The Rooftop Garden and the Terror of Heights
Not everyone could be as boring as Jasmine Leit though. Ari hoped at any rate. There was the artist in 2B who never showed Ari his work and then the glamourist in 3C. Maybe they held secrets in their apartments? Or maybe, he just needed to be looking in bedrooms rather than living rooms.
In fact, one bedroom in particular stood out in his mind. A bedroom with a delightfully attractive man in its bed. A delightfully attractive man who ignored and dismissed Ari on a constant basis.
“Never mind. We’ll go see the artist’s secret paintings,” he said to the swaying branches of the bushes as he finally flew free of the oppressive building.
The brightness of the night sky lit up the roof, the moonlight shining off leaves and causing the glass of the nearby wind chimes to glow. He couldn’t hear his music from up here, just the swishing of the occasional cars driving past and the tapping of the larger wooden chimes along the edges of the roof. That breeze likely held a chill, though Ari couldn’t feel it. Couldn’t feel the wind at all in fact.
“Can you imagine being blown away on the wind,” he mused to himself.
He fluttered his fingers just as a bat came dodging through the small trees. Ari followed the creature’s progress, only noticing after the fact that those trees were quickly shrinking in his sight. The outer edge of the rooftop became visible, concrete ledges that wrapped about the deep wooden planter boxes and the paths between them.
“Oh no. Wait, not good.”
Had he still been firmly in his body and not floating above the roof of the building, Ari knew, beyond any shadow of any doubt, that his breathing would have been labored. As it was, he was attempting to suck in oxygen at a rate impossible for his incorporeal, soul-like self. Air he could not taste rushed past his tongue while blood he could not hear should have pounded within his ears.
Far below in the street a young couple appeared from underneath an overhang. He could see the girl’s messy blonde hair and tell the boy had little taste in jeans even while more than four stories up. But at this point, Ari would trust anyone regardless of fashion.
“Hey! Hello! No, I’m up here!” He waved frantically and felt a modicum of relief when the couple finally turned to look up after casting self-consciously about the street as if they’d been caught in some clandestine meet-up. Not that he cared one way or another.
The teens grabbed onto one another, their faces comically horrified and their mouths moving in abstract worthlessness since words weren’t exactly coming out. At least that he could hear.
“I need help!” Ari called, his voice cracking as he had to lift his head in an attempt to keep the couple in his sights as he spun into the sky. “Help!”
“It’s a ghost!”
“What?” Ari twisted his neck around as he finished the rotation. “I’m not a ghost.” Then, realizing they wouldn’t have heard him, he shouted, “I’m not a ghost! I’m not a ghost! I swear!” But by the time he was back facing the shrinking ground, both teens were disappearing up the street. “Oh damn it. I wasn’t trying to scare you!” Then he chuckled uneasily. “Though that would have been funny. I really need help!”
They were gone before he’d finished shouting, leaving him face down, staring at the cars parked in the street and the rooftop garden he’d sat within so many times. All the world shrinking. If he’d had a heart, it would have stopped. Maybe it had. Maybe he was dead.
“I’m not dead,” he insisted. “I’m just…” The orange flash of the traffic lights from half a mile away came into view, making him flinch.
Terror clawed through whatever body he had left, at first causing him to freeze, then he began to flail again, kicking and swinging his arms, bending at his waist as if he could dive toward the earth. His upward motion stalled, but he found no solace in the fact, desperation turning to panic as he silently told himself to wake up, even to the point of slapping at his own face, yet feeling none of the associated pain that should have accompanied the action.
In all his panic, somehow, someway, he found himself shooting toward the garden on the rooftop, swaying branches growing rapidly in his view. He moved far faster down through the air than he had in the slow, drifting journey he’d taken upward. With a loud groan and even louder curse at young couples in love, he covered his eyes with his arms and tensed hard as the garden rushed up around him and the rooftop enveloped him a mere second later.
~ ~ ~
Tune in on Thursday, June 15th, for the next installment of Ari’s Tour: 4D—Morgan Liu and her Obsession with Fairy Tales
This is a teaser for my novel Bridle the Unicorn. On sale now for only $0.99.