William discovers a strange and wonderful power, a mysterious beige space that engulfs him whenever he holds his head just... so. But what can the space mean, and how will it change his life?
One day, whilst sitting in his living room, a cup of tea cradled in his lap and the afternoon a patch of golden light crawling slowly down the wall before him, William tilted his head at an angle roughly twenty-seven degrees from centre and vanished. He had been mulling over the possibility of wandering down to a bar that had recently opened by the train station that he walked to each morning – the sort of modern trendy spot that those younger and more beautiful than him frequented. He had run through, in his mind, his modest wardrobe, picked out a suit not too out of fashion or lacking in character, and had passed on to considering his limited budget. It would, he supposed, require him to bring in his own sandwiches for a couple of weeks and forgo the coffee and Danish with which he periodically rewarded himself on missing his train, but such sacrifices were not beyond him. It was precisely this line of thought that he was pursuing when he tipped his head to the right, back no more than a touch, and found himself surrounded by an impenetrable cloud of warm and pinkish beige. Despite the welcoming, almost beckoning comfort of the space, he at once panicked, snapped his head free from its angle, and found himself, unharmed, sitting as before, tea throwing up the last of its steam into Sunday’s ennui.
He must have nodded off, he at once thought, although he admitted to himself that he did not feel particular dopey. His Sunday lunch had not been too intense an experience, but just to assure himself, he stood up, walked through to the kitchen, emptied his cup into the washing up bowl, and opened the back-door.
His unkempt garden sat dolefully behind the house, and he walked amongst the daisies and weeds that grew there. He soon stopped, there being little garden in which to walk, turned around and stared up at the house. It stared back at him, its darkened windows transformed into pools of liquid light. He would, he decided, go to the bar.
“Quiet.” William said to the barman, who was absorbed with some kind of administrative task involving the cash register.
“It’s quiet now. It was busy earlier, though.” He punched a few buttons, and the register began regurgitating paper.
“Is that usual? It being busier earlier, but quiet now?”
“Yeah. For a Sunday.” The register stopped its printing, and the barman, whose badge named him as Chet, tore off the roll, and moved along the bar, where sat a clipboard. Chet began filling in a form. William watched him for a moment. Paperwork, he thought to himself, and offered himself a rye grin by way of the mirror backing the shelves behind the bar.
“Paperwork!” He said aloud.
“Hm?” Chet looked up.
“Paperwork!” William said again.
Chet offered an affirmative grunt, before continuing his scribble. William’s attention returned to his reflection. Probably irritating him, William thought. William was aware that he had trouble recognising when he was being irritating. It was something he had tried to change, but in attempting to recognise and correct when he was irritating someone, he only seemed to make the problem worse. With time he had resigned himself to the fact that it was merely a part of his make-up. People were just too different from him, he had decided, and in ways he could never quite understand. William began trying to read the labels of the bottles on the shelves, many of which were brands he did not recognise. He tilted his head to make sense of a yellow neon squiggle and found himself once more cradled in the pink-beige warmth. Again he panicked, jerked his head forward, and was returned to his bar-stool.
“Hey. Hey Chet?”
Chet looked up. “What? You want another drink?”
William had been about to ask him whether he had noticed anything unusual, but it was clear that he hadn’t.
“Um, yeah, can I get another of these Mexican beers?”
Chet, saying nothing, took a bottle from a cabinet behind the bar, deftly capped it, and placed it on the counter.
“Three pounds, please.”
William shifted his weight onto his left buttock and rummaged around in his right pocket.
“A three pound beer.” William said. Chet waited, arms crossed.
The lining of William’s right hand pocket had folded in on itself, making a tight little sphincter of cloth that he couldn’t quite get his hand past. He grimaced, pushed his hand deeper and again was lost to the beige space. Perhaps because he was initially so intent on retrieving the five pound note he knew was in his pocket, and perhaps because he was intrigued by the strangeness of what was happening, he managed to control his panic. He found that he was struggling against more than his clothing, and was put in mind of the sleep paralysis he had suffered from as a child, waking at four in the morning finding he was unable to move, and a terrible sense of a shadow looming up at him from the darkest corner of the room. But unlike then he didn’t now feel that sense of visceral dread; instead he felt himself penetrated by a warm glow, he felt held safely in place. He felt cradled. He held his breath at first, then slowly exhaled. Darting his eyes around he tried to make out anything, any clue as to what the nature of the beige might be, but he could see nothing in it – no shape or form or anything. Faintly, as though from a hundred miles away, he could hear a rushing sound – a vast body of water that was forever making its way towards him, only never to arrive. He held his breath again so that he could listen more closely to the noise, but like the beige there was nothing characteristic to it – just a featureless wall. A moment later he realised the index finger of his right hand was in contact with the rough and crinkled texture of a worn five pound note. Without thinking he glanced down and was back in the bar, noise and odour rushing in with a snap. Glancing up, he saw that Chet was still waiting for his money. He suspected that Chet didn’t know he’d been away. He handed over the fiver, and took his change. He slowly filled his glass with the pale lager, before turning around on his stool and glancing at the few people sat around.
“Really quiet.” He said to himself.
“Dom, is that you?”
“I said it was me.”
“I need to ask a favour.”
“Will, I thought I told you not to ring past eight.”
“Is it past eight? Shit, sorry.”
“You know it’s past eight.”
“Did I wake you?”
“No you didn’t wake me, but you could have woken Jimmy.”
“Jimmy? Oh, right, sorry. Can I ask you a favour?”
“You want to ask me a favour.”
“Do you still have that video camera? The one that takes the normal cassettes?”
“You want to borrow my video camera?”
“Yeah. Can I? I’ll only need it for an evening.”
“What have you got planned?”
“Well I can’t really- I can’t really talk about that. Not yet anyway.”
“Shit, Will. You ring me up at half past nine, and you want to borrow my camera, my quite expensive camera, and you- you’re not willing to tell me why you want it?”
“Can I borrow it? I’ll look after it.”
“Great. I’ll be right over.”
“No. You can pick it up tomorrow, after work, and before eight o’clock. Fuck’s sake, Will.”
“I can’t pick it up tonight? I was hoping to get started tonight.”
“No. Tonight’s not convenient, okay? Tomorrow. Pick it up tomorrow.”
William had made certain assumptions about what was happening to him. Firstly, the beige space was a real space, albeit unlike any he’d encountered before. The experience of it was too vivid, for all its sparseness, to be an invention of his subconscious, and the fact that, as he was cradled, hand in his pocket, he found the time with which to calmly reflect on his surroundings, suggested that it had a persistence of being unlike the ever-shifting sands of his dreamscapes. Secondly, he was spirited away to it by turning his head to a particular angle. Of the three moments that he had found himself gone, he had been striking attitudes quite different save for the position of his head. This he realised quickly enough. Thirdly, it would appear that when he was gone, he was not missed. This fact led him to suspect that the disappearances somehow happened outside of normal time, that when he was returned he was returned to the exact moment of his disappearance. He wondered if this meant he hadn’t been anywhere at all, but such wondering confused him, so he chose instead to focus on other aspects of the experience.
He had the urge to experiment. With so little in his life worthy of focus, he could do little but channel all of his energies into investigating this strange phenomenon that had suddenly become accessible to him. The second assumption was the easiest for him to put to the test. Reaching into his memory he sought out the particular angle he had tilted his skull. This took a little time, and he had to steel himself in order to keep trying, to hold fast to his assumption until he could be certain he was right. When finally his memory and his neck colluded, his head met that specific angle, some twenty-seven degrees to the right and just a touch backwards, and the beige space had him. He felt again that strange immobility flashing through his limbs, and slowly lowered his head; the space relinquished him. He noticed now that the space did not appear and disappear instantly. There was an odd, brief slinking away of the world, as though he had all along been sitting in a box, the insides of which were screens on which the world had been projected. As he entered the space, it was as if the sides of these boxes were quickly and smoothly folded down and beneath him.
He adopted the angle again, and the sides of the box were lowered. Here, now, with the rushing noise somehow perpetually growing louder, yet never reaching a volume that was uncomfortable, he looked around him. The sensation was curious. The beige backdrop was so absolute that his eyes received no visual cue that they had genuinely moved. It was only the trust that he placed in his own body, the sense of his own movement, that he could be sure his eyes had shifted at all. Gingerly he opened his mouth, expecting the world to be returned to him. As it was the beige remained. He cleared his throat, and shouted out.
“Hello?” He asked, and despite his absolute solitude he felt a little foolish. With little surprise, William heard no response. Not even, he noted, an echo. Nevertheless he called out again, this time as loudly and formlessly as he could manage. He listened out for anything, even a wavering in the rushing sounds that persisted throughout his cries. Nothing changed. The constancy of his surroundings remained. He stopped, then, glancing down, as if for comfort, towards his own body, which hung against the off-white, unsupported. He closed his eyes, to better focus his consciousness on the information his nerves were sending to him. Outside of the beige space he had been sitting on a chair in his kitchen, the table pushed against the wall. He could recall too keenly the slight discomfort that the backing of the chair brought him, and tried to determine whether or not he still felt it. Here his perceptions failed him a little. He suspected that, although he could feel a somewhat nullified sense of the bar’s presence, he could not be certain as to whether the sensation was due to his remaining connected in some way to the world, or if it was merely an illusion, that his nerves were merely responding to his memory of the chair, or indeed whether the beige space was somehow taking the bars place. He opened his eyes, shifted, and the box closed in around him. He stood up, his balance momentarily awry, then walked up to the camera that had been trained on him. Depressing the bright red record button, he stopped the tape and ejected it.
He had hoped for some kind of sign that he had momentarily disappeared; the kind of fleeting disruption that the casual observer would never notice but with careful and knowledgeable attention could be pointed out to other observers. As he watched the tape play on his ageing VCR, first at normal speed, and then advancing a frame at a time, he realised that no such tentative proof of his experience would be forthcoming. This mystery he had found would probably remain his own.
And then the thought occurred to him that the ability might not be particular to him. Was it possible that, should someone else tilt their head just so, they too would find themselves transported? He began to devise some kind of method for establishing exactly the angle at which to turn one’s head.
“Dom, is that you?”
“Yes, Will, it’s me. You done with my camera?”
“Pretty much. Are you going to tell me what you needed it for?”
“You teasing me, Will?”
“Maybe. Can you come round? I want to try something.”
“That doesn’t sound very inviting ‘I want to try something?’ That sounds creepy.”
“It’s not creepy. I don’t think it’s creepy. I just want you to do something for me. If it works, I’ll let you know why I wanted the camera.”
“To be honest, Will, I don’t really care why you wanted the camera, as long as whatever it was I don’t have to watch the tape.”
“You’re making a joke?”
“Yes, Will. I’m making a joke. When do you want me round?”
“Whenever. I’m all set up.”
“Now that is creepy.”
William looked over his handiwork. He had removed the furniture from his front room, and introduced a chair that he had taken from the kitchen and placed it in the middle of the floor. Its legs were placed on four small crosses of masking tape. On the wall he had marked out a huge grid of dots, in varying sizes and colours. William smiled, and nodded. This would work.
There was a knock at the door, rapid and impatient. William opened the door to Dom, who stepped inside, carrying a baby in a carrycot with him.
“I had to bring Jimmy.” He explained. “I forgot about Julie’s exercise class.”
“Julie has an exercise class?”
“Yeah. She’s grown a little worried about her weight after the baby.”
“Oh. Come through. We’re in the lounge.”
Dom looked first at the chair, and then wandered over to the wall and examined the markings as though he were an adolescent at an art gallery.
“Your landlord’s going to be pissed off.”
“No, actually because he told me he was going to redecorate soon, and I don’t mind the grid being there. Hey Dom, sit down on the chair, I want to show you something.”
“What have you cooked up, Will?”
“Sit in the chair, and I’ll show you.”
Dom put Jimmy down a couple of feet from the chair, then sat down.
“Now this might not work. It’s an experiment.”
“You’ve been bored, Will? This is the kind of weird shit you end up getting up to when you don’t watch TV.”
“I don’t watch TV.”
“That was the point I was making?”
“Oh,” Will said, and smiled. “I get you.”
“Okay, so I’m sitting in the chair. Now what? This isn’t something that’s going to hurt me, is it? I’m going to be pretty pissed off with you myself if this is something that’s going to hurt me.”
“It’s not going to hurt you. Just... just don’t panic.”
“That’s no way to not make me panic, Will! Telling me I’m not to!”
“Just sit up straight.”
Dom, who is used to Will’s nonsense, and has long since learned that the best way of dealing with him is to humour him, and then get away from him as quickly as possible, sat up straight.
“Right, now you see the big green cross in the middle of the grid. You see how it’s at your eye level?”
“Okay, now, with you sitting up straight, and your back against the back of your chair, you’re looking straight across at it. Right?”
“Okay – now without turning your head, look at the dot to the right and above; the one with the red circle around it.”
Dom looks at it.
“Okay, I’m there.”
“Right, now with your eyes still looking at the dot with the red circle around it, move your head so that it’s level with the direction your eyes are at – kind of like it was when you were looking at the green cross.”
“Okay. Now what?”
“Did anything weird happen?”
“What? What like.”
“I... I can’t tell you. It has to happen to you and you have to tell me what’s happened.”
“Well... well nothing’s happened.”
“Okay. Just try moving your head really slowly around the angle that you’re at. We’re nearly the same height, but there’s a difference, and it might have some effect.”
Dom complied, and asked “how long do I have to do this for?”
“I don’t know. Nothing’s happened yet?”
“Wouldn’t you notice if something happened?”
Will laughed, a sound Dom particularly disliked.
“No,” Will says, “I wouldn’t.”
Dom stood up abruptly.
“Okay – Nothing happened. Experiment failed. Where’s my camera?”
“It’s in the- are you sure nothing happened?”
“What – I looked at a couple of dots, felt like a twat. What more? I want to get Jimmy back in time for his feed, so if I can just get my camera.”
“Kitchen. It’s in the kitchen.”
Dom went through, picked up the bag, walked back in, picked up his son with his spare hand.
“Would you get the door?”
William who is barely paying attention, opened the front door and allowed Dom, struggling with both burdens, to exit.
“You need help, Will. I’m you’re friend, aren’t I?”
“Well let a friend tell you. You need help. Goodbye Will.”
“Goodbye,” Will said, and closed the door.
Perhaps it was Dom’s fault. Perhaps he just didn’t try for long enough. In the end it didn’t matter. There was still a lot to learn. William sat in the chair, adopted the angle, entered the space.
He tried harder than he had tried before to move his limbs within the space, his struggles fuelled by his frustrations with Dom. William had the sensation that whatever energy he exerted to move his body, an equal amount of energy was being exerted to keep his body in place, as though the space was responding directly and immediately to his exertions. He couldn’t say why he was able to move his jaw and eyes, but not move any other part of his body. What was peculiar was that, when relaxed, he didn’t feel constrained at all. He felt held and comforted. He imagined himself a dove cradled gently in a giant pair of hands.
He attempted further experiments. Given that he was free to call out into the void, and being in possession of an old audio cassette recorder, he took to recording himself holding a particular note, going into the space, changing the note and returning. When played back it merely sounded as if he had changed note naturally. The change was somewhat abrupt, but wholly unremarkable beyond that. He attempted taking the tape recorder with him into the space, and although he managed this, he found that, as he couldn’t move, he wasn’t able to operate the machine once he’d got it there. He next tried taking the recorder in whilst is was already recording, but on entering the space the tape recorder stopped, only to begin again once he’d left. Playing back he discovered a seamless recording of the ambient sound of his living room.
The interruption of time seemed absolute. He even tried jumping and entering the space mid-leap. To his pleasure he found that if he timed it correctly, he could remain at the apex of his jump indefinitely, the sensation of being freed from gravity staying with him until he moved his head and returned to Earth.
His ability, however useless, of taking things into the beige space offered a further conundrum, one he was unable to solve. There seemed no logic as to which objects he could and couldn’t abduct. He tried furniture and found that small items such as the kitchen chair, could be transported if they were fully supported by him. His footstool, however, could not be brought through, nor could many larger items. He was able, with a certain amount of trial and error, to lift onto his back the kitchen table, and tilt his head at the correct angle, only to find himself in the beige space, hunched over but tableless.
William would often, on his way home from work, choose to follow a scenic route home. The path he most favoured took him from his house to the edge of town, down under the bridge, along the river, and then through a series of alleys back to base.
A few days after William had abandoned his experiments with the tape recorder, and he had had enough of carrying furniture and ornaments into the beige space and back again, he found himself wandering down by the river. Stopping not far from the bridge, he took his shoes and socks of, rolled up his trouser legs and wandered in at a point where the bank afforded him easy access. Plunging his hands into the chill water he scavenged pebbles from the riverbed. Laying them in his palm he tilted his head and watched as the majority of them winked out of existence. It seemed evident that certain pebbles could be taken through, and others couldn’t, with no correlation of colour, weight or shape to hint at why. William also noted that his hand remained wet in the beige space.
He stepped out of the river, removed his trousers, and, hitching up his shirt over his belly, waded back in until the water was at waist height. Shivering slightly, he entered the space and was shocked to discover that he had taken with him, to a distance from his skin of about an inch, the water that immediately surrounded him. The depth varied at different points, creating an organic looking surface. It thinned out around his underwear, but was still present. He thought of school experiments involving paper, magnets and iron filings.
Back in the world, as he made his way back to the bank, a large stone plopped into the water, missing him by inches. A moment later a smaller stone struck him hard on the shoulder. At first he thought this had something to do with the space, but on looking up he saw that a gaggle of children, no doubt on their way home from school, were jeering at him and throwing whatever came to hand at him. He hurried to the bank, almost slipping on two occasions, and struggled into his clothes while he was still wet. He hurried beneath the bridge and waited for the children to grow bored and disperse. It was dark by the time he got home, and he went straight to bed.
Throughout the next day his mind often wandered back to the humiliation of the days before. The harsh words that Dom had spoken to him, the frustration at how slowly the space was giving up its mysteries, the shouts of the children as they lobbed their small, sharp missiles at him. Whenever these thoughts became too much for him, he found himself, almost without any conscious effort, adopting the angle that called the space. He didn’t like to admit it to himself, but for all its emptiness, he enjoyed being in there. It had become the safest of all refuges to him. There was even something comforting in the pink rush that sounded throughout it, always promising to become something intelligible but never quite regimenting itself into recognisable noises. The sound lulled him, warmed him, and after a time he would find in himself the strength to return.
It was whilst in the space that he remembered the camera that his father had given him, an old 35mm single lens reflex camera. It was in the box room somewhere, and Will managed to lay his hands on it within five minutes of rummaging. The camera had a setting on it marked B, which allowed the shutter to remain open for however long the button was depressed. This quality suddenly offered up a valuable opportunity for him. Without wasting any time, he made his way into town to the chemists, where he purchased the slowest film they had. The lady at the chemist was most helpful, sociable almost, and had spoken of how glad she was that people were still buying film. She had explained that so many people used digital cameras now that the skills she had learnt, skills she was proud of, were being used less and less. She had been retrained to use the digital printers, she had told him, but this amounted to little more than working a photocopier. Will thanked the woman for her help and went home.
He went into his bedroom, removed the quilt, then stuffed it into the window frame of the living room, keeping it in place with lengths of parcel tape. Then he stopped the cracks beneath the door with bin liners stuffed with newspaper. He unplugged the television, the VCR and the radio.
He loaded the camera, and turned the dial to B. He set the focus length to about three feet, held the camera at waist height and pointed it at his feet. Then he switched off the lights, plunging himself into as absolute a darkness as his hasty measures could manage. He allowed himself a few seconds to mentally prepare himself, then pressed the button.
In the dark, with the button pressed, his head now became the shutter release. He opened his eyes as wide as possible, then shifted his head into position. He allowed the rushing beige to shock him into moving his head out of alignment and, back in the dark, released the button. He turned the lights back on and decided on his next composition.
“Yes. Hello there.”
“Mr Bishop, this is Julia calling from Boots.”
“Ah. Is this something to do with my photographs.”
“Yes Mr Bishop. I’m afraid they haven’t come out particularly well, but they’re ready for collection.
“I’m terribly sorry, I don’t think there’s a shot here that’s-“
“That’s quite alright. The photos are something of an experiment. I dare say they won’t mean very much to anyone but myself at present.”
“Well. Well that’s good, then., I hope. They’ll be ready and waiting for you Mr Bishop.”
“Call me William, please.”
“They’ll be ready for you William.”
Julia looked on, still a little puzzled, as William looked at picture after picture, his face beaming with pleasure.
“It’s quite unusual.” Julia said. “They seem to be overexposed, except for the odd one where you can see a little of... well, of your hands, or your feet. I didn’t think that could happen.”
“Really, these are better than I could have hoped for. Of course they don’t really prove anything, not yet. But they will!”
William walked with a lightness of step he had not known for years. The photography experiment had been a success, as he’d known it would be as soon as he’d had the idea. In his coat pocket were thirty-six matt-finished rectangles, each of them depicting the boundless, featureless beige space. Now if he could just design an experiment that would allow him to prove to someone else that he really was being spirited away somewhere. Perhaps an observer could supply him with three surprise objects. He could photograph them in the space (if he could get them there), and the observer could get the pictures developed. He could even supply the camera probably. The darkness might be a problem, but William was sure with enough forethought he’d be able to solve any difficulties that might present.
“Oi! Watch it!”
High on his own success, William had turned into the subway without looking, carelessly bumping into a boy of about nineteen.
“That’s fucking assault that is!” The boy said, stabbing the air in front of William with his index finger.
“Look I’m sorry I-”
“You bet you're fucking sorry.”
“I said I was sorry.”
“Saying’s not- saying you’re sorry’s not fucking worth anything.”
“Money. Give me money or I’ll have you fucking charged.”
“For what?” William couldn’t understand how this boy, who he didn’t know, who he had apologised to, could have become so angry, so quickly.
“Alright. Give me money or I’ll fucking stab you.”
With a snick of metal a blade suddenly extended from the boy’s fist.
“Oh come on. I’m just trying to get home.” William pleaded.
“I’m not fucking around!”
The boy lunged at William, and William backed away. The boy stumbled then, and fell onto his left knee, his knife skittering away into the gutter. William, thinking a show of civility might still win the day, offered a hand for support, but the boy chose instead to spit on it.
“Oh!” William said, and looked about him for something suitable to wipe it on. The boy chose this moment to push himself up from his crouch and force William towards the wall of the underpass. Knocked off balance, William grabbed for the boy to stop himself going over, and that was when it happened. The enormity of it didn’t dawn on him for a second, but as they slowly went over, William’s head, quite by chance, fell into position, and they were transported to the beige space. Hanging before him, mouth distorted by rage, was the yob. He was plainly paralysed, his eyes wide, almost shivering as he looked on in disbelief. William, it seemed, could take people with him.
“Can you hear me?” William said, but the mugger didn’t seem to respond.
“If you can hear me, look over to your left.” The mugger stared on. Could he hear him? William’s frustration grew a little greater. Why was it, he wondered, that whenever some new aspect of this space became known to him, it ultimately served no purpose. He looked again at the mugger. Could it be that he was as paused as William’s tape recorder had been? Would he have any memory of this moment when he was returned? Had the success with the camera now become suddenly but satisfyingly redundant? There was, William realised, only one way to find out. Slowly he moved his head and was at once moving forcefully towards the floor.
“Fuck! What the fucking-” the boy landing on top of him, scrabbled quickly to his feet and staggered a little way into the subway. He stumbled again, this time staying down on his knees.
“You saw it?” William asked, standing up and stepping towards the boy. “You saw the space?”
“What the fuck did you do to me?” The boy shouted, then panted for breath. He clutched at himself, desperate not to let himself go.
“It’s been happening for some time now.” William said, by way of answering. “I’ve been trying to figure out what it is, what it’s for. I managed to take some photographs of it, they’re here if you want to see them.” He retrieved the pack and offered it to the boy.
“Get the fuck away from me.”
William looked down at the photos, and slipped them back into his pocket.
“What was it like for you, in the space?”
The boy rose to his feet, turned round and punched William in the face.
“I said get the fuck away from me.”
“You didn’t have to hit me.”
“After what you did to me?”
“It’s nothing really.”
The boy hit him again, in the stomach this time, knocking the breath out of him. William slumped to his knees. Why wasn’t there anyone else around to help him? Why was it always like this? Why was he always on his own? Why did the world around him act like it was his victim, and not the other way round? He heard a click and looked up. The boy was standing over him. He was aiming a gun at William’s head, a tiny revolver that almost looked handmade.
“Fucking freak.” The boy said. William watched as his trigger finger slowly closed. The boy raised his free hand. That’s to shield his face, William thought. That’s to stop him getting blood on his face. My blood on his face.
Is that it, then?
The boy pulled the trigger. The barrel flared.
But William was ready. As he’d looked at the boy, his head had moved smoothly into position. All he had to do was beat the bullet. Solder hot, it hit his cheek; a fragment of pain at once swept away as the beige space took him.
There all pain dissipated in an instant. The ache in his cheek, the swelling feeling in his left eye, bled away into nothing. The rush surrounded him. William, for the first time, noticed that when he breathed in the beige space it seemed somehow meaningless. There was, he saw now, no real change in pressures, as though his body only thought it was breathing in and out, but in fact nothing was happening to him at all. He took a deep breath and found that it simply went on and on – again that sensation of moving without any arrival at any kind of state. His lungs would not fill. He stopped, and breathed out. Endless exhalation. He could not be filled. He could not be emptied. Outside of the beige space, time waited.