by Tony Noland
Scooter threw the bundle out the window, watched it disappear into the night. He tried to listen for the thud, but the whipping wind was too loud. How far? Dammit, how far? He pulled on his end, trying to feel if it was slapping against the ground below. Between the weight of the tape and the wind, he couldn't tell.
Ten rolls of cheap duct tape, each brand new, thank God. Each roll was two inches by 60 yards. He didn't think he lost much length when he twisted the tape all together to make this rope.
The pounding on the door was getting louder. There were more of them out there now. The wood was holding so far, but if they started to pound in a rhythm, the broom handles would break under the strain. He wished he'd thought to use some of the tape to wrap them into a single rod; it would surely have been stronger than four individual broom handles.
Too late for that now, though. He didn't dare take them out of the barricade to re-secure it.
He looked out the window again. How far?
He had about 180 feet of improvised rope, minus what it took to tie it to the drain pipe in the corner and to cross the room. The supply room was about fifteen feet long from the pipe to the window. He was on the 14th floor. If a story was ten feet, he was 140 feet up. That meant a short drop at the end of the rope, but nothing serious. If this building used long stories, though, each one was fifteen feet, and he was more than 200 feet up. A drop of 40 feet was too much. Way too much.
Fists slammed into the door, beginning to merge into a coherent thudding, dead flesh pounding at the yellow pine.
He lifted himself out the window, holding onto the sticky mass of the twisted strands. The wind cut at his arms as he eased himself out.
Eleven years ago, his car broke down out on Route 41. In a stroke of luck, his brother-in-law Marshall drove by after only a half-hour. Neither of them had a tow rope, but Marshall had a roll of duct tape, the same cheap stuff Scooter found in that box on the bottom shelf. Marshall swore he could do anything with duct tape, and in ten minutes he'd twisted up a piece of tape-rope, eighteen feet long. They'd tied the cars together and started off slow.
The tape-rope lasted less than a minute, snapped with the first hard jerk. It had been eighteen strands thick.
Boom, boom, boom - the door shook with each crashing blow of all those fists.
I weigh a lot less than a car, Scooter said to himself, eyes closed. I weigh a lot less than a car.
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!
He opened his eyes and lowered himself out. Hand over sticky hand, he moved down into the darkness.
Don't look down. Don't look down. Just don't look down. Don't look down.
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