Chapter 11 Beneath the Neon

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Stones of all different sizes littered the ground as Hank followed Ishan toward the middle of three graffitied, concrete, underground tunnels. Above the three entrance ways stood the edge of the blacktop from the highway. The tunnels sloped downward. Ishan stopped where the gravel and cement met and turned to face Hank.

"No matter what happens in here, you are not under any circumstances to drink any of that blood. Do you understand?"

"Yes," Hank answered as he exhaled.

Ishan could be scary if he wanted. The vampire nodded, turned back to the abyss ahead, and began moving forward. Hank followed wearily. He was starting to feel the effects of not sleeping. As they entered the pitch black tunnel, he was almost knocked over by the stench of mildew. Though the ceiling seemed low, neither Hank nor Ishan were tall enough to have to crouch. Ishan stopped and put one arm back for Hank to stop also. Then, he turned his head.

"You will want to stay close to me as we continue through these tunnels. They are the dwellings of the ancestors."

"The ancestors?" Hank asked, though he was pretty sure he already knew what Ishan was referring to.

"The ancestors are the others. The ones who fly. The ones who were attacking you when I found you."

"Won't they stay away from me if I'm with you?" he asked.

"Only if you stay close. Then, they will think you are mine."

"But I thought you were the leader here."

"I am the leader of my kind. The ancestors have no leader here," he said, then paused as he turned to the right to follow a different tunnel. "At night, they mostly roam the city. This place is where they go to sleep while the sun is up. But some of them may be here at this time of night. So, keep quiet and follow me closely."

You don't have to tell me twice, Hank thought. He grabbed hold of the tail of Ishan's jacket and kept as close as possible.

"These tunnels used to be storm drains for the city. However, when it became ours, I had my people cover the drains with cement so the ancestors could live here. Being much like their natural habitat, it suits them well."

Hank thought the word natural was pushing it a bit, but decided he would keep his mouth shut. All the while, the blonde fledgling's feet hung from Ishan's shoulder. Every once in a while, Ishan would shift right and almost hit Hank with Simon’s legs. Hank nearly went stiff with fright when he felt what he thought to be a large spider web scrape against the fingers of his left hand. From the feel of it, he could tell there must have been much more of it and he tried hard not to imagine the size of the spider that created it. Between the darkness, the horrible smell of the place, and the spider web he just found, Hank started to feel a strong sense of urgency he knew could easily turn to panic. He tried to calm himself but found he was on the verge of hyperventilating.

"It would be wise to calm yourself, Mr. Evans. If there are any ancestors here, they will hear you well," he said.

Hank tried to focus on the jacket tail he held in his hands. After a few minutes, he calmed enough to let his mind wander a little. Then, tossing around different aspects of what he’d learned so far, he thought about the army surplus store. That reminded him of his backpack and all its contents. He let go of Ishan's jacket with one of his hands and slowly unzipped one of the zippers on the bag. When he was sure it was open enough, he reached inside and felt around. It took a few minutes but he finally felt the hard round cylinder of the flashlight and pulled it out. Raising up on the tip of his toes, he turned the flashlight on, shining it ahead of them and over Ishan's left shoulder. Ishan let out a long annoyed sigh.

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