They’d been crawling for what seemed like days, or hours. How could they know? They could no longer contemplate the time, it seemed a long time ago when something as alien as time came into their lives. Even if they cared how would they know anyway? It was always dark down here, darker than anything the pair had ever known. Always on your sore hands and knees trudging through sewage pipes holding the faeces of an entire city’s population, each of them blissfully unaware of what was going on in their own spotless backyard.
Simon accidentally sniffed before a sneeze, he instantly regretted it, the smell hit him like a shock wave, and he gagged, then explosively threw up into the suffocating darkness. But nothing came out, just a dribble of what was left of his acidic stomach juices, they had not eaten in days and were both famished and weak.
“Simon, are you all right?” said Jasmine, his younger sister, who used to be very pretty until the day they had taken her and Simon away to the Camp. Now her eyes spoke of wordless horrors and her sleep was tormented by the private tortures she had endured. Now her cheeks were thin, her beautiful blonde hair straggly and dirty, and she had bags under her eyes from the lack of sleep her nightmares produced.
“Yeah, in a minute.” Simon croaked, his throat burning still from his vomiting. They carried on crawling in silence. Oh and the silence, they dreaded it, imagine silence in the pitch black and then hearing the distant echo of footsteps, squelching through the unpleasant remains of dead rats and drunken takeaways. Not knowing whether they were real or unreal and that these might be the footsteps of someone tracking them – they too may be lost in the underground maze of pipes and sewers. Sometimes one of the two would try to hum a tune, but the silence like an animal instantly smothered them, until their humming became a sob. Or they would not be able to recollect a tune from a life that they had lived so long ago.
Each of them knew that they had to keep fighting through the horrible mess or face the idea of going back to the Camp. Even the idea scared them witless – going back to the experiments, the cages and ‘the Instructors’. They would even rather die in a pipe network containing the foulest of what the above population could throw at them.
They walked in silence for a while; every now and then coming to patches where there was no mess. But they could not stop at these, even through the sounds of their own squelching they could hear the distant echo of footsteps. The footsteps were faster than Simons were, for Simon was only nine and his sister seven. These must belong to a man or, they dreaded, an ‘Instructor’ with a longer stride, and stronger legs to pull his feet out the sickening waste.
Frantically they sped up their pace, but the man must have heard this and sped up his own. They were going as fast as they could, Simon holding his sisters hand, not only to make her go faster, but also not to lose her in the sickening darkness.
They carried on running like this for a long time Simon and his sister feeling their way along the walls of the slimy pipes. They were both exhausted and out-of-breath. They leaned against each other, supported also by the disgusting wall. Slowly they began to move – they could still hear their pursuer who was not far away now. They walked and walked and they quickly came to a dead end. Simon cried out in despair, tears streaming down his rough cheeks. He shouldn’t be here. He should be in parks playing with his mates or in a nice warm bed being tucked in by his mother.
He could smell her perfume even now; he breathed in and immediately gagged again, the memory disappearing before him in the darkness. But this time he did not throw up, he was too exhausted. Suddenly a new burst of energy came over him. He did not deserve this; his sister did not deserve this. He wanted to get back to his mum and his friends. He grabbed his sister’s arm and retraced his steps, this time passing his hand along the pipe wall. Then he found it, a pipe going off the side of this main one. He turned into it and they both began to move.
Several times they fell headfirst into the foot deep waste, falling over unseen horrors, coming up puking. They were both still crying – they were too young for this. They did not understand why this was all happening to them.
They stopped for their breath, but hearing how close those dreaded footsteps were, they immediately quickened their pace. Then abruptly, Simon was no longer holding Jasmine’s hand, she had slipped from his grip as they were running, and he turned around, not crying out, for fear of being overheard by their pursuer. He ran back and found Jasmine twenty yards back down the pipe. She was quietly weeping. Simon tried to pull her along but she resisted. She found Simons ear and whispered, “Simon m-my foots caught, and I-I can’t g-get it out”.
Simons heart stopped, he whispered back, “OK, I’ll have a look”.
He knelt down in the filth and screwed up his face in disgust. He felt out for her leg and grabbed it and felt his way down, into the waste and grabbed her foot. She screamed into the tunnel then instantly covered her mouth. It echoed back and forth, Simon released his grip, but now the footsteps were speeding up. They sounded like they were turning into the very tunnel they were in. Simon felt for what Jasmines foot was in. it was one of those bear traps that was designed to lock on to whatever sprung it.
They must have put these down Simon thought. His mind thinking of the evil Instructors at the Camp. He did not know what to do. He did not want to pull at Jasmines foot, as that would make it worse. It appeared that it was attached to her thick trainer and there was probably a little bit of spike in Jasmines foot.
He decided the best option would be to take her trainer off, he fumbled with the laces, and the footsteps were very loud now. Jasmine said, “Simon p-please hurry, please”. Simon just carried on. Then he caught his thumb on one of the spikes. He gave an involuntary cry of pain and sucked his thumb. Then he threw up; his thumb was covered in the foul, wrenching faeces.
Simon peered into the darkness and could see nothing. His thumb was in ribbons, he was exhausted, hungry, thirsty, covered in human waste and couldn’t get his sister out of the trap. Despair dawned on him and his head became heavy, then he lolled forward against his sister’s leg. He had passed out.