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Jan 19, 2019

This month's Patreon-funded story is "The Long Night of Tanya McCray" by Michael M. Jones. It's narrated by Louise Cooksey, who is also the narrator for "Incursion at Gene Bunker Four"

I was lost. My guidebook’s maps were either out of date or outright fabrications, my smartphone’s GPS claimed I was somewhere in the Atlantic before running out of power, and every set of directions I’d begged from passersby had led me further into the labyrinthine neighborhood of Puxhill known as the Gaslight District. Now, with night falling, the antique lamps which gave the area its name flickered to life, casting mocking shadows against uncaring brick walls and dark windows. I stood on the corner of two nameless streets--one little more than an alley--and threw up my hands in frustration.

My excursion had started well enough earlier. The Gaslight District had evolved out of Puxhill’s original settlement some centuries past, a chaotic tangle of narrow streets, scenic courtyards, and old buildings. It was a cultural melting pot, a unique blend of backgrounds and beliefs. During the day, you could find treasures and wonders in its tiny groceries, bookstores, and curio shops. Where it bordered the normal parts of the city, like Caravan Street or Tuesday University, you could find popular hangouts and hotspots. My mistake had been in venturing too far off the beaten path. Camera in hand, I went searching for new and interesting shots, not heeding those who said it would be a bad idea.

“Tanya,” I told myself, “this is all well and good, but standing here isn’t helping. Puxhill Through The Lens won’t get finished if you vanish, never to be seen again.” I squared my shoulders, pretended I’d given myself a really good pep talk, and picked a direction. Hopefully, I’d find somewhere still open, where I could get proper directions or use the phone. For all of its many tiny nameless streets, the Gaslight District was still a finite area in a much larger city.

Several blocks later, I wasn’t so sure. Twilight had fallen, and I hadn’t seen a single other person in ages. I pulled my denim jacket close as a chill ran through the air. All I saw were closed doors, dark windows, and capriciously dancing shadows.

The silence broke. Raised voices. Harsh laughter. A pained cry punctuated by a soft thud. Jingling chains and scuffed movements. Common sense told me to head away from what sounded like certain trouble; other instincts urged me around the corner, where certain trouble was already in progress.