Beginning: Möbius rose


I yelled something obscene and banged my head on the ceiling of the duct as I backed out again. It wouldn't matter if I got away, with my laptop they would know exactly who I was. There was nowhere they couldn't find me. And with the amount of incriminating evidence stored on that goddamned ancient piece of junk, they would have more than enough reason to put forth the effort. Breathless, my head roaring, I flew up the stairs and burst into the lobby. The distance between myself and the other side of the hall seemed like miles. Breaking my momentum with heavy steps, I finally reached the backpack and grabbed hold of it, swinging my head around already toward my escape route. There was a crash of glass.

"FREEZE!! Put your hands up now, hands in the air!"

I looked up. Three men stood at the building's main entrance, guns out. How had they gotten here so fast? In the first moment I felt annoyed. Then a little like laughing. How silly this was! But now they were approaching and now there was nowhere to run and hanging by straps from my hand was enough illegal software and hardware to ensure I would never leave a prison cell again. I considered smashing my backpack against the floor, but to what purpose? I could run over the laptop with a truck and it wouldn't show a dent. Horror slammed into me like a sandbag. I began to tremble.

As the closest officer crossed the threshold of the doors, an ear-piercing alarm screeched and echoed through the hall. Without thought, without even realization of movement, I dived for the closest door. A stairwell. I flew past the second floor exit, then the third. By the time I was fully in control of my body again, I was nearly at the forth. I wrenched the door open and emerged into the scream of the siren again. It was a gallery, lit only by red emergency lights. I turned a corner, then another, past empty display cases and blank walls. Suddenly, a dead end. There was nowhere to go.

They would be sweeping the building now. This was pointless. If I could just get rid of the laptop, I might be safe. Trespassing wasn't such a major offense. I could just say I was curious. But, stupidly, I didn't have the utilities installed to make a full wipe of the memory. It would take me only moments to grab them off the network, but for that I would need a connection. I began hurriedly, desperately searching for a jack, working backwards through the gallery. My hands brushed one of the walls.

With a loud bang, two mesh barriers crashed down across the entrances to the room I was in. I balked. "I'M NOT TRYING TO STEAL ANYTHING YOU ASSHOLE!" I screamed to the bare-faced wall, then launched myself at one of the barriers. An electric shock sent me sprawling to the floor. The metallic taste of blood filled my mouth and dribbled over my lips as I felt a lightening sharp pain among the burning tingles fading from my body. I had bitten off a part of my tongue. Spitting blood and sobbing, I curled my knees to my chest. This was too much.

"I'm gonna open the gate. Take a left, a right, then the door to your right. There will be a ladder. Climb it outside and get yourself across to the other side of the roof. There's a fire-escape there. You're on your own after that. They've got six guys in this building and another waiting outside the fence." Someone was speaking from a PA set in the ceiling, blocking out the sound of the alarm. A man's voice. The barrier I had tried to break through was sliding back into the ceiling.

"Go. Now."

"Who the fuck are--"

"Go."

Fighting back nausea and spitting out another mouthful of blood, I obeyed. Left, right. There was the door, "authorized personnel only." I shouldered my backpack, tugged it open, and mounted the ladder. Climbing was far harder than it should have been, my muscles unwilling to work from the aftereffects of the shock, but I made it to the trapdoor at the top. I pulled myself to standing and let the door bang shut behind me.

A woosh of freezing air caused me to shiver. I looked up. A louver had just swept past my head, not more than five feet above. I staggered back, bumping into a railing. I turned around and looked across, trying to ignore the gusts of air that rippled my shirt. I could see the fire escape. I could also see a long, empty space between myself and the next section of roof, with a ledge of perhaps a foot width connecting the two.

Adrenaline, the taste of blood, pain, kep withdrawal, panic, fear of heights, desperation; all at once, I became conscious of them together. My world spun with vertigo as I wretched over the railing. I couldn't do this. There was nothing that could drive me across that ledge, even if it meant climbing back down to the museum again. This was insanity.

Sliding to a crouch, still coughing up the vile taste of vomit, blood, and saliva, a sudden desire struck me. I ripped open my backpack and dug my hand through one of the inside pockets until I felt the slick touch of plastic. I pulled out a baggy. Eight perfect little hexagons. I dumped them into my hand and swallowed them down. The next two minutes was agony.

And suddenly, bliss. The world grew so much brighter. I could see for miles. My body felt weightless as I stood with ease, totally painless. There really was no reason to get so worked up. It was a game of sorts, like walking the edge of parking lot curbs when I was a child. So easy. I lifted myself over the railing and lowered to the ledge gently.

There was something a little odd about my vision. Images shifted in delayed reaction, waiting a few moments after I turned my head to update, dragging little streamers of colors with them. So pretty. I felt somewhere between blazing hot and freezing, but it was alright, they both fairly balanced out. I was having some trouble getting myself to move, my feet refusing to obey any mental signal. I laughed. What a strange thing to happen. Solid visions faded slowly into only brilliant patterns of color weaving themselves into and out of myriad forms. Crimson streaks, like blood drops, like locks of Naomi's hair, circled amongst themselves. Someone was yelling in the background. A rose emerged from the stained-glass flow of lights. My balance was off. I reached for it.


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