Mama Guts never had much to say in the way of words of guidance. Just a low rumble, rumble, rumble that to me is the sound of comfort. The sound of home, before I was pushed sharply out from warm confinement, through stinging air and into the cold water with a plop.
Wissssh says the water, as it swirls round the bowl and carries me down into the sewers. Wissssh, wissssh.
How did I come to be here, aware of the water around me, sensitive to the difference between the warm red dark of Mama Guts and the dim green dark of the sewers? Well, this is Bear Creek. They eat all manner of oddities here, and the residue of some very strange things indeed clings to Mama Guts. Perhaps I can thank the Special Sprinkles from the Bear Creek Ice Cream Parlour and Psychoactive Research Facility for my awakening, or one of John Gunn’s Famous Radioactive Crabs.
In Mama Guts I was always moving, slowly formed and compacted and pushed towards the moment I would leave her. Here I am in motion too. The current pulls me forwards. Where it leads I don’t know, but there is no turning back.
I feel dizzy as I turn slowly in the water. I miss the warm squeeze of Mama Guts, and her familiar earthy odour. I am floating through a tunnel. Only my bottom half is submerged in the water. The dry air feels strange on my back.
The round walls of the tunnel glisten. They move gently in and out, as if they were breathing. Occasionally I pass a metal grille, or a pipe nosing through an opening in the sides of the tunnel. Below me, shadows make strange shapes. Is it a trick of the light or something moving down there? The surface ripples as I shudder.
As I get accustomed to the cold, and to the new motion of the water, I realise I am not alone. Others like me are bobbing alongside, carried along on the same current to whatever destination ultimately waits for us. I befriend several. We reminisce about the warmth of home, and together come to terms with our new surroundings.
One, a fine pointed soul studded with undigested blueberries, tells me tales of the comrades who had not made it this far. Some were fat and hard, and struggled to keep afloat. Some were too loosely bound to hold their shape, and fell apart with a faint cry as they became one with the water. Some had fallen prey to the shadowy shapes, which from time to time dart from the water with a snap, and swallow us whole.
I find these tales sobering, and for a while I worry about my own composition. Am I too sinking too far beneath the surface? Am I starting to fall apart? Blueberries is swift to reassure me: I am holding my place in the water. My texture is good and firm and supple, and I am in with as much of a chance as any of my companions of making it through the tunnel in one piece.
We speculate about what waits for us at the other end. Blueberries speaks longingly of a warm, ripe pool. We will have weathered this trial in the cold and finally found a resting place that will remind us of home. I dream of something quite different. I remember the wisssh, wissssh wissssh of the water in the bowl, and a thrill runs through me from end to end. I want to hear that sound again. I can’t help but hope that maybe the freedom that sound seems to promise is what is waiting for us.
As we drift along in this manner, I feel quite content. We are lost in each others’ conversation, and our own daydreams. The momentum of the current is gentle, but it is enough.
I am finally, I realise, making peace with my new situation. Mama Guts may be gone, but ahead there is something better.
Nothing good in this world lasts, however. Movement is eternal. No sooner do we allow ourselves to rest at ease, than we hear a rumble. Not the steadily reassuring rumble of home. A rumble that rolls louder and louder towards us, that grows around and below and above us until we are caught in a juddering roar that turns the world upside down. A great rush of water has crashed out of one of the pipes along the side of the tunnel, flooding us with all consuming chaos. The water churns and swings around us, until something terrible happens. I stop moving.
I have been pushed by the swirling mass of water flushing into the tunnel, up out of the water against one of the grilles at the side. The faint cries of my companions echo off the walls. Lives spent in motion have not prepared us for this: the sensation of being truly and utterly stuck.
I try to remain calm. This time it’s my turn to reassure Blueberries. Something is bound to change. Perhaps another flush will dislodge us. Blueberries believes me, or at least pretends to. It’s hard to keep our equilibrium however, as time passes and we feel ourselves getting drier and drier. The grille is crusted with hard, silent remnants of those that came before us. We know that this is what we too will become, without the water to sustain us.
The shadowy shapes below are moving faster now, curious. I try to move myself further up the grille, but my efforts are in vain. A pair of jaws snaps out of the water, a vicious flurry of teeth and spines and saliva. It grabs two of my companions and drags them down into the depths from which it came.
A silence settles over my companions. All we can do is wait for the jaws to return. Someone starts to sing. A thin melody that we pick up in harmony, bolstering our spirits against the end. We will face whatever horror awaits together.
The calm does not last long. A little while later the jaws snap up again. We all cower back, but Blueberries stands firm, staring the jaws down with every one of those dark studded, half digested remnants. The jaws come down, and Blueberries vanishes beneath the surface. I watch in terror for the return of the grasping jaws, shaking to my core as they come back to the grille. If only Mama Guts knew that her child’s journey would end like this.
Just as I think I have seen my end, I hear a sound as sweet to me as the churning of Mama Guts herself. Another sluice of water comes washing down the pipe rising up and past the grille. It washes me and my remaining companions back into the tunnel, and onwards.
I never knew what comfort there was to be found in friends that know what you have suffered. As we moved together, my companions and I find that comfort. We talk about the grille, the jaws, Blueberries and the others we have lost. Our voices echo off the rounded walls of the tunnel, as we carry their memory with us, forward to whatever comes next.
The tunnel is growing brighter, as rays filter grey along its walls. I have a sense, as clear as the rumblings of Mama Guts, that we are near the end now. If I strain myself to listen, I swear I can hear what I long for: the wissssh, wissssh, wissssh, echoing faintly, in the ever growing light.
Katy Naylor is the EIC of voidspace zine. Find her on twitter @voidskrawl.