[…] The glass door is unlocked. She opens it and steps out across those planks, with trepidation—not so much from vertigo, as from an intimation of something momentous. Irresponsible. Irreversible.
Ahead, the terrace’s edge is bounded in clear glass up to stomach height, with a railing near the top. At her approach to this, an enormity of space yawns up around and into her, pulling her too far forward towards jelly-kneed weakness and the end of all her chances in a hopeless, powerless, microscopic plunge into calamity—
She stops. Acclimatising herself by degrees, she extends her left hand above the railing, then dabs a finger down to touch it. […]
[…] Holding the railing, she leans absent-mindedly out above the dizzying space beyond it, craning her neck around the side of the tower to peer along the lanes of horizontal lines that recede around its curve—then realises what she is doing and quickly steps back, her head swimming. Ahead of her the city stretches inland, into increasingly sparse suburbs. Over in Muhaisnah 2, she makes out the dismal grid of dormitories at Sonapur—now mostly empty, but for years an expanse of exhaustion and squalor, for a skyscraping labour-camp that spread across the cityscape. Then to the left of these, the airport in Sharjah, where a plane is taking off just now, tiny as a toy. Then the great expanse of desert, as far as the distant Hajar Mountains.
Perched high and tiny up here among the folds of this monster-building’s curves, the Chocolate Raven’s mouth gapes in an O, and a too-empowered force of noise blares out from this O, without exertion…
Was that herself? she thinks—and yes, she knows it was. She herself just produced that extraordinary, magnified bellow, which must only now be arriving over there, straight ahead where the mountains float in majesty beyond the desert sands.
Straightaway this knowledge is vertiginously scary, for she doesn’t yet know if this immense unnatural bellow is controllable or not, but she knows already that its power is so great that it could do disastrous damage. And if it’s not controllable, and if it then insists on emerging at the wrong time (but what would be the right time?), then her life may be finished, in effect, because… A nightmare erects itself, in sketchy form: the Chocolate Raven being quickly identified as somebody, or something, to apprehend and capture and restrain and enclose and imprison, then to sound-proof, then to bury in a tube far beneath the muffling sand, subsequently lowering her deeper, tier by tier, down an ever more unreachable, claustrophobic flue—an inverse Burj Khalifa underground, designed for her alone, a spike-shaped coffin sunk to isolate her further, as far and deep as possible, away from the fragile-eared species she’d belonged to, to bellow at herself in the darkness forever…
This alien voice that just took possession of her is associated, she feels, with a facial expression in which the mouth forms an elongated vertical slit with small rounded ends, and she realises in fascination and horror that her own mouth, while making the sound, did indeed become just this shape, after starting out as the O.
Her will ejects a jet of steel that hardens to a needle and she thereby hauls herself up from her wash of fear and into a decision: if she’s powerless before the force that just came through her, and if it won’t be explained, then she will run with it. She’ll hunt for the access-points tucked away in plain view within familiar space, she will ferret out the overgrown gates and the spyholes winking in the wallpaper’s pattern, and the keyholes and hyperlinks; and through them she’ll invite, from that realm furled behind the skin of day, whatever eye-like fingers accept her invitation and poke back through at her, slanting up the bedroom air towards her in the dead of night, when mystery and horror bubble out from the mirror-glass.
Streaming off this terrace, her attention slices through the miles of air across Dubai to the mountains, and her glance touches down where her bellow strikes the rock-slopes. And there, a mad-faced tower shimmers up, rising through the haze, perched among the mountain-folds and staring back at her…
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