We entered the soothing darkness, slightly nauseous from the midday sun. As quickly as our eyes grew accustomed to the shade, the faint contours of a large stone basin sprang to life, in whose murky waters reflected the gaping remains of the floor above. Supporting beams, the last ones to collapse, and in between them – a little more than nothing. The way in.

I balanced on the edge of the basin, where only moments earlier parts of the floor came crashing down into the dark water, under the weight of my partner. All of them, mercifully, avoiding my head. “Are you okay?”, a worried shout pierced the air from above. I managed a meek reply. “Yeah”. The beam still held and I pulled myself up the splintered block of wood.

Tiptoeing across the room, none felt at ease. With each step wood groaned beneath our feet. Minutes seemed like hours, and hours minutes. The air was thick with dust and rot, the ones that settle on your tongue, lungs and soul, leaving you with strange coughing fits for the rest of the day.

The crooked walls told a cautionary tale – it was one of those places perfectly perched in that single moment in time when everything could go to hell. We stumble upon collapsed floors or roofs, seeing the mangled remains as elements out of context, something that could not, does not happen in front of eyes. After all, how could it happen to any of us, conquerors of the dark, stewards of a new freedom, finders of ways?

I pushed these thoughts aside. My mind was getting clouded with fear, and the dust did nothing to help that. We stayed as long as we dared, then slithered back into the darkness. And with each step the wood groaned.

Portugal, 2015