The pickaxe hit the wall of earth and, sparking on an
unseen shard of flint, sank deep into the clay, coming
to a sudden halt with a dull thud.
This could be it, Will!
Dr Burrows crawled forwards in the cramped tunnel. Sweating
and breathing heavily in the confined space, he began
feverishly clawing at the dirt, his breath clouding in
the damp air. Each greedy handful revealed more of the
old wooden planking beneath, exposing its tar-coated grain
and splintery surface, which was thrown into stark relief
by the combined glare of their helmet lamps.
Pass me the crowbar.
Will rummaged in a satchel, found the stubby blue crowbar
and handed it to his father, whose gaze was fixed on the
wall of wood before him. Forcing the flat edge of the
tool into a tiny gap between two of the planks, Dr Burrows
grunted as he put all his weight behind it to gain some
purchase. He then began levering from side to side. The
planks creaked and moaned against their rusted fixings
until, finally, they bellied out, breaking free with a
resounding crack. Will recoiled slightly as a clammy breeze
bled from the ominous gap Dr Burrows had created.
Urgently, they pulled two more of the planks out of place,
leaving a shoulder-width hole, and paused for a moment
in silence. Father and son turned and looked at each other,
sharing a brief conspiratorial smile. Their faces, illuminated
in each others light beams, were smeared with a
war paint of dirt. They turned back to the hole and stared
in wonder at the dust motes floating like tiny diamonds,
forming and reforming unknown constellations against the
Dr Burrows warily leant into the hole, Will squeezing
in beside him to look over his shoulder. Their helmet
lamps cut into the abyss and, to their left, they illuminated
a curved, tiled wall. Their beams, sinking deeper, swept
over old posters whose edges were peeling away from the
wall and waving slowly, like tendrils of seaweed caught
in the drift of powerful currents at the bottom of the
ocean. Will raised his head a degree, scanning even further
along until he caught the edge of an enamelled sign. Dr
Burrows followed his sons gaze until both of their
helmet lights fixed on the name ...