Hours passed. The streets were silent and still but we hadn’t moved from our hideout since our encounter with ‘them’. What fate had befallen Vivian was unclear, but neither I nor Charlotte had high hopes.
We had managed to grab a couple of bags with us as we fled the supermarket, but most of our haul had been left behind; too much to carry in such a rush. I contemplated returning for them later, but the risk was too great; they might be watching. What a waste…
My thoughts kept returning to that moment Vivian had rushed headfirst into their trap – was it a fit of panic that caused her to break cover, or had she made a willing sacrifice so that we might escape? In truth I had no idea, but we both owed her our lives. I only hoped she hadn’t sacrificed hers for nothing.
I peered from behind the garbage container which blocked our view from the alleyway to the street beyond. The shadows were growing longer and the daylight dim; it was getting late. The office building; our safe house lay only a few blocks away, but fear had so far kept us at bay.
Then again, with the night so too came the creepers in the darkness. I didn’t know which prospect scared me more – stay and wait until they found us, or run and risk being spotted. There was only so much time left before we would be forced to make a choice…
Charlotte and I discussed our options; there weren’t many. We still had our hand-drawn maps to plan our route back to the office, but perhaps a closer hideout might be better. At any rate, we couldn’t stay here; the alleyway was too exposed and we would be sitting ducks if we were discovered again. It was time for action.
I studied the map more carefully – the subway station! It was close and would make for perfect cover. Charlotte and I planned a course along the backroads. It was risky, but it would have to do.
Carefully, cautiously, we emerged from our hiding place and proceeded down the street towards our goal. With each anxious step, I thought of the bright lights and strange mechanical clangs of that ‘thing’ which had taken Vivian, expecting it to return at any moment. Luck was with us this time though and the journey was quiet and uneventful.
We reached the station just as the last few rays of daylight were vanishing over the city skyline. The entrance to the underground stood open and welcoming, but beyond the darkness promised nothing but uncertainty. What perils might lay beneath the city streets? How many others had already sought refuge below ground? How many of them were still alive?
It was too late to turn back now. Soon the streets above would be as black as the tunnels below, but up here we were unprotected and exposed. For once, uncertainty was the better option.
Together, Charlotte and I descended into the darkness. By the time we had reached the bottom step, we were blind. The Shanghai subway system was deep, and without the usual bright fluorescent lights, the darkness was absolute. It was chilly too. I shivered as I opened one of the bags still strung around my shoulder and rummaged around for a moment before pulling out a torch and two woolen blankets, handing one to Charlotte. She accepted gratefully and wrapped it around herself. I switched on the torch and the station lit up.
Without the usual crowd of hurried commuters, it was an eerie scene. Silent and empty, the light of my torch passed over vacant ticket booths and turnstiles. There was a soft dripping sound from somewhere, and even my soft breathing seemed unnaturally loud against the quiet. At least we seemed to be alone.
We moved further in, our footsteps echoing loudly on the marble floor despite our care. If anyone else had been here, there was no sign of them now. Even the vending machines seemed untouched. We passed through the turnstiles and made our way towards the escalators which lead down to the station itself. Deeper seemed the safest option.
The torchlight carved our way through the dark and we found ourselves in between the tracks leading east and west. I felt a gust of wind blowing from one side and saw where the glass safety barrier had been shattered; a gaping hole made by someone, or something trying to get through. Had they been trying to get in or out? I shuddered at the thought. They had been here though, that much was clear. The breeze was welcome though as it cleared the stale air.
On the other side, a train had pulled into the station; it’s final destination. The doors stood open and inviting. At last a safe place to rest for the night.
Once we were sure we were alone, we made ourselves comfortable on the empty train seats as best we could. It had been a long day and we were both exhausted. Risky though it was, we neglected to sleep in shifts, and as my head rested on the hard seat, I slept.
to be continued…