Chapter One: http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1334158.html
The darkness inside was disorienting. She looked in, and could see nothing; it was as if no light at all passed through the doorway, not even the creepy red illumination.
She couldn’t turn back now; her fingerprints were on the doorknob. Oxana stepped through, feeling carefully with one foot on the floor and holding her hands in front of her.
The floor felt rough under her feet but level, and nothing met her hands. She took careful step after careful step, reaching out to either side, feeling in front of her, wondering once again was this a good idea?
The answer appeared to be no, but here she was anyway. Her head hurt, probably from the pressure changes down here, and the air tasted damp and stale, like the door hadn’t been open in a long time. Since 1920? she wondered. Or just a few years ago? Was it safe to breathe? There were all sorts of stories about why the dorm had been closed off, after all. She couldn’t remember if one of them had been about gas, or bad air, or carbon monoxide, or anything.
Her hand hit a wall on her left, and then one on her right; as she stepped forward, she could feel the walls on either side of her at once. So the hallway was getting narrower. That seemed like a strange design for a school building, but maybe she’d missed a turn-off in the dark. Turning one wide hallway into two smaller ones – she could see some use for that, although admittedly not a lot.
There were rumors about Edowanda’s builders. Maybe they’d stuck some bodies down here in the concrete. Everyone knew that sort of thing happened a lot here,
The hallway narrowed again, until Oxana had to lower her arms to her sides. She should really turn around, before things got too tight to turn around.
Her foot hit a doorway and she stopped. She felt cautiously forward until she could feel something like a doorknob – it was oblong and knobbly, but it was where a doorknob ought to go, more or less, and it turned under her hand.
She moved the door slowly, glad it opened away from her and not towards her. A crack of light showed between the door and the wall. She squinted her eyes as tightly as she could while still having some vision, and slowly nudged the door open.
The light was nearly blinding, even with her eyes squinted nearly-shut. Slowly, she stepped into the doorway, letting her vision settle. There was a very bright rectangle of light directly in front of her, and dark sections to either side. There was a shadow in the brightness ahead of her. She couldn’t make out more than that. She stepped forward again and, feeling foolish, called out “Hello?”
Her voice sounded weird, hoarse, as if she’d been screaming. She hoped she hadn’t actually been screaming. What a mortifying way to be found by Campus Police, trapped in a basement, hallucinating and screaming her fool head off.
“Hello.” The voice that answered sounded high-pitched, sweet, and not at all like she imagined a Campus Police officer tracking down a ridiculous student in the basement of a forbidden dorm ought to sound like. “I see you have made your way here. And I see you are have made it through the first challenge.”
“…What?” She took a step backwards. “Challenge? What? Is this some sort of secret society?”
“No. No, and yet yes. You found the passage and you made it through the darkness. Not everyone is that brave. So welcome, traveler, to the Unders.”
Oxana blinked again, finally managing to make out the person-like shape in the light. “The… Unders? Under the dorm?”
“Under the dorm, under the school, under the everything. We are Under the world, and you are here with us now. Tell me, would you like to earn a little currency?”
That was a strange way to refer to – well, it was a strange way to refer to everything. Oxana peered, but her eyes were still not making too much sense of the shadowed form. It seemed to have either too many arms or not enough, depending on the moment.
“I’m a college kid,” she joked. “I can always use money.”
“Good, good. We will give you currency, but for that you must come here.”
Well, she’d come this far. Oxana stepped towards the voice. It seemed like the initial impression was far too correct. The woman in front of her looked somewhere between thirty and a hundred, her face still in shadows, her hair long and golden. But she definitely had four arms, and all four were reaching out to Oxana.
It was rude to stare. Oxana swallowed and walked towards the woman. “Where – what is this place?”
“As I said-” The woman sounded patient, for all that she was repeating herself – “this is the Unders.”
“Yes, but. All right. What do you want me to do?”
“For your first task, the task I can give you, take water from this fountain here, and move it into this basin here. The dipper that can be used is this one.”
As the woman gestured, Oxana could see more and more. There was a fountain to the right of the woman that burbled water upwards, and on the left there was a basin of stone with a hole – no, a drain – in the bottom.
“Where does the water go?”
“Down to the next level, where those who need it will drink it. Drink none,” the woman warned her, “or you will not receive any currency.” She held out, with her lower right arm, a dipper that looked brass or maybe gold-plated. It could hold maybe a half-cup of water.
“How much should I move?”
“Until this task is over. I will tell you when the task is over.”
“All right.” She’d sat through studies that were more boring than this, for $5 and a lunch sub platter or something similar. Oxana took the dipper and dipped it into the fountain.
There is an Underschool Pinterest board! Here – https://www.pinterest.com/aldersprig/underschool/
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