||[Jan. 15th, 2006|11:46 am]
Right from the nexus, the hall ran twenty feet, and came to a threshold. We had to step down a few inches, and the concrete gave way to packed earth, although here and there, square blocks of cement protruding through the pathway indicated that we had by no means reached the bottom of the maze.|
The path ran at a ninety degree angle to the hallway, breaking off to the left. It was perhaps three feet wide, with a wall on one side, and a lake on the other.
The lake—or pond, or underground sea, it was impossible to tell—was shallow near the shore, edged with reeds and softened with fog. Instead of vanishing into shadow, as other such rooms had done, the fog concealed the far side, and muffled the echoes of the slapping water, so there was no real way to get a sense of scale. The water reflected the pale grey of the fog, and so, despite being underground, it seemed more like a marsh in the early morning than a room inside a labyrinth.
As we stood in the doorway, the path ran off to our left. The wall it shadowed was the same as any of the other walls in the maze. To the right, a small inlet of the lake was choked with reeds, and the walls curved away into the fog, like great rough-edged ribs, marked with jagged bits of rebar.
The reeds were peculiar. Near where we stood, there was a broad swath that were dark red and completely uniform. In fact, they were made of corroded metal, hundreds of narrow, rusted tubes, moving slightly with the ripples, so that the soft slap of water was accompanied by a faint tink of metal on metal.
I pulled one of the “reeds.” It came up with a slight resistance, revealing a silt-clotted root system that appeared to be made of twisted skeins of razor wire, the edges sharp enough to draw blood. I no longer had any idea if it was a made thing, or somehow organic, or a combination of the two.
Mixed through these “reeds” in places were perfectly normal plants—clumps of cattails and tall mucky sedge grasses, swaying with seedheads, and near the path, a small dark groundcover with narrow, pointed leaves. A bird called in the distance, a faint, sleepy twitter, and was answered by another, close at hand. We watched as a small wren, charcoal grey with faint black bars, hopped from the normal grasses, and perched briefly on a high stalk, then flew away.
The stalk it was on was red, but had a seedhead. I waded out into the muck, careful of the sharp wire roots, and looked more closely. The metal stalk fitted to the seedhead by means of a small metal nut, bolt, and washer, and the feathery stalks were braided wire of an impossibly fine gauge. The seeds themselves were small and heavy, teardrops of smooth, almost oily metal. I shook out a handful and stored them away.
It is beyond impossible that these could be an actual plant. Real plants do not have washers! But I am still tempted, if we ever get back to civilization, to plant some of these iron seeds and see what strange crop might, impossibly, arise.