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Underground Corpse PT2

By Pitchbright


He'll miss this place, wherever it is. Like being caught between dreams. He can't feel much of anything--it's dark, quiet, he's not even sure he is lying down. There are sounds, but nothing he can focus on. He wonders how something can be so beautiful and terrifying at the same time.

There is a flash of light that hurts his eyes. A moment later, he can feel the ground beneath his feet. The darkness settles into walls. Cold, damp air fills his lungs.

He is Underground.

He tries to remember how he got here. He was at a crowded nightclub in Riverside. Out of nowhere, a stickman in old, baggy leather--a punk he had some kind of trouble with before--came up and asked him home. The invitation was a peace offering. Stickman wanted to show him something he'd bought off a couple teenagers. Maybe he'd sell it, he said, to the right person. Past differences aside. Good deal for a good friend.

So they walked together, like friends, through the dark. Stickman led without a word. Almost immediately, he was lost. The streetsigns were all gone. Every corner looked the same. Smoke from the factories blew in like fog, cutting his visibility down to half a block, sometimes less.

It might have been trap. This was a perfect night for revenge, for settling things. Stickman had every advantage. But he wasn't afraid of dying, not anymore. He was beyond fear. Beyond death. Better than death, he thought.

Through a rancid entryway. Up two flights of stairs to a tiny, one- room cell. He laughed to himself when Stickman locked the door behind them. There was an inflatable mattress on the floor, a dorm- sized refrigerator, a lamp with no shade, a stack of plastic milkcrates in the corner. The window, too small to even jump out of, was covered with sheets of foil.

"Here we are," the stickman said.

With an obvious effort, he lifted the top two milkcrates--full of dirty clothes, food, soap and toothpaste, found treasures--and set them on the floor. He dug through the bottom crate until he found what he was looking for. There, on his knees, he assembled a VR rig. It was new, but banged up. Everything had been modified. Stickman said his name...

What was it? He couldn't remember. What did it matter now? He wasn't the same person. He was Nameless.

"You first," he said. Stickman shrugged and jacked in. He went limp, head and arms slumping forward like a doll's. He looked pathetic. He looked dead. The room itself started screaming. But Stickman couldn't hear it. Nameless walked over silently and murdered him. Stickman had a lot of strength for a stickman, he thought. And a lot of blood.

Nameless, curious, removed the makeshift helmet and spread it to fit him. Without knowing what he was doing--at least not consciously--he jacked into the system.

Now here is--Underground. Not the underground he knew, but something different, older. It's darker than the night outside, even with the overhead lighting. Quiet but the air's not screaming here. Perfect. He feels like God walking in the afternoon shade of the Garden. His boots don't make a sound. He can see into the blackest shadow.

He realizes this place only exists because he wants it to. He is creating everything he sees. The tunnels spread out from him like roots underneath the city. From somewhere, far away or deep inside him, comes the song of a churchbell.

Nice touch, he tells himself.

And he moves through the air, feeling the world stretch out before him, shrink behind him, like a bubble of imagination.

But something isn't right. He stops and listens. There are footsteps, quick and light, coming towards him. He wants to be alone. He wills it. But they continue, closer, just around the corner now.

He backs against the wall. A young woman appears--short, thin, black hair that catches what little light there is, eyes so green they glow. Small, but tough. She doesn't belong. She is a mistake.

There is a scuffling noise that catches both of them off guard. She reaches into her coat for a gun. As he envisions it, a cat runs out across her path, away from them. The woman giggles. He giggles to himself, like her, mocking her, mimicking her.

She gets ahold of herself, though it's clear she's still afraid. She takes a few steps, exactly as he wants her to, stops just ahead of him.

Silly girl. She thinks this is real. She believes this world is hers, everyone's.

He slips out behind her, into her, through her screaming face, and thinks, What's mine is mine and you can't have it...