Darkness fell. Mike and Tom sat close to a small fire. A tent, large enough for three, was pitched nearby. Benson stood in the darkness near the obelisk, staring at its shape intently. He could sense so very little about it—just a large block with only one property: it was taking up space. Through his heightened awareness he could feel no heat, no cold, not even density or mass. This was impossible given the one thing he could sense: that space was occupied where the obelisk stood. He focused for several hours in the night, centering all his newfound powers of perception on the obelisk. Then a foreign thought interrupted his own, coming to him just shy of a word: sleep.
“Ben, Mike has been asleep for some time now. I’m tired too. Why don’t you call it a night?”
“You go ahead and sleep, Tom,” answered Benson. “I’ll come in a few more minutes.”
“Alright,” answered Tom. He crawled into the tent and quickly fell asleep.
Benson stood for a few minutes more, trying to gather a glimmer of insight into the obelisk, but nothing happened. The night was passing in silence. Benson broke his concentration on the obelisk and crawled into the tent. Sleep.
He had perfect control of his dreaming. He was sitting on a boulder, setting the monsters and shadows of a normal subconscious aside. Instead he deliberately reviewed the events of the past few weeks: first the encounter with the rats, and receiving the medallion; second, his compulsion to leave the city and go east; and now, finding an obelisk which looked exactly like its smaller counterpart in the sewer tunnels.
“The medallion,” he thought, “is the key.”
When he had first put the medallion on, his awareness had grown, and he could talk to the rats. And they had just wanted to get the medallion to him. Then the medallion—or something wordlessly communicating through it—compelled Benson to come to this place. The medallion was the link between Benson and whoever wanted him there. But what would happen? For the moment, it seemed the medallion would take him no further. His awareness, though still great, was now useless to him. Some part of the journey was over. All he could do was wait for the next part to begin.
Benson sat up awake. “The next part,” he said aloud. “Step two.”
Something clicked in his mind. He left the tent; the East was hinting at the possibility of dawn—the dream had been short, the sleep long.
“There is something missing,” he said to the rocks about him. “I’ve got to have something else before I can go on. That’s why the medallion won’t take me anywhere else.”
He walked toward the obelisk.
“The first step is over and the medallion has done its job. I need something from this obelisk. When I get it, I can go on.”
He stood a foot from a structure that was and wasn’t there.
“But what is it I need?”
Then he reached out to touch the obelisk and his hand passed right through. He drew back quickly, in surprise, and another thought came to his head: “It cannot be sensed because it is not part of the first step.”
“There must be an inside.”
With that, Benson threw himself at the pillar wall. Any creature rising with the sun and looking toward the obelisk would have seen no one there.
Benson stumbled and fell on his stomach. He had expected to be knocked out by a solid wall, only half believing he would pass through. He noticed the floor first—smooth and cold. Then he looked around but could see nothing. He was surrounded by darkness. Cautiously, he stood up and turned in what he thought was the direction from which he had come. He reached out for the wall but could feel nothing. Hands extended, Benson walked a few feet in that direction. His hands did not pass through to the outside. His senses began to work. He thought at first that he would sense nothing. But his awareness was working better on the inside of the obelisk than on the outside (whatever that meant). He began to separate and digest, in his mind, a series of facts about the surrounding area. The air was fresh and cool, containing oxygen, nitrogen, and smaller amounts of other gases. Air pressure was normal: fourteen point seven pounds per square inch. Though the air was fresh, there was no sense of circulation. He could not feel boundaries—neither ceiling nor walls. The darkness stretched to infinity in his mind’s