The science fiction author stood there on the roof in what was obviously a suicidal posture.
Someone called the police, so the police came.
They used their megaphones to talk to the science fiction author. They said things like why and what for and not to do it. They said they were getting someone for the science fiction author to talk to, someone who would get it.
They found out that the science fiction author’s name was Nathan Teatree, so they addressed him megaphonically as Mr. Teatree. Everyone he had ever known had called him Nathan. The police said they were going to get another science fiction author for him to talk to.
Nathan looked down at the space cleared on the sidewalk where he might fall. Police light made it red and then blue, over and over.
“WHAT WAS THAT?” the megaphone asked. “WHAT DID YOU SAY?”
Then, before Nathan could deny saying anything, the megaphone said, “WE’RE GETTING SOMEONE FOR YOU TO TALK TO, MR. TEATREE. WE’RE GETTING A PERSON WHO LIKES THAT BOOK—THE ONE ABOUT THE CLONE GRAVEYARD.”
There was a very loud click.
“I’M SORRY,” the megaphone said again after a beat, “WE’RE HAVING TROUBLE FINDING SOMEONE WHO GETS IT.”
There was a long pause. The crowd was larger now, and Nathan wondered if they were too preoccupied with thoughts of his death to feel the cold.
He looked up at the sky, which clung to the world like a tattered flag.
The megaphone said, “OKAY, SHE’S UP THERE. SHE’S ON THE STAIRS. SHE’S COMING.”
“Who did they find?” Nathan asked.
“WHAT, PLEASE REPEAT, I REPEAT PLEASE REPEAT,” the megaphone said.
The call had gone out across the city to the authors of science fiction. Those who wrote about galactic empires: asleep. Those who wrote dystopian satires that, in truth, reflected contemporary anxiety were misplacing their memories somewhere between drinks three and four. Those who wrote science fiction using serious academic research wept in attics or basements while revising extended appendices to otherwise short novels.
It was Claire Peterson, the fantasy writer, who slowly opened the blue door and stepped out onto the rooftop.
Claire looked at Nathan quizzically as she walked up to the ledge.
“You’ll die when you fall down there,” Claire said as she looked down there.
“Yes,” said Nathan.
Claire looked up at Nathan.
“Hard to explain,” Nathan said, shrugging.
Claire knew about hard to explain. In her latest manuscript she had been attempting to write a thing about elves, but she had stopped because of the difficulty of the thing about elves she wanted to convey.
Nathan said something inaudible. The police light flashed blue and red on his face.
“Yes?” Claire said.
“It’s just a long series of events,” said Nathan, “and you end up here.”
He pointed up as he spoke, as though here wasn’t where they were.
Claire looked nonplussed.
“I don’t have one reason for this.” He looked away. “Just distinct thought patterns that led me like a map. I followed. Maybe my brain is trying to kill me.”
Claire said that she had a friend that fell off a roof once. When Nathan asked if the friend died, Claire said yes and then said that when her friend fell off the roof this friend was holding another friend’s baby. Someone handed him the baby at this rooftop party. Then somehow he fell off the roof. He was holding the baby when he fell. They both fell. Claire said it was horrible, that it was the most horrible thing she had ever seen. She said the most disturbing thing was that there were police at the funeral—why were there police at the funeral?
“There’s no baby here,” said Nathan, looking at the police.
“So this wouldn’t be the most horrible thing.”
They were both quiet and red. Then they were both quiet and blue.
“What do you write about?” Nathan asked.
“Elves,” said Claire.
“I used to write about one-person space stations,” Nathan said. “Derelict probes. Moon colonies.”
Claire asked why he didn’t write about them anymore.
Not hearing or not listening, Nathan said, “There are police, so police come.”
“MR. TEATREE,” the megaphone said from below. “DOES SHE GET IT?”
It started to snow. First red, then blue.
Nathan shifted his stance. He moved to the left. Claire reached for him, missed.
“WHAT IS EVERYONE’S STATUS?”
Nathan looked at the illuminated spot cleared on the sidewalk below. Claire looked, too. “DID SHE ASK YOU ABOUT THE CLONE GRAVEYARD?”
Everyone always focused on the clone graveyard, but Nathan thought the important part was about what you say to your mother at a funeral for a copy of yourself. What you do is look her in the eyes and tell her about judgment day and how even dead clones only have one thing to say about what living was like. They say everything was important, but now we’re all dead.
MH Rowe’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in DIAGRAM, Necessary Fiction, Word Riot, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, ILK, Horse Less Review, and Jellyfish.