Aderne Nicholz and the Man in Yellow
twelve minutes and thirty-three seconds later, the car engine sputtered and died, and Nicholz looked at his rearview mirror, seeing in that same moment the Man in Yellow walking towards him. Nicholz cursed, and jumped out, running down the street and taking a stairway deeper down. The lower you went in the Bright City, the worse things were. But while it was more dangerous, going to the Undercity was his only chance to escape.
As he sped down, taking the stairs two steps at a time, he briefly looked up, seeing the Man in Yellow following slowly, one of his gloved hands holding to the guardrail as he walked down. Then the Repressor began to move his gaze to Nicholz eyes, and he snapped out it, hurtling back down the stairs. It wasnt merely said that they could paralyze you with just their eyes, it was a known fact. Everyone at least knew someone who had seen the Men in Yellow stare their prey down, rendering them helpless as they closed in for the kill. Nicholz had talked to a man who had escaped, once. He said that the sunglasses they wore were so dark that they did not reflect the light away but absorbed it, seemingly making the entire area darker. But it was what he saw when they removed their sunglasses that was the worst part of it.
Down here, there were terrible things, werewolves, hobgoblins, and also, Nicholz remembered uneasily, the Mice, who made their warrens here. Nicholz believed that he feared the Mice more than anything else save the Men in Yellow, of course. They were as tall as men, and shaped like them, too, even being able to use their tools and weapons. But they were even more ravenous than the werewolves, and their hunger frequently brought them to higher ground in search of prey.
Still, Nicholz was smart, and he knew some of the signs. If he paid attention, he would at least be able to avoid wandering into a nest of Mice. And that really was the worst that could happen. So long as you kept your wits about you, one Mouse was no problem. It was when they came at you in swarms, wielding guns and knives and crowbars, their hunger crowding out any concept of self-preservation. A single Mouse might jump some people, but not Nicholz.
He ran over to a balcony and gripped onto the railing as he climbed down several levels, making sure not to fall. Even this far down, there was no telling how many stories a careless misstep or slip might make him fall. He stopped about six floors down and, after listening to make sure nothing was inside, he broke down the door, entering a old apartment room.
It looked as if it was only minimally used. While a thick coat of dust covered most everything in the room, there was evidence that people in the loosest sense, probably entered the room on occasion. He closed his eyes, listening for the slightest of sounds. There was something outside, about ten or fifteen paces away to the left, through the door. Besides that, there was nothing in earshot, and he paused for a moment, taking out a fountain pen.
For maybe a quarter of an hour he was lost in a rush, madly drawing intricate, meaningless symbols along the entire wall as quickly as his hand would move, losing himself in his old compulsion, trying to get the sigils out of his mind and into the world. Then there was a sudden crash a few floors above, snapping him out of his focus, and he went to the door leading to the hall. Peering around the corner, he saw a werewolf chewing contentedly on a large bone, its back facing him. There was a door on the opposite side of the hall, and he leaned over, turning and pushing the knob then entering the other room as quietly as possible.
Closing the door behind him, Nicholz looked around at his new surroundings. There was another stairway in the middle of the room, something that didnt strike him as particularly odd. He had seen far more peculiar things than that. A brown canvas was draped over something about seven feet tall, nearly touching the ceiling, and there was a small chest near it.
Taking a deep breath but not too deep, in the fear that something might hear he walked over to the stairway, and then took another glance at the canvas. He knew this would turn out badly, but he had a suspicion of what it concealed, and he had to know. Walking over to the canvas, he picked up the chest next to it and then pulled off the sheet.
For only a second did the mirror reflect his image; almost instantly it changed to that of the Man in Yellow, and a gloved hand reached out from the glass before Nicholz slammed the chest into it. The glass shattered, and for a moment each shard of glass held a tiny portion of the Repressor before the images vanished. There was a low growl from the werewolf as it began to head over, deciding to investigate the sound, and Nicholz headed down the stairs, wanting to mentally curse at himself but afraid that something might hear.
The Man in Yellow knew where he was, now. It had been stupid, so completely stupid that he knew he deserved whatever happened to him. There had been a reason why the werewolves had covered it up; you didnt have mirrors unless you wanted the Men in Yellow walking through them. They didnt even need mirrors, even. Any reflection at all would do, and if it was too small to fit through, they could at least find out where you were.
Nicholz was one of the few people who had an idea of why the Men in Yellow were after him. He had been friends with someone who had decided to follow the Unknown Leader, a masked man with seemingly no identity, and who led a revolution against
well, nobody really knew. That was the oddest thing. Nobody knew who the Unknown Leader was obviously, although some claimed to have spoken to him and nobody really knew who he fought, and usually nobody even knew who fought for him except for the one or two people they personally knew had joined his cause. It was as if it had all been cut from whole cloth. But while the Repressors did not seem to be the target of the Unknown Leaders aggression, they certainly had decided to destroy his organization, and they were going so far as to kill anyone even associated with its members.
If he could just get far enough down, he might be able to escape them. Unless he was wrong, the Men in Yellow were finite in number, and they would have to eventually give up the search. There was too much below the Bright City, and it could take centuries for even a thousand men to search it systematically. So long as he stayed away from mirrors, he would be safe. From the Men in Yellow, anyways. The farther down he got, the farther away he got from them, but the farther he got into danger of another sort.
Down the stairs he went, but only dozen paces away from it the werewolf caught up with him, pouncing at him. Nicholz willed himself to be calm, focusing his entire perception into his sight as he pulled out a handgun and fired. As a sharp pain ran through his left side, traveling up from his hip to shoulder, he fired at the werewolf, pulling the trigger as quickly as he could. As the werewolf recovered, shifting out of its canine form and readying a long blade, the Man in Yellow came walking calmly down the stairs. Nicholz thought he was barely able to make out a grin, and then with a flip of the Repressors hand, the werewolf was picked up and thrown against a wall.
It recovered almost instantly, and started running toward the Man in Yellow only to be pulled toward him by an unseen force, until the Man in Yellow picked it up by the neck and stared into its eyes. There was silence, and then the werewolf screamed in agony as it died. The Repressor turned again towards Nicholz, who fired once and resumed running.
As he ran he put another magazine in his gun. There was a strange sound behind him, and he turned around to see the Man in Yellow walking noiselessly behind him. Nicholz looked around to find a way to escape, and rushed over to another balcony, tearing a curtain and sliding down it. As the Man in Yellow leaned over the rail, looking at him, Nicholz climbed further down the side of the building. Seven floors down there was a rooftop close enough for him to access.
Descending into the building, he saw that this floor, at least, was a library, each shelf filled with black-and-red leather books. He was amazed that they could survive for all this time in such conditions. Nicholz would have thought that anything like this would have been destroyed, if not by simple weathering or during a battle, then when the Mice tore them apart for their nests.
He wandered through the floor, staring at the endless rows of untitled books. If he had more of an idea of what they were for, he would have pulled one down, but certain situations excepted he tried to keep a reign on his curiosity. A sudden chill came over him, and he froze, trying to figure out where it was coming from.
A moment later he started breathing again. The Repressor couldnt have come so quickly. In theory, he could have gone the same way as Nicholz had and done it even faster, too but, practice, it was apparently impossible. The Men in Yellow walked. They didnt even run, in Nicholz experience. They just walked towards you, until they caught you. Nicholz believed that it was for the psychological effect. There was something unnerving in seeing your pursuer just
walk towards you, as if hes got all the time in the world.
Nicholz didnt know how much time he had lost. Looking out the window, he saw that the sun was still in its perpetual setting, and briefly wondered why he even bothered. It never changed. The countless scribblings on the walls and a few open books didnt help, either. He could have spent an hour or a week doing them.
The Undercity was an odd thing. Go through one door and you might enter an entirely different city, darker and deeper, but perhaps just a reflection of that place you had just left. Pass through another door and you go into a series of catacombs and vaults and interconnected basements. And then, of course, you might simply find a new way into the sewers.
But they were all part of the Undercity. One door might bring you to any or all of them, and you simply by walking around in one you might happen to pass the threshold into another. At least in the Bright City the boundaries were well-marked, so long as one paid attention. Here, they were mashed together with neither rhyme nor reason.
He stared at a doorway. It might lead outside. It might lead into the sewers, or the catacombs, or even the Bright City. Beyond the door might be a nest of Mice. If he merely closed his eyes, he might fall into another reflection of the Undercity. Was the Man in Yellow still making his way down? Still walking down dozens, possibly hundreds of stories before he reached ground level and could begin the ascent to Nicholz position? Had he found a mirror, and crossed through that?
Sighing, Nicholz brushed one of the leather books and picked it up. He almost opened it, but left it closed, and ran his finger along the spine as an almost inaudible noise was made behind the door. Behind the door might be anything. Perhaps a way out, even if the Man in Yellow had to provide it for him.
Nicholz walked toward it.