Beware the hellhounds who lurk in the shadows for they are so hungry, and you are so tasty.

Secrets Below Gargoyle Cavern – Chapter One

With cautious eyes, Safyra kept a close eye on the man in the aisle across from her while she pretended to check the expiration date on the crackers in her hand. The way he shuffled through the small market, knocking discarded boxes aside. He may be up to no good.

The large plate glass windows behind him had seen better days. The frames holding them were covered with rust from neglect; the majority of the signs were half faded and falling off. The neon sign was dark that should have said Open, hanging from one side only.

There were empty shelves behind the man shuffling through, hood covering his face, clothes falling apart, and covered in holes. He passed what should have been a lit up ice machine, but now was nothing more than a dried up holder of trash.

Past expiration, great.

With a sigh, she placed the box in her cloth bag. The crackers were marked down to one dollar so she wouldn’t be picky. At least there were crackers, after all. Most of the shelves were bare in this shop. In the brand name stores, there were slimmer pickings.

Only in the small shops they didn’t have the security to get in or out. So it was up to each individual to risk stopping. This shop was only a few blocks from home, which made it a better choice. Walking that distance carrying food was risky enough. She wouldn’t risk a name brand store. Way too far. She normally came to this small market. Still didn’t know the owner’s name, let alone the cashier, and it didn’t really matter. Most didn’t spend too much time chit-chatting with one another these days. She’d tried. The cashier may get replaced by bullet if he didn’t stay behind that thick security wall. But Safyra knew the layout of this store so she increased chances of survival coming here.

Even the cashier kept an eye on the man who now made his way to the back and turned to the left. Thankfully Safyra was in the aisle to the right. She’d already been on the other side to grab a can of chickpeas and another one for black beans, but she really wanted to get a bottle of fresh water from the back. No milk to be seen, but she spotted a few bottles of water in the unlit unit standing by themselves. She really wanted that water, but then found a pair of eyes watching her from the other side of the market.

Casually moving her focus back to the crackers as if doing nothing more than scanning the surroundings, she debated the odds of getting the water versus not. May not get another chance. The water may be gone next time. No telling when more would come in the store. She’d managed to scrounge up enough money to come. Thought it would be empty this time of evening. Just before dark, most headed down into the heart of the city if they went out, and that was when she chose to shop.

Fast in and out. Fast to get back home. Unseen.

Unless there was a parade. Which basically happened, never. The lack of people made it easy to sneak about. It wasn’t that there was always a fear of being attacked, it was just that people . . . they were angry. All the time. Few relationships were decent these days. Few people truly connected with one another unless it was a mutual hate for another group of folk. Then just as easily the bond was destroyed when they switched and turned on one another.

Then came the wars and attacks on said property of the other. Then came the murders, and . . . worse. Well, if they were women and children it could be worse. Many tried to recruit too, like the one across from her. He wore an oversized dark coat, dark pants, and a bandana hung around his neck. Wasn’t his clothes that made her casually keep an eye on him though.

Something else in the gleam of his eyes triggered a response. A feeling. The darkness. The lack of humanity. A coldness surrounded him which made her try and estimate the chances that the cashier would come from behind the counter to help her should things go wrong. If she stepped toward the back of the store, placed her back to that man, he had the potential to grab her.

Then? No telling.

Safyra took a deep breath and reached into her pocket to grab the money. She turned her back to the mirror which reflected the ends of the aisles, counted out the cash for what she’d grabbed. Four dollars. She’d estimated her cost was far less, even with the tax. Didn’t matter. Her heart skipped a beat, her warning sirens bloomed to life. She wasn’t one to frighten easily.

Not in this lovely world she lived in. It was either learn to read people, or risk death. She never reacted to anyone just because. It was the pause. He’d stopped at the back of the store, in that aisle. He hadn’t moved. Because without looking, she knew he was watching her. Most likely sizing her up, determining if she had a weapon.

She did. Tucked into the back of her waistband, she had a knife, which she planned to pull out, but not before paying the cashier. The man deserved it. Choosing to still work in this sort of atmosphere? Oh yeah, he deserved those few extra pennies.

Safyra kept her body language as casual as possible. Head held high as if she had no care in the world, she went over and extracted the crackers and beans from the bag. Emptied it. Showed the cashier she’d dumped it all out.

He added everything up. “Three fifty,” was all he said, opening the small sliding window as she gathered the money to hand over. His eyes ticked toward the man in back, then back to her. With a casual tilt to the door, he rubbed his ear. Telling her, get out of here.

Safyra flashed a quick smile. The fish eye mirror behind the cashier also had a camera. A small monitor beside him pointed out the man in the aisle stepped forward once, then again. The most likely initial response was to chat her up once she left the store. Lower her defenses. Attack once he gained power over her. Well, she didn’t plan on chit chatting.

Safyra dumped four dollar bills on the counter, then shoved the items in her bag. “Keep the change.”

As she headed toward the open doors, the cashier directed his focus to the man. “Need help?” Making sure the man focused solely on him for the time it took her to leave.

Safyra turned and eased the knife from the back of her pants, keeping it hidden. She tightened her grip on the straps of the bag, then turned the corner. Because of the angle, she was able to catch sight of the man.

“No,” he huffed. The instant he turned toward the cashier, Safyra took off. She ran down the street. From behind her came the crash of a door being smacked open, then the heavy thump thump thump of the man’s shoes against the pavement, and heavy grunts.

She ducked around a broken bicycle, nearly tripped on a discarded car tire, and risked the alley to the right that she came upon. Needing distance between him and her, having been through these streets, she knew where things were left. Not that there couldn’t be someone waiting in the alley, but she was better at avoiding the trash. More obstacles meant speed for her, slowing for him.

Safyra needed to get to her apartment building. There were two security gates to get through. One for the main room where they got their mail and could greet folks, and the other that led further inside. The front glass was dark so that people couldn’t see in. If she got in there, she was good.


The building wasn’t impervious to break-ins, but since she’d lived there for the past ten years, she’d never experienced one, and hadn’t heard rumors of any. Heard being the key word though. Because again, most didn’t care to get to know people and discuss life. Once in a while she tried, but for the most part kept to herself as most did these days. It proved safer.

The alleyway was gloomy, but not yet completely dark since evening was just around the corner. She dove through and around trash, dumpsters placed at odd angles. Ran over broken plywood, across discarded plastic bags, paper bags, broken pallets. Her heart thrummed in her chest.

Clearing the alleyway, she heard a ruckus to her right and caught a group of individuals up the street burning a car some poor soul left on the side of the road. Having stopped, she heard big man still in pursuit. More so when he accidentally hit a can and it slammed into the building next to him.

“Shit,” popped out of him. Hadn’t meant to. Pure reaction.

Safyra saw him halfway down the alley and closing fast. Heaving in air, she bolted to the left. Down the street she ran, before spinning to the right and using another alleyway as defense. The cheers from the group of individuals burning the car down the street blocked any noise her pursuer made.

Turning as fast as she did, she didn’t see the wooden box newly dumped right in her path. Her toe caught the box before she fully leapt, and over it she flew. Managing only to stifle the yelp that came, she didn’t manage to catch herself and crashed into the pavement.


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Paperback – In progress!

Secrets Below Gargoyle Cavern is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, stories, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2023 Kimberly Sue Iverson

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, contact the publisher at the website.

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