Friday 20th November
Eventually I came to a large junction with several tunnels leading off in a star formation and tracing the wall round I found the edge of another ladder. I had no choice, my feet were almost numb with the cold. I had to get out of the water soon or I would pass out. I gathered my strength and started to climb, to haul myself up the ladder. I had forgotten how deep I must have been, and I was clinging onto the rungs with ice-cold fingers just willing the ascent to end when my head suddenly struck metal. This time thank goodness it was a lighter drain cover, and I could manage to lift it by hunching my still sore shoulders to take the weight.
I had no idea what I would find, how far I had travelled, or indeed if it were still night, or where I might be. It could be right in front of the Polis for all I knew. But I was craving daylight, anything but this overarching and oppressive darkness. I pushed up with my tired and wet legs using the rungs as an anchor and raised the lid an inch or two. Still darkness. All I could see was darkness; at least no strong blue streetlights bearing down on me. I hauled myself up and rolled out of the drain, and sprawling on the cold street I tried to regain my strength. The street was narrow, dark and unlit, a quiet back-alley almost. A whisper of light was coming from the road at the end of this alleyway. I staggered to my feet and wondered what on earth to do next. I had to get somewhere warm and safe, I knew that. It was bitterly cold and I had lost my tattered shoes in the water, my trousers were soaking and in rags. They flapped against my tired legs in the breeze.
Houses, there were large detached houses in the main street. Only a few old orange lights lit the road, (I thought they’d got rid of those decades ago) and there was no traffic at all. The houses were all dark, except for an occasional porch-light. I hadn’t seen a street like this in years. It was like something out of the twenty-twenties or even earlier; we lived in a flat in a complex, you had to hold your phone up to the camera to be let in. And the streets around were all full of identical flats or container homes. But these large old houses had been mostly knocked down years ago, space was at a premium, the population was vast and nobody lived in big houses anymore. Or nobody I knew, and outside our strata-level we hardly knew anyone. It just wouldn’t have been appropriate, for them or us; you kept yourself to your own level.
But the rich people must still live in mansions. There were some drama-shows on screen that showed the mansions of the super-rich – all flowing drapes and antique furniture, but no-one really knew for sure how or where the rich might live. So, who lived here I wondered, what sort of people inhabited these large old houses. I decided to find out; I had no choice really – it was back into the dark drain again or take my chances.”