I pushed myself to my feet and dusted my pants off. It was hot, and dry, and bright light shone in through the windows and through the slats in the door and a couple of other gaps – this was basically how I knew something funky had happened and I’d wound up back in time.
Okay, so that was something of an assumption on my part. It was just possible that I’d stepped into the full and active replica of the olden-days town, complete with artificial light and heat sources – yes, and smell – and I was in fact still underneath the L&E tower. It was possible. It was also possible that I’d simply stepped through a gateway of some kind and wound up in another point in space, somewhere outside the city where it was summer and not overcast and not slimy. It was possible that I’d stepped through a door, and either been knocked out or slipped some kind of powerful hallucinogen or hypnotic suggestion, and this wasn’t really happening at all.
Oh yes, there were plenty of explanations. They just weren’t all that likely.
The thing you have to remember is, whatever had happened to set off the curse of the Barnsley Yard Cookhouse Trumpet, it had echoed up and down time between the point at which Creepy had tooted on the darn horn, and the point at which the Barnsley Yard Cookhouse was actually a real building in the middle of a prison complex filled with doomed convict salt miners. Something had sent the lake rising, something had sent the bodies to the surface, something had awakened the restless spirit of the old prison camp. It just made sense that, close to the epicentre of a multidimensional event like this, there be a certain amount of interchange, folding, and overlap of chronological profiles.
For Creepy and me, Occam’s razor was a murder weapon.
I was in a plank-floored, log-walled, shingle-roofed house that looked like some sort of administration building from back in the day when “administration” meant “a big crate of papers and a table for a literate person to sit at.” There was nobody around, the table was empty apart from an inkwell, and I could hear pink-and-grey galahs and the sound of men shouting and digging or something in the distance. The heat, baking in from the walls and down from the ceiling, was like an oven.
I looked behind me, and was only slightly surprised to find that I’d stepped out of an equipment cupboard that now contained a broom, a rifle, a couple of hammers and someone’s heavy navy-blue felt coat with polished brass buttons, an item of clothing which made me almost pass out from heatstroke just looking at it. There was no sign of the cool, clammy darkness of the basement I’d left behind. Shrugging to myself, I turned back and surveyed the room – arguably the first office ever to occupy the approximate site of the L&E tower – again.
Aside from the table and the cupboard and a couple of crates, there were no furnishings. Not even a chair, a fact which I found momentarily arresting. There was a pair of windows with glass too impure to see out of – and the light was too blazing-bright anyway – and a single poorly-fitted door.
I strode forward, opened it, and stepped outside.