Wednesday 19 July 2017

Dark Fiction - High Stakes

High Stakes

Written By Casey Douglass

High Stakes Pic

Morris felt his boot slip on the dull red of the metal beam. His hand shot out to grip the upright; his eyes took in the drop.
‘Fuck me!’
‘What’s up?’ Cliff yelled from a few beams over.
‘Me, thankfully! I almost did a twenty story dive!’
Cliff looked across and saw Morris holding onto the upright for grim life. ‘Nah, you’re all strapped up into your safety harness, you’re buckled up tighter than a gimp at a bondage party!’
Morris tugged at the chords that fastened to his harness. ‘Shit, I know, I know. It’s just not natural, being so high. I forget myself.’
‘I think it’s lunchtime!’ Cliff yelled.
‘Yeah!’ Morris looked across and grinned. ‘Low blood sugar, that’s what does it!’
The two men navigated and negotiated their way to the largest beam and, with moans and sighs, lowered themselves to sit next to each other. Their packs hung nearby. Each rummaged for their lunchbox and drinks. Morris had barely unwrapped his sandwich when his radio squawked.
Oi, you two clowns sitting up there eating your elevenses, health and safety will have my arse if I let you do that!
Morris winked at Cliff. ‘I’ve got this.’ Into the radio he said ‘Don’t worry, I’m reliably informed that we are safe, what with these safety lines and everything. We can’t fall off.’
Okay, let me put this another way. You won’t fall but you might lose your sandwiches.
Morris looked at his Wensleydale and carrot chutney sandwich, the one he had specially bought from M&S earlier that morning, his favourite. He spoke into the radio. ‘Gotcha’. He turned to Cliff. ‘Lets scoot back a bit eh?’

The period where food has been eaten but lunch is still fifteen minutes from being over stretched out over the rooftops, much like the two men. Cliff was leaning against an upright reading his paper while Morris watched the midday sun chase the shadows through the ironwork.
‘How would you do it if you wanted to end it all?’ Cliff said, the words pushing through the latest failings of Arsenal on the back page of his paper.
‘That’s a bit heavy isn’t it?’ Morris replied, his eyebrows shifted in a stray sunbeam.
Cliff lowered his paper. ‘ I was just curious, seeing as you had your near miss awhile ago.’
‘Oh piss off!’
Cliff chuckled and then fell silent. ‘Seriously though, how would you do it? I’d put some music on, make a nice chilled out atmosphere and take an overdose of something.’
Morris gazed over the rooftops, not really sure if he wanted to be having this conversation. ‘Erm, I don’t know, maybe throw myself in front of a train?’
Cliff lowered his paper. ‘I hope not. I know people who aren’t in their right mind with depression aren’t really thinking that straight, but I’d hope I’d have the restraint to not ruin other people’s lives by having to suffer seeing me go splat on the train they’re driving!’
‘You’ll be dead though so who gives a shit?’
Cliff slowly folded his paper. ‘I know that, it just doesn’t seem fair to me.’
Morris went on. ‘I mean, if you lived alone and no-one would even know you’d died, why wouldn’t you want someone to know by doing it in public?’
Cliff sighed. ‘I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree on that one then. I take your point. I guess it’s just something I couldn’t do. That and being scared of the pain too. I’d just want to go to sleep and not wake up again.’
Morris looked at Cliff. ‘You don’t look your usual self. I told you to buy the sport; get some spice in your life!’ he chortled.
‘Now there’s a stereotype, a builder reading the sport. If I wanted tits I’d buy a porn mag.’
‘Bet it would cheer you up?’
‘No, I don’t think it would.’
‘Why not?’
‘Showing someone page after page of unattainable women when the history of his love life is one long period of being single and unwanted doesn’t really help the mood.’
‘You’re strange today Cliff.’
‘No, don’t be sorry, happens to us all.’
‘Getting down in the dumps.’
‘Have you ever tried to kill yourself?’
Morris blew air through his pursed lips in a silent whistle. ‘No, can’t say I have mate.’
‘I did, when I was younger.’
‘Did it work?’
Cliff gave a snorted laugh. ‘Good one.’
‘I was due,’ he smiled back.
Cliff looked across the city, the gleaming glass of the skyscraper opposite dazzling him as the sun shifted position.
Morris studied Cliff’s face. ‘You get like that often?’
‘Fairly often.’
Morris nodded. ‘My aunt used to as well, can’t remember what mum used to call her episodes, something like “Aunt Jane is in her sad place” or something. I was only about eight.’
‘What happened to your aunt?’
‘She’s okay, still kicking around somewhere. Last I heard she moved to Spain for the climate.’
‘That’s good to hear.’
Cliff looked down at his fingernails, running his thumb over the smooth nail of his other hand. ‘If I get through the day and get to bed without praying I won’t wake up in the morning, that’s a good day.’
‘It’s that bad?’
Morris nodded and looked down at his own hands. ‘I don’t know what to say that might help mate.’
‘It’s okay. I don’t expect you to be able to help. Just felt like sharing for some reason.’
Morris nodded again. ‘I’d miss you.’
Cliff looked at Morris and nodded. ‘Thanks, that means a lot.’
Okay gentlemen enjoying your high tea at noon. It’s past noon now, back to work in a minute or I’m docking you both an hour!
They both stood, Morris slapping Cliff on the shoulder. ‘Something else to ponder mate, we build fucking skyscrapers! Fuck-ing skyscrapers! That’s pretty cool don’t ya think?’
‘It certainly is.’
‘Woooooooooo!’ shouted Morris, pumping his arms. ‘Wooooooooooooooooo!’
Cliff chuckled and yanked on Morris’ safety line. Morris yelped and clasped the upright, his knuckles turning white.
‘I just saved you.’
Morris looked confused. ‘I wasn’t going to fall.’
‘No, but you were starting to look like a right arse.’
Morris sniggered. ‘What would the right arse be for you then? Do you like junk in the trunk or the more athletic derrière?’
Cliff smiled.