A rough scraping against my brow slowly pulled me from the darkness. I moaned as pain exploded across my body; the worst of it at the appendage attached to my shoulder. The coarse scratching continued onto my cheek. I lifted my non-leaden arm and swatted at it, which resulted in a biting pain on the back of my hand. I jerked away but gasped at the motion.
“Oh stop your whining. You’re fine,” Marie’s annoyed voice startled the silence. I worked to open my eyes, but they felt glued shut. I reached up to rub at them and discovered that my face was caked in dried blood. Please don’t let that be mine. I thought as I tried to scrub my eyelids free. I would actually prefer it
“Mace, stop,” Marie commanded and I obliged. As soon as my hand was at my side, the scraping started again but this time around my eyes.
“Are you seriously licking my face?” I asked hoarsely. “For real?”
Marie huffed but the rough tongue continued until I was able to open my eyes. I squinted at the darkness around us. Two small weights appeared on my forehead as Marie’s pale blue eyes came into view above me. Her fur was matted with blood and the bridge of her nose was swollen.
“Are you okay?” I asked with a mouth full of sandpaper. I tried to wet my tongue but didn’t accomplish much.
“Eh.” She hopped off and moved towards my side where she began sniffing at my arm.
“Oh please don’t touch that. I think I’ll vomit,” I moaned.
“Those stupid Maws. I hate them so much,” She growled as she returned to sit next to my head. Her long fur tickled my ear annoyingly.
“Why didn’t you run?”
“I couldn’t run! It was a train car!” I closed my eyes as my head began to throb in time with the rolling of my stomach.
“I suppose.” She began to clean herself, judging by the sound. I focused on keeping my breathing even so I didn’t pass out again, though the idea sounded more pleasant the longer I was awake.
The ground was cold and hard beneath me. I used my good hand to grope around, trying to determine where we were without having to open my eyes. There was a far off train whistle that echoed slightly and I could almost feel the vibration underneath me. I opened my eyes slightly and looked at the arched stone roof above us. The bricks had long ago begun to decay and crumble, but it still stood. To my left was the drop off where the trains would speed by, though the amount of debris on the tracks told me this was a retired stretch of track.
“Where are we?” I mumbled as I rubbed at my forehead.
“In the western part of the subway tunnels.”
I glared up at her, hoping it didn’t convey the uneasiness I suddenly felt. “You mean the part that’s infested with the Araneae?”
“Uh huh.” She licked her paw nonchalantly.
“Wh….How are they any better than the ones on the train?”
“Well your shadows are back. So I’m not as worried.” She switched paws. “Besides, the ones on the train are dead.”
“You killed all eight?” I looked at her, not sure if I was scared or impressed.
“No. You killed two.”
“I…what?” I tried to recall the fight, but the only thing I remembered was the Maw biting down on my arm.
“You shoved your knife into the Occultist’s eye,” She looked down at me as her whiskers twitched, “that knife is gone by the way.”
“You said two.”
“You used that to disappear the Kilij that was keeping the shadows away.” She turned her head and I followed her gaze to the wall opposite of the tracks. A small orb sat against it in a crevice of broken stone. The orb was a pale grey color and beautiful in the low lights. I wanted it.
“You can’t have it back, Mace,” Marie said softly, but I could hear the edge in her voice. I dragged my gaze from the orb to see her staring intently at me, her big eyes mostly black in the underground lighting.
“You said the Kilij was keeping the shadows away?” I asked, changing the subject from the grey orb.
“Yes. I don’t know how but he was creating some kind of force field around the train. As soon as he disappeared your shadows showed up and made quick work of the last of the creatures. Unnecessarily messily, I might add.” She glared past my head but I didn’t have to turn to know where they were. I could feel them.
“I don’t remember anything past the Maw attack,” I said as my arm throbbed painfully, as if to remind me it was still injured. “How did we get here?”
“You walked, kind of. But you’re okay, and that’s all that matters.”
“Am I?” I asked doubtfully. “I’m pretty sure this is what death feels like.”
“Yes, it’s just the effects of the Raxia.” Her tail twitched against the top of my head, brushing my short hair. “You’ll recover with some food and once we get that arm healed. We just need to get to the surface.”
“That sounds way simpler than it’s going to be,” I sighed again.
“Yup. Get up, let’s get moving.” She stood with a stretch, her claws scraping against the rough stone beneath us. “Stop whining too, it’s so irritating.”
“Says the one that was wailing in my kitchen sink a few days ago.”
Her ears flattened briefly and her tail flicked. “I lost toes, thank you very much.”
“You’re walking fine now,” I ground out as I slowly rolled to my side.
“Because I was healed and I have excellent balance.”
“Well my arm has been shredded so leave me alone to whine.”
She huffed and started down the edge of the tunnel, which I noted slowly narrowed until it was barely big enough for a cat to pass through. Just awesome. I tucked my injured arm against my chest as I stooped to grab the Raxia orb. It flickered black then dark blue before it disappeared into my pocket. I turned around but Marie was lost to sight.
“Marie, wait for me!” I called out, finding very little comfort in the shadowy presence behind me when there was so much of the cold stone around that I couldn’t see.