- The Blockade, and: The Erstwhile Magician of Minhota Tavern, and: The Pyrotechnist Zacharias
And her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged.Isaiah 13:22
On the third night sleeping in the small apartment of a recently constructed building, he heard the first noises. He was usually a heavy sleeper, and even on waking was slow to enter into the new day, confusing remnants of dream with fragments of reality. So he didn't immediately give much importance to the vibrating windows, putting it down to a nightmare. The darkness of the room helped reinforce this fragile conviction. The commotion was intense. It was coming from the upper stories and sounded like floor planers. He turned on the light and looked at the clock: 3 a.m. That was strange. The condominium's regulations didn't allow for that kind of work to take place in the middle of the night. But the machine stuck ruthlessly to its task, the noise increasing along with Geryon's annoyance at the estate agents, who had assured him the building was excellently managed. Suddenly, the noises stopped.
He fell back to sleep and dreamed his thorax was being sawn into. He awoke in a panic: a powerful blade was digging its teeth into the topmost floors, cutting through the sturdy material, which splintered and then came apart.
At intervals he could hear dry explosions, the nervous movements of a jackhammer, the steady pounding of a pile driver. Were they building something or destroying it?
He hesitated, torn between fear and curiosity, between trying to find out what was happening and retrieving his most valuable possessions to make his getaway before the eventual collapse. He preferred the risk of returning to the home he'd left so quickly due to family troubles. He got dressed and looked out onto the street through the trembling windowpane. It was a sunny morning, and he wondered if he would ever see another.
As soon as he opened the door, the rattle of various drill bits reached his ears, shortly followed by the snapping of steel cables and the sound of the lift tumbling as it plummeted down the shaft, smashing into the ground with a violence that shook the entire building. [End Page 175]
He retreated in terror, locking himself inside the apartment, his heart beating erratically. This is the end, he thought. In the meantime, however, silence had almost returned and all that could be heard were distant, intermittent cracking sounds, the irritating scrape of metals and concrete.
By the afternoon, peace had returned to the building, prompting Geryon to go out onto the balcony and examine the extent of the damage. He found himself under open sky. Four floors had disappeared, as if meticulously cut away, their steel frames worn down, beams sawn off, slabs of concrete demolished. Everything reduced to a fine powder piled neatly in the corners.
There was no sign of the machines. Maybe they were already far away, moved on to another construction, he concluded with a sense of relief.
He was heading down the stairs, feeling relaxed and whistling a popular tune, when he felt the jolt of disappointment: from the floors below came the full range of noises hed heard throughout the day.
He called down to management, but didn't hold out much hope of receiving a satisfactory explanation for what was going on. It was the apartment manager himself who answered the phone: "Routine work. We apologize, especially as you're our only tenant. For the moment, of course."
"What kind of bloody routine has you tear down the entire building?"
"Within three days it will all be over," said the manager, and hung up.
"All be over. Damn." Geryon went into the tiny kitchen, which was mostly taken up by empty cans. He prepared his dinner with little enthusiasm, sick and tired of eating from a tin.
Would he outlast these cans? He gazed sadly at his stock of provisions, meant to sustain him for the week.
The phone rang. He put down his plate, intrigued by the call. No one...