Day 85. 315 pages, 101,664 words.
Yeah, this “short story” just refused to let go of me. I’m going to stop the count at this point, since I don’t think this “count by the story” system is working out anyway. It might have worked if I’d done one 5,000-word story every week or two, but these are obviously not manageable. For now, let’s focus on the release of Human, then see where the anthology is at.
The cool, dark, slightly manky basement was, I had to acknowledge, a slightly more appropriate setting to find a mushroom.
“Hatboy,” the Myconet said, serene as ever. She was scarcely visible in the darkness, illuminated with a sort of pallid glow that might have been a result of my straining eyes trying to pick out the shape of her, or might have been her own mild phosphorescence.
“Don’t take this the wrong way,” I said, “but are you following me?”
“That is a more confusing question than I think you know.”
I shook my head. “Never mind,” I said. “It’s just unusual to see you twice in one day. What brings you down here?”
She didn’t answer immediately. “It seemed the most logical course,” she finally said, “considering that you would be unable to traverse the city using the surface streets, and that you would be searching for a way to get underground. Perhaps I saw it in your future, and wished to take the opportunity to demonstrate my powers – just in case you had begun to doubt them.”
“Never,” I said loyally, and grinned in the dark. “So you did turn up here just to see me? It must have been something important.”
“Perhaps I was here to talk to Rose.”
“Right, like you had a meeting with Mister Hammersmith upstairs?” I rolled my eyes, then realised what she’d said. “Aha – Rose was here, then?”
“You know she was.”
“Fine,” I said. “Did you happen to see which way she went?” There was a long silence. “If you’re pointing one of your tentacle things,” I said, “you know I can’t actually see it in the dark, right?”
“I was pointing one of my tentacle things.”
I tsked. “Okay,” I said, “well unless you have anything of driving importance to tell me, I’m afraid I’ll have to wish you a good day and do my best to find my way back to the surface, preferably in some part of the city that isn’t flooded with carcass-slime.”
“The longer you wait, the more difficult it will be for you to escape,” the Myconet warned. “And the more people will suffer as a result.”
“No pressure, then.”
“I will do what I can to guide you.”
“What, like that pointing you were just doing?” I tried to moderate the sarcasm in my tone. “Sorry, but maybe a more direct verbal set of instructions ‑ ”
“You do not need my assistance in finding your way to Collins square,” the Myconet said. “Your disagreement with Rose, the mystery of the Prism, even your inadvertent awakening of the Barnsley Yard Cookhouse Trumpet’s curse ‑ ”
“My inadvertent awakening ‑ !”
“These are not important. These are small rooms, the details of which are unimportant and therefore invisible to me. I have faith that you will find your way through them.”
“So the guiding you were planning on doing,” I frowned, “something more important, then? A bigger metaphorical room, perhaps a metaphorical house?”
“You are distracted,” the Myconet said. “I will come to you when you are ready.”
That was the Myconet for you. “Um, well, okay,” I said, and shuffled across the black, mouldy-smelling basement in the hopes of finding a wall. Too late, I realised I should probably have taken better care to ensure I could find the ladder-stairs thing again … but when I looked up, I could make out a faint, fine square of light outlining the trapdoor. That, at least, should help me get my bearings. “Thanks for the tip about Rose, and I guess I’ll talk to you later.”
“I hope it will not be too late.”
I turned back in puzzlement to where the Myconet had been sitting, but of course she was gone.