They sat in silence for a long time. The lights dimmed, but only because of the mood that pervaded the cave. Outside the stars sparkled coldly. Inside the warmth eddied around them in accordance with their personal comfort. Time stretched and yawned.
Yani stood up languidly and took her young father’s hand in hers. “Come, I’ll show you around our home.”
The two of them passed Lem’s and Yani’s bedroom. “Here’s where we sleep. If you need anything …”, she said, allowing the rest of her sentence to be understood.
They arrived at a decent sized alcove carved out of the rock. “This is the guest room.” There was a bed against the opposite wall, far more comfortable looking than the Spartan cot at his cabin or the hospital bed at the asylum. There was a chair and table beside the bed. The lighting seemed to come through the spaces between the rocks. There was a small fountain in the corner with water gushing out of the rock wall. It made a pleasant noise that was cool and refreshing. Yani said, “You can drink the water or wash yourself with it.” The young man asked, “What if I have to, you know, …”
Yani answered with a delightful laugh, “Don’t worry, we have succubae to take care of those needs.”
“I meant …”, he protested.
“Yes, that too, and more,” she laughed again.
He felt uncomfortable discussing these things with his daughter, even though she knew every one of his thoughts, so he dropped the subject.
Yani bent over and kissed her father on his cheek, sending a small, not so secret thrill through him. “Will you be alright if we leave you to your own devices for the night”, she asked, looking into his brown eyes.
“Don’t you worry about me,” he answered. “You’ll know my thoughts even before I do.”
She looked once more into his eyes, searchingly, and left.
He sat down on the bed first, testing it. Satisfied about its comfort, he stood up and sat down in the chair beside the bed. He sat for a while immersed in thought, summing up what he’d been through, trying to make sense of the last few day-night cycles. Ellen came into his mind. He rubbed his eyes to make sure she had not entered the room. In this present universe, no, in his present state of mind, he could not be certain of the laws of physics or the laws of logic for that matter. No, she was definitely not in his room … just in his mind. At least that is what he thought, he thought. That’s enough of that. He wondered where she was now and what she was doing. Was she softly knocking on the door on the porch of his cabin? What would she do when nobody answered? Would she still die? Why couldn’t he go back to the cabin to rescue her, to take her hand and walk through the door to this world, to be with Lem and Yani, and him?
There was no answer. He would raise the question to Lem and Yani tomorrow morning. They would know. They knew everything. He couldn’t imagine anything they didn’t know. Of course he couldn’t imagine. He imagined them. He knew he was losing his mind and all his rationality, and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t … put …
He stood up unsteadily and wandered through the cave, dragging his right hand along the walls of rock. As he moved from one area to another, the lights dimmed and extinguished themselves where he had been, and came on where he passed. He came to the main area where they had first sat and talked. There was still some fruit and breads in bowls on the table by the sofa. His stomach responded hungrily. He sat down and ate a prange, and then a piece of bread.
He walked to the glass wall and looked outside at the lights from the caves on the other side of the valley. He put his hand on the glass and it dissolved at his touch.
He walked out into the crisp night air, turned to his left, and walked up the path toward the strand of trees.