Chapter 1:

Call of the Sky

Call of the Sky

Unpacking my belongings had taken all day, but it was still August 15th when we finally finished. Afterwards, my brother left for his own house back in the countryside with his beaten old truck, and I finally had the space to enjoy my newfound independence in peace.

So, of course, I went to poison myself, just a little.

The dark stairway up the apartment building was a cool reprieve against the day’s heat. The landlady had told me the roof had a grand view, and I was determined to enjoy the first cigarette of my new life in the city above its neon-bright lights.

Opening the door to the roof I was greeted by a cool night’s breeze, a thousand lights blinking out from the houses below, and the sight of an angel against the backdrop of a starless sky.

There she stood. On the other side of the railing, looking into the night, the wind playing with her hair. She seemed almost unreal.

It was perfectly silent. Then the door fell close behind me with a thud and the girl turned to face me as — drip, drip, drop — tears of blood fell from her fingertips. She had an adorable face with round eyes and full lips, smiling beatifically. The look in her eyes was pure bliss, though her expression seemed to carry a wistful hopelessness within.

She was beautiful. My heart was stolen in an instant.

My unlit cigarette fell from my mouth as I ran across the roof and jumped the railing to catch her. In my haste I came closer to the edge than she did. Still, I managed to grab hold of her.

“Let’s be careful we don’t fall, ya?”

She looked at me, or through me and slightly to the left. I could not tell exactly, but she was mesmerizing regardless.

“I’m not going to fall,” she said with a surety I could not understand, “I am going to fly.”

Her hand in mine felt freezing against the warm summer air. I pulled her against me and beheld her bleeding hand. There was one long scratch on the side of her ring finger. Like she’d tried to grab the top of the mesh fence and missed by a hair’s breadth, cutting herself on a sharp end or a grasped nail.

As I helped her climb the railing, back into the safety of the enclosed roof, I clutched her hand a little tighter. I heard it all the same. L'appel du vide. The call of the void. However, simply knowing it is there makes it easier to run away from it.

Do not look down over the precipice’s edge. That’s the secret, you see: You always have to look up.

“What were you doing up here on the roof?” The girl asked.

“Well, I moved in downstairs today and came up for a drag.”

“You just moved in here? What a coincidence, I just moved into the apartment on the top floor myself.”

Huh, she must have rented out her flat even more recently than I. The landlady had shown me both apartments when I had been looking for a place. And it hadn’t seemed lived in as I climbed past it just now. The floor had still been a blank canvas without a doormat in sight and the naked concrete hallway had still been empty and grey.

There was a break in our conversation as I couldn’t muster up the courage to ask what she was up here for, considering — well. Turns out, I didn’t have to ask at all.

“See that other roof over there? I just jumped from there.”

She was pointing across the street to a clone of our apartment building. Same look, same apartments, same roof, just on the other side of the street. Just another high-rise in this small group of identical apartment towers.

A roof that, same as ours, was more than thirty meters above ground. Across a chasm to the street down below that was probably ten meters wide. A chasm that I had keenly avoided looking down.

That’s the secret, you see: You always have to look up.

“But like I told you,” she just continued on without paying me any heed, “ I don’t fall. Instead, when I jumped I flew to this roof right here.”

My legs suddenly couldn’t carry me anymore, so I collapsed against the fencing. Sliding down onto the ground I let my head rest against the mesh wiring. She was in front of me now, the crescent moon behind her diffused by the clouds. Her gaze still seemed fixed to the other roof.

“I met him up there to follow an invitation we’d received. But the invitation wasn’t for me, today. He wasn’t for me, today. He wasn’t able to fly with me.”

I couldn’t see anything but her and the night’s sky. With trembling hands and practiced ease, I pulled out a new cigarette and finally breathed the calming smoke into my lungs.

The girl looked at me then, with a frown on her face. Though, it did not manage to mar her beauty.

“You shouldn’t smoke. It’ll kill you. And it’s not attractive, you know?”

I had to laugh at that as I pulled a deep drag. Her little story before had me worried.

“I’ll put it out right now if you give me your LINE contact.”

It surprised me how forward I asked, high on adrenaline and her. But I didn’t care where I found the courage, because she immediately held out her hand for my phone.

“Will you come save me if I have to tell you ‘Goodbye’?”

“I’ll come running,” I replied easily as I flicked the glowing cigarette over my shoulder, watching the embers sail over the edge for a second. It was an odd phrasing, but it fit her, I mused.

Looking back, I saw her eyes following the fire even further beyond, her enigmatic smile lighting up once more.

She took a second to come back to herself before we finally introduced ourselves. I fell enamored with the way her name felt on my tongue. Before long, she joined me sitting against the fence. We talked all the way into August 16th.

It must have been past two before we stopped. I even convinced her to take me up on a date the next day, showing me the city, shooting the breeze. Enjoy the time before Obon holidays were over and the real life started again for us.

We promised each other that we'd bring some beers with us the next time we came up here to watch the sky. Tomorrow even, if it worked out. To poison ourselves, just a little.

The girl left first, in the end. Both of us were becoming tired and overdrawn on conversation. I stayed behind on the roof and told her I wanted to stay for the first sunrise in my new home.

“Maybe you can be the one to really fly with me,” I heard the girl say as she smiled at me from the entrance to the stairs. Well, as she smiled through me and slightly to the left.

Then she was gone already, before I could even think to reply.

I had a new cigarette in my mouth and had it lit before the door behind her fell shut. Now it was only me, the city, and the night. I think I heard sirens ringing up from below and across the street, but I couldn’t be sure. The silent call of the sky drowned out all the noise.

That’s the secret, you see: You always have to look up. That way you can only fly, and you never fall.

I sat there against the fence for maybe another ten minutes, until my cigarette was burnt up and almost singed my lips. I hadn’t spared it another thought after I'd lit it. After all, I was in love.

I couldn’t wait to come up here again tomorrow and enjoy this beautiful silence, together with her.

Closing my eyes for a second, I heard the question reverberate in the serenity all around me:

Had I fallen for the girl herself, or had I just fallen for a girl standing on the precipice's edge?

Died in Vain
Call of the Sky

Call of the Sky

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