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You find the strangest things in underground tunnels.
Well, that's the understatement of the millennium, Franky thought. Trust Shelley to come up with that one.
"Shut up, Franky."
The boy smirked. They'd been wandering about for close on two hours now, and he knew his friend was getting edgy. And when she got edgy, her mental sonar swept out whether she liked it or not.
"And don't smirk at me!"
Franky rolled his eyes. He and Shelley had known each other all the fifteen years they'd been alive, and he never had gotten used to her doing that. Sometimes having a psychic for a best friend could be a real bitch. After all, that's why they were down here, right? Shelley had "sensed danger," ooh, big scary. They lived in the middle of New York City, danger was everywhere. It hung in the air like thick green fog, 'til even mortal Franky almost choked on it.
But this wasn't that kind of danger, Shelley had insisted. This was the other kind. The scarier kind. The supernatural, inhuman kind--the same kind that had almost gotten them killed at least half a dozen times in the last year alone. Franky, as usual, had thought she was full of it.
Then they'd found the cave.
Trust Shelley to find the only theatre in the city with its own underground labyrinth.
"And trust you not to bring extra batteries," the psychic spat testily. Their flashlight had died half an hour ago, and there was nothing they could do about it. Now, the darkness pressed all around them, suffocating, like a shroud. It wasn't pitch-black, it was obsidian black. Franky couldn't see his own arm, even when he hit himself in the face with it, and yet--the air almost seemed to shimmer. There was a definite magic in the air...
"Ouch! Watch it, you stepped on my foot!"
"Sorry! But why'd you stop?"
"I feel like I've been here before."
Franky blinked. "That's crazy. We've never been in this part of town before."
"This part of town...hang on, where are we?"
The boy scratched his head, trying to remember what the sign on the theatre had said... "Soho?"
Shelley whistled. "This is where all the kidnappings have been taking place."
"Franky, don't you watch the news? Two or three kids a day have been disappearing for the last week."
A very pregnant pause followed that statement. "Umm. Shelley. Aren't we kids?"
The air rippled with a shiver. "Try not to think about that," the girl muttered, starting forward again.
"How can I not--whoa!"
Franky stepped on something, skidded, the darkness whooshing around him--felt a sharp pain on the back of his head, his breath streaming from his lungs in a sharp grunt, knew gravity had shifted--
"What happened?!" Shelley asked, frantic, dashing back to his side.
"You're the psychic, you tell me!" he snapped, sitting up. His head was throbbing, red pulses flickering through the black. As he wheezed air into his sore lungs, the damp scent of mold reached him, and the drip of water echoed in his pounding ears.
"Marble," Shelley muttered.
"Huh?" Even dizzy as he was, that made no sense.
"You stepped on a marble," she explained. By her voice, she was several feet ahead, bent low. "There's dozens, all over the floor. Someone must have spilled them."
"In this terrestrial version of hell? Who that cared about marbles would be down here?"
Through the blackness, both felt their eyes connect as the same thought flashed through their minds. Kids. Like them.
"What was that?"
"My watch," Franky muttered, hitting the button for the light. "It's four o'clock."
The boy blinked and looked up. "What?"
"You idiot, turn that light back on!"
It took a lot for Franky not to slap himself in the forehead. Idiot, he thought. Obediently, he pressed the button, and a pale blue glow washed over their surroundings. Whoa.
Not only were there marbles all over the floor, toys were everywhere. Rocking horses, jacks-in-the-box, building blocks, boxes on boxes of board games, and--what?
Franky hit the button again, the light flashing back on. Standing amidst all the wondrous toys, a tall, clean-cut man in an expensive dark suit stood smiling at them. His eyes were pools of midnight, and the light from Franky's watch sank dead into them, no reflection shining back. Tight lips pulled away from straight, bright teeth.
"Welcome to my toy shop, children," came a voice like honey laced with arsenic.
Franky heard Shelley swallow loudly beside him. The watch's light went out again, and Franky made no move to turn it back on.
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