The room beyond the door is pitch black. I look around and can't spot any LEDs. There probably aren't any cameras in here. I wonder how far down the floor is. I take my backpack off and drop it down below me. It hits something immediately. There must be a table or a ledge there. I step down carefully onto some sort of tabletop. I feel around for the edge of it and drop my backpack again. It takes a little further to fall but not much. I back my legs over it and hit the floor immediately. It feels dirty in my skates. I pick up my backpack and move around the room. The table wraps around the edge of the room but I find a door handle. I try to listen through it but can't hear anything. I lean against it and it starts swinging open. Outside the room it’s still dark but I see a few flashing red LEDs and a flickering EXIT sign. The old kind with the etched plastic.

I skate as fast as I can to the sign and find the long bar that opens the door and slam my arms against it. The door opens up to an alley. How have I never seen this before? The neighboring building is very close and there is a narrow drive leading down the side. I look back at the door and see a camera. My skates feel a little fucked up but I try to move down the alley as fast as I can. When I reach the end, I look around the side of the wall. I don't see any police. This is the back of the building. I've been back here before. There is an old metal fire escape on the building behind ours. I pull it down and climb up. Can I reach the top? Will anyone see me in the windows behind me?

The ladder only goes to the top floor and not the roof. I look through the window: it's a hallway lined with doors. I can't see a way to open the window. A door opens and a child walks out in the hallway. They see me. I wave frantically and tap on the window. "Can you open this?" I call to them.

They hobble over to me carrying a handheld.

"Can you open this for me please?" I ask again.

They look at the window and at me.

"I'm stuck outside, can you let me in?" I ask.

They shake their head back and forth. I look up. Can I climb up to the ceiling? There’s a ledge I can grab onto. I don't know if I can pull myself up like that. I look back in the window and the child has disappeared. My heart is racing.

I'm shaking as I open my backpack and put on my gloves. I jump up and grab the ledge and slowly pull myself up. I can't believe I'm able to do it. I shimmy my belly on the top edge of the roof until I have enough of myself up there to swing my legs around. Holy shit that was horrible. I skate to the other side of the building and look around. The roof is painted with a highly reflective paint and it's difficult to see. There are vents but no door leading down. The next building over is covered in what look like tents. It’s very close. I turn around and head back to give myself a skating start. I jump much further than I expected, and I came down harder than I expected. My legs are still hurting from yesterday but starting to warm up. I skate on towards the tents.

A tall person wearing a long blue robe stands up in my way. They're standing between 2 masses of tents and I can't get by.

"I'm sorry to come barging in like this. I'm trying to get away from the police," I say as quickly as I can.

They hold one finger to their lips and guide me into a tent with a bright pomegranate and palm print on it. Inside is a heavy door. They open it and I see a stairwell leading down. This must be the way down and out of the building.

"Thank you," I whisper to them as I walk in. When I turn around they are gone and the door is closed. I jog down the stairs. Down. Down. Down. It feels like it goes on forever. There are no doors leading to other floors for what feels like 12 stories. But this building wasn't that tall. How was there a roof camp so close to my building and I never knew about it?

I finally find a door and swing it open. Behind it lies a cement floor and cement walls. There’s a long tube of blue LEDs leading down the long hallway. I skate down the hall, further and further. On the walls are graffiti tags I've never seen before. Large, looping letters that twist and curl around each other. They're impossible to read without study. I want to stop and read them. I want to see what kind of paint it is. It has a color shift I haven't seen before. Where am I? Are there people living down here too? There is no way the police'll find me here. I should be safe to stop for a while. My heart is still racing but I decide to force myself to calm down. DOWN! I open my eyes and look at the paint. It crumbles under my fingers. It’s a fine dust of glitter. I wipe it off on my legs. I'm trying to slow my breathing but my heart feels like it's fighting to escape out of my throat. I keep skating down the tunnel. This can't be a hallway in a building. I must be underground. Am I still skating away from my building? I can't even tell. I look in my backpack for that old compass necklace. Is it still in here? No. I probably took it out and threw it in my room months ago. It never worked well when I was wearing my skates anyway. I keep skating. My heart keeps racing but eventually my head calms down a bit and I feel like I’ve been moving for long enough to put some distance between myself and my building.

But how am I going to get out of here?

I slow down and start looking at the floor for signs of life. I pass a single glove with a smiley face on it. I wonder if there are more campers down here. I watch the walls for a ladder heading up. Nothing. I keep skating. Time passes but I'm not sure how long. I start to hear sounds in the distance. I see flashing lights briefly. I pick up my pace. The light tubes blur beside me, pointing down the tunnel where a white light flashes once, then twice, then again. The sounds start to make sense. Ticking and voices. Should I call out to them? Maybe they are city workers and they can show me out of here. I can't believe my building got raided. If that was what happened. If it didn't and Mix was just being paranoid, I'm going to strangle them. I jumped up the side of a building trying to get away and what if they were just inspecting someone else's unit? I did hear voices in my room though. I think they were in my room. I notice there are thick tubes running along the ceiling of the tunnel. Are my eyes adjusting or is it getting brighter? There is a large mass of sharp darkness jutting out in the side of the tunnel ahead. The white light flashes beside it once again, and again. Not in a rhythm. I slow down and approach the dark mass. The voices are becoming clearer. I approach the mass, near the wall. I touch it. It feels like a pile of sharp metal. Is it a machine? It feels dead. Dismembered and lost. I edge around it and look toward the voices. Three people are wearing reflective suits and sorting large scraps of metal. Two more are leaning against the tunnel wall, typing into small computers, and one is sitting on the floor, hunched over a very old computer.

©2019 by Zita