Halo never had a problem with heights. It came with the job.
Whitaker not so much. He preferred the ground. Even in training, Halo couldn’t get Whit to climb stairs, a ladder, or even look out a second story window.
So when Halo got the call to meet him on top of the tallest building in Cape Town he knew it wasn’t good.
At thirty two stories up, he made his way across the roof, sat down on the ledge, and dangled his feet off the side of the building.
Whitaker turned toward him. His face was plastered with an odd contortion of puzzlement and despair as the orange glare from the inferno below gave him an unholy glow.
“I did this.”
Pointing to the raging fire below.“This. The fire. The people. I did this.”
“What are you talking about? News report said it was a New Years Eve party that got out of hand, fireworks or something.”
Transfixed, Whitaker pointed again at the fire. “Look at them all.”
Halo looked south toward the shanty town. Wind whipped flames licked the foothills of Table Mountain as thousands of people scurried around the blaze like a swarm of black ants on a collapsed anthill. The city streets started to bulge as more and more of the newly homeless struggled to find clean air.
“What do you mean you did this?”
Whitaker skipped the question and started to ramble. “I keep following the rules. Doing my job, but they don’t listen. None of them. It’s the same thing that happened last week with my other case. And the case before that. This has been going on for months. Like fools they keep pushing and this is what happens.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I followed the manual to a tee buddy. But no one listens anymore. It’s like I’m not even there. My last case. Mom, two kids, I told her he was bad news. But she was just glad for the companionship and support after her husband died. She wouldn’t listen when I told her not to date. Told her all he wanted was to gain power over another gullible soul. He was a powder keg. I’d seen his file. But she just like the others, she didn’t listen.”
“A few weeks go buy, a little two much wine, they go at it, and he beat her unconscious. Child protective services came in, took the two kids into custody and she’s still on life support.”
“You can’t save ‘em Whit. That’s not your job. She can choose to listen to the small, still voice or not.”
Slamming the leather bound manual on the ledge between them, Whitaker’s voice cracked with frustration.
“I know my damn job. I’ve read this thing a thousand times. I’ve even memorized what I’m to do. But it’s clear we’re on the losing side Halo. No one is listening anymore. They’re all doing their own thing. Won’t take heed of anything we say.”
Halo’s concern grew.
“Whit, that’s free will. Some people, no matter how hard you try, are going to dismiss you. And when they do you move on. You just go to the next case.”
“Yeah I keep moving on and look at where it’s gotten me. One failed case after another.”
Whitaker kept his eyes on the raging fire. “I told them not to go to the party. A shanty town is no place for fireworks. But they wouldn’t listen.”
“It’s New Year’s eve. Humans do stupid things. Like I said, unless they dismiss you, you just keep at it. Did this one dismiss you too.”
“No, I left.”
Transfixed on the flames, Whit never saw the shock on Halo’s face.”
“Yup. We’re losing the war Halo, and I’m tired of being on the losing side.”
“You know what happens in the end, my friend. Sounds like you need to put in for some rest. Recharge the batteries, refocus. The fight is harder than ever. And it’s easier to give in and give up now. But it’s going to turn. And it won’t be long.”
“You’ve been saying that for a millennia Halo. And I’m tired of losing. I’m tired of waiting. I want to win for once.”
“Whit. Look at me. You need to stay focused. This is no time…”
Putting a hand on Whitaker’s shoulder, Halo leaned forward and was greeted by Whit’s blank expression.
“Whit?” Halo shook his shoulder. “Whit! Look at me.” Halo pulled a little harder but Whit never took his eyes off the flames. “Whit. You don’t wan’t to do this.”
Halo pulled harder. But Whit’s body went limp. It slumped downward, only to stop snap back, rigidly after he was out of Halo’s reach. Turning with a smile, Whit threw his body forward as Halo lunged at his arm.
Within seconds, Whit hit had passed all thirty two stories and hit the ground with a thud.
Looking down in shock, Halo watched as Whit pushed his body from the ground and ran toward the flames.
As halo pushed himself back from the edge of the building, his hand landed on the brown leather manual, picking it up he stared at the gold embossed letters: ANGEL OPERATIONS Property of Whitaker Longchamp.
This week’s Garage Fiction prompt was provided by Dogwood …
Cape Town Fire, Photographed by Chris Cloete
These weekly scenes & stories are part of an ongoing project codenamed “Garage Fiction”. Since January 2015, three writers (Jinn Zhong, Dogwood Daniels and Me) have committed to writing a flash fiction or scene each and every week. We post on Sundays and dissect on Tuesdays via podcast.
To read Jinn Zhong’s Garage Fiction-of-the-week, Click Here: Currently Under Exclusive Submission
To read Dogwood Daniel’s GF-of-the-week, Click Here: Count to Five, Part 1