|The Nameless District
Author: Randwulf PM
No one knew why the Nameless District was in such an abandoned state. No one really spoke about it. It seemed odd that such an easily noticeable piece of the city could be so easily ignored. But that it was. If only they knew its secret...Rated: Fiction T - English - Sci-Fi - Words: 1,524 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 2 - Published: 10-25-11 - id: 2964271
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Just past midnight, two boys faced the final obstacle between themselves and the deep unknown: a short but perilous leap from the roof of a robotics warehouse to the rough parapets of a massive concrete wall. The dim, directed lights of the city behind revealed only a vague outline of their target, but that was enough. The boy in front jumped, and after falling several feet down and several feet forward, landed lightly where he'd aimed.
And finally it appeared before him, the dark and limitless void that was the Nameless District.
As if on cue, the scene brightened for a minute as in the distance a fusion rocket lifted off and arced toward the stars, spewing a mist of bloody light behind. The reddened rows of gardens along the streets of the district were either dry and barren or weedy and overgrown, its buildings both weather stained and graffiti wreathed. But not a single thing was smashed or broken, and not a single thing would be until a quake rent the earth beneath it, or some other calamity attacked. Hooligans with baseball bats had no hope of denting the district's carbon fiber streetlights or cracking the reinforced windows of its uncountable, forgotten constructions. And so the Nameless District was also a timeless one.
No one knew why the Nameless District was in such an abandoned state. No one really spoke about it. It seemed odd that such an easily noticeable piece of the city could be so easily ignored. But that it was. Maps were blank and featureless where the district's streets crossed each other. The wall around it had no entrances or exits. If anyone had ever been caught inside, spraying paint or just roaming the district's desolation, there had never been word of it upon papers or upon tongues.
The boy on the wall was shaken out of his trance when his companion finally landed behind him, minutes later. Or perhaps he'd imagined minutes where only seconds had passed.
"Seen enough?" the meeker boy shakily asked his companion, who snorted loudly.
"Of course not! Look at it! Come on!" The rope was exactly where it was supposed to be, fastened tightly to a steel post at the wall's top and dangling down to the smooth pavement below, swaying just slightly as a lethargic breeze snailed through the air. He grabbed it and fearlessly leaned out over the wall to begin walking down its side as he'd seen climbers do so often on the network.
"Are you sure about this?" the other boy asked uneasily as his friend disappeared from sight.
"Of course I'm sure!" a shouted whisper called up, "Go home if you want. Or wait for me to get to the bottom and then come down."
The boy waited, predictably, and as his friend landed on the pavement below, he began to follow down the rope with quick breaths and shaking hands. It was a long time before his feet touched the ground. The other boy's coaxing had become more and more frustrated, but always encouraging, and he broke into a smile when their eyes were level once again. "See, I knew you could do it," he said.
Both boys were giddy with excitement, although much aware of a crawling trepidation, as they began to search through the streets and alleys of the Nameless District. Eventually the braver one built up enough courage to drag his friend through the open door of a dusky building a dozen stories tall. They seemed to be in a reception room of sorts. Comfortable, velvet chairs neatly surrounded low coffee tables, and a reception counter sat beside a pair of swinging doors leading deeper into the building. There was nothing of value inside, and several chairs were broken in a way that suggested a violent end. But whether the valuables had been taken by looters or in the evacuation of the district, there was no telling. No one even knew the manner in which the district became empty. Suddenly and violently? Slowly and deliberately? A mystery.
The doors in the back of the room were locked, so the two went back out onto the street. Closer this time, and on the other side of the sky, another rocket leaped into the night, and with it a minute or so of waning red moonlight. They used it to continue deeper into the Nameless District. The hum of the city, which neither before had ever truly noticed, began to fade, and the Nameless District offered nothing but eerie silence to replace it.
It seemed to have no end. The graffiti just became sparser and sparser and the streets darker and darker. Nothing moved, and even the wind had stilled. The lights from the city behind were just barely visible on the horizon as a dim, hazy glow. Stars and rockets soon became the only true sources of light. And still no end came into sight.
"We should go back..."
"Oh for the millionth time, go back if you want, but I'm finding the other side!" The boy's skin had begun to crawl though, as civilization became more and more distant. He fancied himself brave, but no man's invincible.
Eventually a street poured them onto an immense plaza. To the left, a dozen rails connected at a once busy monorail station. To the right stood an enormous factory of some sort, with smokestacks piercing high into the starry night. Ahead was darkness. Deep, frightening, beckoning desolation of untold depths.
The boy behind stood his ground. "Nope, no way," he said as the boy in front kept walking.
"Ok, see you later. Unless something kills you."
Within seconds they were walking together into the darkness.
"This is crazy. You said you just wanted to see this place."
"Yeah, that's what we're doing. If we don't get to the end soon, we'll turn back, ok?"
The pavement was black, the air was black, everything was black. They couldn't tell if they were walking on the ground or floating in deep space. One boy looked towards the ground, expecting to see stars, but saw only emptiness.
The plaza tapered down as they ventured on, the buildings to the left and right steadily drawing closer. And after over a mile, it finally tapered down to a point, and at that point lay the opening of a tunnel, about large enough to admit four cars.
It was messily sprayed in thick red paint beside the tunnel, on a sign whose original content had been washed away by rain and wind long ago. It was the first piece of graffiti they'd encountered in an hour. Only the braver boy noticed it.
His voice quivered as he told his friend, "I'm going to just peek inside and then we'll head back." The other boy didn't even seem to hear. He was too busy watching over his shoulder for ghouls that weren't there.
He entered slowly and with feather-light steps. Ahead, in the ceiling of the tunnel, an open manhole permitted a round shaft of starlight into the darkness. Somewhere, a rocket took off, and the tunnel brightened, showing another message on the wall, in the same red color and with the same unsteady hand,
I warned you
Ahead, something began to faintly glow, but faded in seconds. He gulped and inched towards it.
Suddenly a violent force slammed him to the ground and paralyzed him. A piercing shriek tore through his ears and the world flashed a monstrous red the brightness of the sun. He rolled over, dazed, and scrabbled towards the exit of the tunnel, brutally scraping his hands on the pavement until he was eventually able to get up and run. He stumbled once, fell, got up again, and finally found himself under the stars, running aimlessly. He saw his friend's mouth move as he ran past, but he heard nothing but the shrieking.
He stumbled into an alley somewhere back up the plaza and slid down the wall, cradling his bleeding hands. His friend arrived soon after. The shrieking continued, but distantly. He could now clearly hear that it was a siren, not some insane monster. Still, he shook like a leaf in a hurricane.
"Are you ok?" his friend asked.
He displayed his hands, "gouged these up a bit... but I'm ok..."
He was about to say something else, but a thwacking sound from back towards the tunnel stopped him.
The meeker boy peered around the corner of the alley. "Helicopter," he said.
The braver boy joined him to look. Two men leaped out of the helicopter and entered the tunnel. Soon, the siren stopped, they emerged again, re-mounted the helicopter, and returned to wherever they came from.
"So can we go back now."
"There's something in there."
"Yeah, well, uh," the meeker boy chose his words carefully. "We can find out what it is later."
"I'll hold you to that," the braver boy grinned devilishly.