There was not enough light to make the surface above him gleam at all, only enough to make it distinct in the surrounding gloom, and turn it to a dull opaque red, like a sheet of plastic, moving with gossamer fluidity, tingled by the scattered drops falling like sparse rain from the utterly unseen structures above the surface.
He worked with quickly numbing fingers, and with just enough light to see the inset group of handles, clamps, and levers. Struggling to fit the rod-key in the right place, he found his mind was beginning to act drunk from lack of air. All at once, the inset controls dropped downwards on hinges, twisting his fingers; he hadn’t noticed when he finished undoing them.
The suddenly open chute jerked at him with a suction like a living grip. The shadows of silt it drew in made the dark aperture look as though it had instantaneously sprouted tufts of dark hair. His hands were too near, and he was too distracted: the current caught his sore fingertips like a vacuum cleaner catching a loose string on a scarf: his arms shot in, followed by his shoulders, body, and legs, hyperextending his knee on the edge so quickly was he whipped inside.
As quickly over as begun, he was then floating on his back in a pool of water that moved aimlessly around him. It was just as well that he could breathe, as the passage through the chute had driven what breath he had left from his body. The water was moving? It was being moved, by many things which filled it: snakes, of every size, a slithering swarm suspended in the dark medium like roping, crooked fish, framing his supine body as he drifted motionless.
“Ah…” he whispered to the lithe teeming that he lay in, “to be surrounded by unlooked for friends in such a time; ‘tis the breath of the heart.”