The retractor emptied its cartridge onto the floor, sucking it down and out of sight. We were left pinioned to the walls like insects, afraid to step across the empty space toward the open door. We could see that the driveway was still there, and the lawn. Maybe it was the sunlight slicing across the field of vision that made us afraid. I’d read that, if you ever found yourself at the bottom of a deep well, you could look up at the sky in broad daylight and see the stars. Looking horizontally across that void I could see all the way to the edge of the world, as if the trees and buildings weren’t even there, as if the curvature of the world could bend my line of sight.
Slowly — I presume my progress was slow, since every increment of intervening space stands out now in my memory as clearly as separate universes linked together only by my passage between them — and with an equanimity that surprised me I edged my way along the wall. I passed the now-empty space where the plant pots had been stored, next to the potting soil and the dessicated earthworms I had collected from sidewalks after the rain. The tools still hung from their pegs: I hoped that, once I could reach them, I would know what to do with them.
Cantilevered along the edge of the opening, the hydraulics twitched and sweated — I knew it wanted to activate itself, pulling the door down along its track, consigning us to darkness and the vertical plunge. Maybe if I jammed a rake into the mechanism? Pulling it from its holster, I grasped the rake in the wrong hand and so of course it fell. I waited for it to hit bottom, and so I waited for an eternity; then I began inching along again.
When at last I turned the corner I glanced back toward my companion. I observed that she had not moved at all, still positioned midway between the spare tires and the half-empty paint cans. Despite the positional stability, however, the distance had increased enormously. I remained silent, knowing that if I called out to her she would be consigned to another eternity of waiting before my voice reached her.
I grasped the…
Lunch is here; I can stop now.