“And that is why we count our steps.”
“Don’t. Just- don’t. I did count.” I held my hands close to me, gritting my teeth. Bending over, I tried to absorb the pain.
“I think I have something for that. Hold out your hand. Hold it out. You don’t want blood on your shirt. Hold it out.”
Against every fiber of my being, I extended my hand. Shaking, I dared to open my fingers.
“Agh. Ahhh.” I couldn’t look.
“Maybe you should sit down.”
Really didn’t need to be told twice.
“Does it hurt?” Max sat down in front of me, scrounging through his backpack.
“Are you holding an open flame to my hand?”
A pause. “No.”
“Then yeah. It really hurts.”
“You caught yourself though. That was super impressive. I almost peed myself, cause I thought you had fallen to your death, but I was impressed when I saw you caught yourself.”
“I told you-“
“Yeah, I know.” He laughed, pulling a long piece of cloth out of his bag. “You don’t plan on dying here.”
With a half empty water bottle, some hand sanitizer, and a make shift bandage, Max cleaned and wrapped my hand in just a few minutes. Emptying the rest of the water onto the ground where my blood had fallen, he kicked about the gravel hiding the evidence, while stating, “Now with your hand all janked up, we can’t jump anymore.” Max turned about, trying to reset his internal compass. “Okay, I know where we are. Ready?” He slung his bag over one shoulder, and offered his hand to me. Gingerly, with my good hand, I accepted. At the roof access door, Max turned back to me. Eyebrows raised, he breathed out a smile. “Just follow me.”
The halls were dark, lights flickering eerily. Loud, suspicious thunks, sizzles, and laughs came from behind the metal apartment doors. Max walked steadily, unaffected. I tried to mimic his stance, his confidence, but door after door, the noises grew steadily more frightening. Babies crying, glass breaking, people screaming at each other, dogs barking and growling, throwing themselves at the door, televisions blaring- seeming to know, Max gripped my hand a little tighter, and walked a little faster. At the end of the first hall was the elevator.
Stopping in front of it, Max murmured, “We can take our chances on this thing, or we can walk down. Your choice.”
“What do you think we should do?”
“I think that there are six more floors before we make it to the ground, and this building is in the heart of the Alpha’s territory. Chances are Street Rats live here. Chances also are this elevator may never reach ground level.”
I thought about it for a second. “How great are these chances? No. Better question- which one are we more afraid of?”
At Max’s beckoning, the elevator shuttered open a few moments later.
“How is the elevator scarier than the hallway?” I muttered, following Max inside the dingy car.
“That’s the magic of this building.” Max answer, pressing the ground floor button. “It just gets scarier.”
“You knew?” I asked, eyes wide as I turned to look at him. He only laughed.
“Jerk.” I whispered viscously.
I opened my mouth to retaliate, just as the elevator slowed to a stop. We both swung our heads to the opening door. Half a dozen guys, dressed in all black, stood in the hallway. Alphas. Before I could react, Max did.