The story so far:
The boy, for he was only a boy at the time, stirred beneath his threadbare blanket, the dust of the rockcrete bunker drifting lazily through the dampened air with every twitch and turn. The walls of the room had once been ornately painted and decorated with the deepest of blues and the crispest white imaginable, but after months of relentless fighting all that remained of the once proud room were the flaked and peeling cobalt shreds clinging to the wall.
Lukas Sheppard rose from the filthy, stained mattress he had found and rubbed his eyes, still trying to make sense of his surroundings. He peered out of a firing slit in the bunker to be greeted with nothing but bitter grey fog. He ran his fingers through his straight black hair and breathed in the sharp chill of the morning frost. Lukas lifted the dark green rag from the floor, shaking the muck off it with a few flicks of his wrist. He tied it around his neck, fashioning it as a makeshift scarf to stave off the bite of winters icy teeth. He searched around the rest of the room, looking for the items he had strewn throughout the bunker the night before. He managed to find his laspistol, and a small picture of his sister and mother, but was unable to come across the rest of his personal belongings. Lukas searched the bunker for what seemed an eternity, desperate for the hand carved eagle his father had made him, all those years ago, but it was to no avail.
With a single tear gently rolling down his muddied cheek, the boy left. He walked out of the emplacement to embrace the cold, harsh dawn of the city. Lukas looked behind him, the smoke rising from the habs, the dead trees fallen across the roads and the ever present fog, hanging like the ghost of a long dead metropolis. The boy tentatively stepped out into the cluttered streets, abandoning the prefabricated structure and stuck out to find a new home; and people. There had been no-one, only the whispers of the wind. Sometimes the shrill, piercing sound of a gale rushing through a building would send Lukas into hiding, sheltering behind crates until the unseen horrors of the dead city would pass; other times it was the silence. The deafening silence that would put him in a state of fear. An eerie stillness in a city that was once teeming with life, but that was a lifetime ago. The reassuring weight of the pistol he had found made him feel a little at ease, but Lukas was not sure whether he had the courage to use it when the time came, not on another person, or even on himself. He was only a boy; lost and confused in an impossibly large city. Alone.
Lukas roamed the empty streets for days on end, watching the suns weak light fade into nothing as the darkness swept in. He lived off whatever he could find, scraps mostly and the remnants of meals lost long ago. His skin was silky white for the lack of good food, and he was covering less ground every day. The clothes he wore were becoming more and more ragged with each new morning. The boy looked off into the distance, and saw dark clouds forming, slowly moving towards his location, an ill omen. The boy was old enough to know that rain was not a good thing, the acid run-off of the ghost city intermingling with the water to form a toxic cocktail of precipitation. Distant thunder rumbled like the growl of a vengeful god and a foul chilling wind swept through the narrow streets. Lukas cringed at the sudden noise. He pulled the green blanket around his head, fashioning it as a makeshift hood.
As the first drops of acid rain began to fall, Lukas made his way to a manhole, the gateway to the underground catacombs and the scum of the underhive; although the boy had seen nor heard anyone in weeks, he was always wary of the dark places of the city. He found a small branch and wrapped it in a propaganda leaflet, many of which had been blowing around the city streets. He set light to it by rubbing the sticks together, the friction causing the partly glossy parchment the smoulder and singe. The light was feeble, but it would do and so Lukas ventured into the labyrinthine complex of the underhive.
He wandered for hours in the dank bowels of the city, turning haphazardly at the many junctions and turns in the maze beneath the city. He could hear the beating of his own heart, the echoing drip of water, his footsteps in the slush and filth on the floor, and the ever present storm raging above the surface. The boy was disoriented and confused, he had no plan. He did not know where to go, let alone where he was. It was as if he had been swallowed whole by the city, and he was left to crawl in its nightmarish belly. The air was stale and heavy, tasting of iron and rust; Lukas was afraid to breathe it for too long, taking short intakes of the putrid gas.
The improvised torch guttered and wavered, in a half-life, sputtering, spitting ashes and spewing black smoke as if the boy had insulted it. The sound of the dying flame resonated through the hellish tunnel complex, almost deafening the boy. The sound was impossibly loud and the suddenness of it caused Lukas to drop the torch in shock. It hit the ground with a sharp twang and the flame was extinguished in the rancid water which lapped around his ragged boots. A few wisps of smoke rose from the sodden branch, clouding the cramped passageway and forcing itself down the boys’ throat. He coughed and reached, trying to exorcise the smoke daemon that was filling his lungs. The noise of his struggle reverberated kilometres into the depths of the underhive, bouncing off the mossy rockcrete walls. Lukas was unable to see. Thrust into a world of dark and black, he was terrified, unable to move for fear of the blackness.
The hall was silent, save for the pounding of the boys’ heart and his panting from fright. His eyes adjusted, pupils dilating, taking in the scant shreds of light filtering through cracks in the ceiling. Lukas looked behind him, scanning for danger, creatures perhaps lured to him by the noise. He waited what seemed to be an eternity in a stillness he never thought himself capable of. After deciding he was safe, the boy began to move down the tunnel. That was when he heard the shuffling.