Twenty-eight hours in and his shoelaces spoke. He expected them to talk with two voices but he was soon reminded that they both came from the same thread to start with, and anyway, hadn’t they seen exactly the same things in their lives, albeit from a small distance apart? Stamped and cut from the same endless brown cord, or so they said, spooled out from a giant reel, forever turning. They spoke with an accent at once indefinable yet perfectly understandable as the voice of shoelaces. They postulated knots he could try, wondered aloud which of his feet was the largest, generally groaned at their own unevenness. They seemed overly concerned with symmetry.
Twenty-nine hours in and their voices died down. He held his tongue between his teeth and focused yet harder on the view through the tiny window. A wet oblivion. Intermittent flooding, water lurching up against his complaining shoes, pouring in from some point outside his cramped field of vision. He wondered, as he did often, if perhaps this Hell only existed within his perceptible portion of the outside world. He wondered if only when he stood up and unfolded himself from his vantage point would he realise that beyond his dirty window, barely bigger than a postage stamp, the world was good and clean and just the way people expected it to be.
He shrugged off the thought like so many others and hunched himself further up the ledge, allowing his legs some small respite from the pain throbbing down from his knees. In the distance, a long-tailed bird wheeled black arcs against the grey. An edgeless screech like drawn-out death wailed where morning sounds should be. He felt around in his mouth, following ulcers like a star chart, wishing for any part of the deep green leaves flapping at his window to be lolling on his tongue, imparting vitamins and minerals so to heal his aching body.
During these stretching hours, he rationed out glances at his digital watch, rewarding his curiosity only when he couldn’t stand it any more. He had begun to dread the constant obedience of the lurid green numbers; each frantic check would reveal the time had progressed only mere seconds. His notebook swelled in his pocket, engorged with moisture, pages curling and twisting, inviting him to smooth them down. But he knew nothing new remained in those pages; he had read all those words to death. All that remained was what was to come. Whenever it was that it came.
And there, in hour number thirty, was a movement. Nothing but a tiny twitch—perhaps the mistimed splash of a raindrop—but there it was, real, through the window, and it snapped him from his stasis. He flicked the button on his camera and technology took over, flipping its lens five seconds into the past, tiny synapses firing messages that focused and defined a stamp-sized image into super-compressed parts, downloading them simultaneously to three hard drives buried deep in plastic five kilometres to the west, as distant from his cramping rain-filled solitude as the bottom of the sea is from the tip of the sky. And then the movement was gone, captured and corralled in a silent second as his thumb depressed and lifted the camera’s trigger, as the view returned in an eye-blink to rain-patterned monotony.
Still, his heart thumped right at the pit of his throat. He imagined the camera-captured image, crystal clear and full-colour, flashing across the retinas of the world. An image made famous, perhaps. In an age of everything-at-once, he alone was responsible for an isolated singularity that had never been seen before, and perhaps never would be again. He allowed himself a small smile, shuffled further up onto his ledge, and continued to wait.