I have done the unthinkable: mid-way through NaNoWriMo, I ditched my original idea (Yesterday’s Tomorrow) and started on an entirely new one. It’s called Out of the Shadows, and I’ve written just over 4,000 words since Tuesday night. Here’s the excerpt I posted on my NaNoWriMo profile. It has not been proofread.
The plan was to shadowslip onto the ledge without the wannabe jumper noticing me, then grab him, pull him back into the shadows and slip back to ground level. I thought it was one of my more straightforward, simple, and bulletproof plans. Unfortunately, it all hinged on me being (to quote the venerable Elmer Fudd) “vewy, vewy quiet,” something that’s incredibly difficult when the pigeon whose nap you’ve just interrupted has flown directly into your crotch. I have the worst luck with animals.
Just as it’s a generally accepted rule that waking a sleepwalker is a bad idea, it should also be widely agreed that startling a guy who is standing on a high ledge is something one should strive to avoid. Whether the guy had accepted Jesus Christ as his lord and savior – probably not a bad idea if you’re planning on taking a 600-foot nosedive onto solid concrete – he definitely uttered His name as the perturbed pigeon pummeled my nether regions. While taking the Lord’s name in vain, the guy whirled around, lost his balance, and immediately switched roles in the little drama we were playing out. Where he’d previously been portraying Guy Who Might Jump, he soon became Guy Who Is Falling.
I didn’t have time to reach him, I knew that. Even without a feral pigeon assaulting my crotch, there was just no way I could cross the forty feet between my shadowy nook to where he was tumbling off the ledge. I extended my left arm and pressed the firing studs in my gauntlet. There was a whoosh of compressed air and the little collapsible grapple shot out above my left wrist, trailing a matte black, carbon-fiber cable.
If I’d had time to aim, I would have tried to hit the guy in the leg; I got lucky and the grapple didn’t hit him in the chest or the head. The titanium grapple pierced his left arm instead, plowing through muscle and tendon before the spring-loaded prongs deployed. The guy cried out – this time just a gutteral yell of pain – and I released the firing studs. The line immediately went taut and the guy lurched, still leaning backward over empty air. I gave the line a yank and he twisted, another pained yelp swallowed by the wind, then tumbled back toward the building.
The pigeon had finished taking out its frustration and rage on my undercarriage and flapped desultorily up to a higher perch. The ledge was wide enough that I didn’t have to worry about being blown over the side by a gust of wind, and I made my way to where the guy was curled up on the deck, clutching his pierced arm and howling with pain. I didn’t see a whole lot of sense in trying to reason with him, so I unholstered my taser and sent him into a place where the pain wouldn’t bother him. Crouching down, I carefully hauled him up over my shoulder and carried him back into the shadows. A moment later we were back in the alley.
My abdomen flared with pain, as I expected, but we were safe. I gently lowered the guy to the ground and had a look at his arm. The grapple appeared to have gone cleanly between the radius and ulna, which meant no broken or damaged bones. I pulled the grapple further and folded the prongs back into the head; they locked in place with a soft snap, and I was able to pull it back out the way it had gone through. The wound was bleeding, dark stains spreading across the blue sleeve of the guy’s shirt. I tore the shirt sleeve off and tied it in temporary tourniquet just above his elbow. I retrieved my First Aid kit and cleaned the wound as best I could, then covered both entry and exit points with heavy gauze. Finally, I wrapped the whole thing with a wide gauze bandage.
I surveyed my work; not bad, but the guy was going to need medical attention – not to mention a healthy dose of Vicodin – as soon as he woke up. The burning in my stomach had begun to recede, but shadowslipping again would definitely cause it to flare up again. Shadowslipping with a passenger would make it ten times worse, but I didn’t have much of a choice. The nearest hospital was a half mile away, and there were several secluded spots that I could easily slip into, then dump the guy near admitting and exit stage right.
“All right, buddy,” I said, zipping up my duffel bag. “Time to get you to a doctor.” I shouldered the bag, then pulled the guy over my shoulders in the classic fireman’s carry. My abdomen registered its protest in the form of a dull burn that started just below my navel and radiated outward. This is going to hurt like hell, I thought, and stepped into the shadows again.