I saw a string of light and then the ground shook beneath me. Chunks of earth dropped down from the burrow walls. There was earth in my hair, in my pockets, in my teeth. I felt lucky for a moment with my mouthwash and toothpicks, but when I was gurgling and spitting and cleaning out my gums, suddenly I felt something near, not a hare with yellow eyes, not another creature-subterranean… something else. It was like a tap on the shoulder at first, but quickly it became all encompassing, like a pulse from a groundswell deep inside these burrows. The toothpick dropped out of my mouth; the mouthwash out of my hands.
It was a dark pulse – dark not in color but in substance. It made my whole body shudder and my mouth run with saliva. My immediate reaction was to wish for JK and his contraptions to flash a gigawatt of charge at this mutherfucker – woooooooaaaaaaarghhh – but instead, uncontrollably, I went towards it, down.
I could not see my own hands, I could hear nothing of this soundless pulse, and my only active sense was the taste of earth between teeth. But so I went, down into the ground; here and there a set of yellow eyes stared out at me. In flashes I remembered who I was, and once the thought of Mica Spirelli fizzled through, and I murmured her name in full as I carried on… mica spirelli , au pair extraordinaire, bird-of-flight and princess of Ljubljana…
I would have gone much further towards the heart of this thing had a hand not appeared out of nowhere and pulled at me with a force that was not quite human. My arm was nearly wrenched out of its socket, and I was dragged up, down, round, over roots and rubble, down dirt chutes and funnels. I lost a shoe and everything else that was loose on my body. Dragged, pulled, thrust, pushed, until suddenly cold air washed over me and I emerged out of a spray of sand and brickwork… on my corner. My corner.
Against the back wall of the grillroom was a Turk drinking coffee. He did not seem surprised at the ruckus, or the pile of brick, or the man standing beside me, a man twice my size holding me by the arm. Yes, bigman.
We sat on the curb for about thirty minutes, and I wondered then whether Clay Dove and his men were after this; not a cache of gold bullion nestled somewhere in this maze, but this. This thing down there. Maybe this was it, this dark pulse that practically lifted me off my feet, cleared my brain and ran me like a puppet.
The pulse lingered like a strange atmospheric pressure. It took me two days to get a train of thought going again. Two days for a spark to come at the thought of Mica Spirelli. Two days to find my way. And two days more to decide what to do next.
Bigman didn’t say anything that night, but his hand on my shoulder spoke volumes: stay above ground my friend, and deal with what you know. I’m sure it was kindly meant but something inside me yearned to go back and get to the heart of this thing – this dark pulse – to get at it, to conquer it!