The Trap

After barely escaping The Mission alive, Gene and Sissy face an impossible task: staying alive long enough to stop an entire world bent on blood hunger. They must use everything they have to protect eachother - and the cure that will turn the blood-thirsty creatures around them into humans again.

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3. Three

The light streams out from a large glass shaft that rises from floor to ceiling near the last train car. I take a closer look: the soft light emanates not so much from the shaft itself as from a glass elevator now descending inside the shaft. Like a falling curtain of light, the elevator illuminates the craggy walls of the tight tunnel. The single elevated platform, seemingly hewn out of the same rock, runs on only one side of the train, and it is onto this platform that Sissy, Epap, and I now hoist ourselves up. We pause, then turn to the sound of footsteps running toward us. It’s David, and his hand slides into Sissy’s.

The glass elevator reaches the bottom. For a brief moment, its internal light flickers. Then the doors slide open.

Nobody moves. A crackling sound suddenly fills the air, like static over the school PA system. “ATTENTION. ANY PASSENGER ON THE TRAIN MUST ENTER THE ELEVATOR. YOU HAVE ONE MINUTE.” The ear-splittingly loud voice - electronic and robotic - blares through the tunnel, its words echoing down its length.

David turns to Sissy. “What happens after one minute?” he asks, his voice trembling. “What happens, Sissy?”

She doesn’t answer, only swivels her head, her eyes nervously scanning the walls. She tenses. There are a row of doors set into the far wall. Her eyes flick back to the elevator, her eyes narrowing.

Through the bars of the train cars, the girls’ eyes are wide with fear and panic. As one, they start exiting their train cars, first a trickle then a flood of bodies pouring out.

“FIFTY SECONDS.”

Sissy grabs David’s hand. “This way,” she says to Epap and me. “C’mon, hurry.” We start running toward the elevator glowing with white light.

The girls are stumbling on the pebbles of the tunnel floor. In their haste, and with their lotus feet, they fall and stumble over one another. They are crying out now, their fear reaching breaking point.

“To the elevator!” I shout to them, swinging my arms urgently. “Hurry, everyone!” Epap breaks away from us, races to the edge of the platform, starts pulling up a few girls. But there are too many of them and too little time. I grab him, try to push him toward the elevator. He resists.

“There’s no time, Epap!” I shout.

“FORTY SECONDS.”

Epap’s jawline ridges out. He lifts up one more girl, then lets me pull him away. The girls on the platform are doing their best to run, but their lotus feet can only plod along so fast. Sissy, Epap, David, and I are the first to reach the elevator.

“THIRTY SECONDS.”

For a brief moment, we can only stare into the elevator’s interior. Our hearts sink. It’s tiny inside, able to accommodate five at the most if we squeeze tight. It was never meant to transport a whole village of girls. We tumble inside. There’s nothing. No button, no control, to switch. The walls are smooth unbroken panes of glass. I quickly examine the outside. Same thing: no controls at all.

“TWENTY SECONDS.”

Sissy’s forehead is scrunched into deep grooves of concentration. Then they smooth out, decision reached. “There’s still room for one more!” she shouts. “You all stay here, I’ll be right back!” And then she runs off, disappears into the darkness.

“No, Sissy!” I shout. “There’s no time!”

Out of nowhere, a girl suddenly stumbles out of the darkness. It’s Cassie, the girl with freckles who’s proven to be a leader among the girls. Epap shouts at her, urging her to hurry. She throws herself headlong into the elevator, her mouth  distorted in a silent scream. And that’s it. There’s no more room inside. We’re shoulder to shoulder.

“TEN SECONDS.”

“Sissy!” I scream. “Sissy, get back here!”

No response. No sight of her. More girls are stumbling toward the spread of light now,  falling, shuffling, yelling. Then I see Sissy. She’s at the platform, bent over, trying to help more girls up. But in their panic, they’re grasping, clutching at her, and though she’s yelling at them, they’re refusing to let go. Five, six, seven of them are grabbing at her arms, her legs, and Sissy can’t extricate herself. She’s in trouble.

“FIVE SECONDS.”

I’m sprinting out for Sissy, knocking over a few of the girls on the platform. Behind me, Epap is shouting at David, ordering him to stay put. I seize Sissy’s shoulder, pull backwards. But there are too many girls clinging to her, and although Sissy’s screaming at them to let go, more are clutching her.

An electronic series of pings sounds from the row of doors on the far wall. Even from where we stand, on the other end of the platform, the sound jars us. Whatever is going to happen next, it’s starting. Now. For the briefest of moments the girls’ hold on Sissy grows slack as they turn to the sound. I quickly slink my arms under Sissy’s armpits and heave backwards. I feel the snap of grips broken, and then we’re crashing onto the platform floor.

On the other end of the platform, the metal doors slam open. Black shadows pour out with frightening speed. Glistening fangs, gleaming claws. Wet, wild, desirous eyes. All in a swift blur of movement. The girls nearest to the doors are killed before they can even scream. All I hear is the wet splat of fluid against walls draped in darkness. More shadows glide out of the opened doors, swim across the walls and floor. Then the screaming starts.

Now it’s Sissy pulling me up by the back of my shirt. Before I’ve even found my footing, she’s dragging me to the elevator. The screams sharpen and rise behind us, but we know better than to turn and look. We run around clumps of girls panic-plodding toward the elevator, their faces frozen in the garish elevator light.

“Sissy! Gene!” Epap shouts. “IT’S CLOSING!” He’s standing in the doorway of the elevator, his back against one sliding door, his arms and legs pushing against the other. But it’s a losing battle. His arms are crooking and folding with the pressure of the closing doors. Inside, David is searching frantically for a control switch I already know does not exist.

The screams reach fever pitch. Knowing better, I glance back. In the wide cone of light, I see girls pouring out the train cars in blind panic now, stumbling and falling to the ground. A few are frozen in place, cowering in the corners of the train cars, arms wrapped tightly around one another, their hands white-knuckled on the bars.

Meters from the elevator, Sissy dives first, sliding between the closing doors and into the elevator. I follow a second later, banging my shin and scraping my back as I slide under Epap through the narrowing gap. Epap, screaming with pain, can’t extricate himself; he’s too tightly bunched into a fetal position, his ankles pressed up almost against his head. Sissy off the floor, wraps her arms around his legs even as I grab hold of his shoulders. We give each other a quick nod, then lunge backwards. Epap pops inward, ankles and wrists twisting in ungainly angles.

The elevator doors slam shut.

Outside, girls smack against the elevator like birds into windows. Their hands slap against the glass with staccato panic. Their faces smush against the glass, pleading, begging, distorting as they’re pressed flat.

“We have to do something,” David whimpers. “We can’t just leave them.”

But we say nothing. Because there’s nothing we can do. There’s no way to open the doors, no way to squeeze in one more person even if we could. More girls smack against the glass on two sides, then all around, encircling us. Cassie squeezes her fingers into the gap between the closed doors in an effort to pry them open. We don’t bother to stop her. Soon enough, she gives up. She places her palms against the glass, head shaking, crying softly to herself. More bodies press up against the glass, flattening those already there.

And then the elevator starts moving. Slowly up the glass shaft.

A cry of panic sounds.

Epap puts his arm around Cassie. “You can’t do anything for them. You tried - ” His voice stops.

I see the duskers. Surprisingly, despite the mass bloodshed and cacophony in the tunnel, it’s only a handful of them. I’d expected more. Their faces are blood-splashed, eyes delirious with this unexpected arrival of culinary paradise. Judging from their drab uniforms, these duskers are nothing more than low-rank crew consigned to work the graveyard daytime shift. They came only to unload the train. Now they’ll have a tale to tell for the ages. But it’s not over for them. Not yet. Shielding their eyes against the light streaming from the elevator, they bound toward the girls pressing against the glass shaft.

“Close your eyes, David,” Sissy says, and he does, burrowing his head into the crook of her arm. Vicious thumps rock the elevator, signifying the duskers’ arrival. Screams erupt around us, screeching, pleading, seemingly loud enough to crack the glass. David cups his ears with shaky, pale hands.

The elevator rises. Blood splatters on the outside of the shaft like buckets splashing their contents. No matter how high we rise, the blood follows us, the screams surge up at us. Epap puts his arm around Cassie’s quaking shoulders.

Until all is silent. Blood flicks up like the dotted splatters of a paintbrush. Spread beneath us, on the platform, inside the train cars, is the specter of gruesome atrocities. The elevator rises and the arc of light thankfully withdraws from the scene of violence beneath. Darkness blankets the carnage below.

A male dusker leaps up to the elevator, its pale body slapping stickily onto the outside of the glass shaft.  Its face, only inches from mine, regards us coolly. Then its hold, compromised by the slick blood, slips, and the dusker slides down.

We stare up, praying for an exit. The black ceiling looms ever closer. And only when it seems like we are going to bump up against it does it suddenly slide open to expose an even darker layer of blackness. The elevator ascends into it. And once again, we are swallowed by darkness.

 

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