The Undercity of Old Gotham: Horror Flash Fiction by cam
High Street/Brooklyn Bridge Station
There is a city beneath a city where wonders of the past go unnoticed and fall further into degradation as the years pass, the craftsmanship of human hands. Few now have a desire to venture where the bustling masses once bumped and jostled one another on their way to somewhere else. But there is one who delved into the depths of Old Gotham where he and the darkness embraced like desperate lovers.
This man’s heart was divided so that in each world he planted a foot hoping that one or the other would take root and give him a place to belong. In the world of light, he was Ben but nameless and faceless in the dark places. One day he ventured out from the abandoned halls into the sunlight and fresh air to visit the library where he met a young woman named Sybil.
For six months he wooed and won the heart of the shy, green eyed librarian, but the Casanova of the daylight was vastly different from the horror that claimed the darkness as his own. Ben presented the idea of exploring the undercity as a way for Sybil to practice her photography.
She was comfortable while they wandered through the maze of disused subway tunnels. The Abandoned stations with high domes of stained glass and tiled arches inspired photograph after photograph and a willingness to follow Ben further, deeper. But even her star-spangled infatuation had its limits.
“No, Ben. It stinks down there.”
The City Hall Station
“But this is the best part of all. Please, Sybil. If I go down first, will you follow for just a few minutes?” He lifted a manhole cover and slid it aside. A few seconds later his voice drifted upward, pleading with her. “Okay, Sybil, I’m ready. Come down now.”
Her feet dangled in the hole until she found the first ladder rung. She descended until the floor of the upper chamber became the ceiling of the foulest smelling place she had ever known. Hands grasped her middle and lowered her to the floor. She screamed. In the silence that followed, she heard the manhole cover slide back into place, then Ben was back at her side. Sybil had had enough.
“I want out now, Ben! Take me back up this minute. When you offered to lift me down from the ladder, I thought it was chivalrous and romantic. But my feet didn’t land on dry bricks but in a foot and a half of sewage. Do you call this a date? You asked if I wanted to see some of the tunnels under our city. I said yes because I trusted you.
When you first came to the library while I was working and talked to me, you made me feel special. But look where you brought me. I’m standing in this filth wondering what it is that keeps bumping against my legs. Will you at least say something? Tell me what is swimming around me in this cesspool. Tell me why we are here, that you have a good reason for this. Say something, damnit.”
Say something? Should I tell her that I brought her here by deception because I knew she would never respond favorably to the truth––that I have cravings that will go forever unmet if I wait for people to accept who I am––that she is only the latest in a long lineup of those with whom I have satisfied my craving––that this is my home and that is why, for six months, she has never even gotten my address––that in a matter of minutes, I will not be the man she has known? Should I tell her this?
My friends, the little devils swimming around bumping her legs, are harmless, mostly, if you don’t turn your back to them, or fall asleep while they are near or stand knee deep in sewage in the dark while they swim around your legs. The consequences can be transformational.
Sybil is different from the others. Though I have never fallen in love before, I’m certain this must be the real thing. If she stays any longer, I won’t be able to stop what happens. I must get her out before it’s too late. But I can smell her feminine scent, her hair. The ladder is only feet away. I could send her up now where she would be safe. But I need her. The aroma is overwhelming.
I can feel your breath on my cheek, my neck. What is it, Ben? Why won’t you speak to me? Why won’t you help me? I’m afraid. Let me touch you. I want to hold your h––Oh my god! What is that. What are you? Ben, I need you. Something terrible his here…”
Ten feet above her head, Sybil heard the manhole cover slide across pitted concrete. Light pierced the darkness and the eyes of the young woman. Tears streaked her face. Strands of loose red hair which had once been neatly pulled back, stuck to her sweaty cheeks .
“Help me! Help me! There’s something down here.”
The man was already halfway down the ladder. Seconds later he had her in his arms. “Hey, young lady, there ain’t nobody down here but me and you. Let’s get you up top and dried off. Then you can tell me your story. I can’t wait to hear what made you think it was a good idea to come down here alone.”
She went up first, and the security guard followed, constantly checking the tunnel for any sign of movement. Sybil ran about ten feet from the manhole and turned back to wait for the security guard. His head popped up into view. He turned and looked at her but came no further up.
Hey, lady?” He reached out a hand toward her. “Help?” Then he slid back a few inches. “Please?” His eyes begged her.
Sybil gathered her remaining courage and took one step, then two, three. Their hands clasped and she pulled.
But the security guard slid further. “They want to play.” He dragged her toward the hole.
Sybil slipped and landed in a sitting position with her feet in front of her.
The security guard grabbed her foot and released her hand. He kept trying to pull himself out by using her as a rope.
Sybil was slipping inch by inch. But she would not go back. Whatever was down there, wanted her. She drove the bottom of her shoe into the security guard’s face over and over again.
The man’s nose pointed to the left where blood smeared along his jaw. His grip on her ankle loosened.
Sybil kicked again, and the security guard let go. He slid back and down a few inches. “They just want to play.” He smiled again, but this time didn’t look so convincing. He dragged his fingernails over the concrete until they splintered and popped off leaving little trails of blood. Then he was gone.
The manhole cover slid back into place with a clang that reverberated up and down the subway complex and promised to echo in Sybil’s sleepless mind for years to come.