Elise followed at a distance that both gave her protection from any more police and from her guardian. She still didn’t trust the man, and doubted she ever would. Deep in her gut, something she would never voice openly, she just wanted to find an exit and part ways. Elise felt terrible for feeling this way, after all, without this stranger she would be dead and facedown in a pile of sludge. But something about his cold demeanor made her incredibly uncomfortable.
A wet rat brushed along her pant-leg and grabbed on instinctually, trying to climb upwards to dryer ground. Elise paid it no mind, swiping it off idly with a numb and bandaged hand. She had surprised herself with how easy she was finding it to cope with her new environment. It was dark and safe, and she could hear anything coming from at least a few yards off due to the sound reflective passages, which let any speaking travel far more of a distance then on the surface. Thoughts went to her family and Elise had to force herself not to suddenly burst into sobs. All of a sudden she wanted nothing more than to simply sit down in a dark corner somewhere and hold herself. Tears started to well in her eyes but she vigorously shook her head in defiance, trying not to make any unnecessary noise. Still, she knew her guardian could hear her sniffles and whimpers despite her best efforts.
Time droned on and became one long drawn-out line. When they hit the junction Elise realized she didn’t remember anything that had happened for the past… Come to think of it she didn’t even know what time it was. She didn’t even know how long it had been. Fear swelled in her heart, as she feared her grip on reality was slipping. Slowly she checked her phone, the bright light hurting her eyes, and the time shown was 11:43 PM. If her memory served right, her family had been stopped around 7 PM, which meant that four hours had past… Elise tried hard but could only remember the police officer and the MP’s chasing her; everything else in the sewers was just a black hole. She looked up from her phone and saw Charlie scowling at her. Elise realized the phone had been an incredibly bad idea and quickly stuffed it back in her pants without another word.
Again an undetermined amount of time past, but this time it would stay undetermined as Elise refused to risk another glance at her phone. Hints of fresh air started to titillate her nostrils but it was so minute she doubted it’s true existence. But as the pair continued the sent grew stronger and Elise was certain that an exit was close by.
After what Elise guessed to be ten or fifteen minutes of trudging through slimy green water with an overabundance of trash floating in it, both her and her companion arrived at a small sewer-grate. Fresh air filled her lungs and joy filled her heart for the first time in what seemed much longer that it had actually been. Her guardian looked at her sternly from behind the shotgun.
“I’ll go first, make sure it’s clear. If it isn’t, we keep going.”
Elise nodded without hesitation and Charlie nodded back. He held the shotgun in one hand and the ladder rung in the other, making a slow accent into the street upon. Once he reached the sewer grate he gently pushed it up and slid it away with the shotgun’s barrel and then stuck his head out to look around the dark alley. He had been here before, and knew that it’s seclusion usually rendered it safe. Usually. Luckily this time everything appeared normal and he continued, pulling himself out of the sewer and into a crouching position next to the open grate. Elise followed shortly after Charlie gave the thumbs-up and sat down immediately upon gaining the ability to do so.
Charlie looked at his companion and how she simply sat down on the ground. Inexperienced and foolish, he thought to himself. You should always stay on your feet. Crouching was equally restive and kept your ability to react high so you could avoid sudden hostilities. This girl was going to cause more trouble then she was worth.
Luckily he didn’t have to make her leave at gun-point, as at that moment Elise struggled to her feet and stood still for a moment before speaking in a dry and distant tone that was filled to the brim with suppressed emotion.
“I… have to go look for my family.”
This was a lie, and Elise knew it, but she hoped it would be good enough to get away from this stranger touting a shotgun. Charlie nodded without a moment’s thought, happy to have the dead-weight shed. Elise didn’t waste any time and nodded back before walking briskly out of the alley way and onto the street.
Rain was pouring from the sky like tears and overwhelming sense of loneliness slammed into her like a freight train. She would have cried, but her eyes had already cried themselves to a puffy red and felt dry despite the rain beating down on her face. Elise managed to drag herself out of her own mind enough to notice a small bookshop called “The Title Page” across the street. The lights were still on and as she wiped water from her eyes it looked as though someone was at the door. Cautiously and with painful slowness Elise went halfway across the street to get a better look, hoping the hard rain would cover up the sound of her approach. An elderly woman stood in front of the door, simply slouching forwards and pressing her head against it’s sturdy face. The old lady at the door was clearly infected and Elise stopped dead in her tracks. At that moment she thought she saw a shadow flicker across the bookshop’s window. Maybe someone was still inside? She squinted her eyes and stayed put for a few seconds, seeing if anything moved again. If not, she was going to back away slowly and continue down the street.