Sunless

This short story is an example of my Paranormal Romance work;          

Dank and crumbling, the wall offered no comfort to Shayenne’s cheek hard up against it. The darkness pressed like a tangible blindfold across her eyes. Scents of mouldy decay clustered in her nostrils. A faint repetitive plink told her water pooled beneath a dripping leak from some pipe above. Shayenne retained her wallpaper grip. They would come.

Rotting cabbage and decaying fish guts. The smell that came to her in the faintest of wafts, told her they were on their way. Nerves jumped in her arms, in her calves. She had to hold position, barely breathe. The intruders she hunted lived out their whole lives in these places. They could sense the tiniest twitch. The opportunity for their demise rarely repeated.

Now, barely perceptible, a tentative twilight seemed to infiltrate the gloom. A whistling murmur commenced, stopped, began again, broke off. Silence followed that went on and on. In Shayenne’s ears, the blood pulsed, making its own high pitched sound as she strained to listen for their approach. Her muscles jumped, her breath caught, as almost beneath her the whistling, harsh mutter came again.

Light wavered, revealing its source as a sodium lamp shuttered by rags. The one in front held it against its chest. The Sub stopped again and huddled up to its companion. She could see their long whiskered noses lift as the Sub held the out the lamp with its skinny, scaly arm. Great patches of peeling skin, white between black curling hairs showed her this Sub was carrying the Tunnel Disease.

With the lift of the Sub’s arm, the stench of rot billowed upwards like an enveloping cloud. It was so invasive Shayenne could not even think. Automatically she jumped, reaching for her obsidian blade as she did so. The shrieks cut off swiftly, one and two, the throats beneath the long sharp teeth of the gaping mouths, spouting inky blood into the blackness beyond the reach of the rolling lamp’s light. Shayenne grabbed the lamp and placed it by the bodies. Even as the Subs trembled in their death throes, she sliced off their taloned hands. Bounty.

Shayenne switched on her micro torch, found the pool where the water dripped and washed clean her black blade, sheathed it, bagged the hands and made her way step by step up the ladder to the upper tunnel and out to the relief of rain washed air, the smell of the city above ground. The pungent fumes of diesel engines were sweet in comparison to what lay beneath.

The office was just a few minutes’ walk away. Since her job as Haves Protector more often than not required her to enter the tunnels, that was a blessing. Shayenne yawned so hugely, she shuddered as she pressed the combination entry pad. Mark stood as she entered the main office – the only office, actually – two desks, one set of files and umpteen communication devices.

‘How’d it go?’ The query that furrowed his forehead cleared away as she plonked her bulging trophy sack on his desk.
‘Hey Smoking!.’ Mark pulled open the top of the bag and pulled a face at the same time. ‘Stink! I’ll get these through quick as. They’ll be impressed. You okay?’
‘Yeah. Tired. Got to go.’ She turned away.
 ‘Wait.’ Mark came round his desk, put out his hand. Shayenne batted it away, rubbed her hand over her face.
‘I said I’m okay. Just got to go.’ 
‘I only wanted to ask – want to come with me tonight? It’ll be fun. I’ve got tickets to Brilliance.’
Shayenne had been wanting for months. The moment she first set eyes on Mark her heart had woken in a way she’d never before dared to imagine. She had avoided every opportunity for intimacy ever since and now she did so all over again.
‘No,’ she said but in spite of herself her eyes lingered on his green ones, his thick brown hair with the auburn highlights and that body of his so lean and tight, so muscled, so toned up she could hardly restrain herself from reaching for him in real life instead of just in her dreams.

There could be no hope for them. No hope at all. He’d find out she wasn’t like him or the rest of them. If the Haves only knew or even got the hint of her secret they’d condemn her for a Sub. No way could she bear to spend her existence in that world. At least when the upper world had lost the sun, she could pass as a Have which her ancestors never could. Brilliance, the Nightclub of the Sun King was the very last place she would dare to visit.

‘Oh.’ His eyes dropped away from hers. His mouth turned down at the corners. ‘Oh well.’ He shrugged, lifted his eyes back to hers again. ‘I’ll drop you home. It’s the least I can do since you’ve earned us our full income for the next two months.’
Shayenne hesitated. The thought of the walk to the station to wait for the train with its ‘might arrive in the next hour’ schedule, made up her mind.
‘Okay that’d be great.’

Shayenne barely sat down in Mark’s vehicle before she fell into a deep sleep. She woke, it seemed seconds later, to Mark nudging her arm.
‘We’re here. You’re home. Wake up Shay.’
‘Huh?’ Groggy as she was, her hand still made its lightning strike to her blade.
‘Hey – woah, it’s me remember!’
Shayenne watched shock flare in his eyes but as fast as she had drawn her weapon, he had raised a gauntleted arm to block the thrust of her own. In the limited space of his car his face was centimetres from hers. She flung herself back to nestle against the passenger window.
‘Oh Mark I’m so sorry.’ She dropped her gaze away from the intensity of those green eyes. She realised how close she had come to falling the other way, against his chest instead of the window. She put her hand to the door handle.
‘Hold on.’ Mark pointed upwards. At mid afternoon in summer the sun, dim behind the permanent polluted layer that grimed the skies, started fading and the streetlights were meant to turn on automatically.
‘Probably the Subs again. They’ve got into your district controls.’ Even as he said the words, daylight faded altogether and the streetlights remained unlit. The apartment buildings seemed to crowd closer and in the shadows between them, things shifted and scuttled. ‘You’re exhausted. I’ll see you safely inside.’

Ignoring Shayenne’s  protestations, he groped inside his dashboard.
‘Ah!’  She gasped as he retrieved a powerful phospho-torch.
‘What’s wrong?’ He shone the torchlight straight at her, straight into her face.

In the utter silence that followed, Shayenne sank her head into her hands. It was all over.. He had seen. He knew now. Her Have life was finished.

‘Look at me, Shay.’ His tone was soft, neutral.  He was probably too shocked to yell or swear. He would recover soon enough. She shook her head and squirmed away, reaching again for the door handle, only to hear a click. He had locked the car door.
‘Look at me.’ His tone was commanding, not condemnatory. She might as well get it over with before his shock gave way to anger.

Her throat constricting with a sob of misery that took enormous effort to force back down, she raised her tell tale eyes to his.  The torch lay on the seat console between them, its light illuminating the dash. His body, his face was all gloomy shadow. She could not read his expression. With the swift movement that was so feline-reflex typical of him, he picked up the torch. She flinched but it was not into her eyes that he shone it. It was into his  own.

Shayenne gasped again but not in trepidation this time. Right in front of her face she saw the tell tale blaze of his eyes mirroring hers. His pupils gone huge like a cat’s in headlights, reflected the light back in a flash of emerald and then swiftly narrowed into slits.

‘You!’ Her mouth hung wide open.
‘I was starting to suspect.’ Mark began to chuckle and suddenly, helplessly, Shayenne began to laugh as well.
‘No wonder you were as good as me in the tunnels,’ she finally managed, between hysterical giggles.

Much, much later a lean couple, hand in hand, clad in black leather from top to toe, gave their tickets in at Brilliance. Not only were their bodies dressed in black, so were their eyes, beneath huge mirror lensed sunglasses – but what of that? Everyone on Earth wore shades when they visited the Sun King Nightclubs.

Shayenne had never known that. There was a lot she had never known; a lot she had to learn She looked forward to continuing to share with Mark a most satisfying series of lessons – more than she had ever dared hope was possible.

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