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I was buried alive.
When the elevator groaned to a stop in the middle of the rocky shaft, I knew I was buried alive. Trapped thousands of feet below the earth’s surface and hundreds above the bottom of the shaft, dangling in a dimly lit ten-by-ten foot cage over the black bowels of the very mine I had been so relieved to get work in.
I pulled myself to my feet and pushed my best friend Jack aside, hitting the button that controlled the elevator. I hit it again and again, wailed my fist on it. Nothing. The glass-paned lantern dangling from the ceiling flickered wildly as the kerosene within dwindled, as if it were attempting to ward off its own death with bursts of exaggerated life.
Dread became a solid, burning thing within me, something twisting my own flesh to its will, speeding my heart and making my skin slick with sweat. Before I knew it was coming up, I doubled over and retched through the grated floor. Jack sat calmly beside me as I heaved, his bloody eye sockets and the gaping wound in his throat mocking me, mocking my attempt to rescue him. He looked like some kind of hellish funhouse clown.
The dam broke, and I finally started screaming. At Jack. At God. At everything. There was nothing left to do but scream. I hadn’t screamed when the monsters had descended on us. I hadn’t screamed when I’d had to run from them, or when I fought them, or when I’d dragged Jack to the elevator, blood bursting from the hole in his neck. Everything had happened so quickly, it’d seemed like there was no time to scream.
The monsters. Mad, animalistic, discolored, broken and battered from throwing themselves after their prey, each one thrashing like a person trapped beneath a frozen pond might struggle against the ice in desperate search of air…all teeth and hunger….
I slid down the wall of the elevator and buried my face in my sticky, itching hands. The coppery scent of the blood on them nauseated me, and I leaned back, my screams echoing back to me through the endless mineshaft. The elevator was covered in Jack’s blood. I was covered in Jack’s blood. I was wearing more of his blood on my ratty waistcoat than remained, still as a stagnant pond, in his own veins. My cheap old pocket watch was caked with it. Even the digital camera still feverishly clutched in Jack’s hands was slashed with red. Stupid New Victorian piece of crap. I’d always ragged on him for being so attached to that camera. Couldn’t even get the pictures off of it, not without a computer – and no one around here had a computer.
Still, Jack had been so proud of it, of the snapshots he took. And I’d dutifully posed every time he’d ordered me to.
Slowly, trembling, I pried it out of his rubbery fingers.
The lantern dimmed. I tried not to panic. I figured out how to turn the camera on, hoping futilely that the conspiracy theories were true – that the New Victorians could track every bit of tech their people used, every digital letter, practically every thought. Didn’t they put chips in their citizens, tagging them like cattle? Maybe, if the smuggler who’d snuck it through the Border hadn’t cracked and killed the ability, it’d work. Maybe.
If nothing else, I could record a message.
Just as I figured out how to shoot video, the lantern died, plunging me into perfect darkness. I swallowed back a sob and spoke aloud, my throat raw, my voice the voice of a ghost in its tomb.
“If this thing is working…my name is Bram Griswold. I’m sixteen. It’s…July 4th, 2193. I live at the Griswold Farm, Long Road, West Gould, Plata Ombre, Punk-Controlled Brazil. I worked here to help support my mom and my sisters…in the Celestino mine. And these things, these, these people…they were eating…eating Jack…”
That did it. I started crying. I dug my nails into the wounds in my own arms, the places where the monsters had bitten me, seeking desperately to use pain to pin myself to reality, to coax my mind back from the edge.
It didn't work.
I said it.
“I’m pretty sure I’m going to…to die here. Emily, Addy…I’m sorry.” Tears ran into my mouth, a strange relief after the taste of vomit. “I’m so sorry.”
From the Hardcover edition.
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