Building Poles in the High Places

The fire started in the basement and took out the stairs before Colleen became aware of it. She was sleeping, dreaming of a shadowy banquet and writhing with desire, and the crash of the stairs woke her. She ran toward the roof, seeking fresher air, kicked the door at the top against the chains on the other side until they fell clattering to the tar paper, stood wheezing against the railing, looked down at the flames licking out of the windows. The building swayed under her and the Devil spoke to her in the groaning.

“Cast yourself down,” he said, “and angels will bear you up.”

“Go away,” Colleen growled.

“Trust in me and I will save you.”

The fire discovered the paint supplies on the fourth floor and exploded through the walls with a mighty whump. The roof dropped three feet and began to slide toward the ground. For a moment she seemed to hang in the air, seemed to drift slowly upward, but she grabbed for the railing and swung back against the side of the building. The ground was coming up to meet her but it was still miles down through the smoke and flames.

“Colleen,” whispered the Devil.