Baines had been put in a cave.
A question, of course, of dimensions.
Hand over hand. In this way, a figure of sorts. Piece of a possible map.
Except the walls weren't so firm, weren't reliably vertical.
With every tender shift or turn, Baines stood in an indeterminate
place in indeterminate blackness.
In absolute darkness, each breath was a small and intolerable event.
He tried to sit down. He tried to find some place where he could
rest assured. But the dust was knee-deep, and he couldn't imagine
himself in its soft and swarming hold.
Or he could, was the problem.
Baines could imagine himself -- being salved, being swallowed whole.
Was there moisture?
Because the dust, the sediment, was clinging -- was not coming off.
To wipe a hand against something else was just to tamp its covering.
Baines fingered his face: where his cheeks were; eyelids.
He could sort of feel them.
Dust on dust.
He thought about time. Baines' thinking about time was a way to keep
from having to watch its endless show of nothing at all.
"That's what I meant."
Baines spoke it aloud. To himself?
To his mind, the comment seemed regular, as if meant for a clear
speaking voice. Yet it came at a whisper, failed to distinguish
itself from the hiss of his shallow breath.
Like a prayer, Baines was thinking.
He felt vague, maybe ready for prayer -- for some power to translate him
into the place where this line, this fragment of dialogue, might fit
like a missing key.
Baines had got turned around.
How he knew that he didn't quite know -- without light, without orientation.
But the feeling was sure. A sensation, voiced in nerves: he moved in
a direction he hadn't before, into a different-type blackness.
It was one that could smite him square in the face. (Thus his
proceeding in edges.) It was one that could take him in deeper, he
saw -- further away from an out.
Baines turned around.
Unless he was wrong. Was he wrong?
Baines took a step and another half-step. He turned around again.
Baines thought he heard something, and leaning toward it he knocked
and scraped his skull against something hard -- whereupon he raised a
hand on instinct, to feel for blood.
Instead he saw color. He touched at the spot on his head, made
tender by abrasion, and saw in his mind -- or before him; he wasn't quite
sure -- kinetic fields of hue: this pale red color, shifting, moving like
sand against a ground of darkness.
Baines thought, Red.
He thought it, and saw it too -- pulsing and changing but real.
Now he fingered his skull. With both hands. Baines probed and pushed.
The place just above and in front of an ear -- his left ear -- made for
networks of pointillist green. Vanishing emerald lights.
He tried to see blue. Instead, when he pressed at his eyes, he
witnessed a streak of pale yellow, which turned to plain white, like