[…] the suite in question then became the location of her witnessing, without warning, the explosive unfoldment of a convulsion, tiny in the far distance, between four iconic figures in a tower across the desert, that was destined to re-slant her own life forever—first on account of the convulsion’s very nature, and then on account of the shocking desolation and sadness of its escape from her grasp this morning, with such an intimation of permanence in the escape. Could she ever have witnessed that from any other terrace, from any other suite, than the one on the 152nd Level? Either way, how could those events not have left Jaymi elevated in her memory, standing up there staring down at her from the still centre of an aura as strong as a whirlwind?
Blackout. Not a move, not a sound. The Chocolate Raven’s hearing licks the dark, pushing fingers into corners, seeking anything… She shrinks within her body, but feels the latter follow her inside and shrink too, so she can barely breathe. She tries not to shrink further still inside her own frame, but cannot prevent it. Her skin shrinks again, so taut that it burns with the nerves’ dance pressed against her skin’s underside. Her heart thumps, ramming her corpuscles through capillaries that nearly cannot open, constricted as they are by the ever-mounting pressure from the skin pressing round them. The fluid in her ears sings a worm-song chorus, like a stream of vermicelli squeezing underneath her scalp. As her heartbeat mounts, a light flicks on; looking up, she sees a single stained light-bulb fixed to a ceiling coloured yellow by the years. A poky little washroom sways and yawns around her, two metres square, with a tiny barred window. Turning, she jumps as her gaze eats the image, in a mirror on her left, of her emaciated frame: her cheekbones stare from under black-ringed eyes of the worst kind of orange, which consume her watching self with a lust so naked, desperate and brutal that she cries out in panic and delicious fear, running her fingers over her emaciation in horror and delight. A scent of fucked-up dark devouring hunger stabs her nostrils. Transfixed by her own desperate eyes, she feels herself advancing on them, loins burning, legs wobbling into motion like a pair of stilts—then she freezes, seeing that behind her on the wall, in the image she’s approaching, is a great pink spider the size of a dinner plate, legs thick and soft like a set of human thighs… As it wriggles into horrid life, a sudden ring of hanged men drop against the walls and swivel jerkily, their necks snapped down at an angle by their ropes. A bath-water gurgle of suffocation bubbles; one hanged man launches up his head and writhes, bellowing and flailing on his rope, which begins to work loose from the ceiling. She spots a door located halfway up a wall. She reaches up to it and tries to turn the handle, but it won’t move. She locks both her hands onto it and wrenches, as if to kill it. The hanged man thrashes on, staring at her, fierce and bug-eyed, his rope very nearly worked free.
Retching with horror, the Chocolate Raven can take no more. If this continues, she tells herself, then she will faint or lose her mind. At this, a crack rings out, then slides into a grating rush, as if it spreads. Beside her the bathroom mirror slides down the wall, its surface cracking into shards … and right behind it is a blissful sight: an exit to a lobby!
Leaping through this exit, she recognises once again the small, quiet, bland central lobby of this Level 152, where several unnumbered but differently-coloured doors present themselves, one of them red.
She sprints into the open lift, slams her hand onto the Down button, and stands there panting, weeping, dripping. She has no direct view from here to where she emerged into the lobby, and she can no longer hear any of the sounds she was hearing in that wash-room; but she’s had enough of Level 152 and she really wants to leave it.
The lift has other ideas about what to do, however: absolutely nothing, for several long moments, with the lift-doors standing wide open in case anything else wants to get in.
“Stand clear of the doors, please,” says a soothing female voice at last.
With painful slowness, the lift-doors glide to a close.
“Going down,” says the voice.
The lift descends.
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