While not on a level with the Government’s ill-fated anti-vampire lamps (details of which I will reveal when the time is right), all is not well in public conveniences. Following my previous revelation that commercial cleaners might be at risk of mutation, I have discovered evidence that members of the public might also be at risk.
I had cause to use public facilities provided by the council. Unlike the spacious and beautified examples of modern wood panelling in the Cabot Circus shopping centre, these were self-contained vaults, constructed only from those materials that both resist damage and can be cleaned with ease.
With autumn leading winter by the hand, I initially attributed the discomfort I felt to the cold, to the mundane impact of this ode in ceramic and brushed steel on the human body. Then I read the notice on the back of the door:
Please remember to unlock the door before opening it
An unthinking person might think this merely a sensible, if somewhat cautious, notification: some facilities have interior handles that disengage the lock automatically, so some people might suffer a moment of confusion when the door did not open. However, how likely is it someone would notice and use the separate lock, then spend long enough inside to forget there was one? Very unlikely.
Was it then that something was causing people to suffer an improbable degree of mental degradation? Some condensing effect of the cold surfaces rendering cleaning products into a toxic cloud? On the face of it, this is a plausible explanation. Examined more closely it is revealed to have a subtle flaw: if people have been driven insane, then they would not read the notice.
Only one explanation stands up to logic: the lock has been damaged on repeated occasions by people opening the door without unlocking it first. Your mind might unconsciously consider your own bathroom, and imagine a simple slide bolt pulling free of the door frame; maybe not common but still innocuous. But remember these conveniences are built of tiled concrete and brushed steel. To break this lock is to bend a steel bar nearly three centimetres in diameter, or to wrench the bar through an even thicker steel frame. Clearly, something in the facilities is causing some people to gain super strength.
Whether I was spared by the random combination of low temperatures with a canister of liquid soap that had not matured, or by the deliberate countermagics of some urban shaman laboriously chipping the incantation Ky4Debi into the wall I might never know. But I do know that this threat is very real.