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The stations flashed by. Then they gradually came into view as the carriages apologetically came off the power to a stop. He was still deciding what his get-off point should be, and every time the cars carried out their routine he was given more calamities to consider – numerous dagger looks as blurred fleshy splodges became faces with features on the platform.

No, not this one, nor this, too many real-life ghosts here. And no room to breathe either; the mesh of zombies so intertwined as to appear one continuous mass – a constant mound of flesh that he’d struggle to get beyond as they - or it - would bulge through the doors and spread out, flowing tightly right up against the walls.

He kept going then, revelling in the intensity, and the immediacy, and eternally annoyed by it at the same time. Smelling the omnipresent below-ground musk - a sultry cocktail of body odour and rubber - was some form of addiction, even though it came with an exhausting heaviness, a warmness and suffocating aimlessness.

Often, he prayed that the lines would never end, if only to give himself time to convince himself that the odour heralded an awakening, and that it always signalled great prospects – something immediate, alluring. Even then, though, the hope was tinged with an alien feeling. He couldn’t pinpoint the meaning of that. That second, unwanted, feeling lurked there as an intrusion. But gladly the first settled, it was ultimately overriding. And that meant that many hours, many days, were committed to these labyrinths, in some ways because of blindness to the reasoning that those all-resolving revelations may not reside in a deserted stairwell, perhaps in an almost planet-shaped mirror, at all.

More time had passed. Further mini-metropolises were briefly visited, then clunking carriages departed, spilling into rat-clogged tunnels and spreading a little light again for a few seconds until those underground corridors were plunged into the blackest of darknesses once more. He was fast running out of track to eat up – although the dark caverns were still unrelenting in their majestic trellises that spread out in some strange dimension that emanated secretive vibes, the secrecy created because only a select few had access to its exact pattern, of the real geography that lay down there. This was not a map that could be manipulated.

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