Jack revealed

Footsteps moved towards her slowly. A light flickered in front of her eyes, and the visage of the guide to the underground was suddenly splattered with light, alarmingly close to her own.

For a few seconds, Lizabeth was mesmerized by the deep blue of his eyes. They looked almost soft, like velvet, as though they were something you could slide into. His crooked eyebrows drifted down into a frown and he blinked.

“For God’s sake!” she scrambled backwards, brandishing her pistol. “Keep your distance!”

“Whaddya want?” he replied, scratching his unruly black hair. “I’m busy.”

"I need you to open the grate to the mortuary."

“And why would I do that fer you, Elizabeth?“

“Because I'm asking you to.”

She stared at him, not quite looking at him in the eye. An angry scowl sunk into her features.

“Listen. If it suits me to open it up, and it might, it'll be because I was in a good mood today, not because you told me to.”

Jack shrugged, his worn tuxedo lifting and falling stiffly. He rubbed his face with the back of his hand, revealing a patch of lighter skin beneath the soot.

“Filthy animal.” Lizabeth scowled at him. “Get on with it."

“You’ll hold your tongue, Elizabeth Marie Renard. I’m in charge down ‘ere, so you’ll wait."

Jack turned his back to her and slunk off into the darkness again, his torn coattails trailing behind him.

Lizabeth let out an annoyed hiss, but sat down on the ground next to a fat-looking rat and fed it crumbs from her pocket while she waited for the Underground guardian to return.

It had been many years since she had last crossed paths with Jack. The fact that she had found him alive today had surprised her. She had known him since she was a girl—since he had been exiled to the sewers with the rest of the so-called afflicted—and never once had she seen him get out of a jam successfully.

The rat nibbled her finger gently, and she rubbed its greasy head while staring off into the distance. Jack had been her closest confidant, her only friend for four years. She had kept him alive, feeding him off scraps that had floated by in the sewage water, or rats they found skulking about near their blankets. Sometimes Jack risked going up into the daylight to find food the city dwellers had thrown into the trash, but not too often. They had seen many go, and much fewer return.

It was a number of things that set the afflicted--Jack and his kind--apart from those above. Deep eyes, the kind that hypnotize, black hair, pale skin. A sort of aura about them that made the city dwellers inch back in terror. A patience that ran deeper than seas, but an anger that, left unquenched, could prove self-destructive. It wasn’t that they were special in any tangible way. They were just eerily different. Lizabeth could sense it on occasion, when she met certain underground dwellers. This feeling of foreboding, or sometimes terror, that crept up on her when she stared into their eyes.

Lizabeth, on the other hand, was neither City nor Underground. She was dead, the hired middleman between above and below.

“All right.” Jack’s voice echoed off the walls, his disheveled form appearing once again in the light of her candle. “It's open. But if you're going in there, I'll be takin' you."

The End

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