41: Onwards And Upwards

The Emergency Lighting is not working in the stairwell. Linda is sure the little red ‘battery working’ lights were on when she did her weekly Health And Safety check. Although, now she comes to think of it, the memory of ticking the boxes is a blur. She can’t remember actually going into the stairwell. She hazily recalls sitting on the stairs while she had a drink. It was nice and quiet, and she knew she would never be disturbed on the stairs. She often eats her lunch there, if she’s not in the mood for Bob and his squat thrusts or Katerina and her pretty dresses. Sometimes, she thinks it’s just nice to be alone, to be away from all the responsibilities and expectations.

She feels like she is practically running the library most of the time. No one else seems to care about Fire Alarm tests or Inductions or Restricted Items. She is certain most of the staff have only skimmed through the Staff Manual. With the exception of John, that is. She knows John takes these things seriously. But a fat lot of good he is now!

Mike pulls a Maglite out of his pocket. It is as bright as a full moon on the dark stairs. He leads the way upwards and Linda follows closely behind. He doesn’t smell like Bob smells - stale sweat drizzled in Brut. Mike's scent is one of trees and moss. It is a scent Linda actually finds quite pleasing. She sticks close to him as he guides them up to The Office, still a little disturbed by the lack of Emergency Lighting.

After four flights of stairs, Linda starts to feel dizzy. She realises she hasn’t eaten since her Morning Break. She sits down. Mike, sensing the emptiness behind him, doubles back and shines the torch in her face.

‘I need to have a Little Rest,’ she sighs. She rummages in her dungarees for her bottle but still can’t find it. Mike is still shining the torch into her face. He is thinking that she looks too red, but then decides maybe it is just the light. Linda shields her eyes with her hand and Mike lowers the beam. Their feet are lit up now. They are inside a circle, like they have been caught in the spotlight.

Linda thinks about tap dancing. She looks at her shoes. They are not tap shoes. And the stairwell is the last place that dancing of any kind should take place. She wonders where the music has gone. She thinks that if the music was still there, she might just flout all the Health And Safety Regulations concerning dancing on the stairs. She thinks she might enjoy that a great deal. But there is no music, only the shallow breathing of her own tired lungs, and the shuffling of Mike and his moon-light torch.

‘Okay. I’m rested. Shall we Make Tracks?’

‘Yep, I reckon. Better to get it all sorted before it’s dark outside.’ Mike is concerned about them all being stuck in the library. He has plans, and they don’t include spending any more time than is necessary with these inept loons.

‘Onwards and Upwards then!’ says Linda, getting to her feet. She inhales a deep nose-full of dark forests. It seems to energise her.

‘Onwards and upwards.’

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