The Rooftop

By: David Ihnen

CREATEDJune 1999
NOTESThis story is closely based on a dream I had
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This story is Copyright by David Ihnen. Please do not distribute without permission.

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I don't remember how I got on the roof.

We were all there to get away from the rioting down below. The yelling, the gunshots. I looked over the edge and saw a huge great dane, mauling one man, trying to attack another. Blood flowed from gunshot wounds on his flank. Probably driven mad by the confusion and pain. The man drop kicked the dog and ran out of site around the corner of the building. There was only one way up onto this roof. A ladder ran directly the seventy five feet from the street to here. It was secured with cables, and very sturdy. I'd be surprized if anybody managed to damage it. A good thing these days, when everybody is trying to damage everything.

Like I said, the roof was crowded. Almost every available square foot as covered with humanity. A woman calmed a baby, leaning against a chimney vent. Dirty people under dirty blankets huddled under the night sky, lit by the glare of distant fires. I was scared. When wasn't I scared, anyway? I think there was a time when I felt safe. Long ago. But I don't remember it. Its just a vague feeling. I found a spot on the corner.

You may think that its scary to sleep on the very corner of a roof, inches from a seventy five foot drop to your death. But I didn't mind. I'd seen alot worse, and I was tired. I lay down there, resting my head on the spare edge of a makeshift pillow used by a very dirty blonde haired man. He was kind of cute. Like this was a time to think about that. Next to him was another person, wearing a gargoylesque red and black painted mask. Such masks were common these days. Something about inspiring fear in others. They gave me the willies anyway.

The roof was that rubbery texture, almost like a cot. It reflected back my warmth, taking the chill of the night. With no blanket I was still cold though. The incesant din of the roiting below peaked in a burst of automatic gunfire, changing the yelling to screaming.

I lay there on the corner of the roof and watched the chaos below. People swirled below, carrying torches, yelling. I watched them drag a man from a dumpster and tear him limb from limb. I didn't feel any emotion at this. I was just tired. Things weren't the same since the rioting started.

I shifted, up against the blonde man. His blankets were warm. I wished I could share them with him. He turned and looked at me. He had gentle brown eyes, and a comforting smile. I smiled back, rubbing at an itch on my forehead.

"You look cold." he said, "would you like to share our warmth?"

the masked person lifted his head and looked over at me.

"I'm Johnny" murmured the blonde-haired man. "Keep things warm, I'll be back."

He slipped out from under the blanket and walked away amidst the humanity crowding the roof.

The masked person looked at me, and spoke in a soft feminine voice.

"For some reason I think I can trust you."

She removed her mask, placing it carefully beside her. She turned and looked at me. I'm not one to respond to physical beauty, particularly in circumstances like this, but she was stunning. I can see why she wore the mask. Looking like that is dangerous in times like these. She trustfully rolled up alongside my body, her small body sliding under my strong arm. The blanket she had shared with johnny around her, and now me too.

I lay my head back and looked up at the clouds flickering with distant fire. Her warmth against me felt searing, almost uncomfortable. I couldn't remember the last time I felt warm. Or since I felt another human against me. Always cold, always running. Soaked with sweat since the riots started. I probably smelled like a pig sty, and she didn't shrink away.

Johnny came back, and lay down on the other side of the girl, tugging the blanket over him too. We lay there, sharing our warmth on the very corner of the crowded roof. We talked a little, about what we were before the riots. I was a mormon, if you can believe that. Living my little life with my big family, going to church and school. I can hardly remember what it was like. Johnny had been a carpenter. The woman was his girlfriend. But the riots changed that. Now they were refugees, like me. On a rooftop, deep in this inner city nightmare. We slept restlessly.

I was awoken some time later by the clanking of the ladder. Somebody was coming up. The usual guard was collapsed in exhaustion against a vent pipe, and showed no sign of life. As far as I knew he could be dead. I slipped out from under the blanket and shivered in the cold night air. It must be three AM, the coldest and worst part of the night. I crouched next to a large air vent, finding a length of 2x4 under my hand. It was only three or four feet long, but it was a weapon. A man arrived at the top of the ladder and surveyed the humanity littering the rooftop. He couldn't see me. I'm wearing my black flight suit, and my dirty face doesn't help matters. I shifted my grip on the 2x4.

I can see him eyeing the mother I saw earlier, huddled under a blanket. He leers lustfully and starts undoing his jeans. She whimpers, clutching her child, shrinking into her blanket. I feel irrational fury, and leap, smashing the 2x4 down on his head. He must have seen me coming, because he already had out a small knife. Too late now though. He dropped the knife as his body tumbled over the edge of the roof. I looked over in time to see his body slam into the concrete below. Even at this time of night, the streets are populated with rioters. They sweep over his body, stripping off his coat and boots. There, now i've killed a man. It doesn't feel good. It doesn't feel like much of anything. Am I a callous bastard now? I am a killer, and I don't even care. I wonder if I ever will.

"Good riddance to bad rubbish" I mutter.

I picked up the knife. It was a good one. The swiss army adventurer model. I unlatched the lock blade, folded it, and dropped it in a pocket. I was hungry. Another man was climbing the ladder. I crouched at the top and peered down. This one was wearing the same kind of jacket as the previous one. Probably some sort of gang. There were three more coming up behind him. I tried to push the ladder off the building. It didn't work.

"Its cabled to the building you moron!" hissed the climber, eyes narrowing at me as he climbed.

I whacked him over the head with the 2x4 when his head popped over the level of the roof. I could hear the satisfying cries of his companions as his body fell onto theirs, dragging them all down to the street below. Maybe they died. Maybe they broke bones. Either way, they'll be dead soon. I felt a cold sickness tugging at my Gut. Killing. Killer. It doesn't matter any more.

A burst of gunfire lit up the street below with a stattaco shatter. Some of the bullets ricocheted off the ladder, filling the air even up here with the sharp 'TING' noise. I leaned back against the vent again, 2x4 at hand. Its not much of a place. And its not much of a time to be alive. But this is my place. For now. Something to stand for.


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