Stuffetcetera The website of Jeremy Kearns-Watts.

7Feb/102

An Excuse, or Why My Short Story Is Not Here To Be Read By Philip Eckert (Very possibly a pseudonym)

First I feel that I must apologise, though it was through fate alone that my writing was taken away from me. Just yesterday I placed that last full stop and replaced the cap of my pen over the finished submission. Such was the intensity of my writing session that I can barely remember even the most bare details of the narrative. I think I recall something about a robot, or maybe it was a pirate, perhaps it was a pirate-robot. Whatever it was, I know that it was complete. The few pages left in the notebook were filled with that story, and all I had to do was type it and submit it to your noble organ.

But this was not to be! I hit the switch that would normally turn on my computer, but nothing happened. Flicking it a few more times proved useless, the screen remained undiluted obsidian. Upon inspection of its connection with the light socket I found the plug to be rather loose. As one would, I pushed it in securely, that very instant there was a spark and a most disagreeable sound. At first I could not fathom its origin, for I had never before heard anything quite like it, a sort of rapidly distorting click, with the sound becoming more strained with each iteration. I turned from the power plug to see the source of the sound and saw tall flames leaping from the case of my computer.

A few minutes later I was safely outside with the doused firebrand that had been my computer. Recovery was obviously completely impossible. But I spent no time mourning the loss as the deadline for submissions was fast approaching. I still had the longhand version and decided to go to SOAS and type it up on the computers there. Here my excuse may begin to push the boundaries of your belief but I ask you to believe it. I shall take every care from here on in to give you every detail of my experience to aid in the veracity of my explanation and so that you can have some idea of the horrors that took my short story away from me, and away from you.

I entered the underground at Finsbury Park Station meaning to go directly to Russell Square, but almost as soon as the train left the platform I noticed that something was wrong. The feeling was utterly peculiar as reason could see no problem with the environment yet from deep within I knew. My fears began to be confirmed when the train stopped at Gillespie Road and the doors failed to open without explanation. Subsequently both Holloway and Caledonian Road Stations passed without the train stopping at all. This was not the worst of it for the engine continued to accelerate, by the time it passed through King's Cross everything outside was a blur.

Throughout this I was alone in my experience. This is not because the train was empty but rather that when I tried to gain the attention of my fellow passengers I found them to be in a trance, far more removed and unsettling than the usual commuters’ particular brand of comatose. They were utterly unrousable. Thus I have no-body to verify what I was to bear witness to next.

I looked to the left, expecting to see the platform at Russell Square as we sped past, but in its place a most terrible of visions filled my eyes. Where Russell Square Underground Station had once been there was a gargantuan cavern with immense rock hewn walls. By the red flickering light cast from fires in pits far below me I was able to discern that the train was on a raised causeway that spiralled down into the abyss. Above me hanging from the ceiling were great monstrosities of construction that seemed to be cruel inverse parodies of mankind’s greatest buildings. Castles and towers were reversed with many reaching down past the level of the train from the ceiling a few hundred feet above.

Though I had seen the tracks arcing down to the left the train took a sudden lurch to the right, our descent ceased and our speed began finally to slow as we followed these unseen tracks directly to the bowels of the grandest of the hanging constructions. The carriage eventually stopped at a platform of mammoth proportions and all the doors opened at once.

Cautious and wary, I stepped out and looked around. The ground was level and its grey granite came close up to the side of the train. The walls were some fifty yards from the train and were a more earthy colour than the stone beneath my feet. Along most of these walls were great piles of coal reaching a good twenty feet tall, yet they reached barely a hundredth of the height of the walls themselves. There were two openings into the cavern, the hole to the outside through which the train had come and one immense arched doorway at its apex about thirty feet high. The whole place was lit by a vast candelabra that hung on chains that kept it just higher than the doorway.

I heard a noise from the passageway beyond, and fearing the intentions of any being that might exist in the bowels of the earth, I chose to err on the side of caution and hid myself in one of the coal piles before whatever it was could enter the room. Once I saw the first one I was thoroughly thankful for my precaution. The beast was hideous beyond human imagination. Distinctly porcine in features it moved on its hind legs raising it to a height of five and a half feet, its upright appearance was distorted and unnatural. The whole of it was brutish and muscular. It was covered in a thick matted fur; apart from its head which unlike the pig-like aspect of the body was more ursine, but with spiralled horns like those of a ram. Its tusks were sharp and cruel, and viscous gore dripped from its maw.

Six of the creatures entered the hall and each took a person from the train. They took these people over their shoulders and went back to the passageway. I followed, staying in the shadows. We passed another group of the creatures going back to the train, I remained unnoticed and kept behind the first group. I became aware that the hallway was sloping upwards, and I became hopeful of soon finding a way to the surface. The creatures seem to have had little powers by way of their sensory organs as they did not once notice me, though I had to stay dangerously close to keep up.

We continued in this way, with me following the pig-men higher and higher inside their subterranean castle, passing various passageways to our left and right, for what seemed like an eternity, until at last we came to a plateau. The floor of this mesa was less than fifty feet from the roof of the whole cavern, a distance that seemed so close, in comparison to the vast heights of the station behind me, that I felt I could almost touch the ceiling. The creatures continued across it entering another hall on the other side, from which terrible sounds emanated. At the door they received directions from a man. Another human in this place further encouraged my hopes of escape as I could not imagine any man living in this hell. Fearing the loss of shadows that clothed me in the corridors I stayed at the wall and crept around the edges of this platform.

At the sides I peered over for an instant, but could not bear to keep my gaze into the fiery maelstrom below, it bore on, seemingly to eternity, until gases veiled what lay beyond. I stayed underneath the crenellations that encircled the plateau, keeping hidden as I moved around closer to the man. Subsequent groups of pig-men came, taking passengers into this other hall until it seemed the train had been emptied and no more came. At this the man walked around to the rear of the hall, still atop the plateau, moving out of my vision. I waited for a time, and then hoping the way was safe, followed round.

I found a cast iron ladder that went up to the roof and a circular hole, through which beautiful sunlight fell. I began to climb as quickly as possible, causing the bars of the ladder to sound out, and this resonated through the air, returning tenfold as echoes. It was this that nearly caused my doom, and led directly to the loss of the notebook in which my short story was written.

The notebook was in a satchel, slung about my shoulder quite loosely, and was safe enough throughout my terrible adventure underground. But at the reverberating sounds the creatures came in their hundreds from the hall and looked up at me as I climbed. They began to throw missiles at me, rocks and stones, that for the most part missed and fell back on themselves, but some hit my back causing terrible pain. I was almost at the top when they made a last effort to end me.

Less than a foot from my escape I was struck most viciously by a spear. It could have been far more damaging, but it cut through my clothes and gashed my side, and most horrendously, cut through the straps of my satchel, sending it tumbling down to those horrible depths. In a most improbable manner, and some might say in somewhat of a deus-ex-machina. But this is what happened.

The next moment I had escaped, and found myself in Green Park. I ventured home forlornly, using the buses, and penned this my excuse. I hope you take it well, and understand that you are welcome to my short story should you ever find it, but know that I shall not follow you into those pits underneath London, not for all the world.

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