Under All-Mart’s floor was an enormous, courtyard-like space which was highly unexpected. The space was filled with blue, green, and violet light. There were also bulbs of flickering white that bounced off of the cement walls and the descending stairways. Most of the cement was covered in graffiti, occasionally exploring mathematical algorithms in abnormally legible writing styles.
Lacie and Syll were dropped off at the top of the massive stairway by a technacle which had grabbed them and had vanished. Stairways to the left and right of them lead upwards to other sinkholes, but with gaps in the stairs; on some of these other stairways technacle bullies waited to grab people’s technological sacrifices.. or the people who did not pay up.
“It.. let us live." Syll remarked. The two females felt fortunate, and went on to investigate the squeaking sound of pulleys above them.
Down below there was an old man in all blue, with a giant, wooden wash-bucket connected to a rope and rising to a sinkhole like a makeshift delivery system. The floor was covered with writing that Lacie’s zooming vision pinpointed to be programming code along with all sorts of devices and electronic parts. Then there were technacles below, with blue or green skin covered in gadgetry. The bases of the technological tentacles were hovering metal boxes with small, jet-like exhausts attached, which gave off low, pure white flames.
Further off in all directions were a collective of high metal walls, connected with intricately designed plastic. The walls gradually increased in height like an enormous fortress and at the ends of the plastic connectors there were technacle symbols. And strange markings from all sorts of languages were engraved across the walls. There were large multi-colored beetles that randomly screeched, walking across the walls, and engraving the metal with spikes on the bottom of their front feet.
After taking in her surroundings, Lacie poked Syll on the shoulder.
"Hey" Lacie pointed at the far-off old man, "I think that’s someone I know.”
As the two women stepped down the first step, some of the white lights which had been bouncing around stopped flickering and started moving with the duo like electronic faeries or the lamps of invisible goblins.
Some twenty steps down Syll stopped, “I better tighten these bandages. I’m afraid of what would happen if I tripped down these stairs.”
Just then, the stairway split into pieces from below forming a downward square-shaped spiral. Lacie froze with her mouth agape from watching this happen as Syll nonchalantly tightened some of her bandages. There were hundred-foot gaps in each corner of this new stairway, where cylinder-shaped slides formed from out of thin air to connect the stairs from their gaps. Mock hieroglyphics covered the outside of these slides, reaching all the way down the lengthy chutes to the flat-floored beginning of each new segment of the stairway.
“Woah.” Lacie was taken back from the structural change and her microscopey face flushed to concern. “Are those slides even safe?”
Syll finished wrapping one of the loose bandages around her leg and tucked it in, “I hope so.”
Lacie pushed her glasses back, “Why do you wear those anyways?”
“To protect me against security of course.” Syll stated clearly.
“To protect you against security?”
“One should never seek too much security if they want to be secure.”
“And how do bandages protect you against that?”
Syll scratched her head while looking up, “Hmm, I guess I don’t recall if they ever have.”
“Here, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.” Lacie mumbled before looking down to see Ratty attempting to dance down the stairs and slides. Syll had already noticed the familiar hat which had somehow made it back on the vindictive girl's head.
Lacie's attention was broken when what appeared to be a naked female mannequin, crawled its way out of the nearest slide.
“What the?” Lacie mumbled.
The mannequin made its way over to Lacie and tilted its chipped head to the right with a cheery voice, “Hi, my name’s Same. Why, what’s your name?”
“Uh.. Its Lacie.”
The mannequin straightened her spine and clenched her fists, “No, I don’t want that to be who you are. I will give you another name as someone else with a different past.”
Lacie‘s voice broke, unsure if this mannequin was going to be another Mona, “I don’t know if your serious, but please don’t.”
The mannequin tilted her head again, “Haven’t you ever wondered what it would be like to lose your past and name?”
“Then what would I have?”
“Why, another one I suppose. A new identity.”
“But then I wouldn’t be me.. and I’m sorry, but I have limited time and I have to go.” Lacie retorted, taking a quick glimpse at one of the stalking white lights that circled her and Syll in the two adventurers' stationary state.
A strange wind blew through the barren, concrete corridors and the strands of large cobwebs floated throughout the industrious, cavernous air. Syll rested her hand over her chin with the ends of orange and yellow bandages drooping off her arms and flailing with the breeze.
Same walked off the steps, maybe on accident, falling a long ways down until she crashed into a state as still as the floor. Lacie looked down near Same's body reading the letters in what looked like Ranch dressing, “Nobody Was Here.”
“I suppose that mannequin got lost down here and was trying to climb up these slides to get back up. Maybe she was even stuck in one.” Syll theorized.
Lacie sighed as her glaring lenses, some two inches in current length, focused below, “Well.. this just keeps getting stranger. Lets go then, maybe she’s alright.”
Syll nodded and they made their way down the stairways and enclosed slides. Lacie’s fear of the chutes breaking apart had heavily subsided by the third slide, and she began having fun with the venture. Syll was right behind her in single-file fashion due to the absence of rails of the stairs. In technacle fashion, both of them enjoyed each slide's imposition of structural integrity against the risk of some frightening fall.
When the two women arrived at the cement ground they caught their breath, relieved to have made it down without falling. The white lights which had been following them vanished. The stairway reformed with the square spiral loudly, sinking into the ground; Lacie made sure to stay out of the way of this event, with Syll ahead of her.
They made their way to the mannequin whose arm lied outstretched, detached from her body.
The mannequin looked up at them, “Who are you?”
Syll spoke, “I’m Syll. This is Lacie.”
“Who am I?”
“You are Same.” Syll replied.
“Same as what?” The mannequin asked.
“The same as Four-Eyes McGee!” A familiar voice interrupted. Cuithbeart laughed to himself and took a sip of water, his right hand holding an open beer. From closer up, though in the backdrop, Cuithbeart’s washbucket apparatus appeared like an elevator for the daring.
“It bothers me that you keep calling me Four-Eyes whatever.” Lacie stated.
“You don’t seem to feel any remorse for calling me an alcoholic.” Cuithbeart retorted.
Lacie stomped her light-brown boot and clenched her fists, “What!? I never called you an alcoholic, Cuithbeart!”
“Well I guess your right! I must have you confused with the beer. Ha ha ha ha!”
Cuithbeart’s blue beer bubbled.
“And who is that girl dancing?” Same asked.
Lacie noticed Ratty who seemed to be sweating profusely as she was still engaged in dancing. Four-Eyes went over to Ratty and took the pink newsgirl hat off of her head. The hat disintegrated in Lacie's hands.
“I’ll kill you!” Ratty yelled as she wrapped her hands around Lacie and started choking her.
Lacie instinctively grasped the clawed hands around her neck, trying to pry them off, “Wh.. why..?”
“You almost killed me!”
Cuithbeart laughed heartily and took a swig of beer. “C’mon now, that’s no reason to choke Four-Eyes McLouie!”
With struggle, Syll pulled Ratty off of Lacie’s neck. The Asian lady made her plea, “We didn’t know that hat did such a thing. We’re sorry.”
Ratty backed away, scrunching her face at Syll, Lacie and Cuithbeart. She booked it, running off towards an entrance leading into the strange fortress.
“Well, I think she's heading into the direction we need to go.” Syll said.
Lacie shut her eyes for a second to see the gold clock had inched a good fifteen minutes from the time she had last looked at it somewhere on the stairs. Similarly, Cuithbeart discarded his last beer at a fifteen minute mark.