Kaleb’s words had made me feel so happy, but as my Karma dictated, I was forever cursed to have any shot at being happy for a day jinxed.
“What now?” I asked.
“We run.” Kaleb declared. “Fuck… They’re not supposed to be down here.” He then muttered, I wouldn’t have caught it without my enhanced hearing...
“Can they find us in this maze, can we hide and wait them out?”
“Right now, Darkside is dry, they can track us if they stumble on our previous path”
“Great. Where to?”
“Off the under streets is our first goal.” He said before starting to move.
We ran for a moment until he came to an old book store with a boarded up door, he climbed through the shattered window and I noticed a symbol had been painted over it, just a simple downward triangle crossed with a dash across it.
“It’s Darksider code.” He whispered to me as I followed through the window frame. “We mark secret passages, supply stashes and the like. This means there’s a passage under us.” As soon as I stepped on the floor, he went for the back where an old door hung halfway off it’s hinges, beyond it was a staircase. “That’s what we call ourselves, the Darksiders.”
“Careful, there’s a missing step.” He said. “Third from the top.”
We went down, jumping over the missing step, the next one creaking menacingly under the strain.
“Where are we going?”
“To our secret hangout. I’m not supposed to bring people there, but it’s safe.”
The basement of the store had it’s back wall tunneled, leading to some kind of cement pipe that had been breached open. It was rather small, we had to stay crouched inside of it, the bottom was full of filth, an awful smell remained inside of it.
“It’s one of the old main pipes, when they built the subway they breached it so it was disconnected from the network. So it leads there now.”
I ignored the horrid smell and the lack of space and just kept crawling. After what seemed like an eternity of not seeing anything but Kaleb’s back and the claustrophobic pipe walls tinted neon green by the light of the glowstick. The way was made no better by the deafening silence
The pipe opened to a subway tunnel, leaving us about six or seven yards in the air. Thankfully, an old and rusty construction scaffolding had been left there, allowing us to easily climb down.
“The subway tracks are full of abandoned materials, scaffolding, tiles, bricks, cement bags, almost like the crew left in a panic.”
The white tiled wall of the tunnel had been tagged with directions. The one to our left was simply marked ‘The pit’ while the other was ‘Crash space’
“What’s the pit?” I asked as Kaleb went the other way.
“Part of the track sunk down a hole, it’s deep enough we can't see the bottom if we put drop a stick down. We don’t know what’s down there or beyond it.” He said with a shrug. “Our place is maybe thirty minute walk from here.”
We kept walking down the tracks for a long time, there wasn’t much to see, dirty white tiles after dirty white tiles. There hadn’t seemed to be a lot of people down there as it was devoid of graffiti except the occasional direction mark to remind you where you were going. We passed the first station when things once again turned for the worse.
I think you know what I mean: More howling.
“Shit, they’ve found us.” Kaleb said, he started running and I followed suit.
After dancing, running and walking and crawling for what seemed to be a lifetime, it was getting harder, my feet were rebelling and I was starving. But we kept doing so, after maybe a minute however, I saw something dark and low wheeze past me and hit Kaleb. At the time, I thought it was a large dog. But it wasn’t.
It was a goddamn wolf. We were fighting Shifters.
Without a moment of hesitation It went for Caleb’s jugular, but he punched the beast in the throat, making it emit a long whine. He kept doing so and I stood there paralyzed. I was completely overwhelmed by the situation, I hadn’t ever gotten into a fight beyond the one with Coil and you know how poorly that had went down… And I’d been armed and prepared that time…
My indecision didn’t make me a no-contest it seemed as one of the beast hit me with all it’s impact, I fell down on the ground and his my head against the rail. It probably should have hurt, but the vampiric rush was already getting the best of me. The creature clawed at me, tearing my top and slicing the skin of my shoulder, my chest being more or less protected as it cleaved my falsies. As odd as it was that pissed me more than the attempted murder. These things weren’t cheap, good ones could cost over a hundred dollar a pair…
I grabbed it by the neck and started squeezing, ignoring it’s claws attacking me. It let out a choked whine and hit me with a flurry of hits that finished tearing my top to shreds. I was aware I was bleeding, but I didn’t care.
Before I could finish it off, Kaleb wrestled the thing off me and threw it against the wall. An impressive feat considering his slim build, but adrenaline allowed very amazing thing to happen. He put his hands on the thing and it shifted in front of my eyes, becoming a nude teenaged girl maybe a year younger than me.
“Don’t you dare touch her!” Kaleb screamed, he passed his hands over her face and there was a palpable hum that filled the air. When he let her go, he stumbled like he was dizzy… and then I saw what he’d done: the flesh of her face had been warped, her mouth and nose covered with skin. She panicked as she choked, clawing at her face, her eyes teared up.
“Unchange her!” Someone yelled.
I turned around, it was Lisa. Notably, she was stark naked. Like the girl that had just changed back into her human form. She wasn’t the least bit shy about this. She had a few more wolves behind her. Which was odd, shifters could take the shape of any predatory animals, they weren’t restricted to one form… Maybe it was a pack thing?
“Fuck you. You tried to kill my friend.” He said, panting. I noticed he was bleeding pretty badly.
“Unchange her and ‘she’ lives.” She yelled, using air quotes. The other wolves took position, ready to pounce me.
I heard Kaleb utter a symphony of profanities, he put his hand back on the girl and her face returned to normal, she’d lost consciousness… but still she took a large wispy breath.
“Good boy.” She sneered condescendingly. “But you know; I didn’t promise the he-she wouldn’t be maimed.”
She shapeshifted, but unlike the others, rather than become a wolf, she transformed into a massive monster of muscle and fur, if it hadn’t been hunched over, it would have probably measured nine feet tall and must have weighed a half-ton.
She snarled and the wolves went for Kaleb while she pounced at me. Her weight sent me back to the floor and my lungs emptied, I couldn’t move or breathe anymore. She raised a hand, which looked like a mix of a human’s and a wolf’s paw with absurdly long claws at the end. But before she could strike down, she took a sniff and seemed repulsed as she let out a shriek and winced away.
She growled twice making a noise that might have been a “What” and a ”Youuuuuu” but I was probably reading too much into it. She didn’t seem capable of vocalizing in that form. Then she snarled at me, baring her mouths full of knives at me, dripping saliva onto my open wounds. If I didn’t get mauled to death, the resulting infection would have the better of me.
Although it was a stupid move, I turned to see Kaleb. I couldn’t see him directly, the rail blocking most of my view, but I could see the mass of fur atop him.
Lisa drove her claw into my shoulder bringing me back to my own struggle. I squealed in pain with whatever air was left in my lungs.
Then the world exploded. From the dull green light, the subway tunnel switched to bright orange and I saw something catch ablaze.
“Liam!” A strong commanding female voice echoed in the subway. “Sic ‘em!”
A mass of fur and muscle pounced through the air and hit Lisa, sending her backward and off me. It wasn’t as large as Lisa had become, but it seemed to make up for it with enthusiasm and sheer fury.
She howled in pain.
I won’t lie: It was satisfying.