The ground was cold. Stone, he knew. The color he imagined was gray-the most generic in stone coloring. But, he did not know for sure. He could not remember that quick initial glimpse before the door closed. The minor details that, for a moment, were visible. He wondered how much planning went into the construction. He imagined some interior designer throwing fits. "Oh, asymmetrical cracks are so fifteenth century!" Or, "So dark. Too, too dark. What are we trying to say here? Of course it has to be black, but does it have to be boring?" And, in the end, as in so many ends, traditional format won over originality. Crushed were the solitary confinement interior designer's ideas. No flowered curtains. No potpourri-scented cracks in the stone for aroma therapy. No pleasant scenes of river parties and picnics in pastel on the walls, shrouded by black-unseen to the occupant, but leaving a hint of the warmth that could be if only there was a window behind those flowered curtains.
Allister wondered how much time had passed. He guessed high. He would say two minutes. Two whole minutes out of the way. In the bag. Only 1,438 to go (He would probably need a bigger bag). He began painting pictures. Pastels-primary colors, too. River parties and picnics. Half family reunion/half miscellaneous gumbo-where his Cousin Richie was eating sloppy joes with Three Finger Brown, Mrs. Anderson (Allister's elementary school teacher), a stegosaurus, Florence Nightingale, and Genghis Khan.
They all sneered at stegosaurus, telling him to pick the meat out if he was such a herbivore or just eat the bun. Genghis clutched a dagger tucked behind his belt. Florence crafted a splint-handled gauze-and-bandaged-padded flail. Mrs. Anderson brandished a ruler. Cousin Richie tightened his fists. And Three Finger Brown prepared to throw a barrage of split-fingered fastballs. If stegosaurus would not eat, that was how he would meet his end. A concoction of dagger stabs, gauze and bandage flails, ruler slaps, cousin punches, and split-fingered fastballs to the head.
And they were only half kidding.
And while they all argued, Allister painted a hole. A tunnel. An entire system of passages. And, when it was finished, they would all escape. Allister, Three Finger Brown, Cousin Richie, Mrs. Anderson, stegosaurus, Florence Nightingale, and Genghis Khan. They would all escape from pastel picnics and solitary confinement and poke their heads out of the darkness into a brand new world birthed from old ashes-a world made for them by them-by Allister.
But before they could, the door opened. Light spilled in and flushed out Genghis and Florence instantly. The light shot down Three Finger Brown and Mrs. Anderson, erased stegosaurus and Cousin Richie, and left Allister squinting. His tunnel was not complete. Not even close. The light searched and destroyed what little he had made. He had underestimated. He always underestimated. Four minutes, four days. How could he count when it went by so fast?