First, I removed the mirror, placed it on the bed and struck it with the butt of the 40cm knife. It cracked into thin wedges eminating from the strike point. I removed several of them that were roughly the same size as the transistor radio. The real glass my retinal had detected could be reclaimed and fashioned into in ingot that I was quite sure could travel back with me. 10 grams or so would offer me financial comfort for several years.
I placed the frame and remaining glass on the floor, and set to work cutting the cloth bed covering into two pieces. I cut a wide strip, folded it in half, and cut a hole into it that would fit over my head, making a crude sling. I then placed the jagged glass shards on the back of the radio, and wrapped both with a second, narrower strip of cloth. I tucked the stylus into the wrapping, and placed all of the items into the sling — except the knife, which I knew I would need to open the door.
The thin membrane that covered the door was painted to mimic the look of the rest of the wall, a fact that will puzzle me for quite a while, but my retinal picked up the difference in materials immediately when I first surveyed the room. After making a small puncture with the knife, it tore away quickly.
I gasped involuntarily at the slab of real maple before me. My heart rate briefly spiked. My mind jumped quickly to figuring out how to remove the door, place it in storage, and somehow take it back home with me. The glass was an amazing find, but the door could easily bring four figures — enough to live extravagantly and leave a healthy inheritence for my as yet non-existent children and grandchildren.
Caught off guard by the expanse of wood, Lorna’s face popped into my mind’s eye — sitting at in an outdoor cafe, the sun in her face with large round vintage sunglasses, bobbing her foot to the band inside.
My sym shut it down.
My attention focused immediately on the “doorknob” midway down on the right side. It was a small brass (also real) orb on a cheap metal stem which was plated in a brass-like color. The stem went into the wood and was held in place by a similar metal disc flush with the door face. The plate had two slotted fasteners flanking the stem. My retinal superimposed the internal structure on my IOD, revealing a geared mechanism that tranlated the circular motion of the knob into a lateral motion which retracted a chunk of wedge-shaped steel that extended beyond the door edge. When closed, the wedge rested inside a small cup carved into the face of the door’s frame. The cup covered by yet another brass-colored tin plate with an opening of roughly the same dimension as the wedge. By position of the wedge, I could tell that this door would open inward. Further examination revealed that the angle on the outward face of the wedge would actuate the door mechanism, retracting the wedge, if the user were to place minimal pressure when closing the door.
It was a very simple but quite genius bit of mechanical engineering and I was fascinated as my retinal flashed various facts from its onboard database about the doorknob’s ubiquity in this time period. This one was exceedingly simple, with no locks, bolts, keys or any of the other complications that I was seeing among the stored visuals.
Knowing that I would be encountering many of these devices, I routed all of the data to my sym to subcon it. I could imagine a scenario where my wonderment over a mechanism so entirely commonplace could appear to be suspicious behavior among the natives.
I turned the knob and pulled on the door. It swung inward slightly, eminating a high-pitched metallic sqeal from the two steel plates on the left side of the door.
As I continued swinging the door open, the sound gained in pitch and volume. If any other beings were within a few hundred feet of the door, I was confident they were now aware of my imminent emergence.
Another sheath covered the door on the outward side, but simply pushing on it was all that was required to open the doorway completely and step outside.
As I pulled the door closed behind me, it made a contrapuntal tone, shifted down a half-octave, that while somewhat more pleasing to the ear, was equally as alarm-inducing as the opening sound. If this was normal for all doors, I would not be inclined to use them frequently.
Sym: “It’s not normal.”
I became aware of the level of focus and resolve neurals coursing through my system. I indicated to my sym that it could dial them back a bit. Better to conserve, yes?
There was no direct response, so I surveyed the long corridor I had entered. It was roughly 2 meters wide and extended 50 meters ahead where it ended with a window that was so entirely covered in grime that it emitted light only in dusty shafts.
There were several other connecting corridors perpendicular to this one; on the right wall, at 25, 75 and 125 meters, and just one on the right wall also at 75 meters. Doors similar to mine were placed in a pattern between the corridors, the first being to my left 3 meters away.
The connecting hallways emitted some exterior light, creating slightly brighter pools in an otherwise very dark place.
Within a few seconds, my retinal had extrapolated the structure and overlayed a wireframe on my IOD. It was slighly disorienting at first and I faded it slightly, but I could see 18 identical rooms, 10 on the right wall and 8 on the left, the hallways extended indefitely in the distance, at least past the depth of the rooms I could see.
I stepped forward, my strides still requiring some small effort, and swung my head from side to side my IOD building upon the wireframe and filling in vague shapes like beds and cabinets. There were additional mirrors, and each door was pure maple, 2 meters tall, 80cm wide and 3cm thick. I guessed there were 18 or so such doors just in my line of sight. I couldn’t access the latest financials from home, but I believe that much maple would be worth more than the entire GDP of the top three global sycs put together.
Sym: “You’re slowly starving.”
The rooms on the left abutted an outer wall. The rooms on the right had other rooms behind them, all identical.
Underfoot was another woven polyester surface with a similar padding as the interior of my room, but with an very colorful, highly ornate pattern that was nonetheless muted by layers of dust.
There were no heat signatures in my current field of view, a fact that gave me some relief. I was fairly certain that I was not yet ready to meet other beings.
Sym: “You’re not.”
THUR 18 JAN 1979 07:00 (-05 GMT)
I scanned the corridor on the left at 25 meters. Light eminated from a somewhat less filthy window against the far wall, approximately 6 meters away. This window was shorter than the one at the far end of the main corridor, and high on the wall, similar to the one in my room.
Below this window sat a large metal container. It was covered in a white coating that was peeling in many places, revealing oxidation beneath. The word ICE appeared in large red letters across the bottom of the container. Cartoonish piles of white snow sat on the upper edges of each letter. The overall aspect, while resembling a simple decal, was clearly hand-painted by an artisan. The thick metal door in the center of the container hung open at an odd angle, having come partially unfastened from the body of the device.
Sym: “It’s hanging by one hinge.”
I asked my sym to please keep the commentary to a minimum and proceeded to the junction of the intersecting hallway at 75 meters.
To the left was a corridor exactly like the first, with a similar, but somewhat more decayed ICE container. To the right, 25 meters away, was another large window. The light coming through that window was far greater than any other I had seen thus far.
As my IOD focused, I could see that the corridor ended 18 meters in the distance and opened into a larger space. There were another two doors on each wall of this corridor, oddly spaced.
Looking forward, then right again, I turned right and walked toward the light.