Winter 3.13 HC, 2210 (Day 73 of the Year of Winter)
Uly and I watched the lift descending for a couple of heartbeats before the instinct to survive resurfaced. On the other side, another lift was rising.
“Back inside,” Uly decided for both of us. I had no better ideas. He immediately began to search the castle for any kind of controls for the chaos below. “There has to be a way to stop the lifts from in here.”
In the master bedroom, there were few signs of anything that wasn’t antique furniture or clothing. The messiest thing in the whole castle was the unmade bed, on which I found a note:
Nothing will come between us, Katie.
The same handwriting as the note from before. Again, something was written on the other side.
Not even you.
And this time, something else – in different handwriting. Stephen’s.
It’s too late for Dad.
Dad. He never used that word to talk about our father. There wasn’t time to consider it, though, so I shoved the note in a small pocket in my jeans.
In our haste we struggled to find any controls. The lift would be here any second. I had a thought. “Uly?”
In a small tea room, laid out on the table in front of me was just what I was looking for: kindling.
I grabbed the pretentious straw mat that sat under the teapot and ran through to the room with the fire, setting it alight at the edge, then ran back to the corridor. “Uly! We’re leaving,” I yelled.
I found what I was looking for: in the corridors, in the ceiling – fire alarms. The only thing that shuts lifts down, and this being officially a government building made it no exception.
An old grandfather clock stood next to me, ticking loudly while I held the smoking straw mat up to the nearest detector. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. The pendulum clicked each time it passed its neutral point, and to me it was torture. I couldn’t hear an alarm. I couldn’t hear footsteps, or the sound of swallows on the strange wooden flooring here.
The straw started to catch more vigorously, and I had to drop it. It burned, self-contained a moment. I put my hand in my pocket. I might need to fight my way out, and Jaycee was with me. The fire might be a necessary distraction, and I wouldn’t be too upset by my little act of semi-accidental arson.
Uly had disappeared outside in the meantime, and I cautiously ventured towards the front door, where he was standing watching the lift. It had stopped just shy of level with the glass flooring. Three guards were trying to pry the doors open and climb onto the castle level. They were starting to succeed.
“The lifts stopped – it worked, but…”
“Yes, I can see that. What about the other one they used to escape? Did it make it to the bottom?” I pushed past him and looked at the lift on the other side, which was now full of three more excessively muscular guards and frozen in place on the ground floor. Below, the chaos appeared to have stepped up from its usual level. Most people struggled for the exits, though a few were determined to finish their gambling. I couldn’t hear an alarm, though. The lift door gave a loud creak and opened far enough for the lead guard to squeeze an arm through. We gasped in unison and froze like startled rabbits.
“Is there another way out?” I asked Uly.
“No,” he said. Then, “maybe.”