The hard pat-pat-pattering of his feet on concrete pushed him forward, overwhelming him with determination. He placed one foot in front of the other and continued the cycle over and over again, till his knees buckled under the heavy weight of gravity that seemed hellbent to stop him.
The stairs seemed like an eternity. However, he knew that if he didn’t reach the top and make it out onto the roof of the building, everything he valued would be lost to the world. The dark and ominous staircase he was running up was a subtle preview of what his life would be like if he didn’t reach the roof on time.
He surged forward despite the groaning of his knees and the drops of sweat that fell off the bridge of his nose. He swatted them aside. His mind had been made up, to see this errant task through to the end regardless of the outcome. He burst through the rooftop entrance, mind focused and eyes reflecting a single purpose that had been embedded into his cranium from the moment he had his foot on the first step at the bottom of the stairs.
He scanned the flat concrete surface of the roof and peeked over and under jutting vents and protruding pipes. He asked himself over and over again where she was. Finding no answer, he continued searching. The sunlight that rebounded off the shiny metal surface of the vents heaving and moaning from the strains of warm air circulating the building were blinding and he was out of options. His warped mind became heavy with the anguish and guilt that was slowly creeping around his heart.
He looked over the space between the buildings to the rooftop next to his. A lone figure of a woman stood facing him, the distance between them merely a few meters away, yet oh-so-far. He was on the wrong building and his friend was standing on the opposite side of him; a 20-storey drop divided them.
At first glance, she was angelic. Her white dress whipping about around her heeding every way the wind blew. Her auburn locks dancing playfully at the sides of her face and falling occasionally past her hips accentuating her demure curvatures. Upon closer inspection and as the harsh rays of sunlight illuminated what was merely an illusion of his mind, her true form and state of mind presented itself.
Her tears as they dropped to the ground, shimmered. They reflected in the sunlight almost like a glimmering beacon to all around her, reminding them of her anguish. Her hair, wet from the sweat dripping off her brow plastered itself about her face, a mask of pain and suffering.
“Do you know this song Tyler?” Annabelle screamed from the other rooftop, the one Tyler wished he was on. Her body swayed to a music he could not hear. “You know this song. Everybody at my party knew this song.” She screamed. The desperation in her voice bellowed out to the four winds. Her hips swayed as if she were in a trance, her eyes shut as she allowed the breeze to take the lead. She stepped precociously closer to the ledge.
Tyler jerked forward in response. But it was all he could do from where he was standing. It was the only thing his brain allowed him to do while standing on the rooftop that he wished Annabelle was on. Annabelle stepped forwards and back, her right arm propped up in the air while her left arm was held waist-high and curved as if she were holding on to someone imaginary and dancing hypnotically.
“Carry on my wayward son! There’ll be peace when you are done!” she sang almost half screaming all the while swaying in a trance-like state.
“Get off the roof Anna!” Tyler screamed. “You’re gonna fall off!” The desperation in his voice more than evident at this point.
Tyler instantly felt a pang of guilt as soon as he said that. Maybe he shouldn’t have had suggested that. If she came to the rooftop to jump off it, it might have given her the push she needed to do just that. On the other hand, if she didn’t come up there to jump, he might have given her the idea to. Either way, Tyler knew that he needed to think of something to get her off the roof. But no matter what ideas came through his mind, they always lead to the fact that he was on the wrong roof.
The Koch building on Greenway Plaza was always their place to hide away from the world. It was introduced to them by a mutual friend who had moved out of the country and they had sworn on pain of death that they would never reveal their so-called “Fortress of Solitude”. So why was it that Tyler was standing on this roof, the roof they had shared so many memories on, while Annabelle was standing on another.
“That’s the whole idea,” Annabelle said half humming the tune to Kansas and the other half laughing at Tyler’s obvious desperation to get to her.
‘Great,’ he thought. Tyler watched as Annabelle continued to displace the pebbles scattered across her rooftop to fall direly to the concrete street below. Tyler’s face, what was once plastered with purpose and determination to save Annabelle after finding out what she came up here to do, became ghostly white. What little blood he had left that gave color to his cheeks had been drained entirely.
“Why weren’t you at my party Tyler? You were my best friend and you couldn’t even show up!” Annabelle shouted amid sobs as her tear flecked face contorted into anger. “But everyone else did! Everyone else turned up to sing me happy birthday and eat cake! EVERYONE INCLUDING THE BASTARD WHO RAPED ME!”
Annabelle was hysterical at this point. Tears were streaming down her face and what started as a shout across the small expanse of space between them turned into hysterical screaming. Her body doubled over as she used all air in her diaphragm to send that last bit of information across to Tyler, crippling him.
“I came as soon as I heard Anna,” said Tyler, choking back his own tears. “We’ll get through this. It’s you and me against the world remember?” Tyler tried to find some semblance of happiness deep down inside Annabelle’s distraught and troubled mind. But at this point, whatever Tyler said, however he pleaded only opened up more heartache for Annabelle.
“You were supposed to be there for me Tyler. Where were you?!” Annabelle screamed as she choked on her own saliva. But that didn’t matter. All form of sanity had escaped her. The 20-storey drop looked all too appealing.
Tyler couldn’t bring himself to give her an excuse. He knew he should’ve been there at the party and he wasn’t. She was undoubtedly his best friend and for a crime such as this to happen to ones closest to you is particularly heart-wrenching. Tyler stammered and hesitated in response to Annabelle’s demand.
Tyler looked into her eyes and what he saw scared him. Annabelle had stopped singing and dancing and even screaming and crying and was in fact staring directly at him. He searched Annabelle’s soft chestnut eyes for that soft-spoken girl he had always doted on. But what he saw at that moment stole the life out of him. What he saw was nothing short of familiar since he had seen himself wear that same gleam in his eyes countless times. The most recent was the sight of him reflected in a broken mirror while he ran up here to confront her. Tyler only saw purpose in Annabelle’s eyes.
Content with his answer, or lack of, Annabelle took a step forward.
Reporter by day and shiisha connoisseur by night, Haziq has recently adopted an obsession for Honey Badgers. In a love/hate relationship with these Mustelids, he braces for their inevitable world domination. You can follow him on Twitter @ZiqqyZiqqy