Dr. Adelheid stood in frozen shock when the doors to the Silent Room swung open suddenly. Caught before she even made it to the bio board with the disconnect serum. Then she saw the form of a man crumpling slowly to the floor, his dark curls splattering across the tile.
He sat with relief, drawing in great gulping breaths of air and emptiness. No screaming pterodactyls, no chasing wolves or stampeding horses. He was alive. He didn't know which side was up or down anymore. He was just glad to be able to stop moving for five minutes. He kept thinking everything would start to make sense at some point. But the scenarios just kept getting stranger and stranger and less like any place he had ever been. At least this time he didn't feel like he was five minutes from dying a miserable painful death by crazed, clawing animal.
It took a few minutes to come into himself, to begin to think of the fourth and last item on his list- a blue checked napkin.
In front of him was a stretching flatness. There was no sense of reality in the distance. Nothing in the landscape to anchor him. Just empty dusty fields stretching away from him in all directions.
At last he started by turning around. Then he chose a direction at random and walked straight ahead. And very nearly knocked himself out when his jaw shot up and his feet spun under him like a rug being pulled out.
From his new place on the hard ground he blinked at the space in front of him. It seemed to shimmer like ripples spreading out from a central point. Then it calmed and smoothed into invisibility. A way to break through this false reality!
Eagerly he stood up and spent the next hour trying to break through that same spot. It didn't work. All he managed to do was make himself nauseous and dizzy. And sore.
Next he tried finding the edge of the wall to see how far it continued. He had walked at least a mile with no break in the wall when he realized that the wall wasn't as straight as he'd first thought. Instead it seemed to be curving ever so slightly inward like the underside of a great bowl. Maybe this world was just curving around in a big circle, and he would come back to his original spot. If he dropped something and it was a circle, he'd come back to it. He went through his pockets looking for anything he could drop. There was nothing. Eventually, he used his feet to scuff out a giant x in the hard ground of the field.
Keeping the wall to his left he continued on, putting one foot in front of the other. Nothing changed. And he certainly didn't see anything that resembled a checked napkin. Not in all that great open space. He did not come back to the x. He kept on walking until night fell. Then he settled down against the invisible wall and tried to catch a few hours of sleep.
In the darkness, thoughts came. He had been searching in this great emptiness, going at it for who knows how long. Maybe days. With nothing to show for it. He needed to solve this. For himself and the redheaded doctor and all the rest of his countrymen. But what if there was no napkin to find? Or what if he found the napkin, but when he got out of this he was so dead tired that he couldn't function to put one foot in front of the other? How would he get his real body to get away then? He thought of the bottle he had carried for so long. Thinking to much when you had the time to sleep never did any good. He let the exhaustion flow through him, weight him down. He let his head slump forward and let sleep wash him away.
When he woke, day had returned full and bright. As though someone somewhere had simply flipped a switch. He just sat and stared across the empty fields and expanse. He was hungry and thirsty and not that much less tired than he had been when he fell asleep in the darkness.