressed my forehead against my knees and held my breath for so long I felt sure I would pass out. Any moment, I expected shouts, rough hands, the bite of a bullet in my skull.

But it never came. The voices faded, the footsteps trailed away to silence. Even the siren ceased its strained wailing, and I was left alone in the heart of the darkness. When my eyes had finally adjusted to the darkness, I began to make out the shape of pipes and fuel cannisters. There were shelves, too, all leaning about in disarray, their dusty contents like relics in a slapshod museum. Some sort of store-room?

I got shakily to my feet and wobbled my way to the door. The corridors were empty, with only the broken door hanging forlornly ajar as testimony to my panicked flight. I took a deep breath and retreated back inside the storeroom.

Murphy and Scilla were dead, of that I was certain. I was lost, and whoever was down here would now be more than aware of the presence of intruders. And so was it.

I should run. I should climb the pipes and find a way into the air vents, and get out of here while I still had the chance. I could not run, and anywhere I hid I would be found, sooner or later. I should get back to the surface and find Kris. We could run to the docks, I thought, find a ship and steal away, far away, beyond the reach of Alarbor and the Raven and Jeremy Wayne.

I reached up to climb, and felt something prick into my leg. It was the hypodermic needle, brimming with the faint effervescence of Phobine. It had driven Kamarov mad, I thought; the greatest scientific mind of an age reduced to a filth-ridden wreck little better than an animal. I thought of my brother lying in that same filth. If Wayne so much as suspected I was here, Lucatz's fate was sealed. I could not subject my brother to that. 

And had I not faced a monster before? And had he not saved my life?

Had I not sworn to do the same?

I put the hypodermic back in my pocket, took one last furtive look out of the door, and set out to find them.

The End

210 comments about this story Feed