Subterranean Rivers - Ch. 10THIS IS THE END OF THE STORY.
Or just really bloody close to it.
The wall slides apart like an elevator, except with more noise. The sound of brick grating against brick is unnerving, but XXXX and I ignore it in favor of what lies behind the wall.
It's still a tunnel, except now the tunnel is descending even further underground, and this descent into the unknown is paved with a staircase, upon which the waters of the River Effra are flowing down. The bottom of the stairs isn't visible from this height. It's a long way down.
I slap XXXX across the back. "Come on, then," I say cheerily. "The future's waiting."
"Yeah…" he sighs, in a way so that I can't tell whether he heard me or not.
We descend the stairs one step at a time – it takes every fiber of my being to not just zip down the stairs and find out what lies at the bottom by myself. I'm going to find out at the same time as XXXX does.
While I know that the City of the Dead is supposed to be a na
Subterranean Rivers - Ch. 9CURSUM PERFICIO
AUTHOR: I'm going to have to pause the story here.
NARRATOR: Hey, what gives? We've just reached the pivotal point of the story – we need to keep it going!
AUTHOR: I know, we have reached that point – and we will keep it going – but I need to give you a warning before you go on.
NARRATOR: I'm accompanying XXXX into the sodding City of the Dead. What kind of warning could I possibly need right now?
AUTHOR: My teacher wants this story turned in a day earlier than anticipated. It was supposed to be due at the end of the week according to the assignment sheet, but now it's due tomorrow.
NARRATOR: Okay…so what does that mean?
AUTHOR: It means that this next part of the story will have to be the last, and you'll have to go out with a bang. I'm leaving it up to you to end it all.
NARRATOR: (incredulous) But you're the author. You have to end the story – I'd probably bugger it all u
Subterranean Rivers - Ch. 8I THINK THIS MIGHT BE A CLIMAX.
After leaving Bank Saderat PLC, XXXX returns to the flat to conjure up a backpack full of adventuring gear, like food, a compass, a map, a torch, extra batteries, and other things. He is oblivious (as always) to what I have to say to him: I spend a solid half-hour trying uselessly to convince him to give up on looking for the City of the Dead, but to no avail. I believe there's a term for this kind of situation.
No…that's not it. Something Latin, I'm sure.
There comes a moment in XXXX's packing in which he plunks down on the sofa and tries to collect his thoughts. He's been in a state of constant agitation ever since he opened Charlene's letter just a couple of hours ago, and it's plain and clear that it's taking its toll on him. We've driven clear across London today – twice – and now he's daring to head back out on what could potentially be his final journey.
I sit down on the couch next to him and try tal
Subterranean Rivers - Ch. 7TWELVE YEARS LATER
In the fall and winter of 2001 following the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, Charlene started contemplating the sudden nature of death with unhealthy tact. The news of the terrorist attacks had been a global shock, and while the crisis was an ocean away, she still couldn't shake the feeling that the exact same thing could happen to her.
If my familiar is doing his job, then you know it already has.
One day, Charlene wrote a letter to her boyfriend, XXXX – yes, they went from childhood friends to twentysomething lovers – leaving behind something for him to find in the event that she died and wouldn't be able to show it to him herself. By circumstances I refuse to go into because it's a whole other story entirely, Charlene acquired the missing piece to the spiraling brick wall in the easternmost part of the River Effra. With luck, it would lead to the fabled City of the Dead, but she decided that it would be better for XXXX
Subterranean Rivers - Ch. 6LIFE MAY GO ON, BUT HE'S STUCK.
What am I supposed to do while he just sits around in his flat all day all depressed and lethargic and uninteresting? I was being easy on him for the first couple of months, but now I'm starting to lose my patience. More than anything, I want the plot to go on.
It's been a week since we drove to Dewsbury and confronted Hasina Khan. I had expected the conversation between her and XXXX to last longer, but I guess there wasn't really that much to be said between them anyway. Meeting Hasina didn't exactly provide XXXX the closure he was looking for nor the satisfaction of getting back at the family of the man who killed Charlene and so here we are in his flat, an apartment large enough for two engaged lovers. I imagine the place must seem a whole lot emptier to XXXX without his fiancée around.
For the past week, XXXX has been burying himself in his work – he works as an architect – and it's exactly this kind of thing that sh
Subterranean Rivers - Ch. 5THE RIVER EFFRA
Following the outlandish circumstances of how XXXX and Charlene met, the two became good friends (I skip them actually becoming friends to show the progression of time).
The two kids had not gone to school that day and favored instead just sitting by the River Thames talking and speculating on the crazy way they had met. It wasn't until well into the afternoon that a few passersby helped them up out of the embankment – Charlene needed the most assistance getting out due to her broken ankle – and the two kids were subsequently taken to a clinic by their parents and had their fractured extremities bound up in casting tape. Their parents were clueless as to if the two kids knew each other – XXXX and Charlene merely told their parents that they got into bicycle accidents. They never mentioned each other.
It turned out that the two of them literally sat right next to each other in the canteen at school, all this time unaware of the other's
Subterranean Rivers - Ch. 4CONFRONTATION/CLOSURE
It takes three to four hours to drive from London to Dewsbury, or a little bit less if you take a train. But this drive is one that has to be handled personally. You don't get the rush of getting closer to some kind of epiphany by waiting in a train carriage.
Also, the both of us have been reluctant to use the trains lately.
It's been two months since what happened on 8:50 A.M. on 7 July. XXXX hasn't been the kind of guy to appreciate a sunny day ever since, if you know what I mean. At this moment, we're driving north towards Leeds on the M1 motorway, and we don't have the radio on. I understand why XXXX would want the silence right now, but after being stuck with this bloke's moping for the past several weeks, I think I'd appreciate some of the good ol' music right now.
I'm being insensitive again. Sorry. Bear with me. I've been staring out the window for the past two hours now and I'm gettin' a little stir-crazy.
The suicide bomber that killed C
Subterranean Rivers - Ch. 3INTERSECTION
In 1989, XXXX and Charlene met for the first time. (By the way, this is the Author speaking. I think you'll be able to tell from now on who's narrating the story based on our attitudes, use of slang, and the fact that I write in past-tense. That other guy writes in present-tense.)
Anyway, getting back to how these two met.
XXXX was ten years old, and Charlene was eleven. The two children lived completely separate lives from each other – and in opposing suburbs – and there was nothing linking them together other than the fact that they went to the same school. But even there, the two were separated by class schedules and passing periods and the finer nuances of school life.
In school, they were nobody to each other. The same principle applied in their two vast neighborhoods. In fact, neither was aware of the other's existence. If there was one thing the two of them had in common, it was that they both rode their bicycles to school in the morning