The walls closed in. They started slowly, at first, and, eventually, picked up some speed.
By the time Herbert was aware, the walls had successfully jimmy-nogged his routes of escape.
He was trapped in the cave. The mammoth cave. The cave in which exits turned to shoulder-scrapers-breakers and the Outside was a fucking joke. Okay. No big deal.
Deal with it.
Herbert needed hydration. Herbert thought to himself, Dude?! Why did I not utilize the buddy system? I could use a hand, here. He looked at his crotch and said aloud, "Only if necessary."
Think, Herbert! Think! How to get Outside, mang? The walls were slick and shiny and smelled slightly of sulphur. Herbert dug a fingernail into a wall and it sliced off into his hand. From somewhere, he heard a preternatural wail, a scream that outbounded any semblance of humanity. The wail echoed off of the chamber and finally terminated.
Herbert grinned crookedly and said, "Oh. Okay. I am in an Earthbound version of Red. That's okay. I can still get outta here."
He sat down.
Silence echoes, if you think about it. Silence begets more silence and more silence until, eventually, that is all one hears. Silence. It reverberates. It busts the mind.
Turn off the noise.
Physical silence, sure, but also spiritual and mental silence. Nothingness.
Herbert sat and his mind jigged this way and that and he sat, shoulders hunched against the sulphurous wall, and he dangled his fingers between his knees.
"Hello?!" He echoed his screams against the implacable walls. He felt his teeth cringe.
He was here for the long haul. By himself. No angels existed. He had to make it happen. No deus ex machina. He'd not be saved by an illogical plot-saver.
He was in this for the long haul.
He worried about the air. Did it still have enough oxygen in it? Or was his rapid breathing replacing the O with the CO? Fuck.
"Fuck!" he shouted, listening and slap-grinning to the echoes.
"Um, fuck," he muttered.
10-by-30, 10-by-40, maybe. He thought about the Outside world.
He thought about his beautiful girlfriend, thought about kissing fiercely her soft rose petal lips, and he thought about massaging her shoulders, her breasts, making her feel good. He thought about family and he thought about friends that he'd lost over the years. He thought about his canines--otherworldly--and he thought about who would care for them. He thought about that one time, at age thirteen, when he had been privy to friends dis-utilizing another friend's bicycle.
"Sorry, Ray," he muttered. "'Twasn't my idear, ya hear."
The walls stunk of sulphur and lost Ambition.
Herbert sighed heavily and leaned back against the wall. Things would work out, he assured himself. My God, he was the primary actor in this slop. He'd wink out, right?
An hour passed.
Things became more fuzzy.
The fissures in the walls began to take on familiar characteristics of life-long co-actors of Herbert's. One crack was his mommy. The other two were his sisters. The one at the base of the opening was his brother.
"Father?" he asked. "Where the fuck are you?"
And so Herbert stared at the wall, contemplating drinking urine, for another fifteen minutes.
"Daddy?!" he shouted against the chambers, "Where the fuck are you?! I'm dyin', here!"
And a crack did begin to appear, ten inches from Herbert's right shoulder. It followed no logical sequence of nature. Rather, it cracked and crickled until Herbert's father's countenance was in broad relief against the LED of Herbert's helmet light.
Right there. He'd never left. He'd always been there.
Herbert watched as the cracks and fissures filled in his father's face.
The cracks formed a beard and then scraggled up to fill in two bushy eyebrows. A wisp of hair, here, and then the fissures filled out his father's body: strong, thick, husky. A farmer's body.
Herbert cinched his eyes against some unwanted tears and and then opened and simply watched.
Fissures formed broad shoulders and filled in the trunk of Herbert's father.
Tears flowing openly, Herbert whispered, "God damn, Dad, I love you, you workhorse. You mothercrimper. I love you, man. God damn, I love you."
The image grew upon the cave wall until Herbert could see the lost memories. He could see his father, clad in a bathing suit, leading his children on The Dolphin. Herbert could feel the slick goodness of his dad's strong back, he could feel his tiny scrawny legs clamped against the solidity of fhis father's torso as his dad dipped down deep into the pleasures of Water.
Herbert blew his nose. Tears came out.
Herbert scanned the walls; he looked for escape.
Okay, he thought, let's enjoy the picture-show.
He lay down flat and he looked at the "ceiling."
On the movie screen, images came to life:
His daddy, pretending to be a Halloween prop, his dad, making the teakettles and sugar and coffee containers talk.
Hid daddy, bleeding from the scalp, underplaying it all as to not disturb the 9-year-old boy. His daddy had fallen off a 10-foot ledge and had cracked his head, yet the 9-year-old would not have believed that. The Daddy is strong, the Daddy is tall, the Daddy is invincible.
Blood be damned.
Herbert sighed and leaned deeper against the sulphurous walls. He closed his eyes and a smile touched his lips.
He fell asleep.
He never woke up.