Written by Nada Hemida
Previously on Long Live the King: Episode 5 – Twenty-Two
Three things cannot remain hidden for long: the sun, the moon, and the truth…and I was about to find out the truth about this case even if it took every last ounce of strength, energy, or every last drop of blood in me.
It is past midnight now, and while the rain has stopped hours ago, the fog has not gone away – which only makes my job easier.
Looking in every direction, I observe the almost quiet street from where I stand in the nearby alley. Only two cars have passed, neither of which I should worry about. Pedestrians, however, are nowhere to be seen – they’re smart enough to know that in this hour, something quite horrifying could be lurking in the shadows.
It takes me seconds to lift the manhole cover after sneaking to it in the middle of the street. I curse under my breath when I realize there are no steps leading to the ground beneath, then I curse all those who neglect maintenance. I brace myself for the jump.
The sound of my feet splashing against two-inches of water registers first. Then, the miserable scent of waste that I know would take forever to get rid of. Last, the absolute darkness.
I have to use a flashlight, which was expected, but also means I have to be more cautious since light could do just as well as a huge neon banner, inviting whatever might be lurking down here to attack me.
North, that’s where ‘Science and Tech’ is. It wasn’t hard to figure it out: if Karim and his goon are spending long hours invested in their work, not leaving the basement, then what other way could they leave than farther down? It made me laugh at first, thinking of that fashionably-dressed man plowing his way through the muck and intoxicating smell, and then I was reminded of my fury. I was deceived, I had thought, again.
Idiot, idiot, idiot.
You never learned, did you, Nour? Never truly learned how to unravel the truth and oust the liars. Never truly allowed yourself to believe that everyone was a liar, a manipulator, and a thief.
These thoughts have been poisoning my mind all the way here. But one thing only matters now – where have these little devils been going off to?
I walk towards where I believe the building for ‘Science and Tech’ stands. I look up to find a trapdoor and a set of ladders beneath it, from which Karim and Sarwat have probably been sneaking. From that point on, it leads to four different ways. Sighing, I realize this is going to be a long night, and start my way into one of the dark sewers.
After having gone to both ends of the far right tunnel and the one next to it, I come out with nothing, I trudge my way into the third and fourth tunnels, exhausted and wretchedly sleepless but with my eyes wide open. A hurricane is churning in my veins, and it will not be calmed until I find what I need to know.
Footprints…beneath my own feet, the steps of others lie emboldened. Kneeling, I look more closely and realize two things at once – those can be the sizes of Karim and Sarwat’s feet. Not that I have looked that up, too, but I know enough to guess these are men’s shoes. Secondly, this tunnel, unlike the others, isn’t watered down. Indeed, it’s close to dry.
With a spike of adrenaline, I walk on and on, with no other clue but my restless mind and heart knowing this is going somewhere. I have to be right this time. I have substantial evidence that proves me right. Now is not the time to doubt. With more sureness, my feet smack against the cold ground for what feels like centuries, nothing but my intuition guiding me through the intersections, telling me which way to go – until I feel a tightness in my chest.
It can’t be.
My ragged breaths are all I can hear as past memories flash in my mind, and I can’t help but shut my eyes momentarily as if that would keep them away.
I know where this way goes.
I know, because I’ve been here before.
I had come here on one of the darkest nights of my life. It was almost audible; that night: my heart shattering into a million pieces.
I shove the memories away. I don’t know when I started running. I know it’s been kilometers, but that’s only smart. All the intersections, dead ends, and twisting tunnels are ploys to get you lost – so no one else would find where it leads, so no one else would find the dark truth behind what that company is linked to.
I had wanted revenge that night. I had wanted to bring destruction to the man who had destroyed and ended so many lives.
Tears, I notice, are running down my face, as my feet start to feel numb from running, but my physical pain is not in any way the reason behind those tears. I don’t need to think twice about which way to go, because I came here before. In a night whose memory is concocted out of wrath, anguish, and horror. A night that scarred me, and left a mark that never healed – that never will heal. A night when I decided that I no longer cared about anyone or anything, not even myself, and decided that with teeth and claws I’d make the country’s streets run red.
I hadn’t gone to my destination that night; I didn’t go through with the plan. I knew it wasn’t cowardice. In fact, it was smart. Getting revenge on that man would have led to nothing but my own death. In nothing but shame I had gone back home, healed the wounds I bore on my feet from running barefoot through the sewers. I healed the wounds on my hands from pounding against the walls and windows while screaming. I could not, however, heal the gaping wound in my heart, for the blade had struck and it wouldn’t yield.
I meet the end of the tunnel, and with it, my knees give out.
I fall to the ground, my breath heaving out of me, my eyes flooding my face as I stare and stare at the metal door.
The door I had come close to standing in front of before.
The door behind which, stood the man I wanted to kill.
The man who had torn my heart out of my chest and squeezed until it no longer beat.
The man I was unknowingly working for.