From the fire escape hanging off the back of the building, Donovan and I discover that we can only go up. Laying discarded and useless in the parking lot three stories below us is the fire escape ladder that had once led down. The prior occupants of the building had torn it off the back wall in an ill-advised attempt to make their sanctuary more secure. All they succeeded in doing was to cut off their last avenue of escape when it became clear that the real threat was from within; that someone had brought the infection inside with them before they sealed themselves off from a world gone mad.
With no choice and little hope in finding a way out, the two of us ascend the metal ladder to the roof, which is revealed to be flat topped after all. A stout bulkhead marks the spot where internal access to the roof was once possible, from the room or rooms that must have been behind the second door off the third floor landing. The one that the rampaging Tank prevented us from ever trying. We certainly don’t try to open the bulkhead now. Nothing of this earth could get us to return to the hellish interior of this lair of the undead. If we’re meant to die in this place, let it be up on the roof: in the clear light of day and with fresh air for our last mortal breath.
The two adjoining buildings are each an additional story taller than the one we’re standing on. No ladder or staircase conveniently leads up the sheer brick walls on either side, but a narrow metal conduit, affixed with rusty steel brackets, ascends the wall of the building on the left. This is the structure adjacent to the alley way that Francis and the rest of our party used to make their escape some thirty minutes ago; the direction we need to go. I test the conduit by grasping it firmly and shaking it. It seems sturdy enough.
It takes me just long enough to clamor up the side of the wall to again marvel at my new-found strength and agility. Here I am looking at the backside of the seventh decade of my existence, and just a few short weeks ago, I would have been hard pressed to do a single chin up. Now I’m ascending a narrow metal pole that would have challenged me at age 40. If not for the horrors that I and those I care for face daily, I might actually feel blessed.
Hoisting myself up and over the shallow wall surrounding the flat roof of this second building, I spy the hooked rails of a fire escape ladder dropping over the far side; down into the alley way Donovan had prevented me from taking to follow Francis, Zoey and the others. I look back down behind me. Donovan is eying the metal conduit dubiously.
“Com’on, Donovan! This is the only way out of this hell hole. You’re not going to let an old man show you up, are you?”
Donovan tentatively grabs the conduit with both hands and places first one, then his other foot against the wall. And there he sags. At my urging I get him to try to reach up higher and pull himself higher. He ends up falling heavily back onto the roof top on his ass.
“It’s no use Bill!” He calls up dejectedly. “I can‘t do it!”
“Goddamnit, what am I? A babysitter?“ I mutter under my breath as I straddle the wall and begin lowering myself back down the conduit. Donovan is still sitting on his ass when I drop the last few feet onto the rooftop next to him.
“Listen Donovan, I’m going back up that wall in thirty seconds, understood? You can either be up there waiting for me or down here feeling sorry for yourself. But so help me God, once I get back up there, I’m not looking back. So move your ass and start climbing!”
“I can’t, Bill,” Donovan confesses, sobbing. “I’m not strong enough.”
With Donovan blubbering at my feet, I expel an exasperated sigh and remove my beret so I can scratch my head furiously. After a moment‘s thought, I come up with a plan. “OK, listen. I’ll help you, OK? We’ll do this together. First thing, stand up, and for God’s sake man, pull yourself together.”
Sniffling, Donovan shakily draws himself to his feet. “I can hang off it Bill, but when I try to reach higher, I lose my grip!”
I form a mental image of how this is going to have to work, and it isn’t pretty. “Well, that’s a start. This is what we’re going to do. I’m going to be right behind you and you’re going to put some of your weight on …. my head,” I instruct, wincing at the thought. "Then you’re going to quickly reach up higher. When you get a new grip you’re going to use your legs to push yourself up a little further, got that? Not your arms, or you'll just wear yourself out. Then I’ll come up with you and we’ll just keep repeating that until we get you up over the top, OK?”
“You’ll be right behind me?”
“Right behind you.”
“Bless you, Bill. God bless you. God meant for you to be here with me, to help me through this.”
“Yeah-yeah-yeah. I’m sure it was God’s plan all along for me to be here so you could plant your ass in my face while we shimmy up this pole. Just start climbing, mister.”
“You’ll see, Bill,” Donovan calls over his shoulder as he grasps the pole with both hands. “You’re involved in something larger than either of us. You’ll see!”
Donovan, I soon discover, has wet himself at some point in the last half an hour. Further, a considerable amount of stomach contents landed on the inside of his legs when they were violently disgorged in the room below us. I try to remind myself I’ve known plenty of men who wet themselves and tossed their lunch before doing something truly heroic on the field of battle. The thought should help me now, but somehow it doesn’t.
My own arms and legs are screaming for mercy when I finally manage to get Donovan over the edge of the wall, and then only by burying my face in his groin and pushing with all my might. We end up sprawled on the rooftop panting heavily from exertion.
“Not bad for a country pastor past his prime, huh Bill?” Donovan finally says, congratulating himself. “I guess I had more in me than either of us knew!”
Donovan, I know exactly what you had in you, I think bitterly. Because it’s smeared all over my face.
Last edited by majorhavoc
on Sun Jul 15, 2012 11:07 am, edited 8 times in total.