The Let's Play Archive

The Manhole

by Bacter

Part 2

Update 2: Keep a' movin', Dan

Second Update Theme

Our player's name is not Dan

I approached the manhole, and noticed that the leaves started wiggling more animatedly as I approached. I pulled away in some disgust, and, lacking a solid plan, sat down to think. I wanted a solid plan before I did anything rash, and thought about the merits of various strategies.

The sun beat down on me, and the orange wastes extended as far as I could see. I tried digging in the ground a little, and found it to be crumbly, dry, and very fine, down to a depth of about four inches, where I stopped. I realized as I sat that I was becoming thirsty, and, lacing any other sensory input, was focusing on the drip drip of the water from the fire hydrant.

I wasn't sure if the water was safe to drink, but my throat was beginning to scratch, and swallowing was difficult. I stood clumsily to my feet, and lurched towards the fire hydrant. My hand reached out for the dripping water - I only registered a little alarm that my desire to carefully plan for all possible strategies had gone under so quickly in the face of need.

I laughed at myself a little, but I continued to move. I reached out one hand and the very tip of my finger brushed one of the drips of water.

I was blown backward by a sudden torrent of water. My ears ringing, I shook my head, and thought I heard something like laughter. I angrily shook myself off, the orange dust now coating my clothes and much of my skin. I spit grit out of my mouth and cursed the place I had landed.

Approaching the hydrant again, warily, I noticed that the dripping had stopped, a single drop of water hanging in the hot sun. The sun was shining in my eyes, but I thought I could make out something on the surface of the hydrant.

Was this some joke?! The last time I touched that stupid hydrant I was literally blown off my feet!

The writing told me something, though. It told me that there was another person somewhere, and that they were leaving messages - who knew, maybe it was from someone else who had been dropped off here!

I began to think for the first time about how I had ended up here, but was unable to come up with anything solid. I could... I could remember things in the past - they could have been days or years ago. I remembered people. A... recent date. My parents. A superior at work. As my mind grabbed hold of them, I felt a little more in control of the situation.

Riding my sudden wave of courage, I reached out and touched the hydrant.

And then the world went fuzzy. Electric sparks tingled through my body. I squeezed my eyes together and tried with all my might to control my arms, I had a sense of falling, I felt a strong wind...

And came to rest on the ground. Thinking how sick I was of this stupid hydrant, I opened my eyes.

You wouldn't think that someone in my situation would be easily startled, but I crawled backwards in some astonishment when I saw the hydrant towering over me.

And... it was a house. I was shaky enough to not question it. I knew the house should be filled with water ("but you've emptied all that yourself!", I thought with a giggle that I suppressed), and made for the front door.

I first checked under the mat (nothing), then looked at the box by the side of the door

Hm. It looked like a mailbox, for someone with the initial "R".

Feeling especially curious, and not feeling especially like respecting privacy (after all, desperate times...), I opened the box and looked inside.

It... unsettled me a little. I wasn't sure if I was more upset by the vaguely menacing handprint on it, or the fact that it had apparently passed postal inspection and been sent through to this place.

I decided to open the letter and read it.

The letter was... fairly menacing. I didn't know this Russ, and I didn't know Rabbit (though I suppose that solved the mystery of the "R" box).

I shivered a little as I re-read the letter and looked at the handprint. Something about it filled me with dread

I replaced the letter and faced the door again.

As if on cue, the front doors slid open without a sound.

I went inside.

I didn't like it inside.

It was dank and felt damp - maybe this place WAS filled with water before? But that wouldn't explain how orderly everything was - the painting at least would have been ruined. I heard a faint sound in the distance, a regular high-pitched sound, which roughly sounded like sniffling.

I decided to take a closer look at the picture.

It... must have been some kind of slide projector?

It displayed a variety of... hats.

When I focused on it, the picture would go white and the hat would be named - I saw a cap, fireman's hat, sombrero...

Then a quick glimpse of.... something else!

That was... I knew that place.

AGH it was a strain but... Yes!

It was my dad's study! And... that was his hat, the "cap" come to think of it.

Why was it showing up? What did my dad... there was something about him. I got a glimpse. He and mom, sitting in that room, watching TV. It was...

I suddenly felt very sad.

I pulled away from the painting, my mind racing. I heard the sniffling a little louder, it sounded faintly like the blubbering aftermath of crying, coming from the far room. I should have been eager for company, but my mind was still racing, and I wasn't ready for company just yet.

I looked up at the ceiling, and nothing happened except that

The lights shut off when I looked at the overhead light.

I didn't want to mess with my apparent psychic powers any more than was necessary, so I turned to the only remaining feature in the room.

Note: these screens all have different lighting and shadows with the lights on or off - a small detail yes, but neat for the era!

The flower smelled pretty at least. I could use at least SOMETHING pleasant. I reached out to touch it -

And it suddenly and violently jerked away! It was totally motionless until I nearly came in contact with it, then it pulled away with what seemed like frightened intensity.

More disturbed than ever, I pulled open the top drawer.

Was this... a phone book? Dictionary? Diary? Curious, I opened it.

It... was just the alphabet? Flipping through the pages I saw that every one simply contained a printed alphabet, though only the first one I opened to had the grimy handprint on it, presumably from the owner. I couldn't figure out why anyone would keep this. This was far too basic to be of any use to anyone.

I noticed the bookmark, and opened to that page.

It's never too late? Why was that familiar? And that name...

It hit me suddenly: John Gallagher was my superior at work, the SECOND under-supervisor for our planning commission. And what a pompous ass he was! Oh memory came quickly when I focused on John. In fact, I remembered that exact phrase, it's never too late - that's what he told me after smugly tearing my latest project idea in two, and detailing the many ways it wouldn't work.

It hadn't been my best work, it's true, but a smug, officious, condescending "gift" like this would be just like him! I felt a wave of anger wash over me and, a little upset by its intensity, shoved the book back in the drawer and shut it.

I took a few breaths to compose myself, and opened the middle drawer.

I... felt like taking the advice of this note. The book was old and I could smell the musty smell even from here. It smelled old, but with a hint of... something that burned my nostrils. I shut the door and opened the third.

A light blue musical note, hovering a half-inch off the wood at the bottom of the drawer. Any other day this would have elicited wonder or at least ATTENTION, but it seemed woefully mundane compared with the rest of my day so far.

It was emitting a tone, which was ALMOST too low to be heard, a faint rumble. At the sound of the note, the sniffling from the other room grew a little softer.

Shutting the door and turning to the still-dark room's doorway, I looked back outside.

The manhole was (understandably) much, much larger in comparison to me now. Also, the tiny patch of green in front of the manhole now looked like a verdant field.

I still heard the blubbering, somewhat quieted since the music was played, but I still wanted to collect myself a little.

Despite having time to recover, one of the things I had just experienced wouldn't leave my mind...

Was I most bothered by my feeling of DREAD, SADNESS, or ANGER?

And once I'd settled that, there was still the matter of what to do next.

Did I:

Touch the do-not-touch dragon book?

Go investigate the sniffling?

Touch the musical note?


Go back outside to the giant manhole?