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Resonance: Chapter Twenty Nine

       Last updated: Friday, February 3, 2006 10:09 EST



    “Quick! Through here!” hissed Kevin Alexander, lifting a sheet on the wall and uncovering not a fireplace but an opening into the building next door.

    They ducked through the gap, its sides toothed by jutting bricks, Graham near the back, Annalise pushing him through. The stairs creaked behind him - once, twice, three times in quick succession. People were on the stairs, probably more of them filing in from the pavement outside.

    Graham came out into another room - more white sheets, musty smells - they ran to the door, onto the landing, along a short corridor into another room. The floorboards creaked and echoed as they ran. Shouts rang out from behind - They’re in here! Come on! - barked orders and thundering feet.

    Kevin threw aside another white sheet in the middle of the far wall - another unfinished doorway. They ducked through and followed the same course as before - all the buildings identical. As Graham reached the landing, Sarkassian broke away from the group and fled down the stairs. Graham hesitated. Should he follow? Were they splitting up? Annalise shoved him from behind and propelled him along the landing.

    “Come on!” Tamisha hissed at them from the doorway. “This way’s safer.”

    They crossed into the next building and the next. ParaDim had to be knocking them all into one big suite of offices, all the work was identical - the same sheets, the same stage of renovation.

    Noise pursued them - shouts, threats, running feet – louder and closer and...


    Kevin Alexander stood by the far wall, tearing down white sheets. None covered an opening. Tamisha turned and pointed at the ceiling. Annalise reacted first, pushing Graham back towards the door and onto the landing. Maybe there was a way through on the next floor?

    They ran upstairs, Annalise and Graham in the lead. More white sheets, more mirror image rooms. No hole in the wall.

    They tried the next floor. A shout came from below, ”They’re in here!” followed by more shouts and clattering feet. Their pursuers were in the building, two floors below. Graham tried to soften his tread but the stairs creaked and Kevin’s boots clumped and Tamisha’s heels clicked. Only Annalise seemed to glide noiselessly over the boards.

    Annalise lifted the white sheet in the centre of the far wall. Graham prayed. Kevin and Tamisha stood in the doorway, ready to try the next floor.

    There was an opening.  Annalise dived through. The others followed, swinging right then left into the next room.

    No white sheets.

    They ran back to the landing. Kevin took off, running down the staircase as fast as he could. Tamisha hesitated - looking up, looking down - her head jerking between the two options - up or down? A shout from below resolved the problem. Men were on the stairs, three floors down and coming up fast.

    Graham, Annalise and Tamisha took the next flight, rounding the half-landing to find they’d reached the top. No more stairs. And no more white sheets or holes in the wall.

    Sounds of a struggle came up from below. Shouts, a crash, several thuds. Had Kevin been caught?

    Graham tried to push it all out of his head. He had to focus, find a way out, something!

    They ran from room to room. Maybe there was a way back into the other buildings, maybe they could double back and slip past their pursuers?

    They couldn’t. But they found a door in a room at the back. A narrow staircase lay behind - steep, dimly lit. They stepped through, closing the door quietly behind them. Tamisha removed her shoes. The stairs were so steep and it was so dark that Graham had to use both hands to guide his progress. The staircase opened onto a small attic corridor. As his eyes became accustomed to the gloom, he could make out four doors, two to the left and two to the right. He opened the first one and stepped into a small attic room with a low sloping ceiling and a narrow dormer window.

    Annalise pushed past. She ran to the small sash-window, looked out then beckoned the others over.

    “Look,” she whispered, “we can walk along the roof.”

    She unfastened the catch and pulled the lower pane up as far and as noiselessly as she could. Before Graham could say anything she’d wriggled through the window and pulled herself onto the roof.

    “Come on, your turn,” she whispered, peering through the top pane.  

    Graham wasn’t so sure. He leaned out of the window and looked along the roof line.  There was a small brick parapet running along the entire terrace about a foot proud of the slates. Annalise was standing with her feet wedged in the gutter between it and the slate roof, her hands holding onto the sides of the dormer.

    Annalise beckoned to him again. He could hear voices downstairs. They’d find the stairway to the attic any second.

    He pulled and wriggled and crawled outside onto the gutter. Annalise helped him up and waited for Tamisha.

    Tamisha stood in the window and shook her head.

    “Go,“ she whispered. “No one’s seen you. They probably don’t even know you’re here. I’ll hide here. Heights never agreed with me.”

    She smiled sadly, slowly dragged the window shut and pushed the lock back into place.

    “Good luck,“ she mouthed and turned away.




    Annalise led the way, walking along the roof, wedging her feet into the angle between brick and gutter, leaning into the roof and occasionally touching down with her right hand. Graham followed. There were nine, maybe ten, dormers ahead. Each dormer taking them further away from number fifty-six and the chasing pack.

    Annalise tried the first window, and the next, both of them locked. Graham could see the latches through the glass securing the top and bottom windows. They continued along the roof, glancing behind them every few steps, speeding up as they became more accustomed to the terrain.

    They reached the gable wall. Every dormer had been locked, every attic room empty. Could they smash their way in without being heard from the street below? Could they make sure no glass fell onto the pavement?

    “We’ll try the ones at the back,” said Annalise. “We can climb up the gable wall.”

    Graham looked up at the roof. The gable wall was rough rendered and nearly two feet wide. It stood one foot proud of the roof and ran for about thirty five feet up to the ridge. He glanced back along the roof line. Any second now a head could appear from one of the dormer windows. They were bound to search the roof.

    Annalise moved upward, ascending like a caterpillar, using her knees and feet to lock either side of the gable wall, pushing off, finding a handhold, clamping her hands and forearms against the rough render.

    Graham followed, glancing to his right, waiting for the first head to appear, the first shout of pursuit, and trying not to think about the huge drop to his left.

    Annalise reached the top and pulled herself astride the terracotta roof tiles before dropping over, feet first, onto the other side. She looked back at Graham and smiled, and for a brief moment Graham forgot all about gravity and being chased across roof tops. She was beautiful, captured in that moment, her face set against an azure blue sky, a gentle breeze ruffling her hair.

    And then she was gone, her head dropping out of sight. Graham glanced back along the long line of dormers. Nothing stirred.


    He pulled himself to the top and swung his right leg over the slates towards the ridge line. He hooked his leg at the second attempt and rolled his body over the ridge and down onto the other side.

    By the time he reached the bottom, Annalise was standing on one leg by the first dormer, wrestling with a shoe.

    “We’ve got to break in,” she said, pulling her shoe free. “Stand back.”

    She smashed the upper window at her second attempt, pushed away the shards and forced open the rusted latch. The bottom sash was stiff but she tugged it free and pulled the window up as far as it would go.

    She swung down feet first into the attic room and hopped as she struggled to avoid the broken glass and slip her shoe back on at the same time. Graham followed close behind.

    It was dark, the only light coming from the one small window. Furniture appeared out of the shadows - desks and chairs piled on top of each other, filing cabinets, telephones - everything heaped together, haphazard, dusty and abandoned. Graham closed the window behind him and locked it.

    Annalise had found the door and had opened it a crack. No light came in. There was a corridor outside - unlit and musty. Graham could see the outline of a door opposite - presumably to the room at the front.

    They crept into the corridor and closed the door behind them. Everything went black. There was a hum of noise from somewhere below, the source difficult to place - machinery? People?

    They felt their way along the corridor. The stairs should be close. Annalise started to descend, leaning back into Graham as she slowly moved down the steep staircase.

    The sounds increased - a telephone rang in the distance, a snatch of conversation, a background hum of activity. A thin strip of light shone from under the door at the bottom of the stairs. 

    Suddenly, the stairs were bathed in light. Graham jumped in panic. Annalise hissed an apology.

    She’d found a light switch. They were at the bottom of a narrow staircase. Their only line of escape lay through the door ahead of them. And neither of them knew what they’d find on the other side. A family, an office or ParaDim.

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