Day 22: I really don’t like the smell of mint

They dropped into the sewer through the drain open­ing. The sun­light fil­ter­ing in from above cre­ated a small circle of vis­ib­il­ity around them.

What’s that smell?”

Shit. What did you think it would be?”

No, other than the shit,” he sniffed again, “it smells like… mint, I guess?”

Pep­per­mint or fresh mint?”

Pep­per­mint.”

Bol­locks. Right. Do exactly as I say.”

What’s going on?”

There are things down here that are worse than the rats. Creatures. Mon­sters that will tear you limb from limb in an instant,” Daryl had swung his satchel in front of him and was search­ing through it, “you’ll be walk­ing along, hear a rip­ping sound and won­der why you can see your own spin dangling below you. Then the pain hits, and the shock, and you die, either from trauma or blood loss. If one grabs you then a low pain threshold is an advantage.”

Why the hell did you lead us down here then?”

They’re easy enough to avoid if you’re ready for them. You’ve just got to know the tricks,” he pulled a broken twig from his bag, “and, luck­ily for you, I do.” He grinned at James.

If we escaped down here just to be torn up I’ll fuck­ing kill you.”

You wouldn’t have a chance. And we’re fine any­way. I can smell it too now, which means it’s get­ting closer.” He dragged the end of the twig quickly along the wall and a flame­less light flared out from it, light­ing the sew­ers up for eight or so feet in each direction.

They’re scared of light?”

No, but if it’s too bright they can’t see. They avoid light if pos­sible. If they’re really hungry they’ll run at it and try to grab some­thing edible, but that doesn’t hap­pen much, and we’ve got some pork to throw if it does.”

Why not use a nor­mal torch?”

Down here? Pock­ets of gas.”

Does that actu­ally happen?”

I don’t know. Want to find out?”

Let’s just use the twig.”

We should hurry before they real­ise what we’ve done. Which way is it?”

I don’t know. I can only get us there above ground.”

So where are he headed above ground?”

St Paul’s.”

Then we go this way,” said Daryl, point­ing up one of the sewer tun­nels. They began walking.

How many times have you been down here?”

No idea. How many times have you walked to work?”

I dunno. Thou­sands, I guess.”

You’ve lost count, or never even bothered count­ing because it’s a mundane, insig­ni­fic­ant detail, right? That’s what this is to me.”

A mundane and insig­ni­fic­ant stroll through the sew­ers with man-eating mon­sters in them whilst being pur­sued by murderers.”

The last bit’s new.”

Daryl led them around corners, past other open­ings, over small walk­ways which stretched from one side of the tun­nels to the other and on and on, through a net­work of tun­nels which may as well have been the most elab­or­ately con­struc­ted maze in exist­ence as far as James was con­cerned. “How much farther?” he asked.

I’m tak­ing us the long way around.”

Why?”

Because we have less chance of run­ning into somebody.”

Run­ning into some­body in the sewers?”

You’d be sur­prised. There’s a lot of demand for a safe, secret pas­sage under the city.”

A safe, secret pas­sage filled with man-eating monsters.”

You’re fix­at­ing on those. It’s not filled with them and most aren’t big enough to kill a per­son any­way. There are per­fectly easy ways of deal­ing with them. You’ve got more chance of being hit by a stage­coach up above than you do of get­ting torn apart down here.”

Get­ting hit by a stage­coach isn’t neces­sar­ily fatal.”

It prob­ably hurts con­sid­er­ably less too.”

Who would we be likely to run into?”

Nobody that would harm us, but if some­body recog­nised us or got asked about us, they’d be will­ing to let on what they knew for a little compensation.”

Think they’d fol­low us down here?”

Def­in­itely. They wouldn’t have much chance track­ing us if they didn’t have some­body who knew the routes though.”

They’ve got a magi­cian work­ing for them.”

A tracker?”

I don’t know. Maybe.”

Maybe?”

They’ve fol­lowed me before but I might have been care­less. Even if I was, they found me really quickly.”

Bet­ter hurry then.”

Still got their scent?”

Yeah. It’s fresh too. Can’t be more then fif­teen minutes ahead of us.”

Keep going then, don’t let them widen the gap.”

The sniff­ing man ran along the street, then crouched down by a drain cover. “Here,” he said.

You sure?”

Unless the bas­tard screwed the spell up and I’m fol­low­ing rats, yeah.”

Step aside. I’ll get it open.” He lif­ted up the drain cover and threw it into the street.

Reckon you’ll fit down there?” said the other.

I’ll be fine. You con­cen­trate on that smell. If you lose them then you’ll get what they’ve got coming.”

The pair clambered down into the sewer, framed in the circle of day­light spill­ing in from above them.

You got a torch?” asked the sniffer.

Yeah, but you can’t light them down here. There’s gas pock­ets everywhere.”

How do you know that?”

My brother-in-law used to do some run­ning down here. He said nobody uses fire in case they run into a gas pocket, then boom! Noth­ing left but blood and shit cov­er­ing the walls.”

What do we do then?”

Fol­low them. Keep your hand on the wall so you don’t fall in and keep chas­ing. He said if he was ever without a light that’s what he’d do until he came to a way out.” They set off into the dark­ness, sniffer lead­ing the way until, a few minutes later, he cried out in pain.

Christ!”

What?”

Fuck­ing hell!” The sniffer star­ted claw­ing at his nose, “It’s mak­ing my fuck­ing eyes burn! What is that?”

The big one sniffed. “Can’t smell any­thing but the shit,” he said.

Jesus! It’s get­ting stronger!”

Are you alright?”

No! I am not fuck­ing alright! Can’t you fuck­ing smell that?”

The big one sniffed again. “Yeah, actu­ally,” he sniffed once more, “smells like… peppermint?”

Then there was a scream.

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