Fortunately, they didn’t hit me.
Unfortunately, they were a pretty damn good shot if my meagre knowledge of old firearms and their lack of accuracy was anything to go by and the bullet – or slug, or pellet, or whatever it was that olden-days rifles fired – smacked into the sand in front of my face and sent a plume of it directly into my eyes.
 Told you it was meagre.
Fortunately, again, I had my face angled downwards and had just pulled my sunglasses back on, so most of the sand glanced off. Almost getting shot in the face and copping a gob-full of sand was still enough to make me recoil and almost lose my footing on the ladder-stairs thing, however, and it was enough to make me release my grip on my torch and the battered not-quite-aluminium case as I struggled not to drop the trapdoor back onto myself. Both objects clattered down into the darkness of the cellar.
“Shit,” I muttered, before realising that the guy who thought I was a tunneller – seriously, a what? – had probably started to reload his gun by ‑
The second shot hit the trapdoor next to my head, blasting splinters into the side of my face.
There were two ways to go, I realised with the clarity of the dazzlingly-close-to-death.
First, I could pop back down into the hole, close the trapdoor and scramble back down into the cellar, try to retrieve my dropped belongings and carry on trying to find my way to a likely time-door. If this was the choice I made, I would also have to hope that the armed guards – who had apparently mistaken me for a convict nonsensically attempting to tunnel his way out of a salt-lake prison camp, but one surreal mental image at a time was the way to go – didn’t follow me down here, and find their way into the cellar and begin stomping and tally-ho-ing and puffing their pipes all up and down the history of the already chronologically imperilled city.
Would time-traveller ignore-privilege protect me, and incidentally the very fabric of space and time itself? I wanted to say yes, but the way my luck was going it seemed unlikely.
My second option, tragically, was to attempt to preserve the questionable sanctity of the time-cellarverse by flinging the trapdoor open, throwing my hands in the air and yelling I’m not a convict, I’m a civilian, hold your fire , climbing out of the hole and closing the trapdoor and surrendering myself to the Barnsley Yard authorities and hoping for the best. This was tragic, because it was such a terrible alternative and it was the thing I was going to do.
And I was out of time to make up my mind anyway, because the guard was almost certain to have reloaded by now.
I pushed myself up another rung, shouldered the trapdoor open and raised my hands.
“Civilian!” I yelled. “Civilian, hold your fire!”