You were always against moving away from your family and friends. You didn’t want to leave the city, the coast never appealed to you anyway. You didn’t want to move from a place with a population of one hundred thousand to one with a population of five. It didn’t matter, as long as she was happy, then you were too, but why on earth did she think that a recently refurbished lighthouse on the other side of the goddamn country was a good idea.
It took five hours to drive there, five hours to drive back, with not a single rest stop along the way. Why on earth was there a town here? There was no economy here, the nearest store was a ten-mile drive, the nearest hospital was even further. It really seemed like you would be stuck here for the foreseeable future, stuck with the dreary weather, stuck with the biting cold, but stuck with her at least.
The days dribbled by, the nights were cold, the mornings were crisp, the nights slipped away beneath the tide, however despite your complaining she seemed happy. How? You could never figure out why. Boredom eventually won though, you began exploring the town, anything to break away from your job of staring at that grey laptop all day. A bakery, a homemade antique store, a bar which also doubled up as a barbers and an abandoned farm on the outskirts of town, all that was left of it was a burned down barn with a stone well. When you passed through the farm on that misty afternoon you peered into the well, you question why you did that, whether it was curiosity or that adventurous spirit you once had, you just couldn’t tell. A broken ladder lead into the dry depths, a torn rope dangled pathetically, tied to the top rung.
When boredom won and its victory was but a smouldering ember, insanity drew ever closer. You decided to search the confines of your new house, searching every floor, even pondering if you could get the old beacon atop the tower working. This is when you found the trapdoor under the worn black and red diamond rug, it was purely by accident. You showed her, asking her where she thought it lead, but she didn’t care, she told you to shut it and put the rug back. You listened to her of course, why wouldn’t you, there was probably nothing in that cellar except the rats.
Rats, that’s what were crawling in and out of your mind, the thoughts, the questions, the urge, the drive, the curiosity, what was hiding down there? It took an incredible hurtful argument on a cold night for you to explore what lurked beneath the lighthouses’ foundations. After she had gone to bed, you crept downstairs with a handheld candle. Removing the rug, you open the trapdoor with a terribly long groaning coming from the hinges, but you didn’t care. Slowly, you descended into the abyss, the dim fire in your hand was barely enough.
It wasn’t a cellar, this was an entrance, an entrance to a small network, a network of a sewer system. So that was what the smell was, it seemed your lighthouse was connected to the rest of the town through their toilets and sinks. Why on earth was there a sewer under this lighthouse? Despite the foul vapours, you proceeded along the dark corridor, careful to avoid the raw viscous sewage flowing through the centre. From this main corridor, several other branching corridors connected to it, all leading to the different houses that were within walking distance from the lighthouse. You didn’t feel like becoming a peeping tom, so you ignored the other corridors that lead to the villager’s bathrooms, you wanted to see where this ended, surely it led to the coast.
After what felt like ages, you finally reach the base of the farm’s well, it seemed that this was where your lighthouses’ basement led to. It had been bone dry for centuries, skeletons of small animals were scattered around the entire circumference of the well. Holding the candle forward you noticed that in the opposite corner, the other half of the rope was lying in a curled position, half eaten. Poor creatures. Well, at least your curiosity was satisfied, how long had you been walking to get here anyway? An hour at most, the corridor surely didn’t extend more than fifty metres in any one direction. Strange, you thought to yourself, holding the candle outwards to get one last look at the bottom of the well, you hadn’t gotten used to the sickly-sweet smell yet and felt quite ill. It was most likely time to turn back, she was already angry at you and now she would be damn right wrathful.
You turned around, but just as you did so, the candlelight was extinguished. Damn, you really didn’t want to fumble back home through a sewer in the pitch-black darkness, but thankfully your smartphone never left your trousers right hand pocket. The torch’s white light fully illuminated the journey, you began trudging back, carefully avoiding the sludge you weren’t able to see last time. Why on earth did a small town such as this with less than five buildings have such an impressive sewage system, you had imagined before coming here that you’d all have to shit in a latrine, letting the sea do the work for you.
The smartphone’s powerful torch illuminated all parts of the main corridor, the shadows dancing at the entrances of the other corridors that lead to the villager’s homes. You wonder if even the villagers knew this subterranean network existed. A large but relatively skinny rat appeared from a hole in the wall, splashing through the sewage while attempting to evade the light, it eventually disappeared into the darkness. You must be nearing the trapdoor now, the walk felt longer this time, but you didn’t worry, soon you’d see the faint orange light shining from the lighthouse above.
Another few minutes of walking crept by, then ten minutes, then thirty, then an hour, it wasn’t till the low battery message on your phone displayed until you began to panic. You were certain that you hadn’t deviated from the straight path that had led you to the well, you hadn’t dared turn a corner or explore any of the paths. May as well call her, you had been too much of a coward to do so initially, but now you didn’t care.
You hit dial just as your screen fades to black, your phone’s battery splutters and dies. True panic sunk its’ teeth into you, your mobile phone was your lifeline, it wasn’t just that, it was your only way of seeing anything in this maze. So, as you calmed yourself, your eyes were forced to adapt, granting you just enough vision to see what was in front of you.
There was no point continuing forward, it was best to turn back and find another way out. You fumble backwards, using your hand as an indicator of how far away the wall was to your left, a sticky substance occasionally made contact with your fingertips. You shudder, knowing you’ll need a hot bath after this. After a few minutes of careful navigation, you reach the series of junctions once more, the several paths leading to the villager’s toilets. You’d just have to face the embarrassment and call for help that way, there was no other solution in your head at this point. As you turn the corner and proceed down the new passageway, you realise what must have happened. She must have shut the trapdoor, moved the rug over it and blown the light of the candle out, that’s why you couldn’t see your exit, it was just as dark as every other surface. Or she had ventured in to find you? Highly unlikely.
You would never hear the end of this, despite it being her fault that they argued, her fault that they were in this lonely village, her fault you were bored out of your mind, her fault you were down here. Now now, that’s not fair, just stay calm and we’ll be out of this cold sewer soon you tell yourself. The walk began to lengthen and you felt like you were not approaching anybody’s home anytime soon. Fine, you decided to backtrack again, maybe this corridor led to out of town, better not stray too far from the centre, stick to the junction, at least that was familiar.
Again, you reach the junction, this time tactically deciding which path to go down, gazing long and hard into each one, but all were black hollows of nothingness, none seemed the better choice. You stopped thinking for a moment and look down at your feet, you didn’t even realise you had stepped into the filthy liquid flowing through this accursed place. You could now actively feel the raw sewage mixture seeping through your boots, passing through your socks and soaking into your skin. Forget the hot bath, you needed an entire decontamination team to clean this muck off. It was bound to happen at somepoint, so while silently cursing you set off down a different branching hallway, determined to find a swift exit.
Nothing, again nothing, you had been walking for an hour in this direction, desperate to find anything, wincing into the darkness to notice any distinguishable feature other than these flat curved walls. You didn’t even need to use your hands to guide you now, you were storming ahead through the sewage and litter, after what felt like another hour your pace quickened to a medium jog. Your pulse is increasing. You feel like if you travel faster, you’ll find an exit faster. The brain begins to turn on itself.
You jog for ten minutes, eventually sprinting down the corridor, sewage splashing everywhere as you run. You are now used to the smell; it is making you gag as you desperately want your oxygen replenished. Just as you thought you may have found something different; the floor gives way; you plunge into a ten-foot-deep pool of raw sewage and waste water. Your body doesn’t know whether to take in a breath first or vomit up the vile liquid that entered your mouth and nose as you fell.
You were already exhausted from running, but adrenaline gives you that desperate push you needed, you fight to surface, your clothes now heavy in this pool of excrement and other bodily fluids. You fight to move to the side of this cistern, grabbing the slippery edge and failing to escape. Every attempt you make only submerges you once more, you vomit profusely as your body demands more oxygen, it is met with none, instead foul vapours worthy of Hell’s worst punishments are brought into your lungs. In one last desperate plea before you begin to drown, you propel yourself with all your might upwards and onto the edge of the cistern.
You curl in on yourself and wretch until your stomach screams, vomiting continuously onto your side, the pool of various liquids forming by your head does not phase you, just as long as it was not inside your body anymore. Even after what felt like hours of aggressive spasms from your insides, you do not stand. You wait, you wait until the room stopped spinning, you wait until the pain of breathing disappeared. Mercilessly, this nightmare would not allow you an escape that easily.
Finally, you wake, the horror beginning a new once more, but only desperation fills your stomach now. It took what felt like another hour, but you were on your feet, staggering in the first direction you saw in front of you. You didn’t recognise any of the features of this labyrinth now; you knew there had to be a way out. You drag your soaked shoes across the filthy stone floor, you didn’t get ten feet before you had to wretch again, but nothing came out. A high-pitched ringing would not leave your ears alone. You soldier forward. You turn a corner. You walk in a straight line. You turn another corner. A rat runs over your shoes. You turn another corner. You walk in a straight line for eternity. Somehow you find some stairs, you decided to take a break on them for moment. You search for your phone. It was gone from your pocket.
Taking a big intake of air, you realised that you had become so used to the ghastly vapours of the sewer, that it was making you salivate. Down the stairs you went, determined to reach the surface. Whether it was fatigue or the slippery disgusting steps, you slipped and fell forward, landing on your knees, the skin was torn and now raw, soaked with a thick brown liquid contained in the puddles on the floor. Determination lifted you from your praying, there was no salvation here. You continued down the stairs, you continued walking until the feeling in your wet legs was lost. The way out must be deeper, you had never seen those stairs before, it was new!
Corridor after corridor, corner after corner, the long night strings you along until you begin to slip away. You seek an escape after-all, by any means necessary, so you fight to be freed. You began by clawing at sewer grates, up to your waist in raw sewage. You tear at the pipes along a wall, the metal refusing to budge. You dislodged the black gooey bricks from the sewer walls. Wait, since when had the walls been melting, there were pulsating veins running from the floor to the ceiling. You tore at them in frustration, you want to kill the beast, maybe then your torment would end.
You don’t remember much else after that, wandering until the end of time would do that to someone. Now, within this incredibly tight metal coffin that once discharged human waste, you find yourself curled up. You feel warm, you feel free. You don’t remember when you had eaten your own clothes, you couldn’t remember what had tried to take large bites out of your arms, chest and legs. You don’t remember why there was strong fibres stuck between your teeth, I mean, you couldn’t even hang yourself on them or the rope. You had forgotten about the rats gnawing at your feet, the only part of you exposed from the pipe, some rats were even curled up next to you. They were warm too, or trying to be. You try to imagine where your glasses had gone, oh don’t fool yourself, you lost your imagination and everything else up there a long time ago. So, this was it, you thought your exit was hidden in this tiny black pipe barely big enough for an adult human to fit into, well, you were technically right. You die here, feral, hungry, cannibalised, diseased beyond belief, the last thought that floats around in the void that was once your mind was this: where was she?
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