The light went out.
Hermat shut his eyes, opened his eyes.
The same total dark.
Then all the noises started again, but not the same noises, no longer the screech of metal-on-metal but the plaintive songs and cries of imprisoned birds: linnets, thrushes, robins, nightingales, wrens, larks, warblers, a cacophony of calls above which Hermat could clearly distinguish the distinctively complacent voice of the cuckoo. They seemed to be whirling all around him, past his face, over his head, he could feel the draught of their passing wings, some bird even brushing his hair with a wing or a claw as it flew too close, making him duck even though it would have been too late.
Then something was tugging at him, not so much tugging as pulling, not even pulling, holding rather but with a slight patient indication of the desire/need to be moving/escaping. Now that his eyes had adjusted to the darkness, Hermat could see one of the capped figures, now a dark presence, standing at his side, gripping him by the upper arm. There was no real reason to resist. However there was still the option of pulling his arm away…
Meekly he allowed himself to be guided away – a long way – from the visible side of the cube into its inner reaches and recesses where the darkness was complete and palpable……
and then the guiding hand was no longer guiding and there he was, abandoned, in the dark physically and metaphorically, forsaken, frighteningly alone, the dark presence by his side no longer present, the bird songs trailing off one by one as though the individual birds too had taken flight for a sunnier, friendlier clime till only the call of the cuckoo was left.
He stood there for what seemed hours, wide open eyes seeing nothing, total darkness, only the relentless bi-tonal call of the cuckoo sending through his listening brain a crackling tide of strangely patterned repetitive sound waves.
When that call also began to trail off, he followed it through the darkness, his hands held out in front of him, till it too was lost in the dark silence, leaving him guided now only by an inner voice in which he placed absolute trust……
and then he was falling, falling, stepped off the edge of his world into airy nothingness, turning, rolling, somersaulting, cartwheeling helplessly through the dark vacuum that nature was supposed to abhor.