Finny's knees hit concrete and she flung her torso forwards, her hands scrabbling for purchase on any part of the big fan in front of her.
Fingers found an aluminium fan blade and Finny hauled herself into the metre-long space.
Safe from falling, she turned around and sat, knees pulled up tight against her chest so that she could feel her heart pounding. That had been scary.
Not, as 'oh my god I'm going to die scary' as climbing the drain pipe had been, but she was very glad that her route out of the factory was going to be much easier.
And at least she was out of the rain now.
Once composed, Finny turned back to the fan. The way she had remembered it, there was the big fan motor supported by four bar-like things that held it in place.
She also remembered the fan having four blades. ...But her eyes were telling her that the fan had five blades. She'd remembered it wrong.
With five blades, it meant squeezing through the gap between the blade and the thing that supported the fan was going to be tight. Very tight.
Laying on her back, Finny went at it headfirst, pushing with her feet against the concrete floor of the pipe. But her shoulders weren't going through.
To have any chance, she would have to point her arms and get them through first and then wiggle her shoulders through.
But Finny had squiggled through enough narrow places to know that doing it that way was the easiest way to get stuck.
She pulled herself out and turned around so that her feet were facing the way she wanted to go.
Now, because her whole body naturally tapered down to her toes, she knew that if she did get stuck going in, she could always get out again. At least that's what everybody said.
Finny squirmed and wiggled her body and pushed and pulled on the fan bits and even managed to kick the loosely secured wire grill free so that her feet now hung over the inside edge of
the fan pipe.
She pulled and wiggled some more, and everything was going great until the bulge in her britches caused by the roll of lock picks got well and truly stuck against the edge of the fan blade.
"Damn damn, poop inna can." She intoned under her breath. Finny wiggled and squirmed for all she was worth, but it wasn't working.
Eventually, she managed to blindly slide a hand down inside her pants and was just about able to get a finger under the string that tied the roll closed.
With a lot of effort, Finny managed to get the small canvas roll of locksmith's picks away from where it was stuck under her hip bone and push them safely out of the way between her thighs.
That done she found she could move again but then made the fatal mistake of giving herself one big heave to get her hips past the fan blade and the supporty thing.
There was a 'twang' followed by sudden indescribable pain in her side. Finny screamed and tried desperately to push herself backwards. That brought even more pain and Finny's vision blurred.
Fighting back the pain and the rising panic, she forced herself to remain really, really still.
As best she could, she lifted her head and tried to look down her own body to see what had happened.
What had happened was this.
Years ago, when the fans were first installed, a hot and sweaty workman was having trouble getting the fan's blades to line up so that they didn't cavitate.
After being at it for most of an afternoon he had finally lost his patience and, instead of using the adjusting screws like the manual said, he had lost his temper and went at it with a hammer.
It worked, eventually. But the hammering had also created a hairline crack in the cheap aluminium blade.
Finny's bulge in her britches had pushed against the edge of the blade right where the crack was and had forced a thin triangular sliver to bend away.
When Finny had gotten rid of the roll of lock picks and heaved herself further through the tight gap, the thick waistband of her britches had caught on this bent-out piece,
bending it further back like a spring.
Then, when her waistband had pulled free from the protruding knife of aluminium,
the spike had sprung back and pierced Finny's skin just inside of the hip bone where the top of her leg met her torso.
What made it worse was that the pointy end of the aluminium was slanted down towards Finny's feet, so that when she tried to push back, the spike had been driven even deeper into her.
Finny, however, only knew that she was now impaled on a five-centimetre piece of aluminium and that it was preventing her from going backwards.
Her clothes slowly drying on her, Finny lay on her back trying to think. While she brought her panic under control, she used her fingers to find out how bad it was.
Many sharp intakes of breath and bitten lips later she found out. The tip of the bent piece of aluminium was buried about a centimetre into her groin.
She could bush down on her belly so that the point was no longer inside her and she could then move.
Two problems there though, well three if you included that she didn't have the strength to either bend or break the piece of aluminium stabbing her.
If she tried to go back the way she had come then, as soon as she could no longer reach far enough, the spike would stick her again.
If she tried to do the same and continue on into the factory, well, she just couldn't because she needed both hands to haul herself through the gap.
No matter how hard or long she thought about it,
Finny realised that there was only one way that she was not going to be found either dead or very embarrassed by Joe when he opened up in the morning. Finny looked at the blood on her fingers.
With chilling calmness, she realised that, if she did what she knew needed doing, there was probably going to be a lot more of that.
She was going to have to keep going and pray that the sharp sliver of shitty fan blade didn't slice her open all the way up her side to her shoulder.
So then. Fast and hurty and over quick, or slow and hopefully not so hurty. Fast or slow, fast or slow. Finny decided on slow.
Something had happened. Her exploring fingers soon found the problem. The material of her top had caught on the jagged spike and was effectively pulling it down into her flesh.
Gritting her teeth, she managed to tear the material free but realised that it was bound to happen again as soon as she moved.
Finny resigned herself to having to wear the orphanage issue dress, otherwise known as the 'blue sack of shame' until something decent came up in the donations box,
Then she did the only thing she could and continued to tear her favorite, and only, sweatshirt all the way up to the shoulder.
Taking another deep breath and holding it to flatten her stomach as much as she could, Finny started to once again pull herself through the tiny gap between the fan blade and the support.
It was hurting too much. Gritting her teeth and squeezing her eyes tight shut, Finny gave one last enormous yank on the fan.
Then her hips were over the edge of the pipe and the eight-year-old's own bodyweight did the rest. Finny reached both arms back out straight behind her head and let the momentum take her.
With a final ripping tear, she pulled free of her sweatshirt and slid feet first out of the vent pipe to land in a heap on the planks of the welcomingly familiar walkway.
Finny groaned and sat up with her back against the wall. Steeling herself, she looked down at her side. There was an irregular gash right up her body from her hip almost to her armpit.
From her ribcage upwards, it looked like she had gotten away with just a deep scratch.
Her bottom rib, however, had taken the brunt of the contact with the bent piece of aluminium and had even bent the metal further away. Not without damage to the rib though.
It hurt like hell, and it was one of the places that were bleeding quite a bit.
The gash in her belly was the deepest, though, and even as young as she was, Finny knew that she was going to need stitches to fix it.
Blood seeped from the wounds and she felt sick to see torn white fleshy stuff on the ragged edges of the cuts