Copyright © 2007 by RJ.
This story was written for The Hub’s Anthology, themed “Fear.”
The apartment is on the fifth floor, fifty feet above the ground, more or less. It has a terrace that overlooks most of the city except where high-rises block the view, but it is of little use since Gary almost never ventures out onto the terrace. Almost never, anyway. Sometimes, he does, or more accurately, tries. His parents never think it odd that they never see him on the terrace. In fact, they never think anything about it at all, being all absorbed in their own lives. Gary thinks about it all the time though. He wants to go there and enjoy the view. But he can’t. Because he is afraid of heights.
Just thinking about it makes his stomach flip over and over, his intestines wringing themselves at the same time, if it were possible. Once in a while, he gets the courage to get out there and see if maybe he’s not scared of being there—fifty feet above the ground—anymore. The moment that he sets foot on the terrace, though, he could literally feel his balls drawing closer to his body, almost painfully, and if he had a tail, it would have been between his legs in the blink of an eye. Breathing becomes difficult once he’s there, and his heart, man, it’s like it has taken over his whole body! He doesn’t want to feel that way tens of feet above the ground, but he does anyway.
Only a door separates Gary from the terrace now. It is one of those days when he wakes up and finds himself wanting to venture out onto the terrace, sort of like trying his own self. Maybe, you know, just maybe, he could stand looking down at the streets below for a few minutes. He has been nervous through school from morning to afternoon, and he finds the conflicting emotions funny. He has courage, but he is nervous. Really screwed. He puts a hand on the knob, draws a deep breath, and opens the door. Sunlight greets him, and the polluted breeze kisses his face. He couldn’t see the ground below yet, but he never forgets that it’s down there, almost fifty feet from where he is.
He puts one foot forward and takes a deep breath. Another step and another deep breath, so far, so good. He finally has his hands on the rails, but his knees are shaking. Still, he keeps his eyes ahead, looking at the city. He takes another step, and he feels the cold rail on his stomach. Nothing. Only his knees are shaking. His eyes gradually lower down. Fifty feet, forty, thirty, ten, and his eyes are finally on the street. The street! His heart speeds up at the realization. He could actually see the people, the cars, trees, the street. His eyes are on the street from the terrace, fifty feet above the ground, and it’s the first time that he could remember doing it.
Suddenly, his eyes are jolted to the sidewalk directly below him, more correctly, to a guy standing on the sidewalk directly below him. The guy is just standing there, looking up at him with his hands in his pockets, while people pass him by. Gary’s eyes are sucked into the guy’s black eyes, never mind if it couldn’t be possible from a fifty-foot distance. His knees also have stopped shaking. There is this sudden peace that rushes through him as he stares into the guy’s eyes. And when the guy smiles at him, a warm feeling spreads inside his body.
That is when the weirdness starts. Gary makes a sudden intake of breath as he feels something pull him down to the ground, kind of like riding a fast elevator downwards. He leans his body on the rails to steady himself, but for some reason, he couldn’t take his eyes from the guy. Then, another weirdness. There is something in the guy’s eyes; Gary can see it. It is... him. Him! Gary can see himself in the guy’s eyes as he throws a leg over the railings. His other leg follows, and he jumps from the terrace down to the street and towards the guy. He feels the wind as he slices through it. Gary is almost there, almost kissing the ground. He closes his eyes for the few seconds that it will take his body to reach the ground.
And he jumps.
He jumps back from the rails and tears his eyes from the guy. What the hell has just happened? He looks around and reassures himself that he is still on the terrace and that he has not jumped to his death. He breathes a sigh of relief and is about to turn back into the house when a touch on his shoulder spins him around. His heart nearly explodes at the shock, but there is no one behind him. It could be foolishness—Gary doesn’t know—but he inches towards the rails again. And looks down. He looks down, and the guy is still down there, looking up at him. The guy raises a hand upwards, as if to beckon Gary to come to him. Gary feels his shaking knees come back with a vengeance. He is paralyzed, hugging the railings with his arms, his eyes glued on the guy below. He sees the guy move his mouth, but he doesn’t hear the word through his ears. The voice is inside his head. Come. Gary’s heart thunders inside his chest, and he jumps back from the railings again. He turns to run for the door, but he does not make it.
Right in front of him is the guy from the street, his red lips smiling sweetly and showing his white teeth. Gary cringes away from him, trembling and feeling a hammer pounding inside his chest. The guy steps towards him and smiles again. His mouth moves, but it is in his head that Gary hears his voice. I told you to come to me. Gary couldn’t move nor talk; he is paralyzed and quaking with fear. Breathing is difficult. The guy closes the distance between them, puts both of his hands under Gary’s armpits, and hoists him over the railings.
Gary’s eyes widen as he realizes what has happened. The guy has pushed him over the railings. He is falling down to the ground fast. He is... going to die. A single heartbeat shakes him from his thoughts, and he realizes that the guy is far smaller in his vision now than a heartbeat ago. He screams at the realization that he is almost there, almost dead. No flashbacks of any sort, only his screams and for some reason, he couldn’t stop screaming even when his lungs has run out of air. He is going to die soon, and he knows it but he doesn’t want to, yet. So he screams.
And that is how he wakes up—screaming.
He keeps on screaming until his parents are on both sides of his bed, shaking him, and he realizes that he is on his bed, in his room. He is not falling down from the terrace to the ground. He is not dead.
The dream—nightmare—has been on Gary’s mind the whole day. Dreams have meanings, he has always thought, so he wonders what it means, as scary as it is. That guy, ghost-like white skin, red lips, and black hair and eyes, he looks like a male Snow White. Gary shudders, remembering what the guy did to him. No, it is time to forget about it.
The bus drops Gary off right in front of the building where their apartment is. Just before entering the building, he takes a glance at the terrace on the fifth floor. His eyes bulge out of their sockets, and he sucks a deep, ragged breath. He feels a sudden jolt inside his chest as his hands start to shake. He suddenly wishes he hadn’t looked up. Looking back at him from the terrace with a sweet smile on his face is the guy from his nightmare, and Gary freezes as he hears a voice inside his head. I told you to come to me.
Is it really just a dream?
Gary doesn’t know, and he doesn’t care. All he knows is he would never set foot on the terrace again, or any place where he would be able to see the ground below.
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