FALL 2011




Solidus Online

Ian Whippie

On The Rooftop

2nd Place:

The thief had come to the end of her rope. While in flight after her latest venture, she was given the choice between running up, or away. The hasty decision could only end in one way, and now she had run out of ‘up’. All who fly, risk themselves similarly. What seems to be the simplest choice is infrequently the best.
She exhaled, and the white cloud of breath dissolved into the incomplete darkness of the sky above. The black sky was tattered, riddled with gashes and holes of white light. As she looked over the edge of the building, a parallel spectacle sprawled out below. Light shining through windows, from cars, red and blue flashed at the base of the skyscraper the thief stood on. It would not be long before she had to choose between two other alternatives. The first; end up in a crate with no holes, no white light, no sky. The second option was still obscure, but she found herself glancing over the edge. Ridiculous. Desperate. Never work.
Unconsciously, her fingers reached into a pocket, removing the thief’s latest quarry. She cursed. It was not a hiss, or a shout. It was not abrupt and loud. It was drawn out and soft, laced with admiration. It was the quality of awe in her voice that it inspired which made anything, even the lowest curse, sound no less than true love at its best. With a sigh, it was then replaced in her coat pocket. She sat, legs dangling over the edge, perched between giving in, and giving up. The situation sparks a note of familiarity, and for a single moment she was beyond déjà vu, for a moment she remembered, but then it was gone, leaving her smiling at some forgotten irony.
Her mind instead slipped into the stars. She could see the Big Dipper opposite to Draco’s tail; she could see Orion lost in the dessert, and something unfamiliar that she, herself, could have been the first to observe. It sat next to Orion, the Hero, or the Hunter depending on your perspective, and from her angle it looked like a man sitting cross-legged, as if next to a fire. She smiled at this stranger. For a moment she felt less alone, but then she remembered that the stars were only holes in the world, and any patterns we see in them only determine how far gone we really are. Like a giant Rorschach test.
She was really alone. She was cold. The police were climbing, never stopping. She was atop the tallest building for miles, and the wait was suddenly excruciating. The thief pulled her legs back onto the rooftop and picked herself up. She wrapped her coat more tightly around herself and paced back and forth. Reasons, excuses, they flared up in her mind, but in the end she had to ask herself. Why had she done it? It wasn’t the money; money didn’t really seem to matter at all, everything just sort of fit into place. What was it? All the reasons she had given herself over the years had faded away under her own scrutiny as she looked up into the stars once more. It all seemed so flimsy. It seemed selfish when she really thought about it. She had never really stolen anything people needed, but she thought of all the people punished for her continued success, all so she could experience the thrill of it. All of it so she could keep playing the endless game, hiding from something long-avoided, but what? Maybe that’s how things ended up the way they had… but how was that exactly?
Below, people did the simplest things they could regardless of the consequences, and somehow she knew where it would lead. Above her the stars looked like they were growing. The holes in the sky were tearing further revealing…
There were footsteps on the stairwell.
They were slow, measured, and indifferent.
Not the angry stomping of policemen.
The door swung open to reveal a single man, in plain clothes and barefoot, carrying a walking stick. He looked familiar, causing the thief briefly to look up, but the constellations were gone, obscured by the widening of the holes in the sky. Slowly, seemingly for the first time in her life, the thief spoke. I know I had a choice. All my life I’ve made the wrong one, and here I am at a dead end. The strange man reached out his arm towards the thief, and replied: Don’t fool yourself. You’ve been here all along, and there has only ever been the one choice, and you still have yet to make it. The thief pulled something out of her pocket, her quarry of the night. It was a golden wristwatch with an ornate leather band. It had stopped. She gave it to the man, asking a question she already knew the answer to: And what is that choice? The man took the watch in one hand, and with the other, with the outstretched hand, he pushed her over the edge, answering: Down, or up.
For a moment, the thief thought she would go down, fall, and cease to be. But she didn’t. The thief saw that she was rising, she looked down and saw the man waving, the leather band around his wrist. Then she looked up. White light poured out of the gaping holes in what she thought had been the sky, and she felt herself rise through them. She was part of a lost reality, one now empty of thought and of memory, part of something left behind and forgotten. Like this had always been the truth, and she had always pretended it wasn’t. But it wouldn’t be empty for long.
It was, the thief decided, no less than she deserved.
And then again, there was something right about it. Something real.


Ian Whippie

is a first-year Creative Writing major at Colby-Sawyer College.

Contest submissions judged by David Elliott