Infinity or Bust, p. 2


I was forced by circumstances to consider that I had, for whatever unlikely reason, slept here barefooted, on the cold stone floor, without so much as a nightlight.. When I tried to dredge up some explanation for this behavior, I found to my initial annoyance and then increasing bewilderment that I had no clue. In fact, my recollections of anything that had come before were, in effect, nonexistent. I dimly remembered falling and gasping for air, but nothing else. Oh, and something about opera and an outboard motor.

It occurred to me that I had not the least idea where I was, or how I had gotten here. In fact, I had no name for myself. I was, in many ways, a blank slate, wiped clean by some unknown agency. I could almost taste the eraser dust. I sneezed, like this: "AAAAHHHHCHUNNH!" Fortunately, I remembered what my sleeves were for.

I braced myself for what I feared might prove to be the extraordinarily painful consequences of moving (after all, I had a recollection of falling for a long time). So prepared, I sat up. Rather, in my mind I sat up. My body abandoned the effort after flexing abdominal muscles and finding them very stiff and uncooperative. I decided to lie there a while longer and think about where the extra legs had come from.

Eventually I bit the bullet and rose gingerly to a sitting position. My muscles were sore, true, but nothing appeared to be broken or even dented. The extra legs had vanished, so that was one mystery less to solve, at least.

The walls around me were devoid of any ornamentation. The ceiling seemed very close and lacked even rudimentary visible detail. Then I realized that I had fallen back to the floor and was now lying on my face. I rolled ponderously over and forced myself once more to rise. Everything was a stupefying neutral gray, broken not even by tracings of mortar where stones met. The air, though seemingly very dry in my throat, hung misty and nebulous and itself possessed a grayish quality I found rather not to my liking. My mind was like unto a painting of quaint provincial customs on black velvet.

I struggled at last to what I was reasonably certain were in fact my own feet. The dried mud on my ankles and arches cracked and scattered as the skin flexed beneath it. My limbs were curiously weak, but since they seemed otherwise intact and of the correct number and type, I was not overly concerned.

Gradually I grew somewhat more at ease in my pallid chamber, and as my eyes adjusted to the diffuse and reserved illumination afforded by what I supposed was the advancing day, I made my way to the nearest wall to examine it up close and personal.

The surface was finely textured with slightly irregular pits that seemed to recur endlessly with bland uniformity but in no discernible pattern. The walls, ceiling, and floor were universally provided with this selfsame façade, as though the decorator had happened across a fabulous sale on the stuff and wanted to use as much of it as possible.

I searched for an opening from which what little light there was could be emanating, but could find no break in the tedious ocean of gray. For what seemed hours I searched, until I knew thousands of details of my small stone cell by heart, each identical to the next.

A curious feature of my enclosure was that it gave the impression of being quite closed and finite from any one spot, but as I approached any particular section of wall, that area seemed to extend itself into the indefinite distance. It was difficult to establish even a relative sense of direction in the totally featureless surroundings, but after a little experimentation I felt reasonably, though irrationally, certain that the receding section of the wall shifted with time and, more to the point, with my own position. It moved with me. It felt my pain.


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