Place And Time



Scene Title Place and Time
Synopsis Squeaks was in the wrong on both.
Date August 19, 2018

Jackson Heights

It’s a seven and a half foot drop from the open manhole to the cluttered sewer tunnel below, and the young woman who completes that drop does so with a splash of booted feet in murky mire. Squeaks is lit by the diffuse gray light of a cloudy day spilling down in a single shaft from the open manhole. The rungs back up to the surface rusted away and crumbled years ago, leaving a good drop the only way down into this section.

Topside, Vernon Boulevard runs parallel to the coast of the East River, eventually passing by the Ravenwood Power Generating Plant, better known as the Consolidated-Edison Power Plant, a pre-war ruin that Squeaks has become surprisingly familiar with. South of the ruin, the sewers and tunnels are a crumbling mess, complete with dead ends, blind tunnels, and one-route accesses that are sequestered from the other passages. Squeaks had found this section of tunnel using her ability, discovering that it seems a network of sewer tunnels accessible from somewhere on the coast leads right under Vernon Boulevard, and could perhaps be an access tunnel the freak-rats are using.

So she comes to the forgotten corners of the city, and ventures alone into the dark below.

The sewers had been home for so long that usually the dangers of them are forgotten. Like the tunnels that end suddenly or places that even she finds are hard to get into — not to mention the more present problem of electric rats. And the last time she and the others had been to the Con-Ed place there was a rat swarm. But that wasn’t going to stop Squeaks from taking another look.

Especially now that she was able to find so much more. The Underneath made so much more sense now. Even though it took some trying and testing to figure out that she didn’t need to actually talk to get it to work — some resident hobos might have been wondering at the quietly sung lyrics of Reading Rainbow — Squeaks has managed to contain her glee over her ability. There’s new places to find after all.

The subtle clicks and squeaks that draw out the tunnel she’s slinking through make the tunnels seem not so scary in the dark. Squeaks creeps through the gross water and yucky things, looking for a way into that other tangle of tunnels.

Whatever these tunnels are they look well-used, debris has been pushed to the side, garbage either nonexistent or moved out of the tunnels. Graffiti — predating the war — is abundant down here, along with streaks of mold and water damage. Cracks in the stone are structural damage from the supernatural shockwave that destroyed Con-Ed a decade ago.

As Squeaks heads north toward the ruins of Consolidated Edison, the pathway has a number of branching tunnels, all collapsed. In fact some look intentionally filled with concrete rubble brought here to fill the passages. Squeaks has seen her share of real collapses to know the real thing. These intentionally blocked tunnels seem to be preventing further northward travel. But it does seem to be funneling east…

To her the tunnels seem mostly normal. The trash and stuff being pushed off to the side is a little strange, but maybe not too unusual. Squeaks doesn’t give it too much thought to where all the junk is, it’s probably just cleaners that came through. Or maybe the adventurous kinds of people, like herself, that moved things out of the way — but that doesn’t seem very realistic.

As the tunnels break off the one she’s been following, the girl stops to give them some serious eyeballs. The open way means away from Con-Ed, if the map in her head is right. Squeaks takes a slow walk passed the collapsed in tunnels while she gives off some clicks, looking — both for reals and with her ability — for any openings that might let her go on toward the power plant while following the path that’s still open.

It only gets stranger the more she investigated. Not only are the tunnels blocked by rubble piles, they've had cement poured over the debris so that it seeps into the gaps, locking it in place. The cement looks relatively recent, certainly not something the Ferrymen did before or even during the war. As Squeaks investigates another blocked off tunnel, she notices something amid the debris, a cast-away object that is too clean to have been down here for long: a small, blue Converse sneaker.

Clunk. The noise echoes through the tunnel, and Squeaks can tell it came from the eastern passage; something heavy was set down on stone. There's distant scuffing sounds too, then the rattling scrape of a heavy chain, then another loud clunk. It's not rats.

It’s probably not ghosts.


Curiouser and curiouser, Squeaks even presses a hand against one of the large pieces of concrete and gives it a small push. She’s not expecting it to move though, and keeps going since there’s no way through. The shoe is definitely strange. There’s probably other kids who live in the homeless communities of the Underneath, but it’s pretty not likely that they’d have anything that nice looking.

She reaches for the shoe for a better look at it, even as she’s also looking for its match. The loud noise from the open tunnel makes her freeze, with her fingers just touching the sneaker. Last time she checked, the only ghosts that sounded like chains were the ones that visited Ebenezer Scrooge.

Squeaks eases backward from the closed off tunnel and slinks to stand just shy of the open tunnel, where the deeper shadows and walls might conceal her a little better. She takes a quick breath, then starts creeping into the eastern passage, as quiet as her boots will allow, and the almost silent clicking that details the way for her.

The tunnel is a snaking one, full of shallow alcoves that were once branching tunnels. Manhole covers overhead are spot-welded shut to their rims preventing easy access or egress. It's dryer down here too, and it feels like this may be leading into an inhabited part of the sewer system. But then, faintly, Squeaks hears an unfamiliar man’s voice…


“Life is old there, older than the trees,” the voice drawls, soulfully. “Younger than the mountains, blowing like the breeze.” There's another scuffing sound, then a heavy thump of something being set down. “Country roooooads, take me hoooome, to the plaaaaace, I belooooong…”

As she wanders down the tunnel, the clicking sounds that bring the layout of her surroundings back comes to a stop. Squeaks turns a full circle to take in the whole place, what she can make out. It’s a long way away, but this could be a really primal place to claim as a new fort and base.

If it weren’t already taken over.

The singing reminds her that she’s not totally alone. “William,” she asks quietly, hopefully too quiet to carry to whoever is singing. Do ghosts sing? She doesn’t know, but it seems as unlikely as the Ghost of Marley visiting her. Clinging to those alcoves and anywhere that might keep her hidden, Squeaks slinks toward the voice and murmurs out a very soft “Hello?”

The tunnels led to an old and expansive stone chamber of crumbling, ancient brick. Narrow columns of stone rise from the dry floor to the vaulted ceiling just seven feet tall. It's an old cistern, likely below what remains of a bar or other establishment dating back to the 1800s. Currently there's some black plastic crates down here, covered with cloth mesh webbing. There's also two steel drums, a long coil of rusted chain that looks like it came from a boat, and…

…a dog.

From behind one of the cistern pillars steps a black and brown dog with a square build and pointed ears. It stands at attention, chin up and nun tail twitching. Then barks once, loudly, ending the southern melody echoing through the chamber. Squeaks can see there's light in the cistern, coming from an electric lamp, and a long shadow of a man on the wall.

The dog stands it's ground, growling, and a man’s voice with a whistling, southern drawl calls back from out of direct line of sight. “Is’at a child I head down here, nah? This ain't no place for little kids, no sir.”

Just at the edge of the light, keeping to an alcove that still has some shadow in it, Squeaks squints against the light and thinks hard about getting a better look at those drums and crates. There might be a name or a label, some way to know what’s inside or where it came from, if she can get closer. The man-shadow and the dog keep her from moving right away though. She jerks back a teeny step when the dog barks, hands clamping over her mouth to keep her heart from leaping out of it.

The girl’s eyes widen and dart from dog to voice and back again. “Easy,” she says in very hushed tones as her hands lower again. Squeaks tries to keep her movements slow, so she doesn’t spook the dog any worse. “Be good…” She shoots a look toward that man-shadow and eases forward a step, to sneak closer to those crates and drums, then another. “Be good.”

The dog begins to bark, loudly, though it stays its ground with a frenetic tension that a trained attack dog might. Booted feet clomp heavily on the concrete floor, and as Squeaks levels a look at those barrels — sealed, they look like oil drums — a tall and sweat-slicked man in a grimy tanktop and brown-hued desert camouflage pants comes striding into view. He’s older than Squeaks by measures of decades, face creased by the sun, hair clipped to his scalp all the way around and clean shaven. He also has a shotgun over his shoulder, and a cigarette dangling from his mouth.

“Well lookie’ here, we got ourselves Peter Pan!” The man’s voice has a southern drawl and a whistling, wheezy quality to it. He cracks a smile, though Squeaks doesn’t think it’s honest. “Lookit’ you, all wide-eyed and spooked,” he swings the shotgun off of his shoulder and lets to drop with a slap into a waiting palm. “Wha’chu doin’ down here, girl?”

The dog continues to bark, loudly and aggressively.

“Easy,” Squeaks nearly whispers again, hands half raising but definitely not reaching for the dog. She doesn’t take more than a step or two, stopping when dog goes nuts. A still wide-eyed look darts passed to the barrels then up to check the man-shadow — hopefully he will think the dog is just barking at ghosts and go on — only now it’s not just a shadow but a man.

Backing up slowly, she shakes her head to answer. It’s easier than shrugging. “I got lost,” Squeaks states frantically. Her eyes follow the gun, dart to the dog, then go back to the man. “We were playing a game and… then I couldn’t find… I heard noise — like singing? — and… and the dog started barking.”

She dares a look over her shoulder to see which way the tunnel goes, to keep from running into anything or tripping. “I wasn’t…” Squeaks looks up at the man, trying to work out better reasons for being where she shouldn’t. “ — I was trying to find a way out. And the light…”

The man cracks a hesitant smile, tilting his head to the side before he whistles sharply at the dog and brings it to heel. The animal comes hustling back to his side and sits down by his right foot. “Well,” he says with a spreading grin, sliding his cigarette with a motion of his tongue from one corner of his mouth to the other. “You’re in luck, ‘cause ya’ll done run into me. I’m Eugene, an’ I just so happen t’be a wonderful tour guide of mysterious an’ wild places you ain’t never seen ‘fore.”


His brows raise, and he looks Squeaks up and down slowly. It’s then that a muffled cry for help emits from somewhere behind the shotgun wielding man, and the rattle of metal like a handcuff on a pipe. “Unfortunately, ain’t no mystery where you’s going.”

The last thing Squeaks hears is the shotgun going off…

…then nothing.

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