And This One Time…
'I'm weird?' raged his thoughts. 'What about him? Waking up to a station full of blood and no visible reaction when he tells about it? Not even a tiny shudder? And what's with the leather coat? Who does he think he is, some guy from a vampire flick?' Needless to say, Jack felt incredibly insulted by Percy's comment. In fact, if it hadn't been for Max's hand on his shoulder he would have tackled the older man from behind and given him a piece of his mind. Max's small gesture actually seemed to calm him somewhat, though a glowing ember of rage remained in his mind. Whenever Jack looked at him, Max seemed to be to deep in thought to notice, except the one time he gave Jack a shake of his head to keep him from doing what would probably be a very stupid thing.
The hallway seemed to stretch into eternity. They walked for several minutes, their only source of light being Percy's lighter. Their footsteps made, in their ears, more noise than an eighteen-wheeler driving through a nuclear test site. Suddenly, Percy stopped. He was mumbling something about "not being this damn long," and "where the hell are we?" They stood like that for a while, Percy a few paces ahead of them.
"Hey, Percy?" asked Max carefully.
"Wotcher?" he gave as a greeting and question.
"Are we lost?"
"Of course not," he let out, a little too quickly for them to take it seriously.
"Admit it, we're lost," Jack said.
"No, we're not lost; we're merely…temporarily misplaced. My sense of direction is not what it used to be…" he trailed off. Jack noticed that he hadn't taken a single drag of the cigarette as it burned slowly but surely.
"Sure, and I'm a step-stool. What sense of direction? This hallway only goes in one direction. And what's with the cancer stick, anyway? You haven't inhaled at all."
"I stopped smoking a long time ago, lighting one and having it in my mouth helps to calm me down," he replied defensively.
"Shut up you two," interrupted Max before they started to fling insults at each other. "We can't go back, the platform collapsed and there's nothing else there, and we can only go forward. Let's do just that until we come across something, anything," he finished and started walking, soon disappearing into the darkness. Percy and Jack stood there and looked in the direction Max had gone, gave each other a glaring glance and hurried after him. It would not be a comfortable weight on his conscious if Max got killed because of his and Percy's bickering.
They walked for at least an hour after that, none of them saying a word to each other. Max had slowed down to walk beside Jack while Percy once again took the role as a portable light. He almost didn't notice the hand that once again positioned itself feather-light on his shoulder. He considered saying something, but when he noticed a slight tremor in the boy's arm, he let the thought go. If Max helped him quell his anger with his presence, then Jack would calm Max down with Jack's. Up ahead, Percy grumbled. "Damn teenagers and their attitudes…" could be heard. Max snickered silently at this. Jack gave him an almost unseen questioning glance. Max whispered in his ear. "He's barely twenty, or so he says, and seems to be quite proud of it." Jack laughed a little himself. The grumbling ahead intensified.
They kept walking until Percy's lighter started flickering. He cursed loudly. "The damn thing is running out of fluid," he said loudly, and his voice echoed down the huge hallway. Max was about to reply with worry, but Jack interrupted him. "Look over there, is that light?" They looked and indeed, far ahead of them was a tiny speck of light, looking like it was miles away. This would probably discourage the boys, seeing as they were very tired from the walking, but they were suddenly strongly motivated by a howling sound that travelled from behind.
"What was that?" asked Max, his eyes wide. Jack winced, he remembered the gurgling sound. How did it find him there? There was no place it could enter the corridor from the sides, and the room he woke up in was just an endless shaft now. He did not have more time to think as he noticed that Max was tugging on his arm and Percy was running several paces away from them. Picking up on the not-so subtle signals, Jack moved his legs quickly. They could hear heavy footsteps picking up in pace behind them, proving Percy's suspicions of it following them true. He sped up, calling to his companions to do likewise.
"If you don't hurry up, that thing will catch you," he yelled. Max and Jack did not need to be told twice. They were sure they were going to be caught by the thing that was following them before they even got close to the light, but to their surprise, it grew bigger and closer much faster than they expected. The stench was back in Jack's nose and he felt bile welling up in the back of his mouth, but he forced it down again. The increased light made him able to see that Max was experiencing something similar, though he had slightly better control of his facial expression. Percy coughed loudly in front of them, his step faltering. The smell had reached his nostrils as well. The footsteps ever closing on them, they passed through an archway and into the light. The room beyond turned out to be some kind of waiting area, much like a platform at a train station, except that where there were supposed to be train tracks and power lines, there was nothing. The benches, route tablets and clocks were there, even a soda machine and commercial posters, but the "train" part of the station was gone. They could not see an exit either. There were stairs, but they led up a wall and nothing more.
"It's a dead end," Percy growled frustrated. They quickly looked around for somewhere to escape, painfully aware of the approaching footsteps, heavy panting, growling and howling. Jack felt ready to give up and let the thing take him. It was him it was it after, wasn't it? Percy and Max hadn't said anything about being followed by a creature that ripped a room apart only to reveal that it hadn't after all. It could not be an illusion either, considering that both of them could see, hear and smell it. So what could he do? He looked around again, nothing that resembled an escape way could be found…until he saw something resembling a handle sticking out of the side of the marble stairs. He leaned sideways to see better. Yes, it was a handle, a steel one at that.
"Hey guys, there's a door over here," he called and ran behind the stairs. The door was a heavy, thick steel door, designed to keep burglars and the like out. He pushed the handle down and jerked, and to his delight, it swung open, revealing something that looked like a service tunnel, the kind you see in horror movies in sewers. He thought nothing of it, he just wanted to get away from the creature that would soon enough reach the archway and take them. He looked at the doors inner side and almost whooped with joy when he saw that it had several heavy-duty bolt locks and a large security chain. Percy and Max hurled themselves through the door, followed closely by Jack who immediately slammed the door closed and started working on the bolts. Max joined him while Percy kept guard behind them so nothing would ambush them. A heavy impact on the other side almost bent the door, but it held. They group took it as a hint to keep running down the tunnel.
"We made, we bloody made it," said Percy, short of breath from all the running. He may not have been particularly heavy, on the contrary, he was what Jack would like to call a stick if he ever saw his weight, but he was not in very good shape, so any physical exertion would completely exhaust him. Max was grinning widely, but it thinned a little when they heard another bang from far behind them. The door was starting to squeal, signifying that it had started to bend.
"I wouldn't take the victory in advance, Percy, that thing is still chasing us," said Max, also out of breath.
They soon came to a split in the tunnel. One path led to the right, down an even darker place, while the other continued straight ahead, staying semi-lit along the way. Percy made a move to the right, but Jack suddenly grabbed his arm and made him stay put. "That's what it will expect us to do," he said and started running down the straight path. Max and Percy looked at each other and shrugged and then followed him.
"If you get us killed, Ghost, I'm holding you responsible," Percy called ahead at him.
To be continued…
And once again, this story makes my epic take a backseat…oh well…