He exhaled heavily, and his heart began to beat more steadily, giving him a little more courage. It was comforting to know that his heart was still functioning, even if his mind was reeling. With this happier thought beginning to bolster his reason he had a sudden and disorientating lapse into terror, as if his mind were punishing him for his lack of vigilance. He became aware of the fact he had stopped listening. At some indeterminate point in the last few minutes he had become so fixated on decoding the sounds that his ears had turned inward, listening to his own thoughts only. Still standing motionless by the river, he tried desperately to remember when he had lost awareness of the sounds around him, only to realise he had absolutely no idea. Time had become meaningless anyway, and the sounds may have been a minute, or an hour ago. Painfully aware that he had been standing exposed for a substantial amount of time, he left the path and sheltered by a low bush, finally gaining the nerve to peer into the darkness down the path he had trod. Guiltily, he strained his ears, listening for some reprise of the steps, but heard nothing. His mind wandered as he listened, at once conjuring images of horror in the black, and imagining the warm and vibrant party that was almost certainly drawing to an end by now.