Oriana ran back to her father’s factory just around the corner from the street where Kent lived. She hurried up into an office, shut the door, and sat at her table in front of the window. The same window from which she had observed Kent walking by multiple times each day for months on end. This office was not actually hers. It belonged to Maggie, a part time accountant at her father’s factory. Since Maggie only used the office three days a week, Oriana had set up her own space inside it. Oriana had first started coming to the factory with her father when she was just seven years old. Although she had no interest in the manufacturing of paper, its processing, and packaging, nonetheless staying at the factory had always been a desirable place to escape to when she was a little girl. She had her desk for reading and writing, Maggie was grandmother aged and often doted on her, and she also liked walking around the industrial estate observing all the different things that went on in each factory.
Oriana took a loose leaf of paper and started jotting down a few notes about what had just happened. First, Kent did indeed live down Cutters Court. However, this cul-de-sac had some kind of building underneath it. Something big enough for a man like Kent to live in. Some questions started flowing out onto the page from her pen:
Why did Kent live underground? Maybe so he could be in hiding? Was he a fugitive? Could he be a terrorist or a criminal?
Oriana considered these possibilities and concluded that he did not seem at all dangerous or malicious. Then she considered that he might be a serial killer who lured women to their death by perfectly acting like a sane and gentle person. This idea disturbed Oriana because she soon realised that using that argument everyone she knows could just as easily be a serial killer. She crossed out her notes and wrote “PARANOID” over them.
She picked up a new page and started again. Considering how easy it was for her to suppose anything was possible and pointless writing a list of things it could be, she decided to try the most reasonable explanation: he was a hobo. He was a poor homeless man who lived in the sewers because there was no where else for him to live. Yet he had a lot of gear with him yesterday, and she thought she might have seen him holding a receipt with the case of beans, so he had enough money to buy food. Why couldn’t he afford a place to stay? Then she thought didn’t the government provide a place for homeless people to live? Yes, they did, and he seemed smart enough to fill out the necessary forms. So he must choose to live in the sewers.
Oriana wrote “BUT WHY?” at the bottom of her page of scribblings. Since Kent appeared quite smart and confident, why would he choose to live in such a terrible place?
Oriana went home that evening and during the night she kept trying to make sense of the confusing collection of facts she had to work with. She decided that she had to learn the truth. She needed to know what Kent was all about. So the following day she sat on the blue stone wall underneath the willow tree at the end of the street and waited for Kent to either pop out of the manhole or to return home.
When he eventually appeared on his bicycle returning from some business of his. He did not appear surprised to see her waiting there at all. He waved a polite “Hello Oriana!” as he commenced locking his bike up just inside the fence of the nearest factory.
“Hi Kent, sorry I ran off on you yesterday.”
He smiled warmly, “Nothing to apologise for, it was rude of me not to give you more warning.”
Oriana swallowed nervously before barking out the question that had been on her mind, “Why do you do it? Why do you live in the sewers?”
Kent looked at her perplexed, “I don’t live in the sewers.”
“But I saw you climb down into the drain.”
“Yes, into the drain, but not the sewer.”
“There’s a difference?”
“One is mostly dry but occasionally full of rain water, the other is always full of excrement and noxious gases.”
“Ok,” said Oriana considering this important distinction, “Why do you live in the storm water drains?”
Kent gently shook his head, “I don’t. That would be very foolish. I would drown when it next rained.”
Oriana was frustrated, “then where do you live?”
Kent smiled, “Under ground, would you like to see?”
Oriana, “No, I mean, yes, I would like to see, but no.”
“Is that a, ‘I would like to see, but I feel afraid about going underground with a stranger?'” Asked Kent calmly.
“That’s fine with me, I don’t mind if you don’t want to come in,” he said simply.
Then he bid her good bye and jumped nimbly down into the drain box. Oriana called for him to wait, then awkwardly got down onto her hands and knees and shuffled backwards into the drain box. She was surprised to find a ladder hidden just out of view and climbed down into what looked like a large 3 metre cubed concrete box. Two sides were solid smooth cement, while the other two sides were double barrelled pipes. She was surprised by how much space there was inside. There was a cargo net suspended immediately below the manhole covers. Oriana supposed correctly that this was so Kent could drop equipment down quickly through the manhole covers without having to loiter around topside lowering it down carefully with a rope.
Kent beckoned to one of the pipes leading upstream, “my home is just up here, I am sorry, but you will have to stoop down, also, watch your feet there is a bit of water.”
Kent disappeared down the hole, Oriana blinked a few times to get used to the change in the light levels and then started awkwardly shuffling down into the tunnel. Never had it occurred to Oriana that such a place could exist underneath the surface.