Alice

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Their room is now hazy with fumes and an alarm is whooping away, so they get up, pack quickly and step out into the smoky corridor. Ignoring the sign that reads In case of fire do not use the elevators, Eric bundles their suitcases into the mirrored lift and presses the G on the console.

‘Level 2’ is the last thing the lift said to them. That was five minutes ago. The floor indicator failed, the recessed halogens dimmed, there was a judder and the lift stopped.

They stand in the darkness.

‘Things just happen and then they’re over and then the next thing starts,’ she thought to herself. Eric is saying something but she can’t make out his words, it’s like he’s talking from really far away even though he’s right next to her. She’s not sure she likes Eric as Italian. He’s too fiery, too impulsive (take the lift episode for instance). Maybe she needs someone cooler—someone Scandinavian, maybe a Norse.

Eventually, they collapse over their luggage like a pair of dolls and Eleanor dreams. She’s at dinner at that expensive terrace restaurant with the Aboriginal girl from the camp. The girl is still wearing Eleanor’s sunglasses even though it is evening and the room is candlelit. It’s distracting because she keeps catching her sour bent image reflected back at her. Courses come one after another and before she’s even had time to start on one the waiter plonks a new dish right on top: ‘confit of duck with lemon myrtle’, ‘crab bisque with lobster veloute’; parfait of quail, cherries flambé. No matter how she tries to tidy, to contain, food falls off, plates overflow and tumble onto the floor. She hasn’t much of an appetite anyway and she’s worried because her money and credit cards are back in the lift with Eric who’s saying something to her in Swedish and shaking her by the shoulders. The dream continues in this way until the fire brigade pries open the lift doors and applies oxygen to the fallen pair.

Later, an ambulance drives them out to the airport and then a plane lifts them into the sky. Eleanor watches from the window as they circle the town passing over the burned acreage and the smouldering ruin of the resort. She pulls the bandage from her hand and looks at the trio of black stitches that the medic has tied in her torn flesh. They look like ants buried in her livid skin, just the stiff little legs poking out. What are they up to in there? She puts here hand to her mouth and bites down hard.

——

alice

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