"Isn't it a bit early for roof hopping, sir?" Grabel nodded off towards the Weavers District.
Leaning forward, I spotted the dark figure against the light shingles of one of the wool warehouses. Someone running the roofs at this time of the morning? The runner raced down low on the roof that overhung Indigo Street, which told me he knew the Upperways enough to avoid the higher and weaker sections of that roof. But he also looked to be running much too fast, especially in the dark of the early morning. Just knowing the paths of the Upperways wasn’t enough, you had to also know the different surfaces you were going to encounter and where they were. While the shingles on the warehouse were wood, the ones on the Dyers Hall ahead of him were old slate shingles. Maybe he remembered that right before he made the short leap to the next building, because it appeared he might have been attempting to slow down before jumping, but it too late.
He landed awkwardly on the steeper slope of the roof on Dyers Hall, then his feet flew out from under him as the old shingles broke and slid. I knew with a sinking feeling in my gut that this wouldn’t end well. He seemed to be trying to roll away from the edge as he slid towards it but the effort turned out to be futile. With one flailing grab for a gutter that had never been there, he disappeared over the edge and into the darkness below. It was too far away for me to hear his scream.
“Isn’t a bit early for roof hopping, sir?”
“What?” I recovered from my reverie, “Where?”
“Northeast, sir. The wool district, I believe.”
I squinted out over the moonlit spires and rooftops, waiting for a hint of motion to catch my eye. I didn’t have to wait long.
“I see him. Good eye, Grabel. That’s the roof to the wool warehouse on Indigo street. He’s not a complete amateur, he’s following the Upperways there.”
“I wouldn’t know, sir.”
“See how he’s running low along the roof, nearly at the edge? That’s because the higher part of that roof is rotten, and poorly maintained.”
I frowned at the runner in the distance.
“He’s going too fast though. If he knows the Upperways there, then he should know better than that.”
I leaned forward, gripping the rail of the patio. The runner sprinted along the edge of the roof at an insane pace. I couldn’t fathom what prompted such foolhardiness, but the distance between him and disaster narrowed rapidly.
“He’s about to have to make a short jump to the roof of Dyers Hall. That roof is at a steeper angle and has slate shingles. He needs to slow down now, or else . . .”
“Or else, sir?”
I held my breath as the runner reached the point of no return. It now came down to his skill, his luck, and whatever gods smiled upon him.
He didn’t make it.
He tried, and I think he realized his error at the last moment because it appeared he attempted to slow himself, but too late. The runner cleared the short expanse between the roofs, then hit the slate surface off balance while at full sprinting momentum. Shingles flew and the little silhouette tumbled out of control.
I watched in sick fascination, knowing what had to happen next. Arms and legs flailed as the figure skidded down the steep angle, seeking some form of purchase that simply was not there. One final twist as he rolled in hopes of catching a gutter that didn’t exist, then he disappeared over the edge.
It was too far away to hear the scream.