Tongues of flame licked the cyclopean stonework above Otto, holding back the all encompassing darkness of the deep. The tunnel twisted and turned, like the fetid guts of some long dead aberration. Mould and rot hung heavy within the confines of the structure, staining stone and filling the air with rancid spores.
Otto shook his head, clearing his mind of the fungal fog that seeped into his lungs. His yellow tunic was damp with drippings, clinging to his feeble form. His hobnailed boots struggled to find purchase, sliding on slime slick stone. More than once he found himself sprawled across the cold floor, torch hissing as it clattered down the hall.
In this hell of decay and darkness, Otto wished he had brought a means to defend himself. Within the tight press of the tunnel, even a suitably heavy ladle would put his mind at ease. As it stood, he was armed with a half loaf of week old bread, tucked away in a pouch at his side. But, as ill prepared as he was, Otto was compelled to continue down the winding tunnel.
Hours passed as Otto braved the endless hall, the fungal funk growing stronger as he delved deeper. The rot that seeped from the stone seemed more prolific here, patches of plump mushroom caps poking from the cracks in the wall. Muddy oranges and pale browns mingled with the black and white mould, painting the stone with a sickening diorama of decay.
Otto’s head began to spin as spore overcame his meagre constitution. He wavered like a drunk before colliding with the wall to his left, his hand landing on a patch of something slick and unpleasant. Regaining his senses, he pulled away with a squelch, leaving a handprint in the rot.
Otto went to wipe his hand on his tunic, transferring the ghastly glop onto his ruined clothes. He examined his fingers in the light of the torch, spotting several patches he had missed. He went to wipe his hand again, but stopped dead.
The smear on his tunic had warped, the spot bubbling and bloating into a small forest of fungus. Mycelium shot outwards in all directions, pulsing as it crawled over his clothes.
Otto let loose a horrific cry, brushing his tunic with mad abandon. Caps and stocks broke free from the growing field of mushrooms, leaving a network of strands crisscrossing the fabric. His efforts did little to impede the spread of rot, and in an instant new stalks sprouted from the mass.
Terrified, Otto pulled his hand away, strands snapping as he did. His hand, too, had been enveloped by rot, crawling with mycelium. Roots writhed over his skin before burrowing into flesh, setting Otto’s nerves alight. In agony he dropped the torch, frantically peeling the mesh of mushrooms from his hand.
He cried again as he felt a thousand sharp jabs at his side as tendrils wormed their way into his veins, pulsing with a life of their own. Otto collapsed as his body was swarmed with mycelium, strands riding up his arm and climbing the side of his head. Mercifully his world went dark as sheets of mould covered his eyes and filled his mouth, stealing his breath away.
Otto’s mind slowed, thoughts and feelings peeled away one by one until all that was left was a rhythmic pulse and the stink of decay.