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Authors: Danielle Vega

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BOOK: Survive the Night
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ELEVEN

SAM HOVERS IN FRONT OF ME. HE'S SO CLOSE THAT I
can see the freckles scattered across his tan cheeks and smell the Herbal Essences shampoo he steals from his little sister. I hold my breath, worried that if I move, this might all disappear.

Sam clears his throat. “We should probably go find the others,” he says.

“Yeah,” I say.

He still doesn't move. I feel the seconds tick past. Sam closes his eyes and swears under his breath.

“Jesus. This is hard,” he says.

A lump forms in my throat. “I know.”

I'm sure he's going to walk away now. But, instead, he leans closer. His nose brushes against my forehead, and his breath tickles my ear. I sink into him. His chest is warm and hard. I feel his heart pound beneath his thin T-shirt. Music echoes from the subway station, and neon glow lights flicker in the distance. Otherwise the tunnel is quiet, empty. None of the other partiers have ventured this far from the dancing.

I tilt my face toward Sam and try to study his expression in the darkness. This is the closest we've been in months, and it still feels like he's a million miles away. I want to press my body closer to his, I want to run my fingers down the line of his back, but I'm not sure what's allowed. How close can I get before he pulls away again?

“Sam,” I whisper. He stiffens. Want beats at my chest like a living thing, but I lose my nerve. I shift my body away from his, trying to ignore the fire spreading through my cheeks. “We were going to go back to the party. Remember?”

I curse myself as soon as the words leave my mouth. Sam frowns.

“Is that what you want?” he asks.

“What do
you
want?”

“I've been asking myself that question all night.” He pushes a strand of hair behind my ear. I move closer.

“And did you come up with an answer?”

Sam lowers his face to mine without another word and kisses me. His stubble tickles my cheek. The world around me fades, and I'm only aware of him, and us, and being here together. I weave my arms around his shoulders, pulling him close. My fingers slide through his hair.

Sam pulls away, just for a second, and icy air finds all the spaces where his hands once were. “Maybe we should go slower this time,” he whispers. “Not rush into anything.”

I kiss him on the lips and the chin. “Yeah,” I say, but before the word is out of my mouth, he's kissing me again.

Sam slips a hand under my shirt, pressing his fingers flat against my stomach. His thumb brushes the edge of my pants, and his pinkie slips beneath my bra.

Ever since we first started dating, I knew I wanted Sam to be my first. But something always stopped us.

He moves his hand around my waist, to my back. He slides his hand farther up under my shirt and grazes the back of my bra. I don't know how it happens, exactly, but suddenly I'm pressed against the cold brick wall, and then we're on the ground and Sam's on top of me.

The tunnel floor feels rough against my back. Cold seeps up through the concrete and chills the skin beneath my thin tee. I try to shift my weight to the side, and my elbow brushes against the metal train rail. This isn't how I imagined it would happen.

But then Sam moves from my mouth to my neck, leaving tiny kisses along my shoulders. I can't remember why we were waiting anymore. We love each other.

A single candle flickers from a few yards away, and a slow song starts over the speakers. I can't hear the words, but the beat vibrates through the ground. Sam moves his hand to my jeans, hesitating near the zipper.

“It's okay,” I whisper. I reach for the edge of his T-shirt and push it up, revealing his flat, muscular stomach. Sam flushes and pushes his shirt back down.

“No, it's not.” He moves off of me and sits. “We should talk.”

I sit up and pull my top back down. Sam's jaw clenches. He stares at the train tracks instead of looking me in the eye.

“What's the matter?” I ask. Sam still doesn't look at me.

“Listen,” he says. “I've been a wreck the last few months.”

“Sam—”

“No, you should hear this,” he interrupts. “I never wanted to break up with you. But I thought that if I left, you might turn things around.”

“I understand.” I brush my hand across my face. “And I did. The trust thing is going to be hard. I get that. But I'm done lying to you.”

“No.” Sam finally looks up at me. In the dim light, his dark eyes look black. “This isn't about you, Casey. You were hurting and you needed help. I get that.”

“I'm better now,” I insist. He squeezes my hand.

“I know. But I was hurting, too. I did some things. Made mistakes.”

All at once I understand what he's trying to say. I drop his hand, feeling suddenly cold. “You were with someone else.”

He stares at me, eyes pleading. “Just once. It didn't mean anything.”

Who was it?
The question beats at my temples, but I can't ask it. I think of all the gorgeous girls crowding around the stage during Sam's concerts. I picture one of them touching him, kissing him, and anger flares inside me. Not knowing is bad, but knowing would be worse.

“It doesn't matter,” I say, and I try to believe it's true. I kiss Sam, but he doesn't kiss me back.

“Casey,” he says. I shake my head.

“No. All that's behind us now.” I kiss him again, harder, trying to bridge the space between us. “We were broken up. It doesn't matter.”

Sam presses his mouth to mine, and his tongue slips past my lips. I melt into him, trying not to think about who he was with or our breakup or anything else. I pull him close. He's
Sam
. I tangle my hands in his hair and wrap my arms around his shoulders. All that matters is that we're together again.

Someone clears her throat. I pull away, looking up. Shana is standing over us, one eyebrow cocked.

“Sorry to break up the hot makeout sesh.” She drains what's left in the red Solo cup she's holding and tosses it to the ground. Sam pulls himself off me, his cheeks flaming.

“Hey, Shana,” he mutters, adjusting his shirt.

“Hiya, Sammy,” Shana says. I frown.
Sammy?

I stand and stumble over my feet. I reach for the wall to steady myself.

“Wow,” Shana says, snickering. “Still enjoying that little treat I gave you earlier?”

“Treat?” I round on Shana. “You're unbelievable.”

“Casey.” Sam stands and grabs me by the shoulders. I yank my arm away. I've never hit anyone before, but I have the sudden urge to slap Shana across the face.

Confusion flickers through Shana's eyes. “What's your deal?” she asks.

“What's my
deal
?” I echo. “You drugged me!”

Shana's mouth curls into a smile. “You're welcome.”

“What is the matter with you?” I say. I'd always known Shana was impulsive and a little selfish, but I had never seen her be cruel before.

“God, take a pill,” Shana mutters. “You used to be
fun
.”


Fun
?” I grit my teeth together. “That's your idea of fun?”

Shana moves closer, forcing me to take a step backward. “Precious,” she says in a too-sweet voice. “We're at a
party
. I was helping you relax.”

Relax
. That word jogs something loose in my memory. Something I'd tried to forget. A night out with Shana was always epic. That didn't mean it was always fun.

For a while last year, she dated this guy named Jasper. He was probably in his twenties, but he looked older. He had a face like a catcher's mitt, all cracked leather and deep lines. Shana liked him because he had a motorcycle and a tattoo of a naked mermaid on his bicep. I never liked him. His eyes lingered for too long, and he had a way of touching you when he didn't need to.

Shana dragged me to a party at his house once. She said it was a barbecue. I figured we'd hang out in someone's backyard, eating hot dogs and drinking beer.

But Jasper's house didn't have a backyard. It didn't even have a front door. Shana and I pushed past an old, stained sheet and made our way into a dark living room without any furniture. A couple of guys sat on a bare mattress, smoking pot and drinking whiskey right out of the bottle. A strung-out girl with greasy hair snorted a line of coke off a piece of cardboard.

“Relax,” Shana said. “It's a party. Have fun.”

She kissed me on the cheek, and then she and Jasper disappeared into a back room. Leaving me alone.

I close my eyes, forcing the memory away. After that night, I swore I'd never go out with Shana again. But she called the very next weekend, talking about some insane concert that we couldn't miss. Before I knew it, I was texting her pics of outfit possibilities and asking her when she'd pick me up.

Sam's words echo through my head.
You acted different whenever you hung out with her. It's like the girl I loved was gone.

This is what he was talking about. The second I got around Shana I became the kind of girl who allowed herself to be drugged by someone she thought was a friend. I was stupid and desperate. A sidekick.

“I'm done,” I say. Shana lifts an eyebrow.

“With what?”

“You.” I cross my arms over my chest, willing myself to be strong. “I thought this kind of stuff just happened, but it's you. You're like a bad luck charm. I'm sick of it.”


I'm
the bad luck charm?” Shana shakes her head, her lips twisted into a humorless grin. “Who
were
you before I came along? Suburban soccer Barbie?”

I push past Shana before she can say another word. She stumbles back, almost tripping over a train track.

“Watch it,” she snaps.

“Or what?” I rake my hand through my hair. “What can you possibly do to me?”

I start down the dark tunnel, back toward the party. I've only gone a few feet when I step on something small and round. It shoots out from under my shoe and rolls across the ground, pinging against the nearest train track.

I'm not sure why, but I hesitate. A prickle of familiarity crawls up my neck. I pull my phone out of my pocket and aim it into the darkness.

Julie's black onyx ring glimmers from the ground, reflecting the light back at me.

“What's that?” Sam walks up behind me as I bend over to pick up the ring. Cold creeps into my legs and seeps through my body. If Julie's ring is here, then Julie was here.

“This is Julie's,” I say, holding the ring up for Sam to see. He takes it from my hands.

“You think she lost it?” he asks.

“No,” I say. Julie never takes this ring off. It belonged to her grandmother. If she lost it, she'd be on her hands and knees in this tunnel right now.

Unless something happened to her.

“Casey, no.” Sam sees the look of horror cross my face and shakes his head. “That's not what this means.”

“I saw her,” I say, my voice trembling.

“You were high. It was a hallucination!”

I snatch the ring back from Sam's hands. “
This
is real!” I say.

Shana comes up behind Sam. “Done with your tantrum?” she asks me.

“When was the last time you saw Julie?” I ask.

Shana shrugs. “I don't know. A couple hours ago?”

A few hours. The image of her lying on the floor of the tunnel flashes through my mind. I see the dried blood on her tank top, the gaping wound in her chest. My knees wobble beneath me.

“We have to find her,” I say. “Now.”

TWELVE

“JULIE ALERT!” SHANA SHOUTS OVER THE MUSIC. “THAT'S
her, right?”

She points to a girl in all black dancing near the edge of the subway platform. The girl's thin, like Julie, and she's wound her dark curls into a bun on top of her head. Hope sparks inside me, and I start pushing through the crowd to get to her. The strobe lights flash on and off, and I catch a glimpse of her face. Not Julie.

“Let's try over there.” I nod at the dwindling keg line. We already searched the abandoned subway cars Woody and Sam had performed in, and the paint-covered platform where Sam and I had played Twister. We're running out of places to look.

Someone shuffles past me, spilling warm beer onto my foot.

“Watch it!” I call over my shoulder. I start to turn back around, but a flash of sparkly tulle catches my eye.

Aya leans against the far wall, just below the blue tile sign that reads
SOUTH FERRY
. Her blue leopard-print dress glitters beneath the strobe lights. Woody's got his arm propped above her. His cow costume's gone, and he's buttoned a pink-and-orange Hawaiian shirt over his white undershirt and tight-fitting black jeans.

“. . . I always thought I was a Capricorn,” Woody's saying when we walk up to them. “And then I read some horoscopes for Aquarius . . .”

Aya glances at me and rolls her eyes.

“Where'd you get the shirt?” Shana asks

“Lost and found.” Woody pops the collar. “You like?”

“Hey,” I interrupt. “Has either of you seen Julie?”

“Not since she left with that guy.” Aya glances at Shana, frowning. “I thought you went after her?”

“What guy?” I ask.

“That homeless guy,” Aya says. “The one who led us down here. Julie wanted to take off, and he told her he knew where to find another exit.”

“So she left?” Sam asks. I shake my head.

“No, I saw Lawrence less than an hour ago. He's still here.”


Nice
,” Woody says. In a singsong voice, he adds, “Julie's getting some strange.”

“Shut up, Woody,” I say. I can still picture Lawrence's unfocused eyes and the way his dreadlocks hissed at me like snakes.

Hallucinations
, I think to myself. I close my eyes and rub my temples, willing my brain to work better. The dreadlock snakes weren't real, but Lawrence
was
there. He walked right into me.

I squeeze my hand into a fist, and Julie's ring digs into my palm. I think of the message scrawled across the tunnel walls.
YOU'RE NEXT.
Lawrence might be harmless, but someone down here isn't.

Woody frowns at me. “What's the big deal? So Julie hooked up with someone.”

“I don't think that's what happened,” I say.

“What's going on?” Aya asks. Panic creeps into her voice. She looks from me to Shana, and back to me again. “Casey,
tell
me.”

“It's nothing,” I say, praying that's true. I squeeze Aya's arm. “Did you see where they went?”

“I think so,” Aya says. “Follow me.”

The five of us weave through the party, following Aya toward another side tunnel jutting away from the main station. Rusty pipes twist across the tunnel ceiling and disappear into the darkness. The light's dim here, with fewer candles to illuminate the damp space. A few guys mill around the mouth of the tunnel, smoking.

“Wouldn't go down there,” a guy with a buzz cut and thick eyebrows shouts over to us.

“Why not?” I ask.

“It's gross.” He takes a puff of his joint.

“Did you see anyone else go down here?” I ask. “A girl with curly black hair?”

Buzz Cut runs a hand over his head. “Sounds familiar.”

“She would've been with a guy,” Sam adds. “He had long dreadlocks?”

Buzz Cut shrugs.

“Thanks anyway,” I say, stepping into the tunnel. Old candy wrappers and grocery bags carpet the ground. A car drives overhead and tiny bits of rock crumble from the ceiling. Metal rails cut down the tunnel and twist into the darkness.

“Julie!” I shout. My voice booms around me, sounding big and hollow. But no one answers. We make our way deeper into the tunnels. I pick at the skin on my palms and dig my teeth into my lower lip—anything to keep myself from seeing Julie's blood-splattered hair. Her curled, lifeless fingers. The gaping hole in her chest.

No
. I shake my head, forcing the images away. Even if I did see Julie lying in that tunnel, I could have hallucinated the blood and the chest wound and the rat. Lawrence's hair didn't really turn into snakes. He didn't have a serrated claw jutting out of his back.

“Julie's fine,” I whisper to myself. Sam slides his hand into mine.

“Of course she's fine,” he says. “Remember the party in the woods last year? We all thought Julie had drowned in the lake because no one had seen her, but she was in that cave with all the other stoners.”

Sam raises my hand to his mouth and kisses the inside of my wrist. Some of the tension leaves my shoulders. I'd completely forgotten about that party. We'd been about to call the cops, but it turned out Julie had just had a little too much pot. She passed out in the cave and didn't hear us calling for her.

Another tunnel veers off the main one. Rat eyes glow back at us from the darkness. They skitter into the shadows as we walk past.

“Maybe we should go back,” Aya says. “I don't think she's down here.”

I glance back the way we came. The tunnel entrance has disappeared in the darkness. I can't even see the smokers anymore.

“It doesn't look like anyone comes down here,” Shana agrees.

There's no graffiti on the walls, no food wrappers littering the floor. Even the smell is different, like earth instead of beer and urine.

Sam aims his cell light farther down the tunnel. The dim beam moves over brown walls and rusted train tracks.

“We can head back to the station and check the other tunnels, too.” He glances back at me and gives me a comforting smile. “We'll find her.”

We make our way back toward the party in silence. The faint sound of music echoes through the tunnel. I keep my eyes narrowed, waiting for the darkness to open up into a subway station again. Minutes tick past, but the entrance doesn't seem any closer. I clench and unclench my hands. We should be there by now.

The tunnel wall curves, becoming a black grate set against the bricks. Narrow metal slabs stretch from the ceiling to floor. Music floats through the gaps, and glow lights flash in the darkness. I stop walking.

“That wasn't here on the way down,” I say, touching one of the grimy bars. Woody leans in to peer through the grate.

“Cool,” he says. “You can see the party.”

“Not cool.” Chills creep up my neck. “We didn't pass this on the way down. We must've taken a wrong turn.”

“We just went straight, right?” Shana says.

“No, we turned left at that first tunnel,” Aya adds. “Remember? You put a beer can at the entrance to remind us which path we went down?”

“Shit,” Shana mutters. “I forgot about that.”

My heart starts beating faster. “So we're lost?”

“We're not lost.” Sam blows air out through his teeth. “The party's right there; we just have to figure out how to get back.”

I peer through the grate. A lane of train tracks stretches past us, followed by a row of concrete pillars. The party's just on the other side. If I squint, I can see the subway platform and the line to the keg.

I loop my fingers through the metal slats and pull, trying to rattle the grate. It holds fast.

“We can't get through this thing, but the entrance we came through is over there.” I point back down the way we came. “We'll have to backtrack to—”

Angry voices echo through the grate, interrupting me.

“What the hell?” Shana mutters.

Someone cuts the music. Thick white beams of light pierce the darkness, and the people crowded on the platform scatter like bugs. I lean in closer, squinting past the metal.

“Break it up!” a deep voice shouts. Cops swarm the station. I can just make out the blue of their uniforms.

“Shit,” Woody says. “We have to go.”

He takes a few steps toward the direction we came from, but I grab his arm.

“Wait! We can't leave without Julie,” I say.

“Case, give it up. Julie's not here,” Woody says. “She found an exit and left, end of story. Maybe she hooked up with someone else?”

I tell Woody about the bouncer standing guard near the tunnel entrance. “No one leaves Survive the Night till the party's over.”

“Well, the party's over now.” Woody slides his arm around my shoulder and guides me down the tunnel. “Besides, Julie's smart. If she wanted to get out of here, she could have found a way. If Lawrence didn't help her find an exit, she probably slipped the bouncer a few bucks.”

The yelling on the other side of the grate fades as we hurry back down the tunnel. Woody finds the beer can Shana left to mark our path.

“This way,” he calls, pointing us back to the main entrance. The others shuffle after him, but I hesitate. Another tunnel stretches to our left. I stare into the darkness and the skin along the back of my neck prickles.

“Casey, come on,” Sam says. “Woody's right. She probably doubled back.”

“But what if she didn't?” I step into the tunnel, fumbling for the light on my phone. “What if—”

A moan drifts from the darkness, cutting me off. I freeze.

“What was that?” Aya whispers.

Sam touches my arm. He stares down the tunnel, his eyes wide. “That didn't sound like Julie,” he says.

Something moves. It sounds like nails on concrete. My phone suddenly feels heavy in my hand. All I have to do is switch on the light and shine it into the darkness. But I can't move.

“Shit,” Shana hisses. “Casey, let's
go
.”

“No.” I turn my phone on, my fingers slick with sweat. The beam illuminates the toe of my leather ballet flat. I stare down at the circle of light, trying to steady my breathing.

My hands tremble as I lift the phone and cast the light into the shadows.

Julie's body stretches across the tunnel, her arms tied to the pipes twisting across the ceiling. Her hands are white as death, save for the purple bruises blossoming around her wrists. Her fingers curl toward her palms, and even from here I can see the black line of dried blood crusted beneath her nails.

Horror wraps around my chest like a vise. I drop to my knees.

“Oh my God,” I say. The phone slips from my fingers and clatters to the ground. But the light stays on, illuminating Julie's body from below.

Intestines spill from the gruesome hole in the center of her stomach, glistening. Her head lolls forward and tangled hair hangs over her face. Blood drips from the curls and hits the concrete.

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