My heart feels like it's about to burst. I can hear them, they're almost on me. In front of me, building looms. Without thinking, I shove through the doors. An aisle, I run down it, catch a glimpse of benches lining either side – then a deafening crash, and the next thing I know, I'm lying in the dark, looking up through the floor at the ceiling. Feeling like a train just hit me.
"She ran in here." Footsteps. I crawl aside as best I can. They come to a stop right above me.
"Looks deep." He kicks something. It clinks nearby.
"Aw, it isn't even worth it."
The skinny one leans over. "You down there, kid?"
Silence. I try to hold my breath.
"Maybe she's dead."
"So why don't you go down and check?"
I hear them pacing around.
"It'll look real bad." The bearded one says, "If they find out."
"They ain't gonna find out. Let's go, this place gives me the creeps."
The footsteps start to fade away. I let out a quiet sigh.
"Wait." My heart stops. "I gotta idea." The sound of something dragging. "Give me a hand, will ya?" The sound gets closer, and closer. And something blocks out the light above. Only a chink left now. It stops for a moment.
"Have fun with the ghosts, kid!" The skinny one calls. They both laugh. A thump, and the light disappears. I listen to their steps recede.
Silence. I wait until my heart stops racing, and then some. Still silence. The pain, it's fading surprisingly quickly. I sit up slowly, just in case. And hold my hand up in front of my face.
I can't see a damn thing.
His words echo in my head, and I shudder. In spite of myself, it's starting. That tingle.
"I ain't afraid of no ghosts." I call out. But, it sounds wavery, uncertain. And echoes faintly.
Okay, you've been through worse than this before. You're gonna get out. Just don't freak.
I try to take calming breaths. And feel around me.
At least I landed on something soft. Like a mattress, or something. So I didn't break anything. Who says I'm not lucky? I smile. Just need to find a wall. Then I can follow it, to a staircase or something.
"Well, you should be." A small circle of light dances in front of me. "Afraid of ghosts." I nearly jump about ten feet.
"Sorry! I – I –" I shut my mouth just in time. It's just some dude, holding a flashlight. Well. Now I feel stupid. "What the hell are you doing here?" I snap.
"Could ask you the same thing." He glares at me. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"I was running." I brush myself off. "From the reapers."
"The reapers?" He stares at me. "What the fuck did you do?" And suddenly turns away. "Nevermind. Don't want to know."
Wasn't going to tell you, anyway.
He waves the flashlight over the wall. "So yeah, you should be careful. They don't like people they're not used to."
"The ghosts." He looks at me like I'm stupid. "Of course."
"Oh." Right. Random underground guy is crazy. Should have figured. "So." I try to sound friendly. "Can you show me how to get out of here?"
"I thought you'd never ask." He starts walking. "Well, come on." He looks back at me.
Can I trust him? I shrug. Not like I have a choice.
We walk in silence. Through some dark halls. With weird statues, and openings on either side. Every once in a while I get a glimpse of some things that look like – skulls? No, it can't be. Finally, a doorway, and we start up a winding staircase. And emerge, into light. It hits me like a brick.
We're standing at the other side of the room, but I barely recognize it. I didn't notice before, but it's big, imposing, even. The aisle, and the benches so solemn looking. And the light. It filters through this window, unlike any I've seen before. More like a painting than a window, with glass of somehow all kinds of colors. It's prettier than anything I've set eyes on, for a long time.
"What is this place?" I find myself almost whispering.
"It's a church." He grins, like he's enjoying this.
"What's a church."
"Wow." His smile disappears. "Kids these days."
"Kid?" I look at him indignantly. "I'm only what – a few years younger than you?"
"A few years make all the difference."
Can't argue with that.
He turns away."Trust you can find your way out from here?"
He takes a few steps. And stops.
"What the hell did you do to my floor?"
"Your floor?" I walk up beside him. "What, you own this place?" I don't see your name on it.
"No." He looks at me. "But I live here."
He starts moving away. Either now, or never.
"Can you show me?" I blurt out. He stops. "I mean, I do want to know." I look down. "What a church is, and stuff."
I can feel him studying me. Finally, he sighs. "Sure." He turns away again. "But, come back at night."
Before I can stop myself. "Why?"
"I have to work."
He walks down the aisle, and disappears through the door.