Elwin stepped into the multipurpose room of the flat. There were only three rooms in his flat: the aforementioned study room, the bedroom, and the multipurpose room. It was a square shaped room; on one side was a kitchen bench, cooker, and sink, on another wall the television, the next wall the door leading out of the apartment, and on the final side the two doors leading to the study and bedroom. The space in the centre of the room was greedily consumed by a wooden table with two padded chairs. The apartment was identical to all the others in this condominium that Elwin had seen. It had not occurred to him that it might be absurd for there to be no toilet located inside the apartment. Instead, all the toilets were located outside the apartment. While the only shower was located in a corner of the bedroom.
Elwin listened to the sound of the shower at the door of the bedroom. When he was satisfied his wife was indeed in the middle of one of her marathon showers he crept over to the small rectangular window near entrance. He checked that no one was there then quickly slipped through the door. Like all the other doors inside the condominium it had no lock on it. The walkway outside was made of metal, and would make a loud pounding sound normally. However, Elwin had learned to strike the walkway so carefully that he didn’t make a sound. Thus he started making his way to the farthest staircase in the back corner of the building.
The condominium was a rectangular building that looked like a giant figure ‘8’ from the sky. At the centre was a dividing tower of staircases, storage rooms, communal bathrooms, and laundry facilities, while each hollow of the ‘8’ contained an atrium. The ground floor had a garden of trees and flower boxes with dozens of park benches and tables scattered in between. The building was six levels high and so despite the size of the atrium not enough light reached the garden below for the plants so they were never fully verdant, and never thrived. Most of the plants did not even flower. They just clung onto life forlornly as though they had long ago given up on the hope of experiencing a full day in the sun. The main entrance of the building was at the bottom of figure ‘8’.
Elwin was on the third floor and moving away from the centre and to the side farthest from the main entrance. As he moved towards the rear of the building the number of broken lights increased. The quality of the paintwork also deteriorated as though the motivation of the painters was tied to the amount of lights working in their proximity. When he reached the back corner of the building the only stairway there was in almost complete darkness, but for one last functioning lamp at the bottom of the well that was still defiantly bleeding out its final light rays.
Elwin started his descent down the stairwell. He thought to himself that he had better take his time and be careful. As this thought crossed his mind the thorn in his left knee ached and his leg buckled underneath him. He toppled over and rolled down hard onto the next metal landing. He cursed himself for his weakness and stupidity, calling out a litany of insults against himself for his lack of competence at everything. Each time he spoke ill of himself the thorns in his flesh hurt more intensely than usual. He did not let up on his self-reproach until he had finally reached the bottom of the stairwell.
The door at the bottom of the staircase was one of the few doors to have a lock on it. He pulled out a small cutting of metal from a pocket he’d stitched for himself into his tunic just for this object alone. He inserted the metal cutting into the gap between the door and the frame and gently pushed the latch back into the lock. He pulled the handle gently and the door opened, but only enough that he could peek through. Once satisfied no one was on the other side he slipped through into a deserted laneway. The road was gravel and full of deep potholes. One side had the windowless brick monolith of the building Elwin lived in, while the other was so overgrown with brush and scrub one couldn’t see what was on the other side.
Elwin ran across gravel road and pushed his way through a small gap in the brush. There was a mesh fence that had been used by the vegetation to climb up higher. At some point in the past a section had been cut open allowing Elwin to crawl underneath to the other side. Here there was a railway. Elwin lay on his belly and listened for the sounds of a train. It was certain that there was one coming so he pressed himself down behind a dense bush and waited for the train to come and pass. He continued to wait until the train was just a distant speck on the horizon before crawling across the lines to the dense scrub on the other side of the tracks. The maintenance on the train line was so long overdue that the limits of the scrub were perfectly shaped to fit the trains passing by like a key into a lock.
Pushing through this next barrier of brush, Elwin came through to a large long concrete canal. The sun was still high in the late afternoon. There was at most a couple more hours of daylight left. Aware of the waning sun Elwin hobbled along the sloped edge of the canal occasionally stopping so as to look out for stray dogs. He soon reached a point were there was a large tunnel underneath a bridge. There was a large tarp over one end that that looked like it might have been part of a shelter. He carefully slid down the rest of the canal’s slope and crept underneath. There was a rusty old table with several haggard chairs from vastly different sets arranged chaotically about it and sitting at the table was dark haired young Kelite woman thumbing through a book.