The Nick Of Time
(and other abrasions)
Al Bruno III
It was in the autumn that Lorelei Miller had become an Apprentice of the Greater Eastern Council of Mystagogues...
Lorelei blundered out of the door that lead to the rooftop, the dark eyed man was right behind her. They swung the metal door closed and she heard the deadbolt lock click into place.
“Safe,” he flashed her a smile, “safe for now.”
“Safe?” Lorelei’s eyes were candy green and her hair had been dyed a garish shade of red; she wore faded a black skirt and a ratty looking blouse. Her clunky boots scraped along the rooftop as she made her way to peer cautiously over the ledge. Ten stories down the members of two ethnic groups that had long lived resentfully side by side were now slaughtering each other with a kind of self-righteous glee. “Trapped on top of a condemned building in the middle of a riot with my stalker. That doesn’t sound very safe to me.”
“Stalker?” the dark eyed man sat down with his back to the door. He was her height, maybe a bit shorter, his hair was a tangle of close-cropped brown curls; beneath his battered leather jacket he wore a t-shirt that read We’re All Bozos On This Bus.
“Yes. My stalker. You think I haven’t seen you lurking around?” the one thing she couldn’t quite get a handle on how old he was. He was older than her- but when you were nineteen it sometimes seemed like the whole world was older than you.
“I’m not stalking you, I just... watch you sometimes,” he cleared his throat.
“I knew it!” she stormed over to him, stood over him. When she shouted, her spittle flecked his brow, “What are you after?”
“Nothing. I just wanted to meet you.”
Lorelei held up her hand and began counting off, “Mimir’s fountain, the Starlight Memorial, the frozen custard stand on Haruspex Boulevard and Pexley’s Emporium- twice. You’ve had more than enough chances to meet me.”
“I was waiting for the right time,” he rubbed the back of his neck as he spoke, “I didn‘t want us to get off on the wrong foot... I’m Jason Magwier by the way.”
“Good for you,” she walked from one side of the rooftop to another pausing to shiver with disgust at the sight of a dead pigeon lying beside a rusted air vent. Lorelei wasn’t afraid to die but when the end did come she didn’t want to finish up as a statistic or an anecdote-this situation had the smell of both.
There was an alley on the northern side of the building and across that alley was another, much more promising looking building. Old brownstones were few and far between in Olathoe but they were usually secure against chaos like this.
But how far was it from this rooftop to the next? Ten feet at least. Lorelei chewed her lip.
There was a crash and the metal door bowed outwards, in one spot it had torn away from the frame.
Lorelei took a few steps back, her muscles tensing.
Jason Magwier gave her a disbelieving look, “Are you seriously considering?”
“Very seriously considering.”
“That’s not a good idea.”
She turned to glare at him, “You have a better one?”
“No but you see...” Magwier started to pace, “I can see futures...”
“Predestination pisses me off,” the dead bird by the air vent was practically a skeleton, Lorelei knelt beside it and began plucking out the remaining feathers.
He laughed uncomfortably, “That’s the problem, I can see lots of futures. I can’t always tell which one is right.”
The door shook, the hole widening, red stained fingers crowded through the gap. Lorelei was putting the feathers into her hair, making sure to nick her scalp with each one.
Magwier asked, “What are you doing?”
“Stacking the odds.”
“Wait... wait... let’s think about this.”
“You think about it all you want,” she backed up to the opposite ledge then took a running start.
“Lorelei!” he cried, his voice sick with anguish.
She bounded from the roof and for a terrifying and wonderful moment she was sailing through the open air, then she hit the brownstone’s roof with a surprised grunt.
Jason Magwier stared after her, amazed.
The metal door fell away. The bloodthirsty crowd surged out onto the roof. With a yelp of panic Jason Magwier dashed across the rooftop and leapt. He hit the ledge with bone-jarring force. His hands flailed and grabbed the overhang. Hanging there he struggled to catch his breath.
Lorelei grabbed his wrists and pulled one free of the ledge.
“What are you doing?” he squawked.
“How do you know my name?” she leaned in close to him, making sure he saw the murder in her eyes.
The crowd on the opposite rooftop shouted and threw things. One of them tried to jump after them but only made it halfway. He hit the pavement with a wet crash.
“This isn’t the time!”
“I did tell you!” he shouted, “I can see the futures.”
“Not good enough!”
“And I love you,” he started to slip, “I’ve loved you since before we met.”
Lorelei rolled her eyes, “You have got to be kidding me.”
The rioters on the opposite rooftop were hurling insults and anything else that wasn't bolted down. A bit of stone hit Magwier in the back. He cried out and lost his grip. She grabbed him pulled him roughly up over the edge and onto the rooftop.
They lay side by side on a bed of debris and bird droppings trying to catch their breath. Lorelei raised herself up on one elbow and regarded him sourly. “This does not mean,” she said, “that we are a couple.”