Day 63. 161 pages, 58,131 words.
“Okay,” I said, stepping back from the window and looking away from Prince Philip Street where a traffic jam had begun to form around a growing pool that looked like it was on the verge of becoming a sink-hole. I just hoped all the cars involved had good air-conditioning and weren’t sucking in air from outside. “Right,” I turned to the Myconet. “Aside from coincidence, what brings you up here?”
“Perhaps I had a meeting with Mr. Hammersmith,” the Myconet replied.
“Hammersmith’s in Conference Room 3,” I said vaguely, but gave the Myconet a suspicious look. I wouldn’t have put it past her to have a meeting with some executive or other – Lord knows, more than a few of the big hitters in the corporate world owed their success to shady deals with prognosticators and demons and other extra-dimensional arbiters of the real, even if the Myconet herself didn’t seem the sort. She knew Hammersmith’s name, but that in itself didn’t mean much. What I found most questionable was the fact that while she evidently was in the L&E building, she was only slumming around on the floors belonging to GDP&N, rather than enjoying an even better view from the gleaming heights of the uppermost levels.
Still, I had to concede that it wasn’t really my business.
“This seemed like a good time to talk,” the Myconet said.
“Talk?” I looked back out of the window. Sludge, carried on the wheels of the slow-moving cars, was now beginning to join up from the seeping puddles around the manholes. I wondered how we were supposed to get back down there to undo the damage. It had smelled bad enough before the century-old swamp had begun to rise. “A good time?”
The Myconet didn’t reply immediately. There was a long silence in which I could see the sludge spreading on the streets below. Some sort of emergency repair trucks with orange flashing lights had arrived down at the library end of the street, and seemed to be setting up roadblocks and detours. When I looked directly across the street, I could see office workers gathering idly at the uppermost windows of the Prestige Bank and Building Society high-rise, looking down with interest. Something fun for them to check out during their coffee breaks, I supposed.
I was momentarily distracted by the concept of a coffee break, which was a worryingly alien thing to someone whose life experience is best described as a non-coffee break between extended periods of coffee intake. Then the Myconet finally spoke up.
“Where is the other part?”
This was familiar territory, albeit a little uncomfortable. Probably due to the fact that she’s not even part of the same organic kingdom as I am, the Myconet has trouble telling Creepy and myself apart. And not just all-you-monkeys-look-the-same apart – she has trouble differentiating us as two separate beings. She routinely refers to us as being merged, in a vaguely unsettling way.
Look, I’m familiar with the concept of hero and sidekick forming a narrative binary, possibly even completing each other … it’s just that, well, I’m sure you understand that when one half of said binary is Creepy, it’s a bit … you know, wrong.
Anyway, I knew what she meant. “My sidekick has run off somewhere,” I said in irritation, “taking the damn cookhouse trumpet with him because it would have been way too convenient for him to have left it lying around at home so I could return it ‑ ”
“I am not entirely subject to the physical laws of your world,” the Myconet interrupted serenely, as if this was a suitable response to my query or my latest comment, on any level. “I know, on an intellectual level, that I have been present in this place since before its change, but I do not remember anything preceding. I was imprisoned just as surely as you, by circumstance. And while I know of my situation, I cannot see beyond it.”
This was fairly abstract but I’d had a while to get used to the way she talked about herself, and about me – or about me and Creepy, if you insist. “There’s not much I can do about the laws of physics,” I agreed, “or whatever scientific discipline is responsible for the release of corpse-laden septic ground water as a result of a cursed trumpet being removed from its resting place and sounded. I’m stuck in this series of events, and the only way I can get through it is in a straight line, hopefully terminating in a solution that leaves me alive and the city not collapsed into a giant smelly sink-hole, or ‘stink-hole’ as I have tentatively dubbed it.”
“Yes,” the Myconet said. “We are all very similar victims of this collapse, despite our differences.”
She lapsed back into silence, and I went back to watching the streets. There were no sign of bodies yet, but it wouldn’t be long. They’d been pretty close behind the bow-wave of sludge, when I’d fled the sewers earlier that day. The only thing that was holding them back, probably, was the relative sizes of the street access points – the manholes, the gratings, the stormwater drains.
“It seems like you’re talking about something bigger than this stink-hole problem,” I hazarded.
“Yes and no,” the Myconet replied. “I am not sure. I think perhaps there is nothing bigger than this situation. And yet, it is not in itself an all-encompassing problem – it is perhaps a microcosm.”
“I see,” I lied.
“I know that I was once more, but I no longer remember what that means,” she said. “I know that I have been with you for longer than either of us remember. With you and with the other part, due to the bond you share. But it is with you that I have come to rest.”
“You don’t talk to Creepy all that much, do you,” I noted, a little enviously.
“I only do so when the other part is with you in this place.”
“I hate to say it, but I sort of wish he was with me in this place, right now.”
“I know I have been with you since before, but I cannot say before what,” the Myconet didn’t seem to be listening to me, but at the same time I got the impression that my conversational input was important. “I think that I will never again be whole, but I know that when this situation passes, I may once again be more than I am now.”
“This situation? You mean with the cookhouse trumpet?”
“No. Yes. No. This is just a microcosm. A symptom. The rising of the old swamp, the rising tide of the dead, the slow crawl of the Wasteland. All symptoms. I do not know of what. I think I lack the context to know.”
The Myconet waved her slimy little tendrils. I’d come to understand this meant she was amused. “It is I who should be sorry. I feel I extruded into this place to be of assistance to you, and I am failing.”
“You’ve helped me plenty of times,” I said supportively. I’d heard her talk about the way she’d extruded into the universe before, and it only supported my theory that she was a spore or a pseudopod of some metaphysical fungal being beyond my comprehension. I usually stopped thinking about it as soon as I could.
“It has delayed the inevitable, not prevented it,” the Myconet said. “And I cannot even say what the inevitable might be.”
“I have a feeling it’s something to do with Creepy doing insane things that put the universe in peril,” I said, “over and over again, until I just can’t handle the irritation anymore and just let the whole thing slide.”
The Myconet didn’t respond to this, which gave me the very uncomfortable feeling that she was thinking about it far more seriously than I’d intended her to. I was spared the trouble of trying to lighten the mood by the door of Conference Room 4 bursting open and Creepy, accompanied by an evidently-anxious Trainee, striding in and looking around with grim purpose.
“Hatboy,” he said, “what have you done?”