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Authors: Danielle Vega

Survive the Night (12 page)

BOOK: Survive the Night
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glowing in the light of Woody's phone. Coarse gray fur covers their dirty bodies. Their noses twitch in the air, catching our scent.

I try to stand, but fear makes my legs jerky and stiff. There are too many of them. They crawl over each other in a swarm of writhing bodies and pink tails. The sound of gnashing teeth and high-pitched squeaking echoes around us. I expect them to be afraid, to run in the opposite direction. Then a large rat breaks away from the pack and darts at me. I realize something right before it digs its sharp, yellowed teeth into my skin:

They're hungry.

Stinging pain shoots through my arm. I scream and yank it away, slipping on the algae lining the tunnel floor. My feet slide out from beneath me. A sea of rats rushes to the edge of the scaffold, saliva dripping from their teeth. They're the last thing I see before I crash below the water again. Distantly, I hear my friends screaming. Then water rushes into my ears, blocking them out.

Rats pour over the sides of the scaffold, dropping into the water, and their furry bodies sink toward me. Horror rolls through my gut. I open my mouth to scream, but water floods my lungs and I start to choke instead. Darkness flickers at the corners of my eyes. I grope around in the water for something to grab on to and my fingers graze matted, wet fur. Teeth dig into the flesh between my thumb and forefinger. Pain shoots up my hand.

I grit my teeth to keep from screaming, and shake the rat from my hand. Clumsily, I break the surface of the water. Scaly pink tails whip against my cheeks. They feel like razor blades lashing at my skin. I cover my face with my hands, and the rats crawl over my arms and shoulders and get tangled in my hair. Their claws prick my skin. They squeak and scream into my ear.

A rat slips through my fingers. Its teeth dig into my cheek.

A splash echoes behind me. Tremors rumble through the floor.

The rats fall silent. I feel their bodies trembling as they leap off me and plop into the water. I throw myself away from them and scramble to my feet, shaking so badly my knees knock together. I swat at my arms and shoulders. I still feel their feet on my skin, their tails in my hair.

Another splash. Ripples spread over the water. Cold fear oozes through my bones. I whip around, peering into the darkness. The surface of the water goes still.

“Who's there?” I whisper. Shadows gather at the far end of the tunnel. I wobble forward, heart hammering inside my chest. I squint.

Blue tulle bobs along next to the wall. I can just make out the ruffled edges in the darkness. I exhale, and relief pours over me like cool water. It's Aya. I take a step toward her.

“Sweetie?” I choke out when I can finally breathe again. “Are you—”

A hand clamps down on my shoulder. I jerk and spin around.

Sam kneels on the scaffold, reaching down for me. “Come on,” he says, offering me his arm. I glance back at Aya, but she makes no move to peel herself away from the wall, and I don't want to wade through the water and coax her out of the shadows. I grab hold of Sam's hand and let him haul me out of the water.

“What happened?” I ask. Woody lies on his back near the door. His phone sits in his lap. The dim light illuminates needle-thin scratches on his face and blood dripping from his chin.

Shana crouches behind the steel door, using it as a shield. A long, deep gash runs down her arm.

“Something scared the rats,” she says, her voice trembling. “What could've scared the rats?”

“I don't know,” Sam says.

“There was something in the water.” My voice doesn't sound like my own. It's thin and distant. “I heard a splash.”

I check my back pocket for my phone. My phone's gone, but the pill bottle is still there. I picture the round oxy tablets.
I should toss it into the water, too
. But I don't.

“Shit,” I mutter. I peer into the pool, but the water is black as oil. My phone's lost, and Sam's candle lies on its side next to his foot, the flame extinguished.

Woody takes the phone out of his lap. “And then there was one,” he says.

I point to the other side of the tunnel, and Woody aims his light at the wall. Water laps against the bricks. I can't make out Aya in the darkness, but the edge of her skirt jerks out of the circle of light and disappears into the shadows.

“Aya!” Woody calls. “Come over here with us.”

She doesn't answer. Shana glances over at me. “Someone should go get her,” she says.

Below us, a single rat squeaks, then dips below the surface. I cringe, and huddle back against the wall.

“Be my guest,” I mutter. Shana creeps out from behind the door, crouching at the side of the scaffold. She looks feral, with her pink hair tangled around her face and bite marks cutting across her cheeks. I stare at her for a beat too long. She's always been wild.

“She'll be okay for a few minutes,” Sam says. He drops his hand to my head and pulls his fingers through my damp, tangled hair.

I tilt my head back, studying his face in the dim light. He looks like he got the worst of the rat attack. Bite marks cover his face and arms, and a hole gapes at the collar of his shirt. Pity twists inside my chest. Even after what he did, I still want to smooth the hair back from his face. I want to get out of here and be with Sam and forget this nightmare.

Then I picture him pulling his fingers through Shana's hair, and the feeling fades. I lean away.

A hurt look passes over his face. “Are you okay?” he asks.

“Fine,” I say, standing. “Just a few scratches.”

“Good.” Sam clears his throat. “Let's get the hell out of here,” he says.

“Amen,” Woody says, pushing himself to his feet.

I scramble to my feet and follow Sam over to the steel door, which still hangs open.

“Thank God,” Shana says. Woody's the first one through the open door, and the rest of us crowd around him. He steps inside—then freezes.

,” he says.

My breath catches in my throat. “What?” I ask, and Woody shoves the door all the way open, letting the rest of us see what he sees.

The doorway's been sealed shut. A shallow space opens up just past the steel door, the floor covered in rat droppings and crumpled up newspaper. Past that, a brick wall blocks us in. A small corner of the wall has crumbled away, revealing a tiny hole just large enough for a rat to squeeze through. Now, only weak light drifts through the hole.

The light mocks us. I have no way of knowing whether it's sunlight or some old bulb still burning on the other side of the door. I push past Woody and run my hands over the greasy, dirt-encrusted bricks. I tell myself I'm checking to see if the bricks are rotted, if there's any chance we can tunnel our way through. Tears form at the corners of my eyes, and it's all I can do to blink them back. I curl my hands into fists and pound them against the wall.

“Let us out!” I scream. I pound until my knuckles are bruised and sore. “Let us out!”

“No!” The voice is Shana's. I expect her to pull me away from the wall, to tell me to calm down, but she does neither of those things. She squeezes in next to me, and kicks the bricks with her heavy boots.

“You've got to be kidding me!” she shouts. She kicks again and again, and then she starts pounding with her fists, like me. “Shit,” she screams. “

I collapse against the wall, tears streaming down my face. I think of the drugs in my pocket and I have to curl my hands into fists to keep from reaching for them. Shana slides to the ground and buries her head in her hands.

Another splash echoes through the tunnel. The hair on my arms stands straight up. “Aya?” I call.

“That wasn't Aya,” Woody says in a hushed voice. I turn around, slowly, afraid of what I might see. Woody creeps to the side of the scaffold and shines his cell phone into the darkness. Shana lifts her head and catches my eye. Her skin has gone perfectly white. I feel like my stomach has lodged itself in my throat.

We all wait, staring into the black. The silence around us is absolute.

“Guys,” I whisper. “Where'd Aya go?”

The others turn in place, searching the water. She was
here. Woody shines his phone out over the water, but the surface stays still.

“Do you think she ran back down the tunnel?” Shana asks. “Maybe she tried to double back to where it wasn't so flooded.”

“Maybe,” Sam says. I lower myself back into the water, cringing as the greasy cold slips over my legs.

“She was right over there two minutes ago,” I say, pointing to the opposite wall.

“Here,” Woody says, handing his cell phone to me. “I'll check farther down the tunnel, but I'm fine looking in the dark.”

“Thanks,” I say, taking the phone from his hands. Shana and Woody climb down from the scaffold and follow the tunnel in opposite directions. Shana hesitates for a second, her eyes on me.

“Careful,” she says. It sounds, oddly, like a threat. Sam climbs into the water behind me as Shana drifts away.

“Aya!” I shout. Sam splashes over to the other wall.

“Aya!” he calls, his voice growing faint. I glance over my shoulder, watching him disappear into the darkness. Goose bumps climb my arms. I'm alone. I try to call out, but my voice catches in my throat and I barely make a sound.

I swallow. “Aya!” I say again, louder this time. The shadows feel heavy around me. Like they're hiding something. I jerk my light over the water, but I can't illuminate the whole tunnel at once. Darkness oozes closer. I pull my turtle pendant out from under my shirt and rub the shell between two fingers.

“Aya?” I whisper. I know she's here. She didn't run down the tunnel like Shana thinks she did. I can

I wade forward, the cool water lapping against my legs. There's a flicker of movement at the corner of my eye. A ripple appears in the water.

I spin around. The ripple cuts across the tunnel, only a few inches from my leg. I picture someone hiding beneath the surface of the pool and cover my mouth with my hand, trying to hold back the scream rising in my throat. I shrink back.

A water snake lifts its head from the water. It's no thicker than my pinkie and less than a foot long.

Nerodia sipedon
,” I whisper under my breath. I remember the name from the bio class I took at the community center last summer, when I still thought I was going to go to college and study marine biology. It's harmless. I exhale and collapse against the tunnel wall, wishing I was in that classroom right now. Or at Madison's, or, hell, even in rehab. The snake swims past, its tongue darting from its mouth. I cringe and turn back to face the far wall where I last saw Aya.

I sweep the beam of Woody's phone across the tunnel. Flat black water stretches before me. My friends' voices boom off the tunnel walls. I shuffle forward, listening. There's another sound below their shouting. It's a very faint, low rustle, like someone crumpling a paper bag.

Or someone breathing.

I move slowly through the water, toward a thick patch of shadows. I imagine Aya huddled in a corner, whispering silently as she rocks back and forth. I raise the cell phone.

“Nothing this way!” Woody calls. I flinch and spin around, and my light hits him instead. He cringes and shields his eyes.

“Sorry.” I move the light, and it sweeps past something floating in the water. Frowning, I wade forward and aim my light.

A gray crescent-shaped object bobs in the water below me. It's roughly the size of my hand, the inner edge serrated like a knife. One end is jagged, like it's been broken.

I frown. It reminds me of the thing I saw on Lawrence's back. But that was a hallucination. I remember the way it dug deeper into Lawrence's skin before disappearing. Impossible. I kneel to examine the object more closely.

Cold fear seeps through my skin. This thing isn't a blade. It's a claw.

A really big claw.

I swallow, trying to imagine how large an animal would have to be to have a claw like that. Nausea fills my stomach.

“Guys,” I say, my voice trembling. “I found something.”

Water laps against the claw, sending it spiraling away from me. I straighten, and aim the dim light of my phone after it.

The low, raspy sound of breathing reaches me again, raising the hair on the back of my neck. I turn and stare into the darkness. The sound cuts off abruptly. Like someone holding their breath.

I clench and unclench my hand, ignoring the sweat gathering on my palm. The darkness seems to pulse, but I'm too terrified to lift the phone. I keep the light trained on the green sludgy water below.

“Aya?” I whisper. No answer.

Water ripples around my legs. There's someone there. I can just make out the shape of a body in the shadows. Horror roots me to the spot. I rub my thumb over the side of Woody's phone, steeling myself. The darkness moves, and my breath catches in my throat. I have to see who it is. I have to know.

I lift the phone.

Aya floats into the beam of light. Her legs have sunken below the water, so only her torso and head are visible. Blood streams from her nose and the corners of her eyes. Her cheeks have swollen to twice their normal size. She opens her mouth, and a wet gurgle bubbles from her lips. “Aya!” I slosh through the water and crouch beside her. Her bloodied, unfocused eyes dart around the tunnel. They fix on me, and the sweat on the back of my neck goes cold.

Her normally black pupils burn an icy blue. Terror pulses inside my chest. Something stares out at me from behind Aya's eyes. But it isn't Aya. The only word I can think of is

I stagger backward, but I'm not fast enough. Aya rakes her long, manicured fingernails across my cheek, drawing blood. Bright, hot pain rips through my face. I scream, and Aya follows my voice. A blue tint creeps over her skin.

BOOK: Survive the Night
9.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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