…GASPING, FEELING THE burn of lactic acid in my arms and legs, I rested outside the locked blue doors on level 136, sweat falling off my nose to the floor, each drip a reminder of passing time. Scrunching my eyes to ease the lingering sting of smoke, I looked at the doors, and made a promise Mike couldn’t hear.
Propping myself back up I ran heavenward beyond stairwells, trying to remember the office party I’d seen, figuring it was on the east side. But the contents of the cabinet would only be taken after I reached the hatch. Focused on my goal, I dashed upwards through the repetitive flashes of red lights, offering me momentary glimpses of my next steps. One step two step, three step. Whatever messages my legs sent to me, I ignored their screams for oxygen, drowning them with thoughts of rope, guns and rescue. In sweat soaked clothing, shredded lungs and limbs joined me in the push for survival, for continuation of life.
Finally I made it to the ladder leading up to the hatch in the upper stories, where coiled ropes lay silently next to my climbing gear. I quickly stripped away anything related to cleaning from the harness, tossing squeegees and bottles aside. I scooped the three coils up grabbed the harness and began to run once more, my muscles aching, waving white flags, objecting fiercely to the sight of more steps.
Rhythmically, I ran down in time with the emergency light show for two flights. Dropping the gear in the stairwell, I hurried into the offices nearby that only earlier that day had housed some of the worlds most influential financial minds. Recollecting the shotgun toting maniac at the party, I sprinted door to door, looking for the familiar carpet, the cracked window and dark brown cabinet.
Breathing hard, I stopped momentarily to think. Where was it? Which floor?
Then it clicked. I’d got it wrong. But at least it was only one flight down, none up.
Battering open expensive doors, I searched, eyes focused, finding nothing, but the carpet was the same on the entire floor. I had a match.
Mr. Benson – TransCorp. One of the few to lock his door. I ran from one side of the corridor to the other ramming my shoulder against it. Faint audible cracks assured me it would give. Four more times I bruised my shoulder and it remained shut. On the fifth, I flew into the room on the back of it, surfing, then rolling away from the splintered mess. Looking around I locked eyes on it. The cabinet affixed to the wall. If what I needed was not in there, my plan was futile.
Forgetting my bodies cries for mercy, I stood up, and pulled on the gold cabinet handles – Mr.Benson liked locks. A shadow flitted across in the light. I looked outwards, seeing spirals of dense black smoke, deathly beautiful, and for several seconds I simply watched the hypnotic formations ripping upwards, as life and death were reduced to afterthoughts.
With a break in the black, I regained my senses and tugged on the handles again. Sensing weakness I grabbed on tight with both hands, gritted my teeth and yanked them…clean out.
Urgency kicked in again. It wasn’t just me to save. I grabbed half of the door and launched it into the cabinet, shattering it, revealing not one, but two guns. What about ammo?