Robert Danvers awoke with no past to cling to, only the moment to dwell in and a tenuous grasp on his future. He was also blind.
Danvers leaned against a curved wall that blended without seam or corner with the floor. His normal stance was somewhat taller than the ceiling allowed, so he stood stoop shouldered. He pressed his palm against the outline of the wall. He thought he might be standing in a section of corridor or tunnel.
He blinked, was aware of the sensation of fluttering eyelids. His other senses appeared to be intact as he heard and felt a soft warm wind brush against his face and course over his entire body.
Light began to reach his retinas. His pupils must have grown to dinner plate size, he thought with remarkable calm for someone who had good reason to be frightened or in panic. But he was a calm sort, he observed to himself, and the return of his eyesight no matter how little, no matter how slow was, not surprisingly, consoling. After a few minutes he could see the outline of the rest of his body, his legs and the backs of his hands. But when he realized the light would not get any brighter by standing in one place, he began to walk, placing the wind at his back, following its direction of flow.
Within a hundred paces the low ceiling gave way to a larger corridor and he could stand upright. The gentle gust on his back was joined by another nearly equally soft pressure coming from the tributary he had just entered. Feather light, he felt the combined push as a slightly stronger breath on his back as he continued to walk in a gentle, gradual turn to the right.
There was more light ahead. It was reflected off the walls some meters distant at what appeared to be another slight bend in the road. He began a fast trot toward the brightness. Making the turn, he stopped dead still in his tracks. In front of him was the largest multiple car accident he had ever seen. He estimated fifty vehicles of every size and type, passenger and transport alike, mounded in a pileup in the middle of an arterial intersection that should have been a wide river of vehicular movement.
There were no ambulances. The accident must have taken place just a short while before his arrival because forklifts and truck-mounted cranes were only now being positioned. The men operating the machines evidently planned to dismantle the pile and remove those vehicles which were unable to operate under their own power. The accident blocked the normal flow of traffic and a long line waited their turn to pass, but that would not be any time soon. Huge floodlights lit the scene which struck Danvers as looking like a movie set.
He heard the bleating sound a Heister makes as it backs up. A car body lay in the dumpster sized outstretched maw, a broken toy in the arms of a child. A chill ran up Danvers’ spine. He was so engrossed in the rescue operation he failed to notice the group of men as they began to surround him.
A white rope snaked out and looped around his shoulders; his arms were pinned to his sides. Another loop encircled his legs and prevented him from taking another step. Almost as if with minds of their own, several more cords cascaded over him and around his middle until he was nearly in a cocoon. The other end of each restraint was in the hands of an individual in the group.
“No more movement out of you,” a voice threatened. He felt the cables tighten almost in unison. His next thought was he might strangle if they did not loosen their hold.
Carefully, with the practiced hand of an animal trainer leaning into a cage, the man who had spoken moved toward Danvers. Each in the group wore a nondescript gray one-piece pullover jumpsuit, the utility clothing of laborers everywhere, with a pink badge clipped to his chest.
The leader used his white lasso like a mountain climber, crawling hand over hand toward his prey. When he was within reach, he began to frisk Danvers, gingerly patting with one hand, holding tightly to his rope with the other.
“You are in a controlled zone,” the man said through tight lips. “Your presence here is unauthorized.” Without turning or taking his eyes off the intruder, he gave an enigmatic command: “Take him out.”
Everything happened with alarming speed. Danvers was turned none-too-gently, and slammed against the wall which knocked the breath out of him. The one who frisked him took that opportunity to reach inside the breast pocket of Danvers’ coat. He withdrew a rather large leather wallet which he opened and examined. As he thumbed through the contents of the billfold, his eyes widened.
The man made a sudden gesture with his rope hand which caused the white strand to loosen its grip around Danvers’ body. The lariat reeled itself in like a moray eel retreating into its underwater hole. The man motioned the others to do the same.
“Extremely high clearance for this one,” he remarked with a new tone of deference in his voice. “Cut him loose.”
In response, the cables withdrew from Danvers as quickly as they had tied themselves around him. The man holding Danvers’ wallet flopped it open for the others to see. He withdrew a bright blue card with a gold badge printed on it which Danvers did not recognize, showed it around, replaced the card in the wallet. His manner became diffident and somewhat apologetic.
“Sorry about the rough house stuff, Mr. Danvers. We got a whole bunch of problems on our hands and can’t be too careful. ’Sides, no one told us to expect you here.”
Danvers was still unsure of his position relative to his former captors and asked, “I’m free to go?”