Her: Chapter 22
We're heading deep into the city too soon.
I was hoping for some time to mentally prepare myself for this, but it seems there isn't any. I'd expected this to be the kind of thing that makes a person jittery inside. Jumpy, along with the truck. I'm not, though. I'm pretty calm, actually, and it's a little unsettling.
When the truck pulls up along side a building located near the center of the city, the guard sitting next to me starts ushering me out.
I hit the pavement in a quick pace. Instinctively, my finger tightens over my waist, as if ensuring a weapon's there. But I don't have one. My protection is dependent on the guard leading me past the white structures, who's also going to be leaving me soon anyway.
"Location," a voice comes through my ear. Glas.
The guard in front of me picks up. "Just turning onto the second block of Candor, a hundred-and-twenty-five meters away from entrance."
"Beatrice, once through it, I will direct you to the emitters, located in the abandoned subway tracks. Mr. Anderson will be handing you a watch set for the time you have to activate the transmitters."
I swallow back my rising anxiety and clench my hands tightly at my sides. "I'm ready," I lie.
We start walking faster, ignoring the glances cast our way from the few people that linger around us. The guard's pace is swift and fast. almost elegant whereas I feel stiff and off-balance. Almost subconsciously, I scan the converging buildings, digging deep inside my head to find a link. A match. A glimmer of recognition. But there's nothing, and as we travel deeper into the city and closer to the entrance, I suddenly begin feeling more and more lost. I think I hoped I would feel something.
But these buildings, these streets, hold no significance. Whatever memory or idea I'd once had of this place is dead, along with the girl I used to be.
We make it to the entrance approximately seven minutes later. I don't know if it can even be considered an entrance, what with the circular drop into darkness, it doesn't seem to be somewhere anyone would want to venture into.
"How does a sewer hatch lead to abandoned railway tunnels?" I ask, glancing down it. Something tightens in my stomach. When I should be feeling unsure about falling into a dark hole, it oddly feels familiar. I shake the feeling away.
The guard grabs something from a pocket and winds it around my wrist. "The sewer flooded the railway tunnel after one of the cars went off the track. This is the only way to get into the tunnels without having to go through security for safety precaution."
He gives me back my hand and I look at the watch. The time reads two minutes and forty-eight seconds.
"Now go," he says. "After your down, you'll be directed to the transmitters and then the Council meeting."
"How do I get dow-"
The guard sweeps me up in one fluid motion and before I can object, dangles me in front of the hole before letting go. There's an instant of fear that spikes my heartbeat and a blur of shadow. Then the ground meets my feet and I stumble to my knees.
"Start the time," the guard hisses above me, before disappearing from sight.
I take in gulps of air and cast a weary look around the tunnel. There's no waste, like I would have expected, only a tinge of bad odor carried down one of the tunnels. It's also not as dark as I thought. A dull light filters in through the sewer, leading down two separate again, maybe it's the thing over my eyes that's helping me to see.
I press the time on my watch.
"Beatrice, you are going to take the tunnel on your right," Glas says and I instantly follow it down, ignoring the odor and the slight shake of my hands as I stumble through.
"You'll go about thirty meters before you see a break in the wall."
I follow instructions and count the steps I walk, trying to hurry as the time dwindles down on my watch. Just like she said, I find a small jagged hole, broken as if something rammed into it. Debris litter the ground and I watch my step, careful not to trip. "Okay," I say as I force my body through the opening. "I'm in."
"Good," Glas chimes and I can hear the pleasure in her voice. "Follow it down and at the base of it, you should start to see the tracks. Take another right."
I fiddle over the last fragments of cement, landing hard at the bottom and scaping my hand. I ignore the spike of pain and glance at the watch.
I turn right and start running.
"Okay," I say as I follow the tracks down into a narrowing tunnel where the wall converged.
"The first transmitter will be coming up soon. You won't miss it."
I'm about to ask her why that is when I suddenly understand. Just a ways down the tunnel, I can already make one out, standing like a small pillar, buried in the dirt with a dull glow emanating from it. I come to a rough stop when I'm there, breathing heavily as I look at the foreign object. "Now what?"
"You'll see a cap at the top and next to it, a green button. Place your hands over the cap, turn it, and pull it upward.," she says. "Then press the green button in the center to activate."
I do as she says and tighten my hold on the cap. With my small arms, I heave it toward me and slowly, the object begins to protrude from the ground, reaching up until it reaches my stomach. I stare at the green button for a split second before slamming it down.
I do. "Didn't you say I'd be arming the first in the sewer system?" I ask as I jog down the track.
:58 seconds left.
Glas sighs. "That entrance was sealed. Improvisations had to be made. There's a tunnel coming up on your right, follow it down to the end to the next emitter. Hurry."
I try to run faster, feeling my heart slam against my ribs, sweat beading down my arms and legs with the layers of clothing I have on. The tunnel rears up suddenly then and I have to backtrack to get there. I stumble once as I go, nearly falling on my face as I force my feet to move faster.
"You're running out of time," Glas hisses in my ear.
"I know," I bite out accidentally, trying to see farther past the tunnel to the emitter. I catch it a few seconds later and I practically smack against the wall in the attempt to stop my momentum. The design on the pillar is the same as the last and I pull up on the cap, raising it to my stomach. I'm about to press the button when my hand stops over it, hovering.
There's something in me that doesn't want to do it. Because after it's done, there's no going back. Pressing this seals the fate of someone. Not pressing it seals my own.
But if I don't, I'll never recover the girl in me who died. The girl I need to accept before I can move on.
Then I remember the film. Blood on grey. Fire devouring fields.
With a final resolve, I squeeze my eyes shut and bring my hand down.