Darrel climbed the steps to his building’s roof, his heart clapping against his ribs with roughshod pulses whose rhythm he couldn’t quite ascertain. He was deeply cold, but sweat formed little salty pearls on his face that held the dim light he passed below, making his jaundiced skin sparkle slightly. Between the tired, closed up air and the steepness of the flights, Darrel felt as though his lungs could only take in fractured breaths, shallow inhalations like a whisper when he wished that he could scream.
It’d been a week or two since he’d slept, and Darrel’s eyes stung even from the sallow light that washed the stairway. So his eyelids slowly wilted til they’d close and then he’d trip over a step and jolt himself awake. Of all the times to fall asleep, he thought.
At the top of the last flight there was a steal door that Darrel knew sometimes was locked. He said a little prayer as he approached it. Darrel only prayed when he desired something strongly, as if his god were some sort of merchant, trading services for hope and desperation, bartering with those who had no other currency than empty words.
Reaching for the door, the angst like bitters in his mouth, Darrel felt the sudden need to turn around, to climb back down and sleep the night like normal people did, to brush his teeth and yawn and cover up beneath a flannel blanket while moonlight sifted through the slats of Darrel’s partly-open blinds. But it was far too late for sleep. He’d finally made a choice, and now he had to live with that. Besides, the door to the roof was unlocked, he thought, and who knows when that will happen again.
Outside the air was pleasant, and Darrel swilled it fully, drinking with it the cobalt-yellow sagging lushly from the half-moon above. He walked briskly to the edge and felt the balmy warmth of spring all over his skin.
The pavement down below was grey and quiet, somehow blankly welcoming as Darrel stared down at it. He felt surprised at how calm and warm he was. Behind him a weightless breeze rose up, and Darrel stretched his arms beyond the building’s edge and hinted at a prayer before he closed his eyes.