And so the Tunnels are splitI woke up alarmingly early the morning following that day I met Wick. All I heard were a couple of far off shouts and one booming voice that echoed throughout the Tunnels. “Looks like Grand got up early today,” I said to myself as I often did, “What a pleasant surprise.” I almost laughed at just how funny that was; Grand being pleasant in any way. What a joke.
I heard his rather thunderous voice over all the others that seemed to be bickering amongst themselves and they all quieted down, allowing Grand to speak. They sounded closer than usual. I’d say about 100 feet or so. Normally I couldn’t hear Grand and his gang, which was partly why I chose this spot as my home, but they were near then. A little bit too near for me to be comfortable. “Now just what does Grand think he’s doing over here?” I asked either myself or the shadows. Grand gave out one exceptionally loud shout and the others shouted at once after him. “For the love, we’re not starting a revolution here! Or at least, we better not be.”
Grand continued shouting, but I noticed a crescendo in his voice, which meant one of two things; he was taking an interest in music or he was getting closer. I leaned toward the latter option as the more reasonable of the two. That made me quite wary. The last thing I wanted was for somebody to find my secret home, especially Grand of all people, that is, if you could call him that.
He continued to get closer and closer and I tip-toed to the entrance, hiding in the shadows and preparing to eavesdrop. His voice was very close, sounding as if he were right on the other side of the wall, which I certainly hoped he was not. Then his voice stopped abruptly and I grew slightly nervous. But I was saved by a familiar voice.
“Grand, what made you decide to bless me with your presence this morning?” Hearth said, sarcasm dripping off of her words so much so that I almost laughed.
“Save your sarcasm for someone who cares, Hearth,” Grand replied, “Where is he?”
“Where is who?” she asked.
‘Oh, please don’t let it be me. I don’t want to deal with Grand this early,’ I thought.
“You know who,” he said.
“Do I?” Hearth asked.
“Rat, Hearth. Where is Rat? Tell me now or prepare to face my gang,” Grand threatened.
“Fraid I don’t know, Grand,” Hearth said, “And might I add that you are on my territory without permission, so you are in no position to threaten me.”
“What territory?” Grand asked.
“The territory we set up with the boundary lines,” she said.
“There are no boundary lines in the Tunnels!” Grand declared.
“Well, actually, there are boundary lines. We set them up April 24th 2467 and made them official and there for apply to all gangs in the Tunnels April 26th 2467,” Ary stated plain as the food we eat.
“What a load of crap! We never agreed to that!” Grand insisted.
“In fact, you did, sir, at the same time as all the others,” Ary continued.
“Who says I have to care?” Grand then asked, as snarky as possible.
“I do,” Hearth said.
“Oh really?” he said, trying to be intimidating.
“Yes.” Hearth was much more intimidating. A silence followed Hearth’s last word and it was clearly a baffled one on Grand’s part. If he had a brain, I’d bet he’d be racking it for a response to that. ‘What an idiot,’ I thought, ‘He can’t fight Hearth. He’d never win.’
“Well fine then. I guess me and my men will just leave then,” he said, talking as if that wasn’t what Hearth wanted. I heard the shuffle of their clothes as they turned and left, leaving Hearth, Ary, and I in peace.
“Thank God,” I whispered. After the coast was clear, I exited my room and went to the Surface to steal some breakfast, but what I found was far more interesting than a piece of burnt toast.
There was a crowd of people standing in a circle, shouting out questions to someone. As I approached them, my curiosity surfaced and joined the crowd, trying to see over people’s heads.
“Mr. Barry, what brings you here to Maw?” somebody asked.
“I had heard about some per say troublesome gangs here and decided to lend my talents,” a man said. ‘Boy, does he sound like government,’ I thought. I caught a glimpse of him as I went up on the shelf of my toes. He was a rather tall man with neat blonde hair and a nice black suit and glasses combo. He was surprisingly young looking and carried a brief case with him. ‘Yup, government.’
“Oh, Mr. Barry, just what do you plan to do about the gangs?” another asked.
“I’m going bring them to justice of course,” he said in a smooth, convincing voice.
“How will you do it?” somebody shouted.
“I’ll do it by any means necessary,” he said and just as he did, he looked directly at me, making sustained eye contact. His ice blue irises burned into my grey eyes. I felt threatened and like I ought to give out fair warning to the Tunnels, so that I did.
I ran to Hearth’s grate to tell her first. Ary was at the grate again and let me in without question.
“Where is Hearth?” I asked quickly.
“She’s in the left wing, I believe. Something wrong, Rat?” he replied, picking up on my hurry immediately.
I took off running toward the left wing, yelling, “Government,” behind me. Normally, that’s all the explanation one needs. I passed several members of Hearth’s fire gang before I finally reached the left wing where I found her sitting in a chair talking to Croc, the leader of the Earth gang, who was sitting in a chair opposite her.
“Rat, I’m talking to Croc. Hold on a minute,” Hearth said, rising from her chair.
“No, Hearth, this can’t wait,” I told her, “You listen up too, Croc. I’ve got bad news. Some guy from the government showed up today.”
“What?” Hearth said, her eyes widening.
“You can’t be serious!” Croc said.
“I assure you, Croc, I’m as serious as a rat can be on this one,” I told him.
“How did you know? Did he have a suit?” Hearth asked.
“Indeed he did. He also had a brief case and glasses,” I said.
“We’re sunk,” Hearth said, putting her hand on her forehead.
“Now wait a minute, we can handle some snot-nosed aristocrat. Are we a gang or aren’t we?” Croc said.
“I wouldn’t be so sure. He looked like a good threat. He might be able to pin the public against us,” I said, thinking aloud.
“If that happens we’re doomed. The only reason we can live here at all is because the public fears us,” Hearth replied. All went silent for what seemed like forever and a day, but eventually Hearth spoke up. “We need to call a meeting of the gangs.”
“Right, who all would come?” Croc asked.
“Everybody,” Hearth said.
“Even those heartless Ghosts?” he asked.
“Even them. This involves all of the Tunnels and therefore, all of the gangs. And you too, Rat. You were the one who saw him. We’ll need you there,” she said.
“Oh, I think I’m busy that day,” I said. ‘As fun as this meeting sounds, I think I’ll wiggle my way out of it.’
“We haven’t set up a day yet, Rat,” she said.
“You don’t want me there anyway, really. I’d just get in the way. You know, be under foot, just like rats are,” I said, trying to sound convincing.
“You’re coming to this meeting and because you tried to get out of it, you get to go tell the other gangs about it,” Hearth said.
“No thanks,” I said, “I like my head where it is, thank you very much.”
“You don’t have a choice,” she said.
“Actually, I’m pretty sure I do,” I replied.
“Rat, go tell them,” she said.
“God you can be pushy! No, Hearth, I’m not going to tell them,” I said, nearly shouting.
“Yes, you are,” she said, crossing her arms.
“I’d listen to her, Rat. She might accidentally swing her knife at your neck,” Croc said, grinning at me.
“Yeah, well, I’d rather lose my head to her, than Grand,” I told him.
Croc let out a short laugh and said, “Don’t blame you on that one.”
“Enough talking. Rat, go,” Hearth said.
“Why don’t you have someone else do it? Why do I have to?” I complained.
“Because I told you to and because I’ll stew you if you don’t,” she said, raising her eyebrows briefly.
“Rat stew, my favorite,” Croc said, jokingly rubbing his stomach.
“Fine!” I said as I stormed to go inform the other gangs of the meeting.
“Tomorrow at dusk,” Hearth shouted after me.
I took a sharp left, heading toward the Lightning gang first. I flew past Static, one of the lightning gangs grate keepers.
“Whoa, Rat! Where you headed in such a hurry?” he said after me.
I was mad and didn’t feel like answering him, so I didn’t. I just kept speeding on by everybody and turning corner upon endless corner before I finally got to the heart of their territory where I found their leader, Spark. He wasn’t a very tall man, but he wasn’t short either. He had dirty blonde hair, possibly literally, and was said to be the fastest man in the Tunnels.
“Hearth and Croc are issuing a meeting of the gangs tomorrow at dusk,” I told him.
“What for?” he asked.
“We have to discuss an upcoming issue,” I said, not wanting to get him all fired up by telling him about this government guy.
“Alright, tell them I’ll be there,” he said.
Then I took off running again toward the Ghost gang. Nobody really liked the ghost gang because they never did anything. They always just sat there and watched everything unfold, but whenever they were attacked, the attackers never came back. ‘Let’s see if I come back’ I thought.
As soon as I arrived in their territory, I felt a chill down my neck. “Intruder! The rat is intruding,” said a voice from somewhere in the darkness. It was impossible to tell where it came from because it sounded like three different voices talking at once and almost hissing.
“I’m no intruder,” I said, raising my voice to make sure they heard me, “I’m only here to pass on a message from the Fire and Earth gangs.”
“The rat has a message, the rat has a message,” they or it hissed.
“There is going to be a meeting of the gangs tomorrow at dusk. You are expected to be there,” I said before muttering under my breath, “If you’re even here right now.”
“A meeting of the gangs says the rat, a meeting of the gangs. The memory will be there,” it said, referring to its leader.
At that I just turned and left, running back through the Lightning territory, headed for the water territory. “God they’re creepy,” I said to myself, “How is that even possible?” I kept running until I nearly ran into a rather tall and muscular man.
“What’re you doing here?” he asked.
“Watt, how nice to see you,” I said, backing up slightly.
“You just came from the ghost gang, didn’t you?” he said in a very low voice.
“Indeed I did, but that’s really none of your business, so I’ll be on my way,” I said, trying to squeeze past him only to be pushed back.
“Tell me why, Rat,” he demanded.
“I’m just going around telling everybody about the meeting tomorrow, don’t panic,” I assured him.
“Those ghosts are no good, Rat,” he said.
“Yes, I am fully aware of that,” I said trying to squeeze by again, but instead he simply pushed me into the wall with his shoulder and refused to let me move. ‘Blast these narrow tunnels.’
“Tell me why you were really over there,” he said.
“Watt, I told you, I’m telling everybody about the meeting,” I said.
“What meeting?” he asked.
“The meeting of the gangs,” I answered, “Hearth and Croc issued it.”
He eased up the pressure on me, saying, “Run along then.” That I did.
“Brainless oaf,” I said as I ran. Of course, I made sure I was out of ear shot. I’d rather not have Watt angry at me. He’s a bit too muscular for that.
Soon I had entered the reaches of the Water gang. I’ve always liked their territory, because somehow, they managed to tint the walls blue. It was nice to look at since all the rest of us look at a dirty beige and grey city all day and dark, lonesome tunnels all night. There’s a reason that the Water Gang has the lowest insanity percentage. These Tunnels aren’t too healthy for the mind.
I passed a large group of people, having to squeeze by them. A few of them looked at me, but made no effort to stop me. After all, I am nothing more than a rat.
I walked all over there territory in search of their leader, Well. He’s a good man, very kind hearted. Makes you wonder what the heck he’s doing down here. I’ve heard a rumor that he used to have a nice family, but they were killed by Grand and his toadies. So, Well decided to form a rivaling gang and oppose Grand in everything he does. ‘Good for him,’ I thought.
At long last, I decided that I wasn’t going to find him. I walked further, grudgingly knowing that I’d have to ask somebody. I hated talking to people. ‘Sure seem to do it a lot though.’ I soon found a young man with light brown hair leaning up against the wall.
“Where’s Well?” I asked as I approached him.
“I think he’s up on the Surface today,” he told me.
‘Great,’ I thought, ‘I actually wouldn’t have minded talking to Well.’ “Well, that’s great.”
“Who are you talking to?” he asked, clearly confused about something.
“You,” I replied, not understanding what was so hard to grasp.
“I’m not Well,” he said.
“I didn’t ask about how you were feeling,” I said, starting to get confused myself.
“I know you didn’t,” he said.
“Well, why did you say that then?” I asked.
“Because I’m not Well!” he said, half laughing, half angry.
“I’m sorry that you aren’t well,” I said. ‘God, are we even speaking the same language here?’
“Yeah, me too, he’s a great man,” he replied. ‘He?’ I thought. Then it hit me that I had been saying ‘well’ this entire time and he thought I was referring to Well. ‘That actually makes sense.’
“You guys don’t say well that much do you?” I asked.
“What do you mean? Of course we say Well. He’s our leader, so we should call him by name,” he said.
“That answers my question,” I told him, “Well, wait, scratch that, when Well gets here, tell him that there is a meeting of the gangs tomorrow at dusk, okay?”
“I will,” he said.
“Thank you,” I said, “Well, see you around.”
“I told you, I’m not Well!”
“Shut up! I know you’re not Well!” I yelled back at him. Then I took off again toward the Air gang.
Once I got there, I went straight to their leader’s ‘room’. The Air gang had a pretty organized system in the way of housing. They had built individual rooms for each of their members, of course, their leader, Gust, had the biggest room. I figured that they had to build rooms for everybody because all of them are too aggressive to share.
As I approached the ‘throne room’ I’ll call it, I discovered that getting to talk to Gust would be harder than I expected, for there at the door stood my favorite trouble-makers.
“Ew, it’s a rat,” Sirocco said playfully, brushing some of his blonde hair out of his eyes.
“I’ll go get the poison,” Zephyr said, referring to the Poison Gang. He was the taller of the two and had greyish blonde hair.
“You guys want them here just as little as I do,” I said.
“I don’t know, if you’re here, maybe we could start a war. What do you think, Zephyr?” Sirocco said.
“Oh, that’d be such fun! War, what a marvelous word!” Zephyr replied.
“Yes, yes, I’m well aware that war is all the Air gang is interested in, so no need to tell me again,” I said, hurriedly.
“Hey, now, that wasn’t very nice,” Sirocco said.
“Do you expect me to be nice?” I asked.
“Fair enough,” Zephyr said, “Now, what brings you here today, Rat?”
“I’d need to talk to Gust,” I told them.
“Oh, do you?” they asked in unison.
“Well, what if I said that’s not going to happen?” Zephyr said.
“Then I’d punch your nose and go in,” I said.
“Oh ho! Look at that, Rat’s resorting to violence!” Sirocco said.
“Better watch it, Rat. I could tie you into a knot if I wanted to,” Zephyr said.
“You think so? I sure don’t,” I told him.
“Is that right?” he said, pulling his arm back and clenching his fist. He tried to punch me, but I dodged his attack easily. I slipped on past him and Sirocco was too shocked to doing anything to stop me, so I entered Gust’s room.
“Haven’t you ever heard of knocking? And what happened to Zephyr and Sirocco?” the brown haired man before me asked.
“There’s a meeting of the gangs tomorrow at dusk. I’d suggest being there,” I said.
“Well, doesn’t that just sound like loads of fun,” he said as I left. I walked on past Zephyr and Sirocco. Zephyr cursed after me, but I was just happy to be getting out of there. The Air gang is not my favorite.
Once again, I continued walking and soon arrived at the Ice gang’s territory. I found their leader, Spear, talking to a man who was a lot shorter than he was, but that didn’t take much, Spear was quite tall. He was a very stern looking man with his snow white hair which was all too appropriate and his piercing light grey eyes. One of the most intimidating men in the Tunnels, I’d say.
I approached him and he looked at me in an almost frustrated way. “What is it, Rat?”
“There is a meeting of the gangs tomorrow at dusk. Your presence is requested,” I told him.
“Alright, you can expect to see me there. Who issued this meeting?” he said.
“Hearth and Croc,” I answered.
Spear simply nodded his head and turned his attention back to the man he was previously talking to. I took that as a dismissal of sorts and continued walking down the tunnel and turned left, thinking to myself, ‘I may not like Spear that much, some of his decisions are…cruel, but he certainly is a man that I respect.’ I took another left turn and headed to the last of the gangs. ‘Oh, joy, the Poison gang. This’ll be interesting. I’ll have to be careful not to start World War III.”
After a few more turns and straights that I may have dragged out a bit unintentionally, I reached the Poison gang’s territory. I passed several people, each and every one of them giving me a dirty look or whispering something to somebody else. I couldn’t help but assume I was the subject of the whispering. I didn’t look at any of them, though. It’s not like I want to see that ugly bunch. I turned sharply and came face to face with Grand.
I looked up at him, for he was taller than I was. He had tanned skin and black hair, but you could only tell because of his eyebrows and mustache. The rest of his head was bald. He was frowning down at me, clearly trying to be intimidating.
“What’s a rat doing in here?” he said, almost growling.
“I’m here to tell you that there is a meeting of the gangs tomorrow at dusk,” I replied, staying calm and not getting angry just yet.
“You’ve been causing trouble, Rat,” he said, spitting some on my name.
“Yes, I’m sure, and as to not cause more, I’ll be going now,” I said trying to walk away.
“You’re not going anywhere, Rat,” he said from behind me.
“Oh, I really think I am,” I said, but just then several men stepped in front of me and I just knew Grand was right behind me. ‘Oh, this is bad.’
“Heard that you weren’t all that nice to Green,” Grand said, his eyes burning into my skull.
‘What a little tattle-tale,’ I thought. “About that,” I said, scratching my cheek where I had a scar.
“You know what happens to people who disrespect my men,” he continued. I turned around just in time to see his rather enormous fist flying toward me. I leaned to the right and dodged it, all the while trying to think up a plan on how the heck I was going to get out of here without fighting back and thus starting World War III.
“I’m not going to fight you, Grand,” I declared, although I knew I might have to.
“Well, I’m going to fight you,” he said, throwing another punch. I evaded his blow easily and looked for an opening in the tunnel that I could slip through, but there was not enough space for me. I’d have to fight. As Grand attacked for the third time, I dodged it by stepping back, being sure not to let the right heel of my boot touch the ground just yet. I held the key dangling from my neck with my right hand and then allowed my heel to hit the ground with a light clack. A dark purple and black circle rippled out from my heel, its tar like body wrapping itself tightly around Grand and his men. I slipped past Grand then, sprinting for the grate. I pushed it up and disappeared into the Surface, releasing my key.