“Quick you must be. Open for long this portal will not remain.”
“Come on then,” said Boz, rushing through and panning his headlamp around. They found themselves within a passageway whose curving walls, of gleaming obsidian, were at least twenty feet apart and stretched in both directions way beyond the reach of their torch beams. This side branch on the edge of the World Tunnel System looked little utilised and, spacious as it appeared to our heroes, was mean by Atlantean standards.
“What now?” Ginsbergbear’s voice reverberated off the hard stone. “How will we ever find your bubble universe Mrs King? We’re a long way from Jersey.”
“With a little ingenuity the time/space tunnel induced to come to us will be,” replied Master Dorje. “Much there is about the Ancient Ones that even Les Chats Souterrains are unaware of. Now, a suitable venue we must find.”
He led the way and the company followed. Some meek, some inquisitive, all bemused, they trudged behind the diminutive Tibetan along the vaulted highway. The polished basalt road surface was slippery and strangely interactive. With each footfall it squeaked musically.
“Is that a light at the end of the tunnel?” said Ferdy.
“Philosophically or incandescently?” asked Boz. But they were all becoming aware of a lifting of the gloom. Soon they could see clearly. The tunnel opened out beneath a great shaft. Light streamed down from high above and so did water, like gentle drizzle, pooling on the floor.
“Gather round,” said Dorje, “Not too close.”
He removed his orange felt hat and from inside it he took out a tin of mackerel in chip shop curry sauce. He opened it, rolling back the lid, and placed it carefully at his feet. Sitting cross-legged he produced a battered, leather bound copy of the I Ching and three worn bronze Chinese coins.
“What on earth is he doing?” Aunty Stella asked Augusta King.
“No idea. He’s never done anything like this before. Not with me.”
Dorje tossed the coins into the air where they hung longer than seemed right before tinkling to the ground. He read the Book of Changes, quietly to himself.
“What’s going to happen now,” Phoebles asked of no one in particular.
“Shush. Patient you must be. Quantum physics this is.”
Then the mackerel tin quivered. Without warning it jumped, or as Master Dorje explained later, all its atoms simultaneously jumped, sideways some six inches. There was a plop and it vanished. At the same moment a plank door with a heart shaped hole and a Suffolk latch appeared behind the old monk. It was painted sage green and bobbed slowly in mid air.
“A dunny door?” Dark Flo was unimpressed.
“It’s the space/time tunnel,” said Lady Augusta, rushing forward. “Prepare to be amazed.” She flung the door open with a dramatic flourish and revealed a ceramic lavatory pan with a varnished mahogany seat. A black printed legend on the cistern tank proclaimed:
Thos Crapper & Co
with Symphonic Flush
“Bugger!” she exclaimed, glaring at Master Dorje.
“I’d give it a minute or two,” he replied. “Yank the chain.”
They all heard the deluge of water, the gurgle as it swirled down the pan, and then the porcelain pinnacle of pissoirs folded through space. The familiar, to some, John Williams intro jingle burst forth, and they were staring into the mouth of the spiralling time tunnel.