Table of Contents
CHAPTER 1 - The End of the Earth
CHAPTER 2 - The Hunter
CHAPTER 3 - If I Don’t Come Back
CHAPTER 4 - The Voice of the Tunnels
CHAPTER 5 - In Exchange for Cartridges
CHAPTER 6 - The Rights of the Strong
CHAPTER 7 - The Khanate of Darkness
CHAPTER 8 - The Fourth Reich
CHAPTER 9 - Du Stirbst
CHAPTER 10 - No Pasarán!
CHAPTER 11 - I Don’t Believe It
CHAPTER 12 - Polis
CHAPTER 13 - The Great Library
CHAPTER 14 - There Up Above
CHAPTER 15 - The Map
CHAPTER 16 - The Songs of the Dead
CHAPTER 17 - The Children of the Worm
CHAPTER 18 - The Authority
CHAPTER 19 - The Final Battle
CHAPTER 20 - Born to Creep
A Gollancz eBook
Copyright © Dmitry Glukhovsky 2007 English translation copyright © Natasha Randall 2009 All rights reserved.
The right of Dmitry Glukhovsky to be identified as the author of this work, and of Natasha Randall to be identified as the translator of this work, has been asserted by them in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
First published in Great Britain in 2010 by
The Orion Publishing Group Ltd
5 Upper Saint Martin’s Lane
London, WC2H 9EA
An Hachette UK Company
This eBook first published in 2010 by Gollancz.
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Dear Muscovites and guests to our capital!
The Moscow metro is a form of transportation which involves a heightened level of danger.
- A notice in the metro
The End of the Earth
‘Who’s there? Artyom - go have a look!’
Artyom rose reluctantly from his seat by the fire and, shifting the machine gun from his back to his chest, headed towards the darkness. He stood right at the edge of the lighted area and then, as loudly and threateningly as he could, he clicked the slide on his gun and shouted gruffly, ‘Stop! Password!’
He could hear quick, staccato footsteps in the darkness where moments ago he’d heard a strange rustle and hollow-sounding murmurings. Someone was retreating into the depths of the tunnel, frightened away by Artyom’s gruff voice and the rattling of his weapon. Artyom hurriedly returned to the fire and flung an answer at Pyotr Andreevich:
‘Nope, no one came forward. No response, they just ran off.’
‘You idiot! You were clearly told. If they don’t respond, then shoot immediately! How do you know who that was? Maybe the dark ones are getting closer!’
‘No . . . I don’t think they were people . . . The sounds were really strange . . . And the footsteps weren’t human either. What? You think I don’t know what human footsteps sound like? And anyway, when have the dark ones ever run off like that? You know it yourself, Pyotr Andreevich. Lately they’ve been lunging forward without hesitation. They attacked a patrol with nothing but their bare hands, marching straight into machine-gun fire. But this thing, it ran off straight away . . . Like some kind of scared animal.’
‘All right, Artyom! You’re too smart for your own good. But you’ve got instructions - so follow them, don’t think about it. Maybe it was a scout. And now it knows how few of us are here, and how much ammunition they’d need . . . They might just wipe us out here and now for fun. Put a knife to our throat, and butcher the entire station, just like at Polezhaevskaya - and all just because you didn’t get rid of that rat . . . Watch it! Next time I’ll make you run after them into the tunnel!’
It made Artyom shudder to imagine the tunnel beyond the seven-hundredth metre. It was horrifying just to think about it. No one had the guts to go beyond the seven-hundredth metre to the north. Patrols had made it to the five-hundredth, and having illuminated the boundary post with the spotlight on the trolley and convinced themselves that no scum had crossed it, they hastily returned. Even the scouts - big guys, former marines - would stop at the six hundred and eightieth metre. They’d turn their burning cigarettes into their cupped palms and stand stock-still, clinging to their night-vision instruments. And then, they’d slowly, quietly head back, without taking their eyes off the tunnel, and never turning their backs to it.
They were now on patrol at the four hundred and fiftieth metre, fifty metres from the boundary post. The boundary was checked once a day and today’s inspection had been completed several hours ago. Now their post was the outermost and, since the last check, the beasts that the last patrol might have scared off would have certainly begun to crawl closer once again. They were drawn to the flame, to people . . .
Artyom settled back down into his seat and asked, ‘So what actually happened at Polezhaevskaya?’
Although he already knew this blood-curdling story (from the traders at the station), he had an urge to hear it again, like a child who feels an irrepressible urge to hear scary stories about headless mutants and dark ones who kidnap young children.
‘At Polezhaevskaya? What, you didn’t hear about it? It was a strange story. Strange and frightening. First their scouts began disappearing. Went off into the tunnels and didn’t come back. Granted, their scouts are completely green, nothing like ours, but then again, their station’s smaller, a lot less people live there . . . well, used to live there. So anyway, their scouts start disappearing. One detachment leaves - and vanishes. At first they thought something was holding them up - up there the tunnel twists and turns just like it does here . . .’ Artyom felt ill at ease when he heard these words. ‘And neither the patrols, nor those at the station could see anything, no matter how much light they threw at it. No one appeared - for half an hour, then for an hour, then two. They wondered where the scouts could have gone - they were only going one kilometre in. They weren’t allowed to go any further and anyway, they aren’t total idiots . . . Long story short, they couldn’t wait to find out. They sent reinforcements who searched and searched, and shouted and shouted - but it was all in vain. The patrol was gone. The scouts had vanished. And it wasn’t just that no one had seen what had happened to them. The worst part was that they hadn’t heard a sound . . . not a sound. There was no trace of them whatsoever.’
Artyom was already beginning to regret that he had asked Pyotr Andreevich to recount the story of Polezhaevskaya. Pyotr Andreevich was either better informed, or was embellishing the story somewhat; but in any case, he was telling details of the sort that the traders couldn’t have dreamed, despite being masters and true enthusiasts of story-telling. The story’s details sent a chill over Artyom’s skin, and he became uncomfortable even sitting next to the fire. Any rustlings from the tunnel, even the most innocent, were now exciting his imagination.
‘So, there you have it. They hadn’t heard any gunfire so they decided that the scouts had simply left them - maybe they were dissatisfied with somethin
g, and had decided to run. So, to hell with them. If it’s an easy life they want, if they want to run around with all kinds of riff-raff, then let them run around to their hearts’ content. It was simpler to see it that way. Easier. But a week later, yet another scout team disappeared. And they weren’t supposed to go any further than half a kilometre from the station. And again, the same old story. Not a sound, not a trace. Like they’d vanished into thin air. So then they started getting worried back at the station. Now they had a real mess on their hands - two squadrons had disappeared within a week. They’d have to do something about it. Meaning, they’d have to take measures. Well, they set up a cordon at the three-hundredth metre. They dragged sandbags to the cordon, set up machine guns and a spotlight - according to the rules of fortification. They sent a runner to Begovaya - they’d established a confederation with Begovaya and 1905 Street. Initially, October Field had also been included, but then something had happened, no one knows exactly what - some kind of accident. Conditions there had become unliveable, and everyone had fled.
‘Anyway, then they sent a runner to Begovaya, to warn them that, as they said, trouble was afoot, and to ask for help, should anything happen. The first runner had only just made it to Begovaya - and the people there were still considering their answer - when a second runner arrived at Begovaya, lathered in sweat, and said that their reinforced cordon had perished to a man, without firing a single shot. Every last one of them had been slaughtered. And it was as if they’d been butchered in their sleep - that’s what was scary! But they wouldn’t have fallen asleep, not after the scare they’d had, not to mention the orders and instructions. At this point, the people at Begovaya understood that if they did nothing, the same story would begin in their neck of the woods as well. They equipped a strike force of veterans, about a hundred men, machine guns, and grenade launchers. Of course, that all took a bit of time, about a day and a half, but all the same, they dispatched the group to go and help. And when the group entered Polezhaevskaya, there wasn’t a living soul to be seen. There weren’t even bodies - just blood everywhere. There you go. And who knows who the hell did it. I, for one, don’t believe that humans are capable of such a thing.’
‘And what happened to Begovaya?’ Artyom’s voice sounded unusual, unlike him.
‘Nothing happened to them. They saw what the deal was, and exploded the tunnel that led to Polezhaevskaya. I hear forty metres’ worth of tunnel is collapsed; there’s no digging through it without special machinery, and even with machinery, I bet you wouldn’t get very far . . . And where are you going to find that kind of machinery, anyway? Our machinery rotted away fifteen years ago already . . .’
Pyotr Andreevich fell silent, gazing into the fire. Artyom gave a loud cough and said,
‘Yeah . . . I should’ve shot the thing, of course . . . I was an idiot.’
‘Hey there, at the four-hundredth metre! Everything OK there?’
Pyotr Andreevich folded his hands into the shape of a megaphone and shouted in reply:
‘Come closer! We’ve got a situation here!’
Three figures approached in the tunnel, from the station, their flashlights shining - probably patrol members from the three-hundredth metre. Stepping into the light of the fire, they put out their flashlights and sat down.
‘Hi there, Pyotr! So it’s you here. And I’m thinking to myself - who’d they send off to the edge of the earth today?’ said the senior patrolman, smiling and shaking a cigarette from his pack.
‘Listen, Andryukha! One of my guys saw someone up here. But he didn’t get to shoot . . . It hid in the tunnel. He says it didn’t look human.’
‘Didn’t look human? What did it look like, then?’ Andrey turned to Artyom.
‘I didn’t even see it . . . I just asked for the password, and it ran right off, heading north. But the footsteps weren’t human - they were light, and very quick, as if it had four legs instead of two . . .’
‘Or three!’ winked Andrey, making a scary face.
Artyom choked, remembering the stories about the three-legged people from the Filevskaya line where some of the stations went up to the surface, and the tunnel didn’t run very deep at all, so they had almost no protection from the radiation. There were three-legged things, two-headed things and all kinds of weird shit crawling all over the metro from those parts.
Andrey took a drag of his cigarette and said to his men, ‘All right, guys, since we’re already here why don’t we sit down for a while? If any three-legged things crawl up on these guys again, we’ll lend a hand. Hey, Artyom! Got a kettle?’
Pyotr Andreevich got up and poured some water from a canister into a beat-up, soot-covered kettle, and hung it over the flame. In a few minutes, the kettle began to whistle as it came to a boil. The sound, so domestic and comforting, made Artyom feel warmer and calmer. He looked around at the men who were sitting at the fire: all of them strong dependable people, hardened by the challenging life they led here. You could trust men like these; you could count on them. Their station always had the reputation for being the most successful along the entire line - and that was all thanks to the men gathered here, and to others like them. They were all connected to each other with warm, almost brotherly bonds.
Artyom was just over twenty years old and had come into the world when life was still up there, on the surface. He wasn’t as thin and pale as the others who’d been born in the metro, who wouldn’t dare go up to the surface for fear of radiation and the searing rays of the sun, which are so ruinous for underground dwellers. True, even Artyom, as far as he could remember, had been on the surface only once, and then it was only for a moment - the background radiation there had been so bad that anyone who got a bit too curious would be completely fried within a couple of hours, before he’d even managed to enjoy a good stroll, and see his fill of the bizarre world that lay on the surface.
He didn’t remember his father at all. His mother had been with him until he was five years old. They lived at Timiryazevskaya. Things had been good, and life had gone smoothly and peacefully, until Timiryazevskaya fell victim to a rat infestation.
One day, huge, grey, wet rats poured from one of the tunnels on the dark side of the station without any warning. It was a tunnel that plunged off to the side, a disregarded branch of the primary northern leg, which descended to great depths, only to become lost in the complex network of hundreds of corridors - freezing, stinking labyrinths of horror. The tunnel stretched into the kingdom of rats, where even the most hopeless adventurer wouldn’t dare to go. Even a wanderer who was lost and couldn’t find his way using underground maps and paths, would stop at this threshold, sensing instinctively the black and sinister danger emerging from it, and would have rushed away from the gaping crevasse of that entrance as though from the gates of a plague-infested city.
No one bothered the rats. No one descended into their dominions. No one dared to violate their borders.
They came to the people.
Many people perished that day, when a living torrent of gigantic rats - bigger than had ever been seen at either the stations or in the tunnels - had flooded through the cordons and the station, burying all of its defenders and its population, muffling their dying screams with the mass of its bodies. Consuming everything in their path - the living, the dead, and their own fallen comrades - the rats tore ahead, further and further, blindly, inexorably, propelled by a force beyond human comprehension.
Only a few men remained alive. No women, no old men or children - none of the people who would normally have been saved first, but rather five healthy men who had managed to keep ahead of the death-wreaking torrent. And the only reason they’d outrun it was because they’d happened to be standing near a trolley, on watch in the southern tunnel. Hearing the shouts from the station, one of them sprinted to see what had happened. Timiryazevskaya was already perishing when he caught sight of it as he entered the station. At the station’
s entrance, he understood what had happened from the first rivulets of rats seeping onto the platform and he was about to turn back, knowing that he couldn’t possibly help those who were defending the station, when suddenly his hand was seized from behind. He turned around and a woman, her face contorted with horror, pulling insistently at his sleeve, shouted, in an effort to overcome the many-voiced choir of despair, ‘Save him, soldier! Have mercy!’
He saw that she was handing him a child’s hand, a small, chubby hand, and he grabbed the hand without even thinking that he was saving someone’s life. And, pulling the child behind him and then picking him up and tucking him under his arm, he raced off with the frontrunner rats in a race with death - forward through the tunnel, where the trolley was waiting with his fellow patrolmen. He started to shout at them from afar, from a distance of fifty metres or so, telling them to start up the trolley. Their trolley was motorized, the only one of its kind in the surrounding ten stations, and it was only because of it that they were able to outrun the rats. The patrolmen raced forward, and flew through the abandoned station of Dmitrovskaya at full speed, where a few hermits had sought shelter, just managing to shout to them: ‘Run! Rats!’ (Without realizing that there was no chance of the hermits saving themselves.) As they approached the cordons of Savyolovskaya (with whom, thank God, they had peaceful arrangements), they slowed down so they wouldn’t be fired at. They would have been taken for raiders at such high speed. And they shouted at the top of their lungs to the guards, ‘Rats! The rats are coming!’ They were prepared to keep running right through Savyolovskaya, and further along the line, prepared to beg to be let through, as long as there was somewhere further to go, as long as the grey lava hadn’t inundated the entire metro.