“Okay,” she said, not to anyone in particular, if only to stop having to listen to the sound of her own teeth chattering. “Okay, Jones,” she began again. “What do you know?” A spasm shifted from between her shoulder blades, and she felt her left hand cramp up. A low mewling noise caught in the back of her throat as she strained her neck, looking toward her fingers, watching the blood drain away from them, watching them clench tighter and tighter. “Shit shit shit shitshitshit–” she panted. “StopitstopitSTOPIT–”
When her hand became a fist, she lost her grip on the ledge — her fingertips scraped themselves raw, and she was left hanging by her right hand, forty floors up.
She could taste pennies in the back of her throat. Pennies and ash.
The whole world spun.
“What you know, Jones,” she said dryly, “is you got two options. One, use it. Maybe blow out your brain through your left fucking ear. Or maybe not. Get back up on the ledge. Two, don’t use it. Pull y’self up. Or maybe not. F’you fall, probably make a stain about ten feet wide, so there’s that.”
The spring wind was still damp and cold; she felt it blow almost through her as she dangled there, unnoticed by the regular traffic of New York City’s Rockefeller Center.
No one in the city looked up. Not even tourists anymore.
She flexed her left hand and squeezed it a few times, willing the blood to start flowing again, so she could regain feeling in it. Or maybe feeling that didn’t suck ass, since it most certainly did have feelings, only those feelings were a lot like some kind of many-mouthed rottweiler using her fist as a chew toy.
“Ah, fuck it,” she sighed, and began to pull herself up, back over the ledge.
Exhaustion plus the wind made it ten times harder than it ever might’ve been, and in that last instant where she was balanced at the precipice, one poorly-timed gust sent her scrambling — resolved as she’d been to keep the use of her gift down to nothing, deep down, the back-brain’s need to survive in the moment outweighed the potential that it would turn itself from ‘lizard brain’ to ‘eggplant’ — the invisible wall of her power lashed out, hauled her up and over the ledge, and sent her sprawling on the solid surface of the rooftop.
She gagged, feeling the blood run from her nose, over her lips and down the back of her throat. She felt it run from her eyes, blurring her vision to pink muddy shapes of light and dark.
She had a moment of triumph, that she’d lived long enough to get back to the top, and then something behind her eyes burst into pinwheels and kaleidoscopes of color and smell and sound. Her body gave one great big jerk, muscles spamming, and she felt the distinct release of her bladder letting go.
“Seriously?” she slurred, and then those pinwheels and kaleidoscopes grew mouths of star fields, great, yawning blacknesses with smoking teeth and tiny points of light, and they swallowed her whole.