Laing had rested during the afternoon, deciding to calm himself and gather his strength for the night to come. At intervals he climbed over the barricade and peered into the corridor, hoping to catch sight of Steele.
On the surface, the apartment building remained quiet, but much to Laing’s relief the first incidents broke out by the early evening. He waited in the lobby through the late afternoon, standing about with a group of his fellow residents. Perhaps, insanely, nothing was going to happen? Then a foreign-affairs analyst arrived with the news that there had been a fierce scuffle over an elevator ten floors below. Adrian Talbot, the likeable psychiatrist on the 27th floor, had been drenched in urine as he climbed the stairs to his apartment.
The sweat on Laing’s body, like the plaque that coated his teeth, surrounded him in an envelope of dirt and body odour, but the stench gave him confidence, the feeling that he had dominated the terrain with the products of his own body. Even the prospect that the lavatory would soon be permanently blocked, something that had once filled him with polite dread, was now almost inviting.
At midnight, as he crouched in the elevator lobby behind the overturned fire-door, debating whether to risk making a run for Alice’s apartment, Laing saw Richard Wilder standing among the scattered steel chairs. In one hand he still held his cine-camera. Like a large animal pausing for breath, he followed the huge projections of himself cast upon the walls and ceiling, as if about to leap on to the backs of his own shadows and ride them like a troupe of beasts up the flues of the building.
As they nursed their bruises and passed around the bottles, drinking steadily to build up their courage, Laing listened to the talk of counter-attack and revenge. There was still no sign of Steele. For some reason Laing felt that he should have been there, a future leader more important to them than Crosland. In spite of his injuries, Laing felt exhilarated and confident, eager to return to the fray.
Laing cautiously approached the door, glad to see Steele at last but well aware of how exposed he was to any passing whim of his. He assumed that Steele had trapped the apartment’s owner, or a vagrant resident who had taken shelter here, but there was no one in the room. Then, following the blade of the sword-stick, he saw that Steele had cornered a small cat between the legs of the dressing-table.
Pulling himself away at last, Laing left without speaking. He moved carefully along the darkened corridor, as the lights flickered from the doorways of ransacked apartments, from overturned lamps lying on the floor and television screens brought back to a last intermittent life.
Like a storm reluctant to end, recapitulating itself at intervals, the violence rumbled on throughout the night as Laing and his sister lay awake together on the mattress in his bedroom.
Absolutely fantastic! You’re capturing the swift degradation and depravity of Laing and his state. I love how you’re showing it so visually through how he’s letting his personal cleanliness fall into chaos. The thought bubble of him thinking of the lavatory was both hilarious and horrifying, haha. As always, thank you so much for sharing!