Into the Underworld, Chapter 1
By Dominique de Castro
This is the first chapter of a novel I’ve been developing for about six months. It is set in a future where humanity is divided by pollution, class, and race and the world order is on the brink of total upheaval by two very spunky girls and a suction tube.
As the tongues of fire licked my face, I thought, Oh shit! I’m gonna die!
I could see my fate in the eyes of my assailant too. The fire danced in them, illuminating the malice and anticipation hidden behind those dark irises. Crack. She snapped her fire whip, flicking more flames as the whip returned to its owner like an obedient dog.
I flitted my eyes across the scene, but the brown glow of day had long disappeared from the sky. The only light in the underground market came from the dust-covered fluorescent bulbs strung across the tents. Shadows of fights happening around me danced along the ground. I could hear the grunts of my brothers in the distance. Screams were chased by the whoosh of bats cutting through the air.
“What’s wrong, Marisha?” my assailant asked as she stepped further out of the shadows. Crack! A fruit stand exploded in fire and rotting oranges behind me. I ducked as sour smelling pulp flew across my back. The burning hot liquid seeped into my shirt. That’s going to leave a stain, I thought.
Black boots stepped into view just under my nose, disturbing the dirt as they filled my nose with the sharp smell of shoe polish. The gleam of the silver buckles taunted me. They were emblazoned with the symbol of a snake spitting fire. She’s a part of the damn Cobras.
“Go ahead. Lick my boots. It’ll probably be the most expensive thing you’ll ever taste.” I glared down at those buckles and clenched my jaw. No time to think. Just move.
My mind went blank. I felt my muscles tense as I lunged forward, arms outstretched, launching myself into my attacker’s stomach. My face collided with buttons and leather as I tackled her. Let’s see how you like the taste of dirt. Her arms flailed as she stumbled backward. In a desperate attempt to remain upright, she lashed her whip out at another helpless market stand.
Crack! A stand once covered in intricate, though no doubt counterfeit, designer rugs was engulfed in flames.
“Nice try,” she whispered. For just a moment, I was distracted by the explosion and she decided to strike. Her hand reached out for my elbow and yanked me in a full circle, finally releasing me just beyond the reach of the flames now surrounding this corner of the marketplace.
My eyes watered. Smoke choked my lungs. I could feel the heat cooking my skin. Who would’ve thought it’d end like this? The only witnesses to my death will be rotting fruit and burning rugs.
Somewhere to my left, a tent pole buckled. The canvas stretching over it was engulfed in flame. The fabric appeared to float as it fell to the ground. Around me, I could hear the creaking and moaning of the other poles. To my left, another pole snapped. I watched as the burning tent fell slowly towards the ground.
A burst of hot air blew over me, whipping the flames out as a shadow flew across my vision. Crash! The shadow ripped the canvas out of the air mid-flight. I lifted my head and turned toward the burning crates behind me—or at least, they had been burning a second before. Now they were dark charred masses cradling the ashen remnants of the tent. I crawled towards the smoking pile, coughing and sputtering into the dirt. Something was moving under the cloth.
Cough! “That was not a soft landing!”
A girl with straight black hair poked her head out of the ashes. She stared back at me with bright green eyes that glowed through the ash smudged across her face.
“Don’t you look wretched!” she said with a cheeky smile. She rubbed her hands over her face, covering it with more soot. “Well, come on then. We can’t stay in this smoking wreck forever!”
She reached out for my arm and pulled me up. Her grip was like iron as she dragged me through charred stalls and darkened dirt pathways. Too weak to fight back, I stumbled helplessly behind her.
As we ran in and out of dimly lit stalls, I caught glimpses of her clothes. She wore a flowy silk dress and emerald bracelets jingled on her wrists. Her heels were studded with gold that clicked against the rocks on the ground. Could you be anymore loud? I thought, rolling my eyes as she stopped to fix one of her heels.
“My name’s Stephanie by the way. What’s yours?” she asked, as she stomped her heel in the dirt. I eyed the gold on the heel. That could buy dinner for my family for a week. If I don’t steal it, someone else will, I thought.
“None of your business,” I said. I shoved my body into her back. As she fell, I grabbed her legs and pulled her shoes out from under her.
“Help! Help me!” she screamed into the dirt.
“Sorry, but you wouldn’t have survived here long anyway.” I left her there, crying in the dark as I ran out of the market and into the night.
Dominique de Castro is an emerging writer raised in the British Virgin Islands. She loves writing short stories and poetry and has recently become involved in writing plays.