Dark and cold would be the first two words Evan Laramie used to describe the tiny, cramped mouth of the Darkwater Spring Wells side entrance; a natural fissure in the basalt rock about a foot wide at its largest point. Not good for moving around, not really good for anything except ventilation- and even then it wasn't doing a very good job.
The peyote Laramie had eaten by accident outside the cave mouth was wearing off, too, leaving his mind in a perpetual state of flux and confusion, weaving between a colorful cartoon world and the desolate wasteland he dwelled in today. He shrugged off the feeling of all-time higher-than-fuck-ness and concentrated on the little shaft of light just ahead of him. After another few seconds of squeezing, he was through, breathing heavily in the threshold of the little cave.
"Well, that wasn't so hard," the gunslinger said to himself, spitting out the little stunted piece of mescaline-infused cactus as he stepped into the dim light of the cave. There, he realized the stink was even worse than what he could have imagined it was. It was something bad; he couldn't quite put his finger on it, but he couldn't think of it as anything other than a rotting corpse.
A cursory scan of the mouth of the cave with his lended flashlight proved his assumption right: a man (or what was once a man) lay propped against a cave wall, his chest cavity ripped open, his skin gray, limbs bloated. Evan recoiled at the gruesome sight, nose crumpling, chin inclined at the stench, before leaning forward slightly and reaching down to touch his fingers to the corpse's neck.
The skin was clammy to the touch; that meant the corpse had been dead for a while, a week at best. Rooting through the corpse's jumpsuit pockets, Laramie found what he had been looking for- the tiny journal the water pipe construction foreman had been looking for; a little, brown, leather-bound book kept in a waterproof sleeve. The initials "PWT" (Petterlie Water Transfer) were stencilled on the front, and inside were scrawled, in crude shorthand, a series of numbers and symbols. The middle pages of the book held a complicated map, with one specific passage highlighted in red. Why was it highlighted in red? Laramie didn't know; he didn't get paid to think about the job- just do it.
So Laramie turned around, looking for the little crack he had slipped through, when his flashlight flickered out and he found himself plunged into the dim sub-light of the cave mouth. Laramie decided to head back to the camp where he had met his contact, return the journal, and spend his pay at the nearest cheap bordello, snatching up all the booze and hooch he could wrap his arms around.
"What?" Was all Laramie said.
"I'm sorry," the foreman- a pudgy, red-faced, short man with a bald head and an angry scowl on his face saying he most definitely wasn't sorry, "but you need to lead our next crew down into the mines to finish blasting a tunnel. Whatever's been attacking our people has been ripping through even our toughest workers; we're down to the lastest batch of migrants- bunch a' hoopleheaded tribals high on Voodoo. They just set out when you got here; if you run you can catch up."
"I'm getting a bonus, right?" Laramie said calmly, keeping a level head despite the evident annoyance on his face.
"If you make it back with proof the mine has been dug, yes." The foreman said bluntly. He turned his back to sign his name to some anomalous sheet of paper on a clipboard, and when he turned back, the mercenary was already walking away.