Under the Alkaline Sea, date unknown
We barred the door behind us. The tunnel ahead of us was murky and shored up by wooden planks. There were still wisps of the red fog-light of hell but i could tell from the close air and the pressure in the rock around us that this was one of those thin spaces in the rock between the two halves of Hades. How the demon that had called itself Ferguson had found this route through I don’t know but he had found it and contrived a way to connect it all the way to the highest tier. In doing so he had created a path that anybody could follow, the soul-twisting spaces between tiers mollified by the geometric flow between two habitable zones.
I checked the iPhone for the maps of the mine workings. A little red picture was accompanied by a written warning that the battery would soon expire. I explained to Sir Pangolin that I could no longer rely on the maps but he shook his head. “I can find my way from here. I can smell the fresh air somewhere above us.”
We rested before departing. I wrote while I could and when Sir Pangolin decided we were ready we set off. The darkness was soon complete and I had to crouch low and let Sir Pangolin lead.
We reached a shaft with metal handholds bolted into the wall. I had to find each one by touch and I climbed slowly up for what seemed like an age.
Beyond the shaft the world around us changed. Touching the walls revealed the unique slippery texture of Alkaline sea. We were within the sea itself. In the tunnels were Ferguson’s workers had cut out chunks of the material to cart across the inner cosmos to be turned into cosmetics for Edwardians.
“How are these tunnels still here?” I asked of the darkness.
Sir Pangolin answered, “braced with iron bars and corrugated sheets.”
“You can smell that?” I asked sceptically.
“You can feel it on the walls if you are careful,” he answered, “it’s rusting away slowly though, so be careful.”
So on we went. Walking. Climbing. Walking. Climbing. Until we reached a dead end. A stretch of tunnel had finally succumbed to the pressure of the sea or we had taken a wrong turn
“How far up?” I asked trying to keep the panic from my voice. I had no desire to be entombed here.
Sir Pangolin sniffed the stale air around us. “Three hundred feet or there about. Not much more than that. Maybe less.”
We would dig ourselves home.