Thursday, March 22, 2018

Microstory 804: Through the Roof

The two of us stand on the edge of the roof together. The sun has long set, but is still spilling faint light into the sky. It’s the very end of twilight. There is a light breeze, but nothing strong enough to knock us over. He begins to ask me the same six questions he always does, and I answer each one. I see two cars pass each other on the street below. One swerves towards the other, but catches itself in time, and gets back in line. After it’s passed, the other car swerves away from it in this bizarre delayed reaction. I hear a bird announcing to its flock that it’s time to sleep, or at least that it’s going to bed. I smell the rotting wood of a nearby water tower past its maintenance date, the sweet scent of pastries from a new shop right below called The Night Bakery, and a cigarette butt which someone must have just left up here somewhere just before we arrived. I taste the musky, metallic, sickly environment of a city that should have been torn down a decade ago. He remains silent for the next several minutes, which is unlike him. He’s supposed to ask me the final question, which is what do you know? The truth is that I know very little. He asked me to come up here, as he does every evening. It’s always a different place, and we’re always there for a different reason. Yesterday, we were measuring the height of waves coming up on the beach. The day before that, we threw rocks at people’s windows, only leaving once we’d both broken one, and it had been noticed. Two weeks ago, we popped every tire on some guy’s car, and then the next day, we anonymously delivered that same guy a brand new bicycle. I’ve seen him riding around with a big goofy grin since then, so it looks like we did some good. I can’t remember when I met my boss, or why I agreed to do everything he instructs me, but I always do, and never fail. He calls these tasks experiences, and though I don’t understand what they have to do with anything, or if they’re all part of some complicated grand plan, I enjoy them. I used to be a clerk at an auto mechanic, and never once felt fulfilled until I started doing whatever it is I do now. “What do you know?” he finally asks me, and the spontaneously answer comes to me. It’s always like that; I recite some random fact to him with no explanation for how I know it, as if the asking itself psychically imbued me with the knowledge. “A friend of mine is down there about to ask his crush out on a date.” I thought that would be it, but then something else comes to me. “The Rooftop Slayer’s next victim lives around here.” He sports a toothless smile, and nods. “Which one are we here to do?” I ask. “Help my friend ask out a girl, or stake-out a serial killer?” He just looks at me with a raised eyebrow. I don’t remember what happens next, but I get a call from my mother the next day, telling me my friend has been killed. I immediately call my boss, but he never answers, and I never see him again.

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