Time fled, but its passage brought no progress.
The shacks were now impossibly high, cinched in by the stone girdle that doubled as the city wall. Without warning, I was snatched into the air by an irresistible force. A brief panicked moment of vertigo before falling down, down and downwards into the infarcted heart of the city.
I had time only for a brief impression of towering tenements leaching the light from the sky before being dumped with great force into a sea of mud, driving the breathe from my body. I thrashed around in the stuff for what seemed like an age, trying to propel myself upright while clawing the worst of it out of my eyes and nose, finally managing to spit a great gobbet of it back where it belonged.
Except it wasn’t mud.
The unmistakable and overpowering smell of excrement aborted that particular delusion in the time it took to take in a lungful. As I retched uselessly on an empty stomach, an old picture I’d seen somewhere came to mind.
But no mere picture could have prepared me for the grim reality: I was now in what had been the old Lawnmarket.
But that wasn’t the worst of it. It was now raining, a grey, incontinent affair that stalked me like a jealous lover as I tried and failed to wade through the filth underfoot. Each mis-step threatened to suck the boots from my feet and the steel from my soul as my world narrowed to the Armageddon that was one foot in front of the other.