2. From Dawn Till…


I had been outside playing for most of the day. I still hadn’t found a place to crash. I desperately needed one. It was still raining, I tried to stay under the building overhangs. Keep the guitar dry. The case sat open, inviting the merciful to contribute. Every little bit helped. This had been my lifestyle for a while now. It was what I did. I played my own music, made my own limits, sang what I felt like. It was just how things worked. And the coins came in. Dollars too if I was real lucky. Today I got one of the more important bits of information instead.

I had been playing for hours when I saw the kid drop a piece of paper in my case. I was about to go after them, lecturing about how my case isn’t a garbage can, but instead I reconsidered. The kid turned and looked back at me, shooting me a look and a slight wink then kept going. I picked up the paper shard, unfolding it. It said:

“Shelter for the lost. Welcome to the Gothik-Serkis. Find a door of no point and purpose, and it will bring you warmth.”

I looked around. What the hell did that mean? I continued playing, wracking my mind for where a door might be. I couldn’t figure it out. I played until the early hours of the morning, retreating back to the bar for another drink. I was very sparing with my alcohol consumption. With such limited funds, I had to be careful. The place had mostly emptied out. The same girl that had been here when I first came in was around. I had lost track of days and such, I assume this was a different shift. She was wiping down tables. The place was mostly run by girls. I could feel myself dozing off where I sat.

“Wake up.”

I shook my head, trying to wipe sleep from my eyes; it wouldn’t work. I looked over to find the waitress wiping down the table I sat at. I had slipped off. I got up, muttered some sort of apology, took my stuff and edged toward the door.

“Hold on. You’ll need a place to stay, won’t you?”

I nodded halfheartedly, more of a subconscious effort than anything else. She pointed next to the bar, to a little doorway in the back, hidden away.

“Go. It’s for the lost.”

And she edged away to finish up. I went to the doorway she pointed to; finding it unlocked, I passed through. The hall beyond was dark. I trudged on anyway, desperate for anything, just somewhere to rest. I didn’t care the cost at this rate.

I walked on for a while, setting my bags down when I hit light. There was another doorway, the words shining overhead. Sure enough, it said Gothik-Serkis. There were candles lit everywhere, illuminating the doorway. I had walked down a bit; it looked like I was in a sewer. I looked around for another person, someone, something. Just the sound of water dripping somewhere; the wax running in rivers from the candles. I sat down on the ground next to my bags, leaning my head against the wall. It was damp, slightly cool. My eyes rolled up in my head, far from this. I let my mind wander. I hadn’t bothered to knock on the door. This would do just fine. This was…perfect.

I woke up elsewhere. I woke up to the dripping water and the damp atmosphere, but this was different. This wasn’t the empty doorway that I had curled up in. This was soft, a mattress – it wasn’t water soaked or disgusting. There was a blanket; the more I looked, the more I learned. This was a home in itself. This was a place beyond other terms. This was a haven beneath the streets, beneath the realm of reality. I got up, looking around shakily. There was a dim bit of light here, enough to see around. Someone lived here. I got up and walked out, or left; it wasn’t really a room. Some sort of curtain cut it off from the rest of the pipes. Outside I found the wonders of the underground.

There was an entire community here. A whole world of misfits – lost and alone in a world that had no place for them. No point or purpose. For a moment, I felt like I belonged. But they were young and free. I was…I don’t know. What separated us from each other? I felt like a foreigner, lost in a strange land. I was still staring out at the crowd of milling teenagers, running around, getting things done, when a stranger appeared out of nowhere.

“Hello stranger, have a peaceful rest?”

I blinked, looking him up and down. I couldn’t figure out who this guy was, or what he was playing at. He was about my age, decked in the most bizarre fashion. He had a top hat on, black, a little dusty from the underground. There was an Ace of Spades attached to it. He smiled at me, this bizarre show business kind of grin. He had a smoke hanging out of his mouth as he spoke, which he took out for certain dramatic emphasis at times. I smiled back at him.

“How’d I get here?”

He smiled more. “Well see, we found you outside the gates and decided to adopt.” He pulled the smoke out from his lips, exhaled a bit, then returned it, looking me up and down. “Girls like you don’t drop into our laps every day you know.”

I raised a brow. “Girls like me?”

He laughed a bit, coughing up smoke. “Please, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Dusk Brogan,” he replied simply, taking the hat off and performing a low, courteous bow. I put a hand out to him when he straightened out again.

“Pleasure to meet you.”

“Don’t I get a name out of you?” he frowned.

I merely laughed. “Girls like me don’t have names.”

He smiled back. “I think we could find a place for you down here.”

And I grinned wider. “What makes you think I’d want a place down here with you misfits and lunatics?”

He laughed a bit. “Now that’s a bit harsh. Come on now, you going to stand there and honestly tell me that you’ve got somewhere better to be? If you did, you wouldn’t have been curled up at our doorway. Stay awhile, if you get to be part of the show, you’d have a good bit of security.”

“What show?”

And he turned around, waving his arm in the air, demonstrating the crowd, the people, everything. “Welcome to the circus, Babe.”

I took the smoke straight from him, took a long pull, and blew it in his face. He smiled forcibly, teeth bared.

“Don’t ever call me Babe. Got it?”

He nodded and I finished his smoke, grinding it out under a heel. He slipped a hand around my shoulders, leading me away from where we’d been standing in the depths of darkness. I tried to shake him off, but his fingers curled and dug into my shoulder.

“Allow me to welcome you to our home. To your new labyrinth.”

“I didn’t know I’d made a concrete decision yet,” I muttered.

He just kept smiling. “Oh, I trust you’ll make the right decision.”

I looked back at him, the foolish grinning face, the confident manner. “I’m supposed to trust you?”

He pulled out another smoke from somewhere, lighting up thoughtfully. He shot me a thousand dollar smile. “If you dare.”

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