The building I stepped through into – building, or cave, or something – was dark and dank and reeked of corpse-bog. The floor was sludgy underfoot, but not actual swamp. I slipped and slid through it, holding up the torch but not seeing much worth illuminating. The ceiling was high but visible, if only as a slick series of reflections of the fluorescent tube. I crossed the floor until a wall swam out of the murk, and from there a couple of tunnel-like openings.
The muck was slightly deeper here, and very slowly moving as though it was pouring into the room from the tunnels. I grimaced, slugged into one of them and followed it through a gentle upwards incline and unpleasantly intestinal left-curve. It opened into another room, almost clear of sludge, and sufficiently illuminated to allow me to turn off the torch. A pair of brown-streaked windows slanted in the wall, revealing a drab grey sky. The filth was too heavily encrusted for me to see the landscape below, but that was just fine with me.
I went back down the passage to the main room, checked the other tunnel but gave up when I saw it led downwards and the mud deepened. I resumed my circumnavigation of the original chamber I’d arrived into, finally finding a new tunnel that twisted and turned but remained more or less level. Then there were some stairs leading up to a relatively dry landing, then another couple of passages that were gritty but not actively submerged. One passage delved back down and I took this one, on the assumption that if there was going to be a trapdoor, it would be somewhere down near ground level.
I was aware that this was an absolutely nonsensical assumption, just as I was aware that there were suddenly time-cellars and magic cupboards everywhere and it was highly unlikely I wouldn’t have wandered into one before now, but it didn’t seem particularly important in the wider scheme of things. The wider scheme, if the Myconet was right, was in the process of falling apart entirely. Holes would seem to be inevitable, and who was I to say that this wasn’t the form such holes would take when expressed into my plane of reality?
The structure I was exploring seemed to change from natural formation to derelict office building to ancient fortress to some indefinable labyrinth from one area to the next, but eventually I did find a trapdoor. I pulled it open. There was nothing but a thick, welling surface of mud inside, filled with the flaky grey-blue remains of body parts, so I let it splat closed and continued my wandering. The next trapdoor I found was locked, and the one after that was a slow-leaking fountain of sludge like the first.
Just as I was beginning to wonder if I’d wound up in some indeterminate future point where the whole world was turning into Lake Philip, on its way to drying out and becoming the Wasteland, on its way to bleaching itself into the enervated mists of slo-time, I found a trapdoor that opened onto an empty space and a set of steep ladder-stair things. I clambered in, and was just closing the door above me when I felt and heard some distant part of the building or a neighbouring structure collapsing with a rumbling roar that shook the staircase under my feet. There was something about the sound that – again, as nonsensical and unscientific as it seemed – suggested it was a regular occurrence in this time and place.
I descended, leaving the slowly-breaking world behind, and raised the torch. This cellar was bigger than the usual square ones, but not as huge as the car park hall model I’d been in under the Prism. It would have been rectangular, except one of its long walls was actually a sloped mass of slumping gravel and chunks of concrete, with a slow trickle of scummy water filling a triangular puddle at the slightly-depressed far end. I couldn’t tell anymore whether the water was stinky deathsludge, because my nose had packed up, left a sign on the desk (Popped out for a “mo’” / Back in a “jiffy”!) and taken the rest of the day off in protest. But it seemed like a fair guess.
There was a door set in each of the cellar’s short walls. The one at the end where the collapsed wall and slow leak had created the puddle had clearly already been damaged by the liquid, its lower half blackened and its upper half covered in nasty fingers of grey mould. Shrugging to myself I crossed to the other end of the space, opened the second door, and stepped through.
A wall of heat and light hit me and I realised I was back in the Barnsley Yard administration office.