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  Viper Wire by Richard Kadrey
 

Mouse Lights

There is light now, for the first time in almost 100 years. Rubbish-heap Christmas lights, mostly, lovingly repaired and strung down both sides of the tiled tunnel. They twinkle, dime store constellations in the gloom. Their candy-colored light illuminates the derelict, hand-made train: Waterford crystal windows, soft, lamb leather seats and mother-of-pearl handles on the sliding doors. The old pneumatic-tube train, abandoned on its one-block line, had hunkered beneath Wall Street waiting a century for someone with a use for it.

Mouse had stumbled on the station by mistake. The Optic Kid had walked off with Mouse's last can of vienna sausage, and when Mouse called him on it, the Kid had come for him, his goons in tow. Mouse had to abandon all his belongings in the subway tunnels and flee into the dark, into the dampest, deepest tunnels, where no one (not even the other tunnel rats) went. In the dark, he'd crawled through a spot where the ancient concrete had rotted away beneath a steam pipe leak. Beyond was the lost pneumatic tube station. Mouse struck a match and saw a brass plaque on the wall. A name: Alfred Ely Beach. A date: 1870. The vast silent room was like some industrial cathedral. Mouse moved in on the spot.

Mouse never told anyone about his underground kingdom. When he died, several years later, he regretted little. He lay on soft leather, watched the Christmas lights twinkle and felt himself slowly merge with their brilliance. When other tunnel rats eventually discovered Mouse's lair, they quickly left. Beauty, so rare for them, had become a sacred thing. They hid the tunnel entrance and it remains lost to this day, though many claim to have seen Mouse's lights, blinking far away in the darkness of the tunnels.

 

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Richard Kadrey is a member of a small group of innovative writers, including William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, John Shirley, Pat Cadigan, Tom Maddox, and others, who changed the face of science fiction in the 1980s. He also creates art. He lives in San Francisco.

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