Attempt #2



Scene Title Attempt #2
Synopsis In search of William's astral projection, Squeaks stumbles upon a monumental discovery…
Date April 17, 2018

A long time ago, this place used to be called Long Island City. It was an industrial quarter of Queens, filled with factories and mills, adjacent to a power plant called Ravenswood. Economic decline over two decades drove the businesses away, and after the bomb no one wanted to invest in the neighborhood to gentrify it. Factories fell into ruin, mills dropped into disrepair, and Long Island City became a haven for criminals and worse things.

But below the streets, Long Island City has never been a place of much renown. Its sewers are old, more than a hundred years. The crumbling brickwork is cracked and split in many places, crusted over with a calcium-like sludge that shines like glass with gray-brown coloration. Other tunnels are wholly dry due to collapse, supported by two-by-fours wedged between floor and sagging ceiling. The further west one goes, towards the ruins of the Consolidated Edison Ravenswood power plant, the worse things get. Older people — older than the young woman squeezing through these tunnels — tell stories that this place collapsed during a battle. That a shockwave of sound tore through and simply split the building apart at the seams.

For one young person named Squeaks, they’re just that. Stories and nothing more.

Ruins of Consolidated Edison Ravenswood

Jackson Heights Sewers

Rumors, stories, and eye witnesses have brought Squeaks here searching for the untethered psychic remains of a young boy who died during the civil war. Many of the city’s subterranean homeless have claimed to see the boy William, some have even claimed he’s spoken and said his name, though none claim to have actually spoken to him first hand. Leads in and around Red Hook dried up days ago, but William’s northward movement through the sewers has brought him near this crumbling ruin. Where the past and the present intersect.

A long brick tunnel finally brings Squeaks to where only she can go. The end of the tunnel collapsed sometime in early 2009, and nearly a decade later it has not widened. A narrow straw-like passage beneath hundreds of tons of concrete and earth would be too narrow for anyone else to fit through. But squeaks has no such issues, and her shimmy along a muddy floor brings her to the other side where the collapse is not so evident.

It’s a subway tunnel, one long since abandoned and closed off by the power station’s destruction. Cobwebs hang like curtains from the walls, where power conduits run along the concrete. There’s no lights down here, no power, only the shaft of light spared by Squeaks’ flashlight. The tunnel only goes in one direction, and its high ceilings drip with moisture. There’s streaks of rust running down the walls; brown-copper stains against concrete gray.

No one has been down here in near a decade. If there’s anywhere William could be hiding, it’s here.

There’s a saying, at least it’s a saying in Squeaks’ mind, that you can’t live in the Underneath and be afraid of everything. That doesn’t keep her from being just a little scared, alone and in less familiar tunnels than where she’s known to frequent. These are like those deep dark places she’s heard about, that she’s never gone into because the stories – and they are just stories – are warning enough to not tempt fate too much. But here she is, tempting fate, because there’s answers that need to be gotten.

The press of narrow tunnels isn’t a bother, and she’s crawled through equally gross things as the muck that coats the floor. Like a certain blue fish, she just keeps swimming, or crawling in her case, until the passage opens up.

Squeaks sits back on her heels to take in the long-ago abandoned subway tunnel. Her little light, filtering through dust and grime, is shown around in starts as she takes a first survey of the space. When nothing jumps out as immediately threatening, the girl stands and starts slowly away from the opening that granted her entrance.

“William?” Squeaks’ voice is cautiously quiet, probably not intended to travel very far from her.

There's just an echo back, a reverberating echo of Squeaks voice. The subway tunnel is collapsed at one end, funneling Squeaks slowly down a gradually curving corridor wide enough for a single subway car to pass. There's no graffiti down here, no signs of vandalism, just entropy. Occasionally, there's a glitter of something brassy in the gravel between the rail tracks, and Squeaks notices shell casings from spent rifle ammunition. There's some pockmarks in the walls too, old bullet impacts.

As she progresses further, the tunnel eventually opens up into an enormous circular room with an old rail switch platform in the middle, like a big metal merry-go-round designed to rotate and switch a train from one track to another. Most of it is buried under a heaping pile of twisted concrete and rebar. Beneath the rubble is an unexpected sight, the rusting hulk of an M1-Abrams tank.

The tank has been crushed by the debris, and been down here so long that the metal has corroded and rusted through. In the flicker of her flashlight, squeaks also sees a partially pinned and mostly skeletal corpse beneath the rubble. There's a flash of color from some kind of polyester jacket, and the corpse’s skull is split nearly in half from top to bottom by a severe blunt impact.

Nearby, there's also a rusty metal scaffolding staircase that leads up to a rickety metal balcony that wraps around the room and goes off into another partly-collapsed wing. From the ground, at least, there doesn't appear to be much further she can go.

The sound of her own voice coming back might be a small comfort. At least nothing scary is coming back at her. The girl isn’t too interested in the pockmarked walls, but she does stoop in midstride and collect several of the brass casings. Those are neat looking! In almost the same motion, she’s up again and continuing her explorations, with those little findings secured away in a pocket.

The lack of life’s intrusion is regarded in some form. Squeaks notices the lack of graffiti and the years-long disuse. But what piques her interest more than that is the tank. “Woooaahhh,” she breathes. She’ll have to tell the others about that thing. She hops a couple of steps toward it, intending to investigate when something else catches her attention. There’s a skeleton!

She turns that way, light held steady and unafraid of the old bones half buried. She’s seen dead people before. That’s usually how she’s found things to survive. Dead people don’t need things, after all. “William?” The query is directed at the skeleton, while at the same time she eyeballs the stairway. And the scaffolding.

Squatting down near the skeleton, Squeaks surveys the route up to the balcony. She’ll go up there, but first… She makes a quick search of the corpse. She’s not expecting to find anything, but she checks anyway, as best as she can without disturbing stuff too much. Bodies smell bad when they get jostled too much. Then, search complete, she’s on her feet again and making the climb to the balcony.

There wasn't anything to find on the corpse, just his unusual fashion sense. Threadbare black BDUs, but also a now time-worn New York Mets sports jacket. Whatever else he had was crushed under the weight of an entire power plant.

It didn't matter in the end, and Squeaks ascent up the rickety stairs comes with a protesting creak and groan of old metal. Still no sign of the ghost child she'd been seeking, but fortunately nothing else in the dark to haunt her either. Just the echo of her voice, the creak of old things, and an ever-present distant sound of trickling water and rattling pipes.

By the time she reaches the balcony, Squeaks can see that it curves around the entirety of the room. There's other corpses up here, slouched against the walls of the balcony. They're dressed in gray and black, old rotten body armor punched through with bullet holes. The corpses have been mostly picked clean by time and vermin, held together by what little scraps remain on their bones and the grime of a decade or more. Each of them have old guns sitting nearby, and more shell casings. She spots seven corpses in total, all likely killed by gunfire, if the dark stains on the walls behind them are any indication.

Following the balcony, it crosses a catwalk tangled in the debris of the fallen ceiling. Though it provides safe passage across to where the other doorway is, there are a few steps where Squeaks has to clamber up slick concrete to get back on the twisted and broken metal. At the end of the catwalk there's a sign on the wall, an old and corroded copper plaque.

Incinerator ⬆️
Maintenance ⬆️

The tarnished arrows point through the open doorway, into a long and dark hall of wet concrete. Droplets of water fall from the ceiling and pale streaks of white calcium deposits intrude through cracks in the walls and roof. It's a miracle this entire place isn't buried.

More bodies come as a surprise, but not a bad one. Squeaks barely pauses at the top of the stares when she registers she isn’t completely alone. Even if those keeping company in the space with her aren’t living anymore. She counts them, light shining on each corpse-y body. The guns are interesting, but she doesn’t know how to use them or how to check if they’d even work after all these years. And right now, she should keep moving. She can always come back and take what seems useful.

No stranger to scurrying around like so many other creatures that live in the sewers, Squeaks scrambles to make short work of the catwalk. She slips and has to cling in spots, juggling her weight and the flashlight so she doesn’t fall while crossing the bare concrete. Feet dangle sometimes until she can find a spot to push off from. Once across, she’s looking back the way she’d come. That was scary.

An arm is dragged across her forehead to clear away exertion and residual fear. She turns from the way back and looks at the way forward, flashlight aimed at the doorway and plaque. Squeaks raises a hand to touch the latter, fingers tracing letters and arrows. Her eyes wander down the corridor, following the path lit up by her flashlight. Those stories of the deep dark aren’t so real right now, but they do make her hesitate about going further.

“William,” comes a little nearer to sing-song with nervousness, just before the girl starts down the concrete hallway.

“William,” the echo of Squeaks voice responds, reverberating down the corridor. As she walks, her shoes kick up loose pieces of plaster and concrete from the floor. Just to her left is a formerly windowed room that once overlooked the rail switch. Now the empty room is filled with dust and debris, ceiling precariously sagging in the middle where concrete splits and water drips forth.

Past that collapsed office, the hallway zigs and zags a little, narrowing some. The rusted pipes on the wall don't rattle here, and the only sounds are distant trickling of water and the scuff of her own shoes. Another door to the right is marked “Storage” and is a spacious twenty foot by twenty foot room with old, rusted metal shelving devoid of any contents. But curiously, Squeaks flashlight catches something on the floor that reflects back at her.

A lens.

Then, on closer inspection, the body black piece of plastic laying on the floor looks recognizable, less dirty and old than everything else around.

It's a camcorder.

It’s all so very strange. And beginning to be a little bit spooky. But that’s probably just her mind playing tricks. Squeaks knows she’s spent years in the Underneath without ever running into anything particularly bad. It’s small assurance for her, because she’s never been so alone and so far from anywhere she knows. The lack of living happening is more scary, especially when her light catches on the odd angles of the war-destroyed office and she has to double take and verify that she didn’t just see a monster in the dark.

The beam of light sweeps right then left then right again as the girl moves from one section of passageway to the next. “William,” Squeaks calls again, voice smaller than the last time. Her flashlight traces the doorway to the storage then quickly sweeps the inside. Empty shelves, which aren’t a surprise, are excuse enough to keep going, but the light catching on something shiny…

Keeping the flashlight aimed on the lens, Squeaks takes long strides to see what she’s found. She drops onto her knees and sits on her heels to examine the camcorder, her free hand brushes over the plastic casing to clear away the dust before she picks it up for a better look. It’s turned about to get a first look at how it might be operated. Then it’s examined again in order to find the buttons that control it, to try to turn it on and see if there’s any video inside.

The buttons don’t appear to do much of anything, the batteries are likely long dead. Another button clearly labeled eject does work, however. That switch flips open the side of the battered camcorder, revealing that there is a mini VHS inside. It’s… not something Squeaks is particularly familiar with, but the boxy piece of black plastic is also clearly labeled in black Sharpie against a faded white label on one end:

Magnes/Ruiz Attempt 2

The tape seems surprisingly intact for being down in a place like this.

Behind Squeaks, there’s a soft clatter as several pieces of concrete fall from a gap in the ceiling. A few straining sounds of creaking stone and protesting metal, followed by a few drips of water and then nothing. The haunting silence returns once the echoes fade, leaving Squeaks alone in the damp darkness once more.

The oddity of the camera is a confounding thing. Squeaks’ face scrunches a little as she puzzles over it. VHS is such an antique, there’s no way she’d know what it properly is. Still, it seems important, especially since it’s not anywhere near as dirty or decomposed as everything else. Maybe she can find someone who knows better how to work the thing.

Noises from behind whip her head around. The flashlight wavers as she searches for the monsters that are surely lurking. Finding only decay and warning sounds of more to come, she turns to pack up her finding. The tape is fitted back into the slot on the camcorder and that is tucked into the empty pack hanging from her shoulders.

Standing and settling the pack against her back again, Squeaks makes a quick exit from the storage room. Her light shines the way back, the forward. She could find another way out if she goes more into the unknown, but she knows what’s behind. That creaking was a good indication that she should probably leave, but what about William?

The latter wins out, after Squeaks is a good dozen steps along the known path. She turns again to head deeper into the unknown. No calling for William this time, but she’s looking for him - or sign of him - and another way out of the tunnels.

The tomb of the Consolidated Edison Ravenswood power plant remains a constant reminder of conflicts both old and new. As Squeaks finds her way through those narrow spaces that allow only someone as small as she into them, she leaves with the curiosities of shell casings and a camcorder from another era. No one else could have done what she did, slipped into such a forgotten place and returned alive with what she found.

It wasn’t William, wherever the remnants of that child had wandered off to. But what she didn’t realize was the inherent value in what she did have.

And the monumental proof it represented.

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