Staring at himself in the kitchen mirror, at his wine-stained hands and unshaven face with its surprisingly good colour, he tried to switch himself on.
He let himself into the dissecting rooms of the anatomy department and walked down the lines of glass-topped tables, staring at the partially dissected cadavers. The steady amputation of limbs and thorax, head and abdomen by teams of students, which would reduce each cadaver by term’s end to a clutch of bones and a burial tag, exactly matched the erosion of the world around the high-rise.
During the long afternoon Laing slept in his office, waiting until he could leave the medical school and return home.
The lobbies of the five lower floors had been mysteriously fouled by dog excrement; the residents had promptly scooped this into an express elevator and delivered it back to the top floor.
Outside, in the corridors and elevator lobbies, scores of people were standing about. In no hurry to return to his apartment, Laing moved from one group to another, listening to the talk going on.
He held Laing’s arm, steering him around a beer can lying on the corridor floor. “Still, no doubt we’re all equally guilty — I hear that on the lower floors people are leaving small parcels of garbage outside their apartment doors.
She referred to the high-rise as if it were some kind of huge animate presence, brooding over them and keeping a magisterial eye on the events taking place. There was something in this feeling — the elevators pumping up and down the long shafts resembled pistons in the chamber of a heart. The residents moving along the corridors were the cells in a network of arteries, the lights in their apartments the neurones of a brain.
Far below, embedded in the crushed roof of a car in the front rank, was the body of a man in evening dress.