She shrank back against the cold concrete of the sewer pipe wall. It was a funny place this, a labyrinth of sewer pipes tangled together under the streets of the town, sporadically leading out into daylight. To her left, away in the distance she could see the circle of light that signalled the outside world, and to her right a vast expanse of darkness. The tears rolled silently down her cheeks and splashed softly into the dirty puddle in front of her toes. The cracked rubber of her sneakers scraped against each other and she concentrated on the irritation of the noise. Channelling all her feelings towards the sensation allowed her to breathe deeply and deaden the pain in her chest. She was desolate and hollow. It was as if some great blunt object had peeled back her ribs, gouged into her chest cavity and spooned out her heart. She felt the ache where it had been and her hand clawed at her left breast involuntarily. Her tears were now punctuated by bleating sobs. She swallowed the sound and her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth in its dryness.
It was lonely here, the drips of her tears had occasional echoes in the dark, and the smell of damp seemed to permeate even her skin. All was sodden sorrow, drenched in pain and salt. Her other hand clutched at her skull, stroking her forehead aggressively and pulling at her hairline. She replaced the inner tension with the physical. Her breath began to cloud in the cold and she felt her lungs struggling like a pair of old concertinaed bellows. Her energy waned and she grew numb. She pushed herself away from the wall and took one large gulp of fetid air. Then, turning inwards, she took slow, purposeful steps and retreated into the darkness. Anaesthetised to pain, she was yet fully aware of her dank despair.