Saturday, November 15, 2008

Chapter 34 - Elevation

June 14th, 2008
Hillenbrand Hall - East Wing Elevator 1

Shaking, T.Rex stood and tried to calm his mind to study the situation at hand. He was trapped
in a cramped elevator compartment with a reeking corpse, one that had nearly made him lunch. Irregular groans and muffled thumping sounds penetrated the thick elevator doors as an unknown number of zeds outside tried to claw and bash their way in. Without power the lights and the air circulation system were inactive, rendering the hot, stagnant air almost as suffocating as the darkness.

Ryan stomped his foot around in the darkness until he was positive his shoe was firmly pressed against the temple of the dead zed on the floor beside him - he wasn't about to take any chances retrieving his weapon. With a grunt he worked to dislodge his trusted crowbar from the mangled zombie skull, twisting and wriggling the metal until it was free. Best rescue ever, he thought as he wiped the gore from the weapon with his shirt.

Trying to fight through an unknown horde of agitated zombies just outside the elevator not only sounded suicidal to T.Rex, he knew it would bring him no closer to Jenny. There was only one direction to go - up.

There was a thick handrail that lined the interior walls of the elevator compartment at waist height. With great care, T.Rex climbed onto the railing in the corner and balanced each foot against a different wall for stability. He used his crowbar to help rip away the thin metal grating that spanned the ceiling. After tossing it to the floor, he began to feel the bare ceiling for any sort
of door to get on top of the elevator.

It was only with the added height of the railing he had the reach to find the maintenance hatch centered above the back wall of the elevator. When he pushed against the panel, it resisted just slightly, so he jammed his crowbar into the seam to pop the lock and pulled. It was difficult trying to find leverage with the tool and still maintaining his balance on the small rail, but he wasn't about to give up.

Man this this thing is useful, he said to himself as the lock gave way. As the door flew open a cool draft poured into the elevator and the smallest bit of light lit T.Rex's face. He took a deep calming breath and tossed his weapon through the hatch. After a pause he heard it clatter reassuringly on the roof.

Arms fully outstretched, his fingertips barely cleared the lip of the hatch. Frustrated, he pushed off the railing with his ankles and hopped upward, enough to grip the lip fully with his hands. He struggled to pull himself up, kicking against the smooth wall of the elevator and finding no purchase. When his head cleared the roof he saw a cable not far away, so he flung his right arm out and grabbed it, and from there he had the leverage to pull the rest of his body up.

T.Rex made it through the hatch and flopped onto the roof, face first into a thick mat of dust. Panting, he inhaled a large breath of soot and particles and began to cough and sputter, desperately trying to brush the dust from his mouth and nose. He flailed about in the darkness, fighting back a panic.

When the dust settled T.Rex noticed he was inches from the edge of the elevator. He instinctively scooted back towards the center of the elevator roof, nearly falling though the hatch in the process. "Damnit!" he said aloud in frustration, and the words echoed slightly throughout the entire elevator shaft.

With his eyes adjusting to the darkness, T.Rex took stock of his surroundings.
The three elevators for each tower were divided, with the larger freight elevator alone, and the two smaller passenger elevators next to each other on the other side of the lobby. He was standing on the left passenger elevator, and by his best guess the roof was about 8 feet wide, and 12 feet long.

Looking up, small streams of light appeared at regular intervals along most of the elevator shaft. It wasn't enough light to read by, but it was enough that he could see the basic structure around him. T.Rex theorized that was the morning sunlight pouring into the glass-paneled elevator lobbies of floors three through eight (
with the first two and basement obscured by the rest of the building). Some of the light could have manged to peek through the cracks to help illuminate his journey- something that might not have happened if they had gotten to Hillenbrand much sooner. In a way, it was fortunate that we detoured through the tunnels and stopped to find Franklin's journal, T.Rex thought.

He thought he could see the bottom of the other elevator at or near the top of the other side of the elevator shaft. That's good, he thought. Maybe they got the other elevator locked up there before things went to hell.

"Alright," he said aloud to nobody in particular, "one down, three floors to go." He sized up the thickest cable that extended upward and tried to prepare himself to climb. Oh, I've totally got this.

He leaped onto the wire, gripping the tight braided steel with both hands and clamping his legs together. He hung there for a few seconds, uncomfortably, before trying to shuffle upwards. The cable was smooth and featureless, leaving him little to work with in terms of friction. After a few feet it was clear he had the arm strength to pull his body, but the cable was nearly impossible to negotiate.

Ryan let go of the cable, dropping back onto the elevator car. It shook uncomfortably, and he held out his arms to steady himself against the movement. He was running out of options, and he rested his tired arms on his head for a moment trying to think of another solution.

In the quiet of the elevator shaft, he heard rustling. There was a quiet murmur, echoing slightly around him, and T.Rex sensed a blanket of movement coming from nearby. He looked over, and saw the cables for the other elevator shaking slightly.

Grabbing a nearby cable for balance, Ryan looked out into the shaft for a clue. Below, in the darkness, he could see movement in the shadows. Squinting, he thought he could make out a limb here, a skull there. Crouching, he saw numerous pairs of eyes looking back up at him. Crammed into the bottom of the elevator shaft an army of zeds, reaching up for him. They grabbed at cables and clawed at the walls, trying in vain to get closer to him.

T.Rex's eyes widened, realizing that Hillenbrand was far from secure. For some reason, the basement was a pool of undead, and he had no way of knowing if they had access to the stairwells. It was only because of their poor motor skills that they hadn't gotten any closer to him already. Looking at the sea of teeth he was glad for a moment that Jenny's room was above, and not below him.

He looked around for something to throw down at them, a loose part or perhaps a fire extinguisher. As he searched the top of the roof of the elevator he discovered there was a small set of rungs built into the wall, between the two elevators on the side with the doors.

"Yes!" he said, finally feeling like something was going his way. He tucked the curved part of his crowbar into a beltloop and very carefully positioned himself on the edge of the elevator roof near the rungs. He took a cautious step out and planted his foot on the closest rung before reaching out and gripping a chest height rung tightly with both hands. He stepped completely off the elevator and took a deep breath. Don't look down, he said to himself over and over, and began to climb.

Word Count: 48,638


  1. El Pelo de los AngelesNovember 16, 2008 at 3:49 PM

    “After a pause he heard it clatter reassuringly on the roof.” – I imagine this as a “Hoop (catch) Ha (toss)” style arm cradled toss.

    “Frustrated, he pushed off the railing with his ankles and hopped upward,” – sounded for a second like you pushed off with your ankles on the bar, but I had a hard time thinking of another way of wording it too, so no big.

    “kicking against the smooth wall of the elevator and finding no purchase.” – nice, both an engineer, and a literate human. Right afterward, I was afraid you were going to get a metal splinter…sliver? Ya

    “He flailed about in the darkness, fighting back a panic.” – does dust generally do that to people, or you specifically. What kind of panic?

    “When the dust settled T.Rex noticed he was inches from the edge of the elevator.” – is this a danger? Never knew.

    “After a few feet it was clear he had the arm strength to pull his body, but the cable was nearly impossible to negotiate.” – bold move trying to shimmy up more than one flight that way anyway. Don’t remember your destination floor though. Would have had a hell of a time doing that and holding you crowbar though.

    Your writing continues to not only be great, but quite possibly even improve.

    Show off


  2. Oh my gosh. I'm so freaking anxious as we get to the end. The anticipation is killing me.

  3. You can take this as an actual considerate critique or impatience to find out what happens next, but it feels artificially drawn out. I wouldn't go as far as to say it's turning into DBZ though, haha. I really appreciate the detailed descriptions and presenting a more restful chapter, and I suppose you want to make Hillenbrand more of a set piece and take your time with multiple locations inside. And maybe it would all feel better if I were reading it in book form; who knows?

    Just take it as food for thought when you compile everything into a whole volume set ;)