Yesterday I found myself in the bowels of Londres, where the effluent flows. I had wanted to visit these tunnels for years, had finally found an entry point. Strange noises echoed in the darkness. I shone a light ahead of me, hoping for a sight of the legendary Beast, which fears the open air more than anything. The problem, I knew, was the Beast is frightened of humans. And who wouldn’t be? Other, far more ferocious creatures are said to roam tunnels, monsters grown fat on fat and high on cocaine. So while the Beast was scared of me, I was scared of the monsters that live on what we throw away. Each step was fraught, each corner a horror until my light had turned to reveal the emptiness. I felt unsure why I was there, knowing how unwelcome I was, except as food. All the while the grey and aromatic waste flowed past me, heedless of my presence.
A noise. Quieter than the other noises I had noticed. A scuffling. I stopped, frozen, waiting to hear it again. There it was. I put my hand over the torch so that only a glimmer of light escaped, and I did not move. Scuffle, drag, scuffle, scratch. And there it was, in the low red light from my fingers. The Beast was somewhat like a beaver, but bigger, and with overdeveloped front paws that looked like hands. It suddenly noticed my presence, stopped. It sniffed the air, peered at me, and to my surprise moved closer. I turned my head to follow it. It noticed my motion and nodded, as though noting something. It’s snout was mere inches below my nose now. I risked looking down. The Beast gazed up at me, and I sensed in it not the fear I had expected, but an overwhelming isolation, such as could only be felt by a unique creature. We looked at each other for some moments, and I felt that I too was as vulnerable as this Beast. I too was prey, subject to the whims of a world not designed by myself or by anyone I knew. We seemed, though perhaps it was my imagination, to reach a shared understanding in that moment. We both lived in an uncaring universe, and the fact that it was both of us was the only comfort we would find.
In a moment, the Beast was gone. I slowly made my way to the surface, meditating on the encounter. When I had gone down into the tunnels of Londres I had been unsure what I was looking for. Now I was unsure what I had found, but I was glad that I had found it.