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Authors: Theda Black

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Beneath the Neon Moon

BOOK: Beneath the Neon Moon
8.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub






by Theda Black



Published by TKB Books

ISBN: 978-1-4524-5164-0

Text copyright July 2010 by Theda Black

Illustration copyright July 2010 by Sonja Triebel


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of either the author's imagination or are used fictiticiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.


All rights reserved, which includes the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever except as provided by US copyright law.






Beneath the Neon Moon


Theda Black








Published by TKB Books






Table of Contents


Title Page

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Author's Notes









Chapter 1




WAS SIXTEEN and on his own, his dad laid up drunk somewhere, anywhere, if he wasn't dead.

They'd arrived in town nearly a month ago. His dad had rented an old garage apartment painted a peeling blue-gray, three small rooms perched over an alleyway. Zach liked it, mostly because there were no neighbors overhead or to either side. He could breathe easy, feel himself expand in the quiet.

The rooms were tiny but neat, the kitchen and the refrigerator aged and worn but clean. After three days of his dad gone and no sign of when or if he'd be back, they were also empty. The naked white bulb shone bright over the white walls and plastic shelves of the refrigerator, and no matter how many times he opened the door and looked inside it stayed empty. The cabinets, too. He thought about going up to the owner's house and knocking on the door to ask for some food, but in the end he didn't. He was too afraid they'd start asking questions about where his dad was, how long he'd been gone, how often he left him alone, on and on. He'd been through it before and he didn't want to go through it ever again.

Finally his stomach got bad enough that he was forced to go out, try to scavenge or steal something. He went down the stairs and into the alleyway, walking and staring up into the yards at the row of houses on each side, their backs to him.

The relentless rains of June made everything grow green and wild and grasping, morning glory vines and ivy and periwinkle climbing trees or stretching out long over the ground. The heads of fuzzy dandelions perched high, overseeing the grass on either side of the buckling, overwhelmed asphalt.

It was pickup day, trashcans dotting the alleyway. The neighborhood dogs had already made their rounds and pulled some of them over on the ground. Soggy boxes clung to the pavement, plastic bags torn and contents strewn over the grass, smelling of rot. He searched but didn't find anything to eat.

Early the next morning, his dad finally came back. His complexion was sallow and his hands shook. He clutched a greasy bag with four sausage biscuits inside, and Zach ate so fast he nearly threw up.

 Just another day and another town, another bar for his dad to lose himself in. It happened all the time after Zach's mother left.

He remembered how his stomach had hurt back then, so empty. He'd been hungry a lot as a kid, and here it was again, familiar in ways he'd rather not reminisce about. But back then he'd at least always known where he was. Couldn't say the same now.

Zach opened his eyes, blinking, and saw weak yellow light stretching down into darkness. He was on his side. He rolled on his back. For a moment it felt like the room rolled with him. The dizziness passed quickly, but hunger still gnawed at his gut. He wrapped an arm around his stomach and pressed in, which helped not at all.

He looked up at the light. It came from a window set high up in the opposite wall. His fingers brushed over cool, packed dirt beneath him. Maybe … a cellar. Yeah, he thought he was in a cellar.

Somebody put me down here and left me.

His heart raced, but he made himself stay still and quiet. He just needed to think, try and remember where he'd been last. He shut his eyes again and let his mind drift, doing his best to ignore his aching stomach. It was pretty persistent in not wanting to be ignored, growling and making protesting noises.

His head hurt, too, and he felt achy and stiff. This wasn't the first time he'd awakened not knowing where he was, though it wasn't something he was proud of. Party hearty, that's what he did, and too much of it since he lost his job. Getting to be like the old man.

He remembered some of his construction buddies had taken him drinking last night, but try as he might to remember more, the details just weren't there. At least not yet.

The last time he'd eaten, then. Concentrate on that.

A lot of hard thinking brought a fast food restaurant to mind, yellow arches, bland food. But filling. Eating things that filled him up and kept him filled up awhile became important after he'd lost the construction job.

He hadn't been fired, nothing like that. He was a hard worker, always on time, self-motivated, but this summer the tourists had saved money and stayed home.

Tourists were everything to the mountain town where Zach lived, with chalets and cabins and resorts built at a record pace over the last few years. The momentum didn't last. The economy flagged and business fell sharply, to the point where the whole crew saw the cutbacks coming. Zach tried tracking down another job, but there were more people scrambling than there was work to be had, and he soon found himself without a paycheck. Every day he pounded the pavement. As time passed, he spent more than a few nights with a bottle, trying to wash away the rising fear. 

And now he was God knows where, sitting in a dark hole and wondering how the hell he got here.

There was a sound, something like a drawn breath or maybe the rustle of clothing, and then movement right the fuck
to him. Zach's heart kick-started, pounding in his chest. He scrambled up, trying to get away. A chain rattled and his ankle jerked back, throwing him off balance. He fell to his knees. Someone gasped or moaned or something in between, low and hurting.

"Stop," someone said faintly, then made that noise again, only smothered, like whoever spoke tried to cover it up.

"What the fuck?" Zach yelled, sounding like three days worth of grit and no water in sight. He climbed to his feet again.

"Quit pulling on the fucking chain!" This time the voice was raspy, a strange little hitch in it.

"Why the hell should I?" Panic made Zach pull away again, harder.

"Oh God,
." The pain in the voice sent prickles running down Zach's back. He forced the panic down and turned around to see who was there. The guy sprawled out on the dirt behind him was young, probably a couple of years younger than Zach, his face pale, features drawn tight with pain. He wore faded jeans and a white T-shirt, ripped and dirty, tight enough to show off an impressively muscular chest. A chain ran from his ankle to Zach's in a straight line.

"What are we doing down here?" Zach asked, trying to be calm. "Who are you and what the hell is
?" He pointed to the chain.

"My name's Mal. We're in a cellar, chained together, fuck if I know why, your left and my right ankle. There's a chain on my other leg, too. It's attached to the wall, see it?" Mal's voice was breathy, the words rushing out of his mouth as if to keep Zach from moving. He brought up a hand in entreaty. "I'm not going to hurt you. Don't pull away again, okay? Please." Mal crawled forward until the chain between them relaxed and then came awkwardly to his knees beside Zach. Even on his knees he looked tall, wide-shouldered. "Listen, I just woke up here a few hours ago. I tried everything I could to get the chains off and get free. No go."

Mal had been careful to use only one arm as he climbed to his knees, and now that they were closer, Zach saw why. A bloody mess of punctured flesh and crusted blood started midway on his upper arm and extended down below the elbow.

"Shit, what happened to you?" Zach demanded, forgetting his own fear.

"First just … no quick moves, okay? There are some really sharp prongs on the inside of my ankle chain. You pull on the connecting chain, it tightens and the spikes dig in."

"Jesus, are you kidding me?"

wish I was."

Zach took in a deep breath and sat down on the ground. "I'm sorry, damn. I didn't know. This is fucking insane."

 "Thank God," Mal breathed, slumping, arms hanging loose and low at his sides. He came off his knees and carefully maneuvered himself to sit next to Zach, close enough that his knee brushed against Zach's leg. He pulled his pants leg up and looked at his ankle in the low yellow light coming from the dirt-speckled window. "Damn, that hurts."

"Are you—oh fuck, you're bleeding," Zach breathed.

"It's Dr. Horror's dungeon hour, coming to you live," Mal muttered, then chuffed out a dry, humorless laugh. He pushed the leg of his jeans down again before Zach could see much of anything and rubbed long fingers over his eyes. "You gonna tell me your name?"

"Zach." It felt unreal, introducing himself like they were at a party when everything in him was screaming to find a way out. He pushed the feeling aside, trying to settle himself and think. "What happened to you? How'd you get down here?"

"Here's the weird part. I have no idea. I woke up here."

"Yeah, you sure that's the weird part? Because this is pretty fucking weird." Zach was silent a moment. "Shouldn't we do something for your ankle?" 

Mal shrugged. "Like what? I'd rather not sit here and watch myself bleed. Makes me queasy."

"How bad is it?"

"It doesn't
. We can't do jack shit for it, unless you happen to carry a first aid kit in your pocket. No? Just don't pull the chain anymore."

Zach felt himself flush. "I said I'm—I didn't know."

Mal sighed, slumped back against the dirt. "I know, I really do. I'm a dick."

"No, it's got to hurt like hell." Zach pulled his jeans leg up and examined his own ankle. "I've got a cuff, not a chain. With a damned cylinder lock, no less. Right leg's free."

"A cylinder lock?"

"Like a deadbolt. You can't pick one of those without tools." He closed his eyes a moment, then looked at the ceiling. "Dammit, I just can't believe this. It's crazy."

"Be glad all you've got is a cuff. Guess I should feel special, huh," Mal said.

The resignation and tiredness in Mal's voice made Zach's stomach tense in sympathy. "What about your left leg?" he asked.

Mal stretched his leg out for Mal to see. "Another cuff. Same as yours, looks like."

Zach nodded, then looked at the chain connecting them together. "We've got a little wiggle room, not much. I'd say around three feet."

"Yeah, you've pretty well got the lay of the land now. So just stay close, okay?" Mal's eyes roamed the room. His features looked stiff and too still, paler than before.

Zach waited until Mal looked at him again. "I will."

Mal pressed his lips together, nodding. Both of them fell quiet until Zach's stomach growled, loud and grumbling. 

"Damn." Mal's eyebrows rose as it went on and on. He looked around the cellar, then shrugged. "Have some water?"

Zach dropped his head to his chest and clutched his stomach.






Chapter 2




LOOKED INTO a dark corner, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the low light in the darker parts of the cellar. Cellar or unfinished basement, whichever—he never remembered if there was supposed to be a difference between the two, though cellars to him always brought a dim memory of his grandmother's place, the cellar dim and cool, shelves neatly stacked with rows of canned fruit and vegetables.

BOOK: Beneath the Neon Moon
8.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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