Page 7 - Provocation
P. 7

shared storage chamber where the gallery and the library tucked away their secrets: failed or
outdated displays, awaiting redeployment in regional centres.

Her secret hideaway.

She closed her eyes and ran her hand along the smooth concrete wall, walking forward slowly
until her fingertips met modular steel. Opened her eyes to peruse the floor-to-ceiling shelving
unit. Her fingers explored the notched silver struts that held heavy bracketed shelves, packed
today with large brown boxes. She trailed her fingertips along the shelves that ran along the full
length of the side wall, stopping just short of the short climb of stairs up and out into the adjacent
gallery dock.

Paused. Her niche. She turned and crouched, tucking herself into the narrow corner formed by the
shelves and the gallery landing. Her long backstrap muscles, sinewy from nearly two years of
hyper-readiness, unclenched.

Another minute of yoga breathing, and her mind cut adrift, floating free above her. Her hands
wandered; caressed the soft hem of her cardigan, smoothed her sandal straps into their buckles.
She leaned to one side, pressing her cheek against the cool steel strut of the shelves. It was like
sleeping with her eyes open, this delicious sense of privacy, invulnerability, after a life of
weakness scrutinised. Her hands kept wandering, seeking out familiar touchstones. The rough
edge of that fault in the concrete wall near her right hip, which ran all the way behind the shelves,
as far as her arm could comfortably reach. And there, the shadowblack bolt that fastened the
whole unit to the wall. It comforted her that one small component could play such a vital role.

As usual, her curious fingers fiddled and turned the bolt, like a child playing with the corner of a
beloved blanky. The surface of her mind became smooth and glossy as honey; underneath,
shapeless thoughts buzzed a low comforting drone.

A rough rumble broke her out of this delicious meditation. A delivery truck backed up to the
chamber, parked, engine running. Tuneless commercial radio bled out from the cab of the truck,
suddenly blaring as the driver opened his door. She peeked through the shelves as a pair of dusty
brown boots approached. Her heart pattered quickly in her chest, though she knew she was near
invisible in her hiding spot. The owner of the boots tugged at the roller door, budged it open a
little, swore. Maddi watched his rumpled dark blue rear mope over to Dock Control.

She pressed back against the wall, tucking her arms around her knees until she was a tiny ball in
the corner. The truck chugged blue smoke that stank up the air in her sanctum—she pulled out a
tissue, folded it carefully over her mouth and nose, and stayed hidden, waiting impatiently for the
driver to return. To climb back into the cab, and send the motorised bin claw into a full fit of
hydraulic angst. She was curious to see it happen, the emptying of her private sanctum.

But in a few short minutes her nails were tinged with blue, her lips buzzing with lack of oxygen.
Time to go. She peered out, then jumped to her feet, moving silently up the stairs and out to the
gallery dock.

Break over, back to work. She’d have to use the gallery dock exit and go right around the river
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