A lone figure staggered through the brush clutching his side. He looked back frequently, panicky, hearing the sounds of pursuit behind and around him. Goblin voices could be heard barking out orders and breaking into frequent arguments. He heard the voices all around him, the sounds of feet crashing through the underbrush, the clatter of poorly-made or salvaged armor and weaponry.
Judging that he had no chance of escaping through further flight, he leapt into a half-hidden depression and sought a place to take cover. He felt nearly overwhelmed by the terror of his enemies, but also felt the grim reality of the situation as liberating. Escape was unimaginable, which clarified rather than obscured his thoughts.
Then, there it was. Only a few feet in front of him, almost entirely hidden by leaves and other debris, was a strange aperture, as if that of a drain or conduit of some kind. What it was doing out here in the woods was a complete mystery, but his danger did not permit.
He withdrew into the hole as he heard squabbling goblin voices descending into the hollow, then heard them shrieking their malicious joy at discovering where he had lain. It was only a matter of time until they discovered and investigated the culvert, so he advanced into the darkness as best he could, crawling on his elbows and knees and suffering frequent cuts and bruises as he went. An inch or so of oily water beneath him soaked his chest and legs.
Suddenly he felt a cooler air ahead, and seemed to perceive a faint luminosity in ahead of him. Thinking that perhaps he had reached the end of the tunnel, the man hurried forward.
The tunnel opened into a large chamber of strange proportions. Faint light from an unknown source bathed the space. Though more round than square, the chamber did not exhibit sufficient regularity to be called any particular shape; nevertheless the evidence of extraordinary care in the room’s construction and design was obvious.
The chamber seemed to be a nexus for dozens, maybe hundreds of arteries such as that which harbored him now. The largest openings seemed to almost draw the room to themselves, with smaller tubes exerting more limited local distortions of the chamber’s interior space. More puzzling still, these strange mouths closed and yawned through slow, almost imperceptible changes. He could perceive no coordination between these oscillations, though the effect was one of grotesque rhythmic pulsing.
His wonder and unaccountable revulsion was broken by sounds behind him. The ugly, whining voices of several goblins betrayed his hunters in the tunnel. Goblins are small and well-used to living underground, and made little effort to conceal their pursuit, confident they would soon overhaul the wounded man they sought.
The man was able to stand upright as he emerged onto the floor of the chamber before him. The surface upon which he stood was smooth but curved, featuring the same array of openings slowly furling and unfurling by the force of some unknown power as the walls and, now that he saw above him, the ceiling of the room.
He stood upon an amorphous, pliable floor, experiencing a number of strange sensations at once.
He felt an overwhelming vertiginous shift, as if he were being pulled hard toward the center of the world. He no longer seemed to walk upon a solid surface but, rather, his weight drew the worked stone floor down like a marble on a thin membrane. He could feel the shape of the chamber under his feet and all around him shifting chaotically, reacting to this sudden intrusion.
He also found that this pull followed him wherever he went, so that he was able to walk easily where gravity should have prevented it. Indeed, though the chamber had no distinct walls or ceiling, wherever he walked his head pointed toward the center of the space while his feet pressed down against the soft masonry beneath him.
Moreover, like a grain of sand in some great mollusk, he felt a sort of pulpy, massive weight pressing upon his body, though nothing in the room actually touched his body.
He heard the grating sound of goblin voices growing closer in the tunnel. The man threw himself into the mouth of the nearest tunnel and crawled until well after the glow of the chamber was visible.
The man awoke some time later. How he had fallen asleep was a mystery, as he had crawled frantically away from the room before the goblins could enter and observe his escape. He only remembered his flight into the tunnel, yet now he found himself inside another of the strange chambers.