Soon after dawn the next morning, Robert Laing sat on his balcony on the 25th floor, eating a frugal breakfast and listening to the first sounds of activity in the apartments around him. Already a few residents were leaving the building on their way to work, picking their way through the debris underfoot towards their garbage-speckled cars.
As his neighbours stood around the television set, Laing waited for Crosland to refer to the equally calamitous events taking place in the high-rise, the death of the jeweller (now totally forgotten), and the division of the tenants into rival camps. Perhaps, at the end of the newscast, he would add a special message for his clan members at that moment fixing their drinks among the plastic rubbish-sacks in his living-room.
Laing emptied the coffee-percolator over the edge of the balcony. A greasy spray hung across the face of the building, the residue of the cascade of debris now heaved over the side without a care whether the wind would carry it into the apartments below.
Alice ignored this offer. She grasped the handrail and began to rock herself like a child. “It’s peaceful up here. Robert, you’ve no idea what it’s like for most people.”
Laing laughed aloud, amused by Alice’s notion that somehow he had been unaffected by events in the high-rise — the typical assumption of a martyred older sister forced during her childhood to look after a much younger brother.
When his sister had gone, Laing began to prepare for his visit to the medical school. Sitting on the kitchen floor, he looked up at the unwashed plates and utensils stacked in the sink. He was leaning comfortably against a plastic sack filled with rubbish. Seeing the kitchen from this unfamiliar perspective, he realized how derelict it had become.
He picked at the thick rims of dirt under his nails. This decline, both of himself and his surroundings, was almost to be welcomed. In a way he was forcing himself down these steepening gradients, like someone descending into a forbidden valley. The dirt on his hands, his stale clothes and declining hygiene, his fading interest in food and drink, all helped to expose a more real version of himself.
The atmosphere of tension and hostility, the complex of overlapping internal sieges, was apparent everywhere. Barricades of lobby furniture and plastic sacks filled with garbage blocked the entrances to individual floors. Not only the lobby and corridor walls, but the ceilings and carpets were covered with slogans, a jumble of coded signals that marked the attacks of raiding parties from floors above and below.
Looking over his shoulder, as if maintaining a mental life-line to the building, Laing walked across the parking-lot. Hundreds of broken bottles and cans lay among the cars.
Laing reached his car and leaned against the window pillar. He knew that he was testing himself against the excitements of the world outside, exposing himself to its hidden dangers. For all its present conflict, the high-rise represented safety and security.
Within ten minutes he had returned to his apartment. After bolting the door, he climbed over his barricade and wandered around the half-empty rooms. As he inhaled the stale air he was refreshed by his own odour, almost recognizing parts of his body — his feet and genitalia, the medley of smells that issued from his mouth. He stripped off his clothes in the bedroom, throwing his suit and tie into the bottom of the closet and putting on again his grimy sports-shirt and trousers. He knew now that he would never again try to leave the high-rise.
Again, absolutely spectacular! I know I keep saying it, but the way you capture the words of the chosen excerpts and present them so vividly with your set ups, and the detail of not only the backgrounds and the general, declining state of the environments, but also of the characters, and Lang in particular here, is really mind blowing. Amazingly well done. I feel myself getting incredibly uneasy and impacted by the visuals here. Thank you so much as always for sharing, and for all your hard work!