I live up on the top of the world. They let me live up here, because I'm useful to them. That suits me fine. I like the peace and quiet. It's always quiet here, no matter what happens down below. Some days I hear the distant noises below, but I don't care. No people to bother me, and I don't bother anyone. The doctors told me that it was a personality disorder, that I could be cured if I wanted. Well, I just prefer to keep to myself. People just talk too much, all that inane chatter - yabba yabba yabba all day long, about what? Nothing, that's what.
It can get cold up here sometimes, the wind whipping through the girders until it finds some way to cut through your clothes and take your warmth. When it gets real bad, I usually just stay in my place, and sing along. We make some good music, the wind and I. He sings real good, but I don't let him into my place, no matter how much he howls. I made my place in the corner of an old office, pretty much untouched by the fires, and the wind, I know he's jealous of me. So he talks to Them too. They like to stay out with the wind, out on the highest tips of the broken girders, where it's hard to climb and if you slip, you ain't never coming back. Doesn't matter to Them though - They're strong and fast and don't need fire like I do. The wind, he howls, but he can't touch them.
It was like that then, the night loud with the wind howling, the rain slashing down and me singing with them, beating time with a fork and a spoon that I'd found. We made good music that night, and I could tell Rain was enjoying herself. Then, Wind went quiet, and Rain, Rain she just slowed to a trickle. It was one of Them, standing silent in my place. I never hear them come or go, and they just stand there until I notice. I don't give them no reason to hurt me, but they still scare me a little. The moonlight hits them and they shine, all pale and white, like marble statues. You'd think they were statues till they move. Sometimes they move so fast I don't see em move at all. Then other times, you swear they were moving just so slow that you couldn't tell if they were really moving or standing still. But the next time you looked, something had changed. This one was waiting. Waiting for me to acknowledge it. I made as to offer the whiskey, and that must have counted as acknowledgement, I guess. It's not like they even drink, though.
It spoke - "We have a job for you, Roost". A harmonious male voice. As it spoke, it moved, shifted from one foot to the other, almost like a human. Old habits die hard, I guess. I stood up and took the datapad from that flawless white hand. It seemed like they needed a few more high-tech bits, as well as some data from their informants. I could deal with that. "Okay, I'll do it tomorrow. Anything else you'd be wanting?" I didn't expect it, but it never hurts to be polite. "No, thank you, Roost" And with that it turned away and walked off, still moving like a person, being nice so not to creep me out. I watched it turn the corner and move back towards the place where the rest of them were. That perfect white form was walking with a limp, favouring it's left foot. Huh. Old habits do die hard. That had been Sergi. They all look the same, so it's the little things, in mannerisms and voice that let you tell them apart.
I woke the next day, and the storm had finally blown over. Up here, when Rain wasn't lashing down and Wind wasn't laughing, the sky was almost completely blue. Down there, in the crush of the city, you couldn't see the sky most places. And the places where you could cost more dollars than you could imagine. They like the blue sky, I can tell you that much. Most of Them have wings, although some don't. I never worked out why that was. Just goes to show there's no accounting for taste, even among Them.
They sit in circles sometimes, communicating. They don't talk or nothing, just sit and hold hands. They were doing it that day too. Normally I don't get too close, but this time They were sat right by the lift cables. Of course, They probably don't care, but it never hurts to be polite. That day, though, there was nothing for it. So I just walked right on past. Didn't look back, because I know I wouldn't catch 'em moving even if they did.
I went my normal way. Down the rickety chair strapped to the last lift cable. It only goes down fifty floors, but that's long enough for me. Sometimes Wind blows hard, just to scare me, and I think that I'll hit what's left of the walls. He knows I don't like that one bit. That day though, Wind just wanted to talk, so I told him about what it's like down inside the city. He's never seen that, with the filtered air they pump down there. He's not missing much though. By the time I reached the bottom, Wind had got bored and gone away. I don't mind that. I kept talking though. Keeps me sane, talking.
It took another two days to reach the top of the city. I would've been there in one, if I hadn't had to hide from a group of crazies. It's quiet up there with Them, so I can hear when the crazies are out. I steer clear of the crazies, don't like to meet 'em. The air here can do strange things to you, make your brain go wrong. Too much dirt and pollution, just sitting in a big cloud over the city. That don't bother the cityfolk, though. They just stay inside. I'm lucky though, it doesn't affect me. But you've always gotta watch out for those crazies. Some of 'em have been up here since the Fall, were probably up here when it happened. Something like that can make you go pretty mad.
It's pretty easy to get back inside, when you know how. All the doors are to stop people getting out, and with a bit of muscle you could open one of those big doors easy. Me, I like to go through the tunnels instead, where the machines move. I don't get seen because They gave me a gizmo that makes the machines blind. You've still gotta be careful though. Just 'cause they can't see you doesn't mean they can't step on you. I only saw a couple of little red ones that day though, not the big yellow's. If you see a big yellow, you run, because they fill the whole tunnel, and there ain't no place for you to fit as well. The red's thunder past, but they're only a couple of stories tall. I had to wait for a couple of hours before I saw one of the little green buggers. They roam about inside the city, doing things for the people. When it went through the access door, I was right on it's heels. Had to crawl, because the green buggers are the littlest ones. Ended up on the west side of the city, pretty near the storehouse and the shop. This was where they used to have factories, before the machines started making everything on the outside. When I was a kid, people made things for people. Nowadays, you just dial up, and one of the little green buggers brings you anything you want.
I was on my way to the shop, when I heard them. Wind, he's weak down here, among the buildings, but he still helps me out sometimes. I could tell there were a few of them, all male.
Most times, I don't like to meet the city folk, and this time, I was going to make sure I didn't meet these. It's not like upstairs here. Up there, They don't steal and kill from each other. Down here though, there were always some like these. Robbers, Murderers, Rapists, whatever. I don't like city folk much.
I started to go back, away from the voices. I could go around the other way, and still get to the shop pretty quick. Then I heard footsteps behind me. Didn't sound like more than one. Why would they send just one to ambush me from behind? It's not as if they would need any more, but these bad city folk are cautious. They always move in groups. It took me a couple of seconds to find the right handholds, but pretty soon I was already half way up the wall. When you live where I do, you get pretty good at climbing. It was an easy climb anyway, less than ten meters. I figured I'd stay up here till those city folk left. No reason for them to see me.
The footsteps were nearing the corner of the block. It wasn't one of those up ahead. It was a woman. As she got closer, I could see that she shouldn't be here. She was young, with dark hair cut straight across her shoulders. Wearing a smart grey business jacket. Heels and a skirt too. Probably worked for one of the financial houses nearer the center. What was she doing here? If she kept going the way she was going, pretty soon she's meet those bad ones down the end of the block. She was getting real close now, almost right below me. Then she looked up. What I saw was the face of a angel, looking up at me. Eyes as large as could be. Blue eyes. So light they were the colour of the sky up in my place. Cheeks that curved down, in a delicate, soft way to a mouth that looked as sweet as cherries. Her neck , fine and elegant, her pale skin flawless. All framed by dark, dark shining hair. Then, she looked away, back down to the broken concrete of the ground. My heart was pounding, even though I knew she hadn't seen me. I had to do something. She didn't know what was around that corner. I had to stop her. I moved quick, along the roof, following her. I didn't know what I could do, what would help, but I had to do something. Then I hear 'em. No words, but I know the tone. I made it to the corner of the roof, and peered over. They'd found her, and I was too late. There were six of them. All mean-looking. The big one was in front of her, saying something. She said something back. Then the big one laughed, and the rest joined in. She was shaking her head, backing away, but the big one was coming after her. He was almost on her. That's when the first brick hit him square in the forehead. That was Wind's idea, he always has good ideas. I threw the next one, and the next one, ripping them out the wall on the roof. The big one looked up, blood pumping from his scalp. Shouted something at the others. I kept throwing. Brick after brick after brick. The whole group of 'em were coming towards me now. They had knives, bottles, whatever they could find in the abandoned factories. The first one had made it to the wall by now. He was smaller than the big one, but he couldn't climb as well as me. Couldn't dodge bricks as well as some of the others too. The big one was shouting again now, telling 'em to get me. I threw some more bricks, and that shut him up pretty quick. When the bricks started coming back, Wind told me it was time to leave. I moved back away from the edge, and ran as fast as I could over the flat roofs. A small jump across to the next building and into the shelter of some old rusted pipe. I could hear those bad ones moving about, angry, trying to find me. As the voices got fainter, I started to work my way back to the storehouse. Then I saw her again. She was sitting, crying. She'd got away from the bad ones, and she still was lost. Didn't know she was less than a block away from "civilisation". I couldn't get down off the roof and help her. One look at me and she'd scream. I wasn't presentable like the city folk, what with my dirty old coat and beard. I smell bad as well. She was beautiful, meant to live in beautiful places and do beautiful things. Me, I was meant to live up there, with Them. I watched her for a minute, a minute that seemed to last for a hour. Then I went down to the road behind her. Started making some noise, knocking trash cans together. She seemed to get the message and started running in the right direction. Nothing much to say after that. I did the shopping that They needed. Picked up the information that They wanted. Then I made my way back upstairs. Back to my place, and where I belonged, with Them. Thing is, I couldn't quite bring myself to let her go. So I followed her, back to where she lived. Checked she was alright. I came down to the ugly city more often these days, although Rain thought I was crazier than ever. Sometimes I'd check in on her, see if she was happy, if she was mixing with the right crowd. Just to watch over her, to keep her safe from harm. Just like Sergi does, guarding his great-great grandson. She need never know I was there. You see, everyone needs an Angel to watch over them sometimes, and real Angels are few and far between. So we just have to make do.
This story is Copyright © 2002 Dan Argent and is reprinted with permission.