They were an unnatural presence in this place.
Twenty slender, untopped, amber-clouded marble pillars arranged in an exact circle. The rest of the cavern was damp and water hewn, geologically too new to be more than palin and unadorned – there were leaky concrete car parks with more stalagmites and stalactites. The pillars didn’t rest on the cavern floor either but extended into it, sitting flush in neatly drilled holes.
“You were right,” sighed Dr Harness. “This is interesting enough to be worth the trek. Is there a level below this?”
“Sometimes and partly,” replied his guide who was also one of his graduate students. “That’s the level where the river’s active now.”
“Can we look?” The academic investigator of oddities was becoming enthusiastic.
“If the water level is low enough,” the student agreed. “There are some chambers we won’t be able to get to without scuba gear and not all the above water sections have been mapped yet, so we’ll have to be careful.”
“Very well, Clark, lead on.” The academic pulled out his notebook and compass. “Let’s see if I can work out whether any part of the level below that we can get to is directly under this.”
It was hours later when Dr Harness finally pronounced himself satisfied that the parts of the river level they could get to were not directly under the pillar cavern. They still had time to get back above ground before sundown and Clark was beginning to fantasise about a hot shower, clean clothes, a good meal and indoor plumbing.
They’d turned back and were walking beside a section of the underground river when Dr Harness turned his torch light idly downwards into the water. “Clark, can you see that?” The confined space made his voice even louder than usual. “It’s the pillar stone, and that looks like a door made out of the stuff.”
Clark shone his own flash light on it and knelt down to get that little bit closer. “Doctor, I don’t think that’s a door, I think it’s a hatch.”
“Curiouser and curiouser,” mused the doctor.