## 8:00 am

Eyes peel open, staring at a filthy ceiling. You've blacked out.

Again.

Curious dreams this time. Head full of others. Voices. Memories, and yet not memories.

As done before, you swing heavy legs off the bed and stumble upwards, searching for an anchor, a reminder.

There, on the table beside the bed. Water, a flask to calm nerves and steady minds.

Underneath, a book and a paper.

The book: Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Scrawled on the cover, in black ink: the word "Questions."

The paper: a copy of The Times. Dated Sunday, September 9, 1888.

In the mirror are numbers.

9111888

2301

2+3+0+1=5?

Behind the numbers is a face, half-shaven, half bearded.

Behind the eyes, something more, something savage, something powerful and trapped.

And maybe, just maybe, something more.

"Hello, Jack," you say. "Welcome back."

I stand outside the door of a seedy apartment. The kind of place people go to kill or die. The prostitute in the stairwell told me which suite he would be in. 23. She said not to beother though, because he likes being left alone.

I didn't have that option.

I bang on the door, 5 times with the authority of a police officer. "Jack!" I yell, "I know you're in there! The whore down the hall said she saw you come in late and haven't left yet!"

I take my monocle out and put it in my pocket\, remove my carriage glove from my right hand, noticing the filth it picked up from the door, and rap even louder on the door, this time with my bare knuckes.

"Jack! Get out here! You can't hide from this forever, Jenna needs you to come home! She's your wife man, it's time you stopped running!"

5 times. He knocked five times. The mirror says 2+3+0+1=5. But it doesn't equal five.

It's the wrong number. Five is a bad number. Signals instability, inequality. But six is worse.

But six is right.

The gun on the desk. A six-shooter.

"Good number, six," I say. Then I level the gun at the door. I empty one shot, then I jump out the window onto the roof below. Jekyll, the voice in my head, screams.

I hit the roof and roll to a stop, quite safe, quite unharmed. "I knew we'd be fine, you yellow coward. You need to just shut up and let me do my work."

Eddie screams and snarls his approval in your skull. Eddie? Ahdi? You're not sure any more. Jekyll? Jackal? Ahdi has a jackal's head. Does Eddie wear Jekyll's head? Do you wear a jackal's hide? Hyde? It's all a muddle.

Time to stop thinking and act.

Time to hide.

Hyde.

Hyde Park.

Five miles by foot. Less by Underground.

Hide. Lay low for a few weeks. Bide your time.

Find purpose. Find meaning. Find more answers.

More answers? Ahdi-Eddie grunts, a satisfied, amused grunt. Never really thought to connect searching in animals guts for magiks to searching in prostitutes guts for magiks, better magiks, until Ahdie came along. Or was it Jekyll that first thought of that? Whoever first thought of it, Ahdie was the only one with the guts to do it. Guts. Heh. Ahdie likes that.

I run along the roof, completely ignorant of any trouble I might be causing below when shingles fall and crack beneath my feet. I continue running, moving to lower and lower roofs as I go. Then, an easy drop, and I'm in the streets.

I clutch the gunshot wound in my left shoulder and kick the door in.

"Jack! What the blazes are you thinking man?!? I'm your brother in law for pete's sake!" I yell as I rush to the window. Hopefully he didn't jump. It wouldn't have been the first time he had tried to take his own life. Jenna saw something in him...I couldn't for the life of me see what she does when she looks at him...but she wouldn't let us commit him for some reason.

Below the window was a lower rooftop. I can see Jack running along the roof of the building next door, low and fast, breaking off tiles and shingles and sending them to the streets below.

Typical. Thinking of no one but himself.

"Jack you buffoon!" I yell after him, "stop this instant!"

It's clear he's lost in one of his delusions, growing more common each day now. From the way he rolls his eyes around and mumbles to himself without even realizing it the poor sot probably hears voices at this point. Maybe he always has.

"*Of course he has...he's not sane like you are James*," the calm Voice of Reason says to me.

I always had good sense, even as a lad. My mother used to tell people that common sense spoke louder in my head than in the other children. I was the leader, always had been. The other children looked to me, my family now looked to me, in business everyone looked to me. And now my sister Jenna was looking to me...looking to me to try and talk some of my uncanny sense in to her loony husband. He'd been missing now for almost a week, and that is the longest he had vanished to date.

The poor sod. If he wasn't putting my sister through such pain I would probably feel sorry for him. As it stands though, when I catch him I'll box his ears. I don't like to use my pugilism except for sport, but as a bareknuckle gentlemans champion I could ring poor Jack like a bell if I had to. As I come off the landing into the street outside the crummy tenement where I'd found him I realized it was probably going to come to that.

"*You'll have to do it," Reason stated matter of factly, "put him down like a drunk at the club. It's gone too far this time, and sometimes there's only one way to get through to people like that.*"

I find myself nodding in agreement with myself and my flawless Reason as I wrapped a handkerchief around the grazed shoulder wound and put my tweed jacket back on. I admired the elbows and their suede pads for a mere second, twisting the corner of my moustache as I caught my reflection in a passing motorcars window. Gosh I'm dashing, aren't I? Why hadn't Jenna found a man like myself? One of my colleagues or an acquintance from the club? She deserved better than this scruffy ruffian..the Scruffian some of my closer chums had taken to calling him, amused at my anecdotes about his eccentricities.

"*Head for the park, take the Underground, it's his likely destination, and the fastest way. Stay out of sight, wait till you're in the open...he's dangerous. He might hurt someone.*"

I nod some more, pulling my black gloves tight with the straps on the wrists, and head down into the station on the corner...likely the stop right before the one he's running to. No more amusument now. No more anecdotes. No more "eccentricities"...he had crossed the line into crazy.

"*That's the ticket," Reason went on, "you show him James. Show him how a real man should behave*."

Poor sod. But poor Jenna more so...

...I'm gonna box his ears right proper.

"He's not just going to let you go," Jekyll whined from the back of my skull, receiving what seems to be a kick from Ahdie for it, "But he won't. We all know you didn't kill him. He's gonna come for us, he's gonna muck up our plans!"

"We could kill him," Ahdie ventures, with what feels like a lip-licking motion.

"No," I answer, not really caring who hears. "That's my sisters brother we're talking about. Even though he's a self-righteous asshole, he's still family. Why do you think we left Jenna for good this time, huh?"

"Yes, yes, can't harm Jenna. She's important, very important," Jekyll chimes in.

"So we're saving her for later? Her guts are important?" Ahdie mused.

I let him think that. Controlling Ahdie requires more alcohol than I care to admit and more self control than I care to have. He's useful, but it's best he doesn't know what's going on. He wouldn't like it if he found out I was trying to kill him.

I move amongst the streets, weaving in and out, continually moving. Then I find the station. I pause, looking at it. "Jekyll?"

"Stations faster, but he'd know that, he's a smart man, very smart. I say streets. More places to hide, more places to hide. Safer."

I think on that a second. "Ahdie?"

"Streets. More women. We need to know what to do next. Need to cut them open."

I take the station, going underground. Good to keep my voices on the defensive.

The Underground is full of people, many still fascinated by its relative newness. The crowd is thick and warm, and presses against both of you when you enter.

Jack arrives just in time to see a car leave; he'll have to wait around for a bit. There's nothing particularly different about him outside, so it's easy to blend in. As long as everyone controls themselves.

Jack's brother-in-law arrives a bit later, just as the next car has arrived, and begins to fill with people.

Both men scan the crowd, and though neither sees the other, both of them see the same person at the same time, just as she boards the car.

Jenna.

I effortlessly push through the crowd towards her.

"*You're very good at this. People respect you*," Reason tells me.

I get on the car a few people behind her, and call her name in my stern American voice. As she turns towards me, I smile the smile of the confident and she smiles the smile of a dutiful sister. She looks past me then, recognition and surprise and elation flashing across her face all at once. I turn around to see Jack getting on the car as well.

"Jack!" she yells happily, "James, you found him for me!"

"*Don't let this go too far," the Voice of Reason says, "and don't tell her yet that he shot you. We need him...but not necessarily unharmed. Calmly for now, James. Hysterics from he or your sister at this point would be untowards*."

I turn around to face Jack and cross my arms. I give him my best steely eyed glare (which is really quite good) as if challengeing him to do something crazy on the train, in front of all these people.

I smirk at James steely-eyed attempt, and almost rock with Ahdi's laughter. Never doubting he was a skilled man, he was always less skilled than he thought he was. But there's a better way to play this. I coax Jekyll out into the open, letting him fill my face with his naive optimism and warmth.

"Jenna! What, James find me?" I snort. "I was just about to come looking for you." I push past James into her arms, holding her long enough to piss him off. I need to severe this link, now, and getting James infuriated, therefore starting a fight, is the best way to do it.

But something bothers me. I've only got five bullets left. Five's a bad number.

The car is hot and crowded, packed with people. The air is full of the reek of sulphur, coal dust and gas fumes from the dim lamps. It is hot and close and claustrophobic, but then, something about having many personalities crammed into a small space seems natural.

Four stops go by, idle chitchat punctuated by long silences. And then, somewhere between stations, the car suddenly shudders to a halt.

I continue to stare down Jack, waiting for the slightest excuse to give him a jab in the chin.

"*It's probably not going to start moving again," Reason tells me, "this isn't a normal malfunction. Get the gun from him before he does something crazy*."

After a glance up and down Jack's body to look for the telltale lump under his clothes, I swiftly (oh so swiftly) grab him by the left wrist, twist his arm painfully behind his back, and remove the gun from his waistline. I dump the bullets into my hand and deposit them in my jacket pocket. I then tuck the gun into my pants in the small of my back, flipping my jacket over it just as Jenna turns around to face us in her perusal of the stopped car.

I smirk at Jack as if daring him to do something. Or to mention the gun so I can rebut by asking him who he intends to shoot next. The wound in my left shoulder aches dully, but far less so than my desire to see her learn the truth of him...but not here, not in public. No scandal for my sister if I can help it.

"*That's showing him James*," Reason states. When did Reason become capitalized, I wondered...and start referring to me by my name? No matter...

"What do you suppose is happening?" Jenna asks, "Another homeless man on the tracks perhaps?"

"We'll see soon enough, be prepared for anything," I tell her without ceasing my eyes relentless bore into Jack.

It's a good thing I also carry a knife. And that, by taking my gun and it's five bullets, he transferred their bad luck to himself.

And so, it's fairly simple for me to retaliate, and quickly. I was always more adept with the knife anyway. It slides effortlessly from my sleeve, coming out in the perfect position as I attack, springing up and catching James with my body, pushing him backward and moving my forearm, with my knife along its length, to his neck.

"Perhaps I don't have time to f*ck around, Jimmy," I'm all smiles.

Ahdie wants me to do it. Jekyll...is quiet?

And then they start screaming. The people in the car in front of us. And the lights go out.

I back off of James. Time for this later. "My gun, Jimmy! Give it to me!" then under my breath, "Goddammit Jekyll you gotta warn me when they're coming out."

I've had some experience fighting with my eyes swollen shut, so gaugeing his location and distance by his voice I slam my right fist into his mouth, and then my left across his jaw. It would be enough to put most men to sleep. I'm known up and down the east coast of the US and in many places over here for that exact same left hook. So, I'm shocked when I hear him let out some kind of bubbley noise through his teeth that sounds like the intake of breath through blood of someone about to lunge or do something violent. I drop another right jab into his nose/mouth area and find Jenna with my left arm. I push her behind me.

"Jack! This is madness!" I say, "What the hell has gotten into you, man?"

"*He's hearing his voices again...they tell him to do these things," I hear Reason tell me, "give him the gun...he didn't notice you take the bullets. It'll keep him calm...for now*."

I take out the gun and hold it out in the darkness.

"Steady yourself man," I say in my calmest voice (which is very calm), "I've got your gun right here. Just don't shoot me again."

"What?" Jenna asks in a very shocked voice.

"I'll let your...husband...explain. Eh Jack?" I respond.

People begin to panic. There's some sort of thick odor in the air, heavy and black. A woman faints, then another. The throng starts to push its way out of the car, though it's not clear where they think they're going. You are caught up in it, and (at least briefly) separated.

"Jimmy, you stupid f*ck!" I yell over the press of the crowd. "Didn't you hear that? This isn't about you and me! F*ck!"

I can't face these things without my gun. Jekyll is whimpering in the back of my head. Ahdie's gone mad, running about like a wolf in its cage. He could get out any moment now. And I just might let him. I should just leave but...but Jenna. I'd leave James for dead any day, perhaps even kill him, but I can't let Jenna get hurt. But she's being carried one way, out the right side and me the other.

So I turn to where I'm being carried and begin putting my knife to work. I cut throats, letting the blood spray where it will, tossing the bodies to the side to move them out of my way. It's too bad for them, but I'd kill a hundred of these insignificant gits to save Jenna. And I don't have time to wait in line. It's not long before I'm out and I immediately turn and begin climbing the car, moving over the top like a cat. Eyes long accustomed to darkness scan the crowd. There they are, James clinging protectively to Jenna, confused, having no clue what's going on.

And then there's the mist, infiltrating the crowd, moving slowly toward Jenna.

"Sacrafice." Just that one word. A short old man stands in the way with the leathery hands of a labourer raised in front of him. Not in defence, his hands extend in a welcoming gesture. "Salve" he says. By the accent he is probably some Italian immigrant here to work on stone, or wood, or whatever.

As the knife slashes through him it seems to change. No longer a straight blade, but ornamental and foreign. Like the wares of some barbary gypsies, ornate and gaudy. Its emmergence is like the shock of cold water. As if stung by a bee your hand jolts back from the knife, toppling a lantern. "Fire, darkness, knives, and voices." The ornamental dagger, with its triangular blade, faces towards you glinting in the firelight. A downward pointing triangle engulfed in flames.

Jenna, the mist, the fire, and the blade. It is all so disorienting.

No one seems to notice what's going on amidst the throng; it's dark, and cramped, and there is so much pushing and shoving and screaming and dampness that a few strangled cries are immediately swallowed up in the heavy darkness.

Darkness quickly growing light.

Fire and mist.

Yet not mist.

There is a low roar, growing louder, from further down the tunnel.

It grows brighter and hotter every moment.

I take Jenna by the arm and run. I spot Jack in the gloom on top of the train car, and remember my promise to Jenna last night that I wouldn't let anything harm him. He looks confused, staring vacantly at something that only he can see.

"Jack!" I yell.

"*What are you doing?*" Reason asks me.

"Jack! This way!" I call out.

I've done my part for my sister. I keep running, not even looking if Jack is following. Someone grabs my right arm and I lash out with a huge right hook, taking whoever it is off their feet and to the ground as I run. A few feet further on, and I pull us up against the wall of the tunnel.

"Are you alright?" I ask Jenna. She nods, barely visible in the darkness. "Good, then we stay against the wall and hope for an exit. Stay out of the crowd."

I look back to see if Jack followed us, part of me hoping he didn't, and part of me (the part that loves my sister) hoping that he did. Crazy or not, no one deserves to die in the dark alone....

I'm pulled out of a sudden dislocating vision (hallucination? prophecy? dream?) when I hear my name and turn to see James pulling Jenna down the other end of the tunnel. He's pulling her to safety. Can they make it? Do they need me? Or is this my chance, sent by the devil below, to escape, to hide like I so desperately need? Ahdie says to run, to hide. Jekyll looks at Jenna with me, and despairingly wonders if we can save her, let alone ourselves. I move to slide my dagger into my sleeve, but it won't fit. What? I made that specifically...it hasn't changed. It's still the ceremonial dagger from earlier, and in the reflection off it's impossibly clear blade, I see the explosion suddenly balloon out, filling the tunnel with roaring, living flame, engulfing any and all in it's wake. Ahdie watches in awe, whispering, "Sacrifice." Jekyll begins to sob.

"Use me," the dagger whispers. I see in the blade, set before the explosion, a man who is not there. He's dressed in business attire, not the overblown puffery that James loves so much, but casual, sleek, subtle business attire, and in his hands, cradled so gently and carefully, like a lover, is a calico cat, an intelligent look in its tiny, sad eyes. He speaks again. "Sacrifice. Do what must be done. It's what you're for, Jack. It's what you've always been good at."

The initial explosion has died down, those dead and half-dead and merely burned littered among the rubble, as the flames continue to advance, now toward this car, and its electrical source. I leap down, grabbing the closest person, subduing them, lifting the dagger high above my head, ready to gut them like I've done with so many prostitutes.

"Not that one James. The Lord God requires the best sheep. He requires meaningful sacrifice."

There's no time. The flames continue to move, inexorably, inevitably, and they won't stop until they consume her and me and James and everyone in this little tunnel. The rest can f*ck off but Jenna has to live. I look towards her and see James with her. She'll never forgive me. But it has to be meaningful. I run, full speed, to them, knife at the ready.

James sees Jack approaching, and considers letting Jenna go so he can reach for a weapon. But would that mean losing her?

There is no time to decide. No time...

The crowd parts before Jack as he advances... and then suddenly it parts no more.

Standing there between Jack and Jenna is an old man, dressed in an ill-fitting gray suit with white shoes and shirt, and long hair to match. Atop his head is a black-and-white checkered deerstalker cap, and around his neck, tied loosely, is a black tie. At his feet, a Calico cat purrs and worms its way around his legs like an ouroboros, eight after eight after eight.

James cannot see his face, but Jack cannot help but see it, his black eyes burning like coals. Not malicious, but confident.

He smiles slightly and shakes his head. Jack pulls up in front of him, dagger ready, but he knows attacking would be futile.

"You know the game, Jack," says the man, speaking softly so only Jack can hear. "You can't take the King until you kill the Queen. Find the Queen."

Jack glances at Jenna for the briefest of moments, but the old man shakes his head.

"Not that one," he says, pointing in the opposite direction. "The Black Queen."

And then he stoops, picks up the cat, and walks down the tunnel, towards the flames.

I pause, watching him go. "The Black Queen? Does that mean I'm on the good side, the light side? Oi! What side am I on? What side are you on? What is all this?"

The cat looks over his shoulders at me, a cat I know, one I've seen just recently and yet have always known. I could pick that cat from a group any day. He doesn't answer, just continues to walk, swallowed by mist and smoke.

The Black Queen. I know he's right. We're aiming for the Queen, whoever "we" is, this side I picked long before I remember and that it seems I can never dissociate from. But what is she? He can't possibly mean the fire, the shadow? Can he?

"That's a damn interesting pair of bedfellows," I mutter, and begin to walk the other way, back towards them. I look back at Jenna, and see that distracted look in her eyes, looking everywhere and nowhere, seeing something no one else sees. A tear slides down her cheek. I don't think she even notices it. Then I look back at James, and our eyes meet. Despite how much I hate that git, there's no doubt he's strong, dedicated. And he loves Jenna. I nod my head, not really knowing what I'm saying to him, only that it needs to be said. I haven't felt anything like this, not in this life at least, maybe I did before, or will later, but this is a first for now. I turn. I think he understands.

I begin slowly, squeezing and loosening the knife handle, tense, scared. Hard to believe, but I am. Then I begin to move faster. Both Ahdie and Jekyll are silent. They know this is my choice, not theirs. Then I run, looking for something that stands out, for this Black Queen, hoping against hope that it's not the towering wall of fire advancing down the tunnel.

Jack sees a door, just past the stopped car, nearly hidden in the shadows.

There's a word on the door, so caked in grime that you can't possibly read it. But you can make out one letter.

Q.

It stands out. I go by faith, something I've never been good at. But I don't have much choice now. I change direction and head for the door, jumping over corpses and others. I make it to the door. Not sure what to do, I look it over for other signs, other indications of what happens next. Nothing. The word on the door stands like this: --q-------. I don't have time to clear off who knows how many years of grime. There's nothing else. I decide to do things the way I've always done them.

I lift my foot and move to kick the door in.

Jekyll pipes up upon seeing the door.

"There's only two words I know of that fit that pattern," he says.

"One is 'acquainted'."

He pauses.

"The other is 'requiescat'," he says. "As in, Requiescat in pace. Rest in peace."

Ahdie shouts him down.

"Kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down kick it down..."

I pause at Jekyll's information. No way it's acquainted. Or maybe...acquainted with the Black Queen? Sounds strange.

But really, what choice do I have?

I kick the door in.

From the gloom, I watch the man talk himself into kicking in the door. I've wanted to get through there for monthes now...ever since I saw the soldiers drag someone in kicking and screaming and then come out without him. Who knows what could be in there? I guess now I would be able to find out.

The man protecting the girl...moving cautiously closer but not really advancing; did it matter if they saw me go in? Probably not.

Screw it...I bolt for the door, pulling my rucksack on my back as I go. I'm not going to live in these tunnels forever, eventually I'll get caught. Especially now with fire and death and screaming. A train accident? Who knows. My pops had said that digging this thing was a bad idea, before the men took him. Thought it would anger the gods. My moms thought then that he must have been right...without his money they had taken our house. Shack. Hovel. Then the landlord took my moms.

And I took to the tunnels, to find out what had happened to my pops. After finding the door, and seeing the soldiers, I thought maybe I had stumbled onto something. It hadn't mattered until now though.

With my one foot rail spike in my hand as a club (I had been glad to have it when the dregs and drollers that called these tunnels home along with me had tried to take my pack; tough luck for them, but not every 12 year old was an easy mark in this city) I spring through the door and into the darkness.

"Hey! Wait up!" I yell to the man with the knife.

Watching the boy with the length of iron in his hand run into the door after Jack, I realize how ridiculous all of this has become. I turn to Jenna.

"This has gone far enough...we're getting out of here."

But she's gone. I turn back and see her also run into the door Jack had kicked down, calling his name.

Balls. This would never happen in a proper city in a proper country. This would *never* happen in America.

"*Quite right chap," Reason agreed with me, "but we're here now aren't we? And that's your sister running off with a maniac and a street urchin*."

I run to and through the door as well, pushing a couple people out of the way and slamming the door shut behind me to prevent a stampede to safety. I can hear them banging on the door outside.

"*I never told you to do that*," Reason says.

Too late. It's done now. There's brackets on the door frame and a heavy timber visible in a dim light coming from somewhere down the corridor. I lift it into place, securing it despite the damage Jack did, and continue on.

"Jenna! We need to stick together!"

I can just barely see her ahead in the gloom, turning a corner and vanishing from my sight.

This would *never* happen in America.

It's dark. Oppressively dark, like the shadows wrap around you, covering you, smothering you. I grip the knife tighter, knowing how feeble it is. But, thanks to Jimmy, I've only got it for now.

"Hey! Wait up!"

I turn to see a young kid, only maybe 11 or 12 rushing through the opening up to me. "What the hell..."

And then I see Jenna enter, her face brightening when she sees me. Shit. Doesn't that girl have any sense?

And then Jimmy, worst of all, enters after her, closes the door ("Should've done that when we first came in," Jekyll muses), and barricades it against the crowd pressing against it. No way out now.

I push past the boy, and slide past Jenna in the darkness. Before, the shadows were oppressive. Now, they're protective. No one can see me if I don't want them to. And I don't want them to.

I catch James completely off guard, calling, "Jenna! We need to stick together!" right before I slam him against the door and for the second time this night place my knife to his throat.

"Give me my gun, Jimmy. And the bullets."

"Although," says Jekyll, "it might be better if everyone here had their own weapon. And you're better with the knife than he is."

It sounds logical, but then logic might not have any place here. Who knows what's down this tunnel?

Requiescat in pace?

Peace would be laughable at this point. No, not peace.

But maybe rest.

He looks lost in thought...and just when I thought I was dead this time for sure. As I feel the knife move back a fraction from my throat I punch him as hard as I can (which is incredibly hard) right in the diaphragm. As he bends over, I knock the knife from his hand and push him to the ground. I stand over him in the darkness. I raise my right fist to begin the savage pummeling that will put him out of all of our misery (especially Jenna's) for good.

"*Stop," Reason tells me, "now is not the time*."

I step back and kick the knife back towards him, and start loading his revolver. The tunnel grows lighter, almost impossibly so, with a strange fizzing sound accompanying the new illumination.

"Touch me again and I'll turn you inside out. Touch my sister and I'll kill you. Now get up," I say to him.

I dunno who these people are, but they sure seem crazy. As the two men look like they're about to kill each other, I reach into my backpack for the mining flare. It's the second last one I have, but it'll burn for about half an hour. I yank the string from around it's business end and it flares to life.

The bigger man is loading a gun...the other is getting up, his knife in hand. The woman looks scared. She's somehow attached to both these men, and I don't think she can decide who to care for more. She seems to defer to the big one, but can't shake the small one.

How did I know all that? Since when did I become so smart? I've never been good at reading people, just at hiding.

"*I know people," a Voice says to me, "I see what they do and why*"

I somehow know that the Voice is coming from my pocket, where the only coin I have to my name is.

"We gonna kill each other, or we gonna find out what the Queen's men take other men down this tunnel for? Me dad's down here methinks...and the dreams won't stop unless I figger it out I reckon."

"Nice timing," I grunt at Jekyll as I crawl to my feet, taking my dagger in hand as the flare comes on, filling the small passageway with light. I don't like that he has my revolver, and his fists are weapons enough. Perhaps he'll be the one that rests. I wouldn't mind squashing this bug at all. I smile greedily at the thought. Then I could go about my day.

"F*ck you, Jimmy," I spat, sending the blood right between his feet. "After this is over, I'm burying you."

I turn as the tunnel rat speaks, his accent even thinker than mine. "What do you know about these tunnels, boy?"

I catch Jenna's look as I move toward the boy, and stop, looking back. My eyes change, from the wild, angry animal to the lover. "You shouldn't have come here, Jen."

Then I move past her to the boy, keeping my eye on James.

"Not much bout these ones here mister," I tell the angular man. He seems to frighten the woman, and disgust the large American he calls Jimmy. To me, he just looks like another one of us from down in the dirt. I should know, I'd been roaming these tunnels since they built them, though I'd only lived here since...well...yeah,

"I lives in the Underground tunnels I do," I continue, "me and the others that are too poor or too weird to fit in anywheres else. The Queen's men...they dragged me pops into this tunnel here some weeks back, he was a worker digging out the Underground. He thought he'd found somethin...talked too much at the public house I reckon...guess he was right."

"*Trade me for some of his coins, if he has any*," my only coin tells me.

I pull it reluctantly out of my pocket. 25p. All I had to my name.

"Ya got change mister?" I ask the lanky bloke.

"Look boy..." the American starts in as he starts towards us. I cut him off.

"You look, mister," I raise the foot of iron in my hand, "Americans is trouble, so keep yer distance from me."

"Insolent little..." he starts again, taking another step towards me. The woman puts her hand on his arm and his whole demeanor changes. A look of concern crosses her face and he waffles, albeit with a sneer on his face and an arrogant toss of his head.

"I've put down bigger'en him I has," I say to the lanky half shaven stranger, without taking my eyes off the American.

I hold the coin out to him again.

"Change fer this?"

There is a dull noise, more pressure than sound, from behind you. Something has exploded. Or possibly everything.

Only one way to go now, and no need to watch behind; nothing is coming that way.

Ahdie starts laughing, maniacally. "Wonder if there's any gut magiks in there?" he cackles. I turn away. Not my concern.

"Why do you want change?" I say. I've been blessed with an inheritance, so I've always got change. I dig into my pocket. "You can just spend that there, you know."

I take his coins, and my eyes widen as I see them talking to each other, and to the 25 piece still in my hand. The little faces on their surfaces are surprisingly expressive. They chatter at one another, greeting my coin and asking about me. Then they start talking about the lanky bloke that handed them to me, and my eyes grow even wider and my mouth drops open. I cram the coins in my pocket, keeping my fist clenched around them.

"Most you ever seen, eh boy?" the American asks me. No one else must have seen the magic in the coins.

I still don't like him, but I don't know if I like the lanky one anymore either. I thought we were the same he and I, but the things his coins have seen or heard him do....

I clench my fist tighter about the rail iron and start to realize that I might have to pull the woman out of this and let the two men kill each other if it came to that.

"Come on...I don't know the way neither, but it's sure not back there..." I say as I lead the way down the tunnel towards the dim light further on, flare held high while it lasts.

"*Watch that boy, he's as touched in the head as Jack*," Reason tells me.

Pfft...everyone in the world is crazy. Except me and Jenna of course. Voices, visions, shooting people before breakfast, living in tunnels. I grip the gun tightly and stay close to my sister.

This would *never* happen in America.

The tunnel winds its way out and vaguely upwards, and at last ends inside a tube or silo of some sort, a long metal ladder stretching up towards the sky. It looks as if you've wandered into some portion of the sewer, except this entire place is bone dry. High above, sunlight peeks in through some small slit in the metal structure, but the climb is very high and very long.

Below the ladder, in the floor, is a metal grate. It appears as if the ladder continues down there too, though the grate is locked tight. For a moment it appears as if there is light down there too, though you can't imagine how that could be true. Perhaps a trick of the... light? Maybe water, reflecting the sun? Maybe someone with a torch?

"Me paps woulda got away and come for me moms if'n he'da made it out to the street. We gots to go down," I say.

I wedge my rail iron into the grate and start prying it up. Admittedly, it's too much for a lad as small as me. All the same, I do well to get even one corner up. I ask for no help, and honestly expect none. Still...it's in vain if no one else lends a hand. I'm only 12.

"You see that look on his face? He suspects something," Jekyll says as I hand the boy his change and watch as his eyes widen, staring at the coins. Only an American like Jimmy would have the stupidity to assume it was because he'd never seen so many coins. Jekyll's right. There's definitely something going on in that head.

However, I keep quiet and let him lead the way, trying to get behind Jimmy. He might be an American, but even he isn't that stupid, so he watches me carefully and keeps me before him. All things in good time, I guess.

I bend down and help the boy lift the grate up when he begins to try. All three of us agree - down is the way to go.

"Wait wait wait...we're trying to get out of here," I say with distain, "why would we go down? I'm taking my sister out of here...you madmen can do what you want."

"*You're safer together right now," Reason explains, "and not out in the open. They'll come for her no matter. They must be stopped*."

I set my face in a look of grim determination, shake my head a bit, and reach down with one hand and pull the heavy grate away from the ground, Jack, and the urchin.

He looks like he has gas, this American. What kind of face is that to make? And why would someone say 'I'm leaving' just to press forward a split second later? Still, what he lacks in consistency he makes up for in brawn. My pops was that strong...

The ladder appears sturdy, and stretches down deep into the dark below. Something like water makes a noise below as bits of rust flake off and flurry down, and as you get closer a certain sour-sweet scent can be discerned. Something like rust, or blood.

I take the ladder first, placing my feet carefully and testing each rung before putting my weight on it. The trip goes smoothly, and I drop into the water. It is lighted in here, though I can't tell by what. It's bright, but there's no light or torch or anything anywhere in the room.

"I expected this," Jekyll says, "Don't let it distract you. It's a trick that's all." Ahdie, meanwhile, was staring about in awe, "It's magik!" He begins giggling like a child. I ignore him and quickly scan the room, looking for dark spots. Only a few, and nobody's in them.

"It's safe!" I call up and the slink off into the shadows, hoping to catch good old Jimmy by surprise when he comes down.

I climb down after the lanky bloke, flare in hand. Dropping down into the water, I take a look around and see him half crouched off to the side of the tunnel. I grip the rail iron even tighter.

After me comes the American's sister, then the American himself. I wonder for a second if we should pull the grate back on, but the 25 piece tells me it's safer if we don't. The American might not be with us when we leave, and we might have to leave in a hurry.

As I watch Jimmy descend there's a moment of hesitation. Am I sure I want to do this? Perhaps...no. He can't have my gun. He has no clue what's going on around here anyway. I need the gun. And if Jenna hates me for it, well, so much the better.

As soon as Jimmy's off the ladder I take him from behind. I wouldn't mind at all if he dies but I don't think I could do that to Jenna myself. So I do things the standard way: a handful of hair pulls his head back, and my blade is positioned perfectly at his throat. "For the last time, Jimmy-boy, I need that gun. You've got 3 seconds to drop it, or you'll be staying here much longer than you want."

I have to choose a side. I can tell. The coins tells me as much. This is about to get really bad if I don't. The American seems good enough, but he's an arrogant piece of shit. The lanky bloke is straight nutter, that's for sure, but who *hasn't* done dirty deeds to get by in this neighborhood?

I rush forward as the American pulls the gun out. He looks like he's going to use it instead of drop it. I crack him across the knee with the foot long rail spike, and as he grunts and drops to his other knee, I take him across the forehead. He takes it like a champ when it should have knocked him out, but the gun drops from his grasp as he does. The lanky bloke, faster than I would have thought anyone could, grabs it before it hits the water. The American hits my in the nose, breaking it, and stands up quickly favoring the knee. He turns on the lanky bloke but it's too late; as I hit him in the tailbone with the tip of the iron the lanky one sticks him once twice three times in the chest with the knife.

He hits the water and slips beneath it without a sound.

The American's sister girl looks too scared to scream but she's in for a pound now, shag a penny. The lanky bloke looks at me, half surprised, half amused. I wipe blood away from my nose as it bleeds freely down my shirt.

"Dregs stick together mate," I say with the grimness of a youth who's cracked more than one scalp for a meal in my short life.

I smirk. No one sticks together. "Thanks."

Jenna's giving me that look. It's dead now. At last. That last link that had to be severed is finally in pieces. "You never should've come here, Jenna." I can't help myself. Seeing that look on her face, seeing the tears build in her eyes, seeing what I've done to her, I want to erase my existence. I want to give her the happiness she always deserved but never seemed to find. Maybe in another life. In this life, I've got a purpose, and there's no denying that. Maybe another time we'll be able to just love and be happy, but Ahdie starts laughing, laughing like a maniac when that skitters across my brain, and even Jekyll speaks up, "Don't count on it. We are what we are, and there's no way out.

I glance at the boy and see the look he's giving Jenna. "No. Don't touch her. We get her out of here and put her on the first ship to America. Now, let's get going."

There's a sudden rumbling from all around, like an earthquake, or digestion. From afar, the sound of water, building.

Ahdie's screaming again, yapping like a mad dog and running about my head. Jekyll begins to retreat into the corners of my head, sobbing. And I begin to panic. Went all the way down here for...then I realize the sound is coming from above, coming down to us. I rush to the ladder and look up. Hasn't come down yet.

"Boy! The water's coming from above! We have to close the cover!" I scramble up the ladder, knowing that he's following me, desperately clawing my way up. I pull halfway out, looking. The grate won't stop water. I can still hear it above. I think it might be in the streets...No matter. I find it - a slab of stone, wide enough to cover the hole and perhaps buy us some time. "Help me," I say as the boy climbs into the tunnel. Together, we drag it until it mostly covers the opening, then slip in, doing our best to lift it into place from there. It's hard, strenuous work, and it seems to take forever, each second ticking away as the sound builds. But we get it done. Not like a mason, that's for certain, but it's good enough.

We make our way back down into the room, hoping we've done good enough. But that quickly leaves my thoughts, at least.

Jenna's gone.

Jenna's not the only one gone.

The two of them, the man and the boy who would become the man, wandered for hours, days, turning and turning in the darkness until both seemed lost, and all that was evaporated, evanesced into nothing but the darkness...