>TERRA FIRMA

>They were down about six hundred feet most of the day. Mainly, it felt safer, but really it was just nice to be pottering around close to home for a change. They spent so long and were so often working, it seemed lovely just to be able to switch on a light and read a book for a while. The only distraction seemed to be the faint clatter of children running hoops up and down one of the outside tunnels. Their muffled laughter, it seemed, was a seldom-heard, daytime treat.

So cozy everything seemed, too. Walls were thicker, less room to worry about. And sure, all the books had been read more than once, but wasn’t it still nicer to be doing exactly what you wanted to do? They made many cups of tea, until eventually all that steam hung around their ceilings like expensive gauze and more than once heads ducked uncertainly at this these new imagined drapes.

Someone shouted, mid-afternoon, after stubbing a shin painfully on a low table. Others winced in solidarity, rubbed their own legs. These phantom problems were not usually such a worry. Many tried to guess when night was falling. There was, they realised, no real way to tell.

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