The wind roared in his ears as he took to his task.
The metal frame was cold against his skin. He slid the bar of the bicycle lock through the handle bars of the door. And, not that it was necessary, he slipped another one to and clicked it in place. The sun was at its peak then, flinging a blanket of heat and light over the city that enveloped and choked it. The air suspended thickly in the summer sky, broken only momentarily by piercing gusts of warm wind that died moments after forming . He threw his eyes contemplatingly at his surroundings: at the empty concrete floor, the uncovered metal piping to his left with its muffled purr of running water, the scattered grains of feed for the benign city pigeons, and the circular patch of hardened droppings they left in their wake.
For a moment he stood looking ahead, with tired unfluttering eyes, at the barren, emerald-blue sky. Then, in slight steps he edged forward toward the raised brick railing. He threw his arms up and, clutching the outer edge of the railing, thrust himself upward, climbing the railing of half his length. He stood at the very highest point of the office-building now, the front rims of his shoes meeting the surface of the railing at the very point where it broke off and there was nothing but air and space.
Under him the city lived: the howls of cars and taxicabs, relentless and constant. About him buildings sprinkled the streets. A horizon of beaming structures, flung toward the sky above. They glistened in the sunlight. Rays of light clung to spotless, perfect panes of glass, as if trapped. They gleamed in the bed of light, shining like immaculately designed pieces someone’s collection of crystal sculptures. Where light didn’t gather, warped reflections of the city appeared: cyclists, the fountain, people chasing after taxicabs, the empty park. There on the edge of the warehouse that had housed him for so long, he waited for the panicking cries. The wind roared in his ears as he waited.
Mix water, sugar and paper, you get a sweet-tasting papery mush. Add potassium nitrate and leave to set, and it becomes a smoke bomb. Amateur bomb-makers call the magic ingredient Saltpeter. The resulting product is odorless, harmless, and like all good bombs should, produces smoke that sets the most insensitive of smoke-detectors alive. Upon lighting the fuse, the crusty mass quick-burns with a hiss and, more noticeably, a white cloud of fast-expanding smoke, harmless and frightening. Now, attach a slow-burning fuse to a pound of smoke bomb, leave it in your high rise office, light it, leave the door open, and the rest is done for you. In a minute the smoke detector rings out, then your coworkers spot the rising smoke as it snakes out of the office-room toward them. Afraid and confused, everyone runs for dear life. Exterminators smoke out rodents like that.
In a minute, this would happen. And in a minute, it did.
The reverberating barks of the alarm sounded, and in his head, drowned out the monstrous groans of the city. The wind roared in his ears as he listened.
A panicking crowd assembled at the base of the building. His audience had arrived, burst in to witness his performance. Soon policecars and firetrucks would storm in, all because of him. For him. He felt the thousand worried eyes on him, watching his every move. People who had always had a sameness about them, obvious in the way they moved, they way they dressed, the way they made phone calls while walking the streets, staring into space. Seeing, yet never really seeing. Like drones, drones going about their business, vacant and genial. Predictable people assuming pre-decided identities, he had always thought. Dear ladies, gentlemen and glorified sheep.
I am different, he thought now as watched the crowd with unblinking eyes. The wind roared in his ears as he watched.
It wasn’t long before the information of his being there spread through the shocked crowd like forest fire. They looked as him with wondrous eyes and mouths agape. He stood perfectly upright, at the very edge, as though one with the building. As he stood with their eyes fixed to him, he looked away, as if he were a celebrity looking through squealing fans. White smoke jetted out of the window he’d left open. The wind roared in his ears as he stood. Behind him the metal door, the entrance to the roof, was forced forward, and every time it was the steel of the bicycle locks forced it back with a clang.
I am not of you any more, he thought.
With that thought, he looked down one last time, at the crowd, the cars, the white cloud, the policemen, the buildings and the other world that existed within its mirrored walls. The siren blared still. The wind roared in his ears as he flew.