Golem Project Part 12

Draft 1.12

Golem Project In Progress

First Chapter

Previous Chapter

“Everyone, head back for the elevator,” Eric Holderman said. “Please remain calm. The tour is on hold until further notice.”

There was no great outcry or panic. The people of this city were used to twisters coming through. They understood the danger, the odds, and they had seen it many times before. Most of the time, a street or two would be torn up and some signs were pushed over. Only rarely neighborhoods could be leveled, and even then, if safety precautions were taken, everyone would be fine.

The crowd moved with calm purpose, making sure they would be safe. Wessel followed, still astride Aizi. If he closed his eyes, he imagined he could feel the sway of the tower in the wind. It wasn’t a good feeling.

The group reached the lobby, just as Wessel’s dad rejoined him in the crowd. The two didn’t say a word, watching as the pointed metal dial told them what floor the elevator was on.

The twentieth. Then the tenth. Others were using the lift, escaping to the bottom floor. Just in case. Wessel swallowed. Were there some stairs he could take?

“Relax,” his father said. “This building is supported in all directions. It can’t fall over.”

Wessel didn’t want to doubt his father, but he just couldn’t believe that. The wail of the siren was ever-present, warning them, calling them to safer ground.

The number above the elevator began to shift. Up, up some more, until it rested at thirty. Then it began to lower again.

Wessel looked at his father, desperate. “Are there o-other elevators, Dad?”

His father shook his head. “They will be in use, too. There are a lot of workers here. Be patient, Wes. Have faith. It will all be fine.”

Nobody should have come in to work today. Not with the skies like they were. Sitting high in a tower above the city was arrogant, a defiance of the heavens. Maybe the adults did know better. Surely they did. He had to rely on them. Wessel gripped Aizi until his knuckles turned white. He needed to trust them.

The wind outside picked up, howling alongside the siren, and thunder rumbled. Lights flickered, some windows down the hall lit up in a flash, and then a crash of sound shook the very air. Wessel could feel it in his bones.

“I will protect you,” Aizi said again.

Static hissed, and then a voice sounded from a blocky radio transmitter on Eric the Tour Guide’s belt. “The weather is rapidly becoming dangerous, and the elevators are overloaded. Please advise those around you to take the stairs.”

Eric looked around him. “Well,” he called. “You heard him. Follow me, please.”

At a brisk pace, the tall man headed down the hallway to their left, and then into a stairwell that was placed alongside the elevators. The group fled in after him, golems taking up too much room, the size of the group slowing the descent further.

“Is everything okay, mum?” a girl said, somewhere in the crowd. Her voice was just shrill enough to be heard over the thunder, the sound of the tower’s magnetic rotation, the murmuring of the crowd.

“Yes, dear,” the older woman’s voice replied. “They designed this tower for this.”

No design was good enough to stop nature, not if it really tried. Wessel hunched over on Aizi’s head, wishing he hadn’t seen the grainy videos online of floods, of twisters and hurricanes and firestorms and acid rain.

Floor after floor they descended, slowly. Each set of stairs was the same, and more people joined in the descent. The world was cut off from view, and the only mark of time’s passage was the continual up and down of the siren’s call.

That, and the roar of the storm getting louder.

Wessel couldn’t see the danger coming. All he could do was count floor numbers as they descended. Every step, the roar of the storm grew louder, and the siren continued calling. The floor vibrated under Wessel’s feet. Was it the storm, or the tower’s spinning center that was causing that?

They crept down to the twentieth floor, then the tenth. By the time they reached the third floor, some of the tension had left Wessel’s shoulders. They were going to make it! He would be underground, safe from the storm and its winds.

They reached the second floor, and all went black.

Shocked screams echoed in the concrete stairwell. A moment later, a loud crash from above shook Wessel to his core. He felt sick as the wave of sound pounded through him, shaking his innards. In the wake of that sound was an utter silence, just for a moment. No sirens, no roar, no thunder.

Then a siren started up again, too late to warn of what was coming.

Wessel spotted a faint, flickering light, from a window out on the third floor. “Take me to it,” he whispered to Aizi.

“I cannot,” she said. “I cannot move through this crowd without injuring people, and I am unable to hurt people.”

Wessel slammed his fist down on the chassis.

A shriek sounded above, metal grinding on metal. The tower shook. Screams. A stampede of the people still on their feet, the golems standing still to avoid crushing others. Cries of pain as some lost their footing in the darkness and fell down the stairs. Aizi shook as something ran into her.

“We have to go,” Wessel pleaded.

“I can’t,” Aizi said.

“Put me down!”

Aizi hesitated, then lifted Wessel carefully from her shoulders and set him in front of her. As his feet touched the ground, the windows he’d seen from through the open doorway shattered, and shards crashed through the halls with the howling of the wind.

The tower above groaned and screeched, answering the siren’s call.

Wessel closed his eyes, unable to see in the darkness anyway, and ran to the sides of the stairs, to the railing.

“Dad!” he called, beginning to sidle down, trying to avoid the crowd.

There was no answer. Too much noise echoing in the stairwell. Wessel sniffed and kept moving. Nobody could hear him. He just needed to get lower.

He inched down floor by floor, all while the tower screamed above him. The vibrations under his feet turned to tremors. People moving by jostled him, almost making him lose his grip on the railing. He bumped up against the concrete, but clung doggedly, easing his way down.

Step by step.

After what seemed like an eternity, Wessel reached the bottom floor. The basement. He stepped out of the stairwell toward the rotating cylinder in the middle of the tower. The roar of the storm had died down, the siren was falling away, dropping in pitch.

It was stupid to go out there, to reach the open chasm that connected the balconies of each floor, but Wessel did it anyway. He had a weight in his gut, a need to know. He wasn’t acting rationally, he couldn’t think of a plan to follow. Pure instinct drove him forward.

The cylinder was still spinning, but only barely. The screeching sound from above was a testament to that. Wessel got as close as he dared, and like the few foolish people around him, looked up. Lightning flashed, lighting up the center of the tower through the broken windows that reached those heights.

For the first thirty floors, all looked to be fine. But above that, the balance was broken. The cylinder was bent, magnets were askew, the coil at the top of the tower had been twisted and torn.

With just a slight change in structure, the power coil had ripped itself apart in its own rotation.

The darkness was here to stay.

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