There is a thing that used to be a man in a uniform too worn to remind him of his purpose or his place.

Having not dreamed for seven days and seven weeks and seven months, it crawls the halls, having nothing dreaming or seeing any. Dust coats the walls and floor and the hair falls out in great clumps, for there is nothing here but the echoes. Patterns and context drift together and apart and familiar situations are solved by equation in blinking lights. One, zero. Red, green. Stop, go.

of answers becomes as the darkness

And so passage is achieved and it wanders. Drugs could be taken in orange bottles of a dead world, but it is not thirsty to drink and cannot swallow with a cracked throat. It has been seven and seven and seven and the sunlight cannot be seen and the air cannot be breathed but through filters. It is endless. it is cold. It is scentless except for fear in the concrete halls. It is colorless but for the red and green. Mostly, it is red.

have touched the sky

He cannot see red and it is grey but it is not green, it is colorless and the world has been. Gone. It takes him in seconds, in minutes, in weeks, in months, he counts, and it bubbles up as laughter, for he cannot dream, cannot sleep. Cannot wake for the blooming fire behind his eyelids and a thousand charcoal ghosts that stain the empty ruins of blasted cities. One monitor blinks green, showing a flag, the glorious People. He is glorious.

it seemed to him, of a sudden, that he would drown

Sometimes his throat is hurting and he wakes up screaming, but he has never slept or dreamed for those sevens. "I did what you told me! Tell me I may have dinner now!"

Sometimes he is simply screaming and there are no words.

forgive me father for I have sinned

One day he will push the button once more and turn the key once more and give the authorization codes once more and he will leave the house of echoes and the blinking lights and the undreaming underground and the deepness of this mountain.

One day he will follow the map on the wall on every level past the banks of shattered tubes and the broken platters and the unspooled reels of tape. One day he will turn on the alarms that lead spiraling up, he will climb, not dreaming upwards and he will scream as he opens the doors to the sun and will watch it with streaming eyes as a thousand new suns ignite

lights wink out through the windows, one by one