Backstreets

Tales from the Twisted Eden Sector - Book 2

There is a maze hidden within the city. Stay far away from it.

Overview

While the backstreets may have once been a thriving community and a refuge away from the city where they could practice magic in peace, they've long since been abandoned. The few who do still use them are not the most pleasant, more likely to give you a deal on something they need to keep hidden away from prying eyes than show you they way out.

Backstreets tells the stories of those who managed to find them. People stumble in very rarely, but those unlucky few that do are usually trapped within the labyrinth with no hope of ever escaping - at least, not unscathed.

 

Excerpt

Toys


Grandma always told Mikey that he was a good boy, unlike his no good brother, and if his rotten parents hadn’t stolen all her money she would have taken him far away from here to be raised up right. The city was no place for a child and their neighbourhood was the dirtiest, slimiest and most rotten she’d ever seen. At six, Mikey had no idea what she was talking about, but knew well enough to nod along so he wouldn’t be seeing the back of her hand.

He looked out onto the streets where there were children playing. All he needed to do was crawl out the window and down the fire escape so he could get down there and play with them, but he wasn’t allowed. They were a bad influence.

“What’s a bad influence?” he asked.

“Something we’re not supposed to be around,” Raphael, Mikey’s teddy bear, said. He got up on his stubby legs and hugged Mikey’s leg. “It’s okay. You don’t need to be out with them, right?”

“Yeah,” Mikey said, though he still wished he could go out and play with them. He wanted someone else to play with besides just Raphael. “You think we’ll stay up late enough tonight to see Leo?”

His brother, Leo, always got in long after Mikey’s bedtime every night, if he came back at all. When Mikey woke up in the morning, Leo would still be asleep until it was time for him to go out again, but maybe, just maybe if he stayed up late enough, Leo would still have the energy to do something. Especially since he wasn’t allowed to go out there with him or play with the other kids.

“Maybe,” Raphael said. “But it’s okay if we miss him. You still have me!”

Mikey tore himself away from the window after one last, longing look at the children below. They were scattering now that the street lights were flickering on, heading home to their own families. Maybe he could ask Leo to ask Grandma to see if he could go out and play with the other kids one day.

His side of the room was covered in toys. Army men lined the foot of his bed, facing off against the toy cars covering his dresser. Transformers and toy guns were on both sides of the fight and all around the room. Tracks for a toy train had been taken in pieces and it, like the trains, were trying to build a ramp to get up to the bed. Other toys were scattered across the floor, some carrying guns and many looking for a way to get up onto the bed.

Raphael patted Mikey’s leg. “Come on,” he said. “The trains were going to have a sneak attack on the soldiers!”

Mikey shook his head and picked Raphael up. “We gotta go see if Grandma made dinner now,” he said. “The streetlights mean it’s dinner time.”

“I don’t like her,” Raphael said, though he didn’t protest to Mikey hugging him under his arms and squeezing him tight before opening the door.

Raphael went limp as soon as he left his room and started down the hall. He knew the rules as well as Mikey did. There was to be no imagination outside of his room. No talking animals or moving cars or anything. If there was, or if he even talked about it, Mikey knew he would get in trouble.

There was no smell in the hall today. At the end of the hall, he could see the living room faintly lit by the television. Grandma leaned back into her recliner, curly white hair spread out around her head and pink house coat stained with coffee. Her mouth was open and he could hear her snoring mixed in with the newscast she was watching.

Sometimes he wondered what Grandma watched on the television. She had banned him and Leo from watching with her. She said it would rot their brains with useless garbage. Now it was showing an old man yelling about a pretty girl not wearing enough clothes.

He could sort of remember watching it when he was little. There were bright colours and it made him happy when he was sitting on the floor in front of it. Raphael was there. Sometimes Leo sat with him. Sometimes his mom was there, too.

He couldn’t really remember his mom anymore.

Mikey closed his eyes and forced the tears back. He shouldn’t think about things that made him sad. Leo said that there was no point trying to remember the people who were already gone. He said nothing would bring them back anyway, so he should try to forget them instead. Forgetting them was easier.

He turned into the small kitchen and opened the cupboard, looking for something to eat. There were half empty bags of crackers and chips, bags of baking supplies and several unmarked cans. Mikey reached into the back where Leo hid a bunch of food for him just in case Grandma forgot to make him dinner and pulled out a bag of cereal.

Mikey stood back up and closed the cupboard door as quietly as he could before going to the fridge and grabbing a can of coke. Leo said the coke was the only thing it was safe to eat in the fridge because Leo was in charge of getting it. Some of the containers that lined the shelves had been in there for a very long time and Mikey couldn’t tell which ones were still edible. Grandma wouldn’t want him eating them anyway.

“Who’s there?”

He froze as Grandma’s voice rose over the television.

“Is someone there? Get out here!”

In his arms, Raphael gathered together the food Mikey had collected. He dropped out of Mikey’s arms, clumsily trying to balance it all and looked back up at Mikey. “You don’t have to.”

“Get over here, boy!”

Mikey jumped and ran to his Grandma’s voice. If he didn’t go, it would be worse. It was always worse if he didn’t come when he was called.

She was sitting up in her recliner, staring him down as he came closer. He stayed just out of arms reach, looking up at her wide eyed and fearful. Her hair flared out around her like snakes and her wrinkles looked even more menacing as she scowled at him.

“Come closer, boy,” she said.

Mikey inched closer, trying to avoid her gaze.

“Were you stealing my food, boy?”

Mikey shook his head.

“Look at me! Did you steal my food?”

Mikey made himself look her in the eyes and shook his head again. He didn’t talk. He knew better than to talk. When he talked, she got more mad.

“Did you take my food, boy? Did you?

Mikey froze as Grandma rose her hand and smacked him hard across the face. He hit the carpet and, tears streaming down his face, he tried to keep his sobbing quiet. She got mad when he cried.

“That’s what you get for being a thief. Just like that no good brother of yours and your deadbeat parents. I give you everything and you still steal from me! Get out of my sight. Middle of the night, you think I wouldn’t catch you out of bed? Get back in the bed I got for you, boy! Get in bed and learn your place in this house.”