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Authors: Danielle Vega

Survive the Night (6 page)

BOOK: Survive the Night
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“We're out,” Sam says. He pushes himself onto his elbow, but doesn't move right away. Instead, he stares down at me. My breath catches. He's so close. He could kiss me. I want him to kiss me.

Finally, he clears his throat and pushes himself away. He reaches for my hand to help me up.

“Good game,” he says with a smile.

SEVEN

SAM PULLS ME TO MY FEET. “WE'RE A MESS,” HE SAYS.

I try to laugh, but it sounds hollow. Blue paint drips from Sam's T-shirt and stains his jeans. I lift my hand to wipe a smudge of yellow off his chin, but Sam clears his throat and looks over his shoulder before I can touch him. Frowning, I let my arm drop back to my side.

I glance down at myself instead. Red and green handprints cover my black T-shirt and jeans, and there's blue paint splattered over my feet.

“Think there's somewhere we can clean up?” Sam asks.

“Don't think you're going to find a bathroom down here.” I wipe my paint-covered hands on my jeans, but there's nothing I can do about my feet. I slip them into my flats, leaving blue smudges on the leather.

“Come on,” Sam says, nodding at a keg sitting in the corner. “Let's find something to drink.”

I hesitate. “Beer's probably not a good idea. For me, at least.”

“Water, then.” A real smile crosses his face, crinkling the corners of his eyes. It's enough to calm the butterflies in my gut.

Sam grabs his sneakers and takes my hand, pulling me into the crowd. His skin feels chalky from the dried paint, and a little sweaty. I don't want him to let go, but he releases his grip when we shuffle to the end of the drinks line.

“Isn't that Shana?” he says, nodding at a blond head in the crowd around the keg. I cup my hands around my mouth.

“Shana!” I call, and she whips around, holding two bright red Solo cups.

“Hey! I was looking for you two,” she says. She hands me a Solo cup. “It's
soda
,” she says when I make a face. “Don't get your panties in a twist.”

“Yum,” I say, taking a sip. “This is perfect. Thanks.”

Shana shifts her eyes to Sam. “Woody was looking for you,” she says. “He found some guys who want to jam. You in?”

Sam glances at me. “I didn't bring my guitar.”

“They had stuff,” Shana says.

“Uh, sure.” Sam crosses his arms over his chest. “You coming?” he asks. He stares at my chin instead of meeting my eyes.

“Yeah.” I bite my lip to keep from frowning. Shana grabs Sam's arm.

“Here, let me show you where they're all set up,” she says, and pulls him into the crowd.

“Wait, didn't you want a drink?” I shout. Sam turns and lifts a hand to his ear, frowning.

“Didn't you . . .” I start again, but he shakes his head to show that he can't hear me over the music. “Never mind,” I mutter, tagging along after them.

We hop off the platform and follow the tunnels deeper underground. Shana balances on one of the thick rails, holding her arms out to either side.

“Why don't people run off to join the circus anymore?” She wobbles but catches herself before she loses her balance. Beer sloshes over the rim of her Solo cup. “I'd be insane on the tightrope.”

“You just want an excuse to wear a sparkly leotard.” I avert my eyes as we walk past a couple making out by the side of the tracks. Shana spins on her rail.

“I'd look great in a leotard,” she says. She wobbles again. I grab for her arm, but Sam reaches her first. He holds her elbow until she regains her balance.

I grit my teeth and kick an empty PBR can. It ricochets off a rusted rail and rolls to a stop in front of a silver subway car. Graffiti covers the windows, making it impossible to see inside. Woody's voice echoes down the tunnel, screeching the words to a popular Feelings Are Enough song.

Sam pulls himself onto the platform, then leans over to offer me a hand.

“Thanks,” I say, hopping up next to him. A dull ache shoots through my knee. I wince and scramble to my feet, trying to stretch my leg as we walk.

We join a line of people trying to push through the narrow subway car door. The car's tiny, but a hundred people are jammed inside. Orange and pink glow-in-the-dark necklaces glimmer from their necks and wrists, and they wave glow sticks above their heads. A thick cloud of marijuana smoke gathers at the top of the subway car.

“Are you ready for some music?” Woody yells. If I squint, I can see him standing on a cracked yellow seat in the middle of the car. A faded subway map stretches across the wall behind him.

Woody's gone full cow, with the costume zipped over his chest and a plastic nose strapped over his real one. A black-and-white tail swings between his legs, and he has fifteen glowy pink necklaces dangling from his neck.

The crowd cheers. I spot Aya wrapped around a silver pole in the middle of the car, pumping her fists in the air. Wispy black strands of hair hang in front of her face. I search for Julie's bushy curls, but I don't see her.

“Come on,” Shana shouts over the cheering.

She and Sam duck through the wall of people and disappear into the smoky car. I try to follow, but another jab of pain shoots through my knee. Grimacing, I step out of the doorway and lean against a graffiti-covered window.

I squint through the glass, watching Sam wade through the crowd and crawl onto the seat next to Woody. Someone hands him a guitar and he ducks his head to play.

Disappointment rolls through me. I thought I felt something shift when we were playing Twister, but Sam doesn't even scan the crowd to see if I'm watching.

I sigh and make my way farther down the platform to look for Julie instead. I refuse to be the girl who hangs around her ex-boyfriend when he obviously doesn't want her there. It's better that I give him a chance to miss me.

Julie's thick curls usually make her pretty easy to find, but it's so crowded down here that I can barely see two feet in front of me. I push my way through the partiers, wondering if she found a bathroom to hide in, like she did the night she came with Shana and me to the rave at the pool. She spent the entire night huddled in the back of the handicapped stall.

“Learn the secrets of your future, only a nickel,” she had said when Shana and I finally came to find her. A lit joint was balanced on her knee.

I dug a nickel out of my pocket and handed it to her.

“Your aura's yellow,” she said, sliding the nickel into her combat boot. “It means you're cheerful and good-natured but easily led astray.”

“That's not the future,” I pointed out. Julie picked up her joint with two fingers.

“Your good nature will lead you to love,” she said. “And love will lead you to danger.”

A toilet flushed, and Shana threw open her stall door. The hard plastic slapped against the wall.

“You're cracked, Jules,” she said, switching on a faucet. “Sam's a Boy Scout. No danger there.”

Julie leveled her eyes at Shana. She took a puff off her joint, and smoke curled up toward the ceiling.

“There are many different kinds of love,” she said.

Techno music blasts from a set of wireless speakers, sending a deep
oontz
oontz
trembling through the ground. I think I see someone with dark, bushy hair, and I grab her arm. But when she turns around I see that it's really a
he
, and his hair is actually a fake-looking wig.

“You're pretty!” someone shouts. I turn, and a skeletally thin boy wearing Goth makeup grabs my hand and pulls me into the crowd.

“Whoa,” I say, stumbling after him. He yanks me toward a thick group of gyrating people and grabs my hips. For a second, I consider dancing with him. I even sneak a glance over my shoulder to see whether Sam's watching through the subway car window. Then I realize what I'm doing and pull away, disgusted with myself.

“No thanks,” I say, untangling myself from Goth Boy's arms. I am not that desperate. I take another drink of soda. It's warm now, but the air is so muggy down here that I don't mind. Everyone's sticky and sweaty and way, way too close. A sparkler crackles to life a few feet away, and people around me whoop and cheer. I wince, imagining a spark landing on my bare arm.

I duck away before someone else can force me to dance. The crowd thins out farther down the platform. I move around a boarded-off staircase and crouch beside the subway car to catch my breath. Candles sit along the steps in front of me, held in place with pools of sticky wax. I lean against the cool metal subway car and take another swig of soda, wishing I'd asked Shana for a little whiskey. At least then I'd be having fun.

Someone sniffles, quietly at first, and then louder. It almost sounds like a sob. I stand and peek into the subway car behind me. It's so dark that it takes a second for my eyes to adjust to the light.

Two kids huddle against the far door, looking down at something in their hands. I squint and move closer.

A lighter sparks. The flame illuminates a kid with long, stringy hair. White powder crackles from the spoon he holds with trembling fingers.

Shock roots my feet to the ground. Smoke floats lazily toward the top of the subway car.

I curl my fingers around the subway door and inhale the sweet, smoky scent. Everything in me wants to crawl into that tiny car and breathe in, deep. I can almost feel the drugs clouding my brain. I stumble back so quickly that I slam into the staircase. Smoke drifts toward me, beckoning. I clench my eyes shut, my head throbbing. I fumble for my purse, then freeze, remembering that Shana took my Tylenol.

Suddenly the dancing and cheering feels like an assault. The air in these tunnels is too thin. I gulp down mouthful after mouthful and still feel like I can't breathe. A dull ache flickers through my skull. I grit my teeth together and press my fingers against my temples. I stumble forward, and Goth Boy's there again, grabbing for my arm.

“Hey, beautiful,” he starts. I pull away, trying to move around him, but I stumble and then I'm next to the wall, my face pressed against the smooth, cold bricks. Lights and colors and music pound around me.

“Hey,” Goth Boy says. “Are you okay?”

“Water . . .” I murmur. The ground lurches beneath me. I stumble, smacking my shoulder against the wall. I try to push myself away from the wall, but the tile is warm to the touch, and the heat seeps into my fingers. I can't move my hand. It feels like I've plunged it into a pool of tar.

Goth Boy disappears, but I don't know whether he's really going to get me water or not. Black spots appear before my eyes. I take another drink of soda, surprised to find the cup nearly empty.

I feel woozy. I want to sit down, but there's nowhere to sit.

“Casey?” I blink several times, and then Shana is there. Thank God. Her pink hair looks even pinker, if that's possible, and it's so beautiful and so perfect that I want to bury my face in it. I reach for her, but she's too far away, and my fingers just close around air.

“Whoa. You don't look so good,” Shana says. But she's smiling. Why is she smiling?

“I don't know what's happening . . .” I say. My words slide together. “I feel so . . .”

High
, I think but don't say. I can't be high. The only drug I've had tonight is caffeine.

I'm your fairy godmother
. I remember Shana puffing on her cigarette, a mischievous look in her eye. I glance down at my cup—the cup Shana gave me. The last sip of liquid rolls around on the bottom.

“What did you do?” I ask. I blink, and my cup splits into two. Shana giggles.

“I'm helping you relax,” she says, clamping a hand down on my shoulder. “You should
thank
me.”

The two cups merge back into one again, but it's too big now. I don't know how to hold it.

“You drugged me,” I say. My voice sounds very far away.

Shana presses my bottle of Tylenol into my hand. My fingers curl around it automatically.

“You're welcome,” she whispers.

EIGHT

SHANA VISITED ME EVERY DAY AFTER MY KNEE SURGERY. MY
soccer friends were busy with practice and games and I could hardly get out of bed. But Shana always brought me a present: a packet of watermelon Pop Rocks, a trashy tabloid magazine, a bag filled with tiny rubber dinosaurs. She'd hang out in my room for hours, watching terrible reality television and making up dirty limericks to scribble onto my cast.

A week after I got home, Shana plucked the orange pill bottle off my bedside table and rattled it at me.

“Can I have one of these?” she asked.

“Why?” I frowned down at the wooden letters sitting in front of me. We were in the middle of a game of Scrabble. “They're just pain meds.”

Shana laughed and popped the bottle open, dumping the white pills into her palm.

“They're not just for pain,” she said, tossing two into her mouth. “They can be for fun, too.”

• • •

“Shana.” I reach for my friend's hand, but it vanishes, leaving me grasping at air. “What did you give me?”

“Let's call it your glass slipper.” Shana's voice is in my ear, and then it's gone.
She's
gone. I turn and stumble forward, catching myself against the tunnel wall.

I want to go home. I picture myself burrowing into my bed and pulling my familiar blue-and-purple paisley-print blanket over my face. I can practically feel the pillow beneath my cheek. My eyes drift closed, and I lean against the wall of the tunnel, breathing deep.

Home is so far away. I feel the distance suddenly, like a great, cavernous space. I miss my blanket and my pillow so badly my chest aches. I wish I were in bed now. I wish I were far away from all of this.

I push myself away from the wall, trying to ignore the churning feeling in my stomach. The colors around me switch places, and a film of sweat gathers on my lower back, just above my jeans. I think I'm going to vomit. But I just double over, gasping for breath.

When I straighten again, it feels like every person in the party has taken several steps closer to me. The flashing strobe lights distort their faces. Their skin melts from their skulls, like Popsicles in the sun.

A blond girl wearing blue eye shadow turns to me, skin dripping from her cheekbones. Her eye sockets sag, then cave in on themselves, tearing the rest of her face down into the depths of the black. I lurch forward, grasping for the girl's face, but my hands close only on air.

I inhale, trying to calm myself down, but the air tastes like fish and rot and something else, something sweet and familiar that makes me gag. I need to get out of here. The air's too thick. I can't breathe.

I stumble toward the tunnel we all came down together. I see the entrance and hurry toward it. But the bouncer steps out of the shadows, blocking my way. I blink up at him. His torso dwarfs my entire body. And his head . . . His head doesn't look human. Thick, dark hair covers his cheeks and sprouts from his eyebrows. Then the hair starts to
grow
. It comes in faster and faster, until it covers the man's entire face.

I narrow my eyes. It's not hair—it's
fur
. Small, dark eyes stare out from beneath the fur. They're predatory. Like a bear's.

“Oh my God,” I whisper, trembling. A snout juts out from the man's face where his nose should be. He peels his lips back, displaying teeth the length of kitchen knives. He's becoming the bear.

“No one leaves,” the bear says. Drool drips from his teeth. I cower, horrified, and tears form at the corners of my eyes.

I turn and race back to the party before skin starts melting from the bear's face. Elbows jab into my sides, and voices echo around me. I almost walk into a girl with long, silky black hair and perfect skin.

“Don't be stupid,” she's saying to her friend, a curvy girl with dark skin and a wild Afro of hair.

“No, it's completely true!” the girl with the Afro says. “Mark told me there's this homeless guy who lives in the tunnels, and he's murdering all the hipsters coming down to party.”

“Let me guess, this killer has a hook for a hand? Ooh, and I bet he escaped from a mental hospital at the edge of town.”

“I'm serious! Some guy disappeared during the last rave—it was on the news and everything. Mark said they hushed up the part about it being a murder, but he was
there
. They never found his body, either, so it's probably still down here.
Rotting
.”

The girls drop their voices to continue talking, and I can't hear them over the roar of the crowd anymore. I press my hands over my ears and squeeze my eyes shut, wishing I could melt into the ground. Everything's too loud, too close.

Glow sticks blur through the darkness beyond my closed eyelids, and a strobe light flashes in the corner. The lights ooze and twist together, making my head spin.

I stumble past the subway platform and down the train tunnel. Only then do I open my eyes again. I'm alone.
Finally
. I collapse against the cool brick wall and breathe in deep. That sweet smell still lingers in the air, just beneath the rot of the sewer.

I look around, trying to figure out exactly where I am. The floor rises and falls beneath me, like it's breathing. A line of candles twists down the shadowy tunnel. Their light flickers over old subway tracks and travels up the walls around me. I move deeper into the tunnel. Laughter and music still echo from the main party, making my head pound. I follow the tracks until the voices are just a murmur in the distance. Graffiti covers the bricks.

WE'RE WATCHING
one message reads in spiky green paint. Another says
YOU'RE NEXT
.

My drug-addled brain twists these words, making them look alive. They creep and move over the bricks. I blink, and the words go still. I wrap my arms around my chest, shivering. I know they'll start moving again as soon as I close my eyes. They're waiting for me to look away.

And then, out of nowhere, I hear a thin, horrified scream.

I step away from the wall. “Hello?” My voice booms around me, but I'm not sure if it's because I'm shouting or if the word echoes inside my own head. I make my way farther down the tunnel.

The candle flames flicker, gently, even though there's no wind. I fumble in my bag for my phone but come up empty-handed. I swear under my breath.

The shadows move. I stiffen. Rusty train tracks stretch ahead of me, then disappear into the black. The walls start to close in, but then I look at them and they jerk back into place. Someone traced their initials into the dust coating the walls.
MC+RW 4EVA.
I press my hand against the cool tile to keep the walls from moving again.

Lawrence, the homeless guy who led us here, lurches out of the tunnel. I stumble back, horrified. I hadn't realized he followed us down here. His dreadlocks writhe around his shoulders, like snakes. One of them pulls away from his head and hisses at me.

“Lawrence,” I say, but the word gets stuck in my mouth. Lawrence's brilliant blue eyes seem to glow in the dark. Were they always blue? I seem to remember him having brown eyes, like warm coffee.

He doesn't look at me as he walks down the tunnel, barefoot, the grocery bags tied to his feet long gone. I try, again, to find my voice. “Lawrence, I need to find . . .”

Lawrence walks into me like I'm not there. I stumble backward, hitting my elbow against the wall. Pain shoots up my arm.

“Watch it!” I say, but I'm so high it sounds more like “Waaaa . . .” Lawrence keeps walking. His dreadlocks lie still, but there appears to be something on his back. It's long and hooked, the edges serrated like a knife. I watch as it shudders beneath his shoulder blades, then disappears, leaving only a bloody wound behind.

“Oh, God,” I whisper. My ankle twists beneath me, and then I'm on the ground, my cheek pressed against the damp, earth-covered concrete. My hand smacks into a lit candle, and it topples over, rolling deeper into the tunnel.

It comes to rest near a pale hand.

I scream. I push myself to my hands and knees and crawl backward. I expect the hand to grab at me and drag its fingernails across my face. I imagine the sharp points digging into my flesh.

But the hand stays still. Lifeless.

Dead
. Someone's dead.
Some guy died during the last rave
, I think, remembering the conversation I overhead. They never found his body. It's down here somewhere. Rotting.

I close my eyes and horror floods through me. I open them again, and the hand is gone. The candle flickers quietly, illuminating the dirt floor of the subway tunnel. I stare into the darkness until my eyes water. But I don't see anything.

I blink, and the hand is back. A black onyx ring glitters from its finger.

“Julie?” I whisper. No answer. My arms tremble beneath me, barely able to hold my weight. I crawl toward the hand. The candle sparks, then flickers out, leaving me in the dark.


Julie!
” My voice cracks. I want to reach out and grab her hand to make sure it's still warm. Then I imagine it flipping onto its palm and crawling toward me like a spider. I run my fingers over the ground in front of me, but I feel only dirt and cold metal train tracks.

I swing my bag off my shoulder and dig inside. The darkness presses in on me. Something brushes my arm, and I scream. My bag slips from my hands and hits the ground. I grab for it and thrust my hand inside. My fingers bump up against my plastic cell phone case. I pull the phone out and switch the screen on. Light blinds me. I cringe and blink, waiting for the spots to clear from my eyes.

My throat goes dry. I aim the light into the darkness.

Julie's dark curls shroud her face and crawl across the ground like vines. My fingers tremble. I don't want to see anything else, but my hand moves on its own, lowering the phone's beam to illuminate the rest of her body.

Dried blood stiffens the front of her flimsy tank top and jeans. Patches of the blood still look fresh, but the edges have hardened into a brown crust that flakes onto the ground and stains Julie's skin. Wet red pools line the area below her fingernails and gather around her knuckles.

Vomit rises in my throat. I shake so badly I can hardly hold my phone. I shift the light to Julie's stomach.

A gaping wound opens up in the space below her ribs. Bits of bone poke through her shirt, glowing white in the shadows. It looks, impossibly, like someone carved out the middle of her body.

Something shuffles, and I flinch, moving my phone to illuminate a huge brown rat. Its red eyes reflect the light. It holds the tip of Julie's finger in its tiny pink paws and gnaws on it with sharp white teeth.

BOOK: Survive the Night
13.32Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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