Saul fell.


A misjudged step, a loose tile and a weak gutter had lead to the Roof Runner over balancing and, now, plummeting towards the streets below.


There is no slowing down of time, no adrenaline enhanced reflexes. There is just the nauseating spin of building, sky, building, ground, building, roof.


Roof.


The body reacts. Curls itself into a ball and kicks off the wall it falls past. It opens and turns in mid-air, spinning like a bullet. Slowly arching over the streets below, over people who never look up, never see the body stretching to reach a roof opposite. Never see how his arms reach, how he wills his body on.


How he falters and fails. How he falls again.


Everything blurs: the roof he missed, the windows, his life. All flashing by.


Then. There. His final chance.


Saul pitches his weight forward, stretches out his hands, prays to whatever Gods that would listen for his palms not to be too sweaty, that his body wasn’t too heavy. 


He grabs for the railing, pulling with all his might.


The muscles in his arm slip and tear. 


His momentum carries him forward way too fast. He ducks his head, hoping he lands on his shoulder and doesn’t break his neck.


He hits the balcony, shoulder first, hears the pop as his arm slips from it’s joint. He screams, tumbling forward, pitching over, and through a huge window, flopping onto his shoulder, his useless arm, yelling again, before hitting a sofa.


He hears panicked screams, but at a distance. His vision is fading. With his good arm he feels his trouser pocket.


Dry. It’s dry. He smiles.


Pain takes him to black.


***


He is falling, his hands miss the rail, his arms flail. He tries not to look down. Not to see the ground rushing up to greet him. Not to see the moment of impac-


Saul’s eyes snapped open. His body jolted, another cry escaping his lips.


The room smelt of lavender. It reminded him of being young and visiting his grandmother.


The bed he was in was over stuffed and fluffy. The wallpaper was flocked, an full of images of flowers, as was the bedspread.


His arm was tied close to his body, in a slinh. He tried to move it. The scream that followed told him that it was still dislocated. It also alerted the owner of the room that he was awake.


The door opened, slowly. Saul looked around the room to find something to defend himself. All he saw his clothes, neatly folded on a small wooden table.


“I see you’re awake.” The voice wasn’t frail, but it wasn’t the strong, booming voice that Saul had expected. 


He struggled up and saw a small, grey haired, woman in the door. She must have been 65 if the was a day. 


“I cleaned up your face as best I could, I don’t think you’ll scar. It was mainly small cuts. And I think I got the sling right. I used to be a nurse, you know. But that was…long, long ago.” She crossed the room, her years adding weight to her body, slowing her down. “You gave me quite a fright, young man. I don’t get many visitors nowadays. But when I do they usually come through the door.”


She smoothed the end of the blanket down. “I…ah..took the liberty of going through your things. I used your Spime to call some people. I think some of your friends will be coming to collect you, soon.”


Saul just looked. He’d not seen someone old for ever. Especially not old and mobile.


“Are you ok, Saul?”


That shook him. “Um…well…actually, my arm isn’t set. I wonder, can you help me?” He didn’t know what else to say.


The old woman nodded.


“I’ll probably scream.”


She smiled at him, doing her best to reassure him. “It’ll be ok. I’ve done this many times before.”


They talked her through the best way to do it and with a sharp push, and a loud scream, Saul’s arm was relocated.


***


She waited for him to dress and helped him to the room he crashed into.


It was a mess, the doors onto the balcony were trashed, the carpet littered with glass.


“I’m sorry.” Saul said. “It wasn’t meant to be like that.”


As they tidied up she told him of her life, pre and post Collapse. How she’d always lived in the city and wasn’t going to leave, but now, as people she knew and relied upon, moved away or died, she didn’t quite know what she was going to do.


“Sup?”


They both looked up as 3 Roof Runners dropped, gracefully, onto the old woman’s balcony.


“Oh,” she joked with Saul. “That’s how it’s meant to be done.”


They were about to walk into the room when Saul stopped them. “Hey. Where’s your damn manners? You don’t just walk into someone’s house. You ask first.” He turned to his nurse. “This is Mark, Andrew and the one at the back with the scarf is Maria. Guys, this is…um…” He realised he’d not asked her her name.


“I’m Maude,” she beamed at the new group. ” Pleased to meet you. If you insist on coming in through the window, please try not to tread any more glass in.”


***


She served tea and sat through a strained conversation with his friends. After Saul took them onto the balcony and gave them a set of tasks. He made some calls, did some deals, called in some favours and then just hung out with Maude.


Before night fell people had come and repaired the window, and brought her some shopping.


And then it was time for him to go.


Before he left, Saul gave his new… friend (The word sounded odd to him, but it fit) a spime. “Here, Maude, this is for you. It’s got my contact details in there. I’m going away this weekend, but if you ever need anything – give me a call. And, you know, I’ll drop by every now and then.”


Maude smiled. “And you’ll use the door, young man.”


Saul blushed. “You know…I thought I was going to die today.”


“Well. It looks like you’ve been given a few years yet. You be careful.” 


They hugged.


Saul made for the window, thought about his arm and headed out the door. He had gone up 3 flights before he remembered.


Maude was waiting at the door with it. “Cold, too. I’ve kept it in the fridge for you.”


Smiling, he took it from her and slipped it into his trouser pocket.


***


Saul stood at the edge of the roof, staring at the ground far below, his mouth dry.


He looked out over the roof tops while testing his shoulder. It was a jump across a fairly wide gap, a roll – then straight on over a series of roofs before another jump.


He felt his heart hammering as he exhaled in short bursts. He walked back to the middle of the roof and crouched, stretching his shaking legs. Trying to stop them feeing like jelly.


He ran his tongue over his dry lips.


“Come on, Saul. Now or never. Back on the horse.” He stood back up. “All that shit.”


He ran at the edge of the roof, felt the fear rise in him, heard the crunch as his feet hit the rooftop. Felt his arse vibrate and fought to slow.


“Yup?”


“Are you ok?” It was his wife. He hadn’t spoken to her since…since it had happened.


“Yeah, yeah. I’m fine. I’m on my way back now.”


“I send you out for a carton of milk, and look what you do.” He could hear the smile in her voice.


“OK, dear. I’m on my way.” He kissed down the phone and hung up.


He had walked back to the middle of the roof. “Just a jump across a fairly wide gap.


He broke for the roofs edge, ignoring his need to vomit, the screaming in his head.


Saul flew.


Chest out, arms outstretched, he soared high above the waterways, and what was left of the streets, below. No one saw him, not many people looked up anymore.