It was another dank and musty basement-cellar space-time junction, this one with a floor of what felt like uneven paving stones or wide chunks of cement, generously interspersed with damp gravel. The wall, when I groped my way to it, was formed of well-worn and slightly-clammy planks, like the one underneath the L&E tower lost and found.
I fumbled along the smooth, sweaty-feeling boards, not finding a door before I reached a corner – and there I stopped.
This corner wasn’t an inwards-turning corner, like you would expect to find in a nice manageable boxed-in room like the other cellars I’d climbed into – like, indeed, I’d come to expect from the previous time-travel rooms I’d walked through during the course of what I will whimsically call that day.
No. It turned outwards, as though opening into a larger chamber or turning away into a corridor, or … well, it could be doing pretty much anything, because I couldn’t see a damn thing.
I realised that at this point I really, really needed a light, so I fumbled my way back to the little square of illumination that was filtering through the edges of the trapdoor in the ceiling, climbed back up into the department store, and ascended to the floors where they were actually selling things.
I bought a big neon-tube flashlight, and a pile of batteries. I could have taken them downstairs and used them without actually passing a cash register, but I told myself that I couldn’t really justify that by saying I wasn’t going to be leaving the department store. I would in all likelihood be leaving, if not through space then at least through time. The ethics of theft become murky if you start time-travelling to periods before the theft took place – what I was technically doing in that case was duplicating the products – but when in doubt it was best to err on the side of morality. Usually.
It also paid to not really think about things like time-travel-related matter duplication, so doing what came easily and caused the least amount of self-reflection was basically a good idea, on a quantum-observation level. Indeed, in this specific case if the store had sold a swift kick in the pants for not taking care of this shit sooner, I would have bought one of those for myself as well.
Purcases in hand I went back downstairs to the Prism, knelt for a moment to set up the torch and make sure it worked, opened the trapdoor, went back down the ladder-stairs thing, and turned the torch on.
“Right,” I said, raising the torch and looking around the cellar in the harsh blue-white neon light. “This complicates things.”