Daniel is poised on the edge of the flat roof. His view down – way down – comes to an abrupt end some ten metres below with a smooth expanse of freshly set black tarmac.
“Daniel!” His mother calls, the only one left to stick by him. “Come away from there, darling.” Her cry is plaintive, scared; pathetic. “Please.”
He looks back at her, but it is a brief glance, and meaningless. His attention returns to the ground below, his vision spinning with an almost intoxicating desire to fall… to fly. Another cry from his mother, and he is wrenched sharply from that lulling, tantalising possibility into a jagged-edged place of fear and dread.
“Please, Daniel.” She sounds exhausted.
But it’s like the time – although he was too young to remember, really – his devout aunt had taken him into the Notre Dame Cathedral during the Vespers service. They’d crept in late, and she’d told him to be silent, but that nasty urchin lurking inside of him had wanted out, and he had let forth an inhuman wail at the top of his lungs, lapsing into a fiendish giggle as she dragged him out by the collar, blushing under the glares of the congregation.
It’s like the time he’d just reached out and run his hand up the branch of the monkey puzzle tree in his nana’s back garden, even though he knew why it was called that, knew it would hurt. He does remember that, remembers watching the blood ooze up through his skin, hoping the urchin was satisfied with these ruby jewels he held out in his palm.
And it’s like the time on the beach, when he dropped the rock on his father’s sleeping head. He really should have known better at that age, but always, always, there was the urchin that inhabited him, his whiny demands derisive, relentless until Daniel eventually gave in. His father’d gone to hospital for that, and Daniel to his room for a month.
A breath susurrates coaxingly around him.
Jump, whispers the urchin.
Daniel thinks how odd it is that the urchin’s whisper is only that, a whisper, yet it can drown out his mother’s pleas, which should be deafening from the terror and love in them.
Jump, murmurs the urchin.
Approximately ten years from now, in a flash of clarity, Daniel will remember this moment suddenly, and look up from the passage he is reading on the theory of relativity, out onto a calm expanse of impeccable lawn dotted with zombies and their minders, and wonder if there is an answer in it for him.
In twenty years, Daniel will find himself vomiting into a cracked toilet bowl, the result of participation in yet another drug trial for which he did not entirely, not explicitly, give his consent.
Jump, hisses the urchin.
Jump, mocks the urchin.
And Daniel jumps. In that brief, beautiful moment between sky and earth, he exults in the bliss of the silence that fills his ears.
This story was written as an inspiration piece for Mash Stories, a short story competition which gives writers 3 random key words or phrases, and a 500-word limit, to create their best pieces of flash fiction. The key words for this piece were: monkey – cathedral – relativity.