Jacob turned as the conference room door swung open, and a man in his forties, eyes brown and steady, stepped in and walked over. “Hello, it’s nice to meet you. My name is Buddy.”
“I’m Jacob,” he answered, reaching out to shake his hand.
“Do you mind if I sit down? I’d like to speak with you for a few minutes, if that’s alright.”
“Your office, isn’t it?”
“No, it’s not,” said Buddy, pulling out a chair and spinning it around to face the windows. “This is a sort of common space, for people who work in various capacities for the one who owns the building.”
Jacob leaned forward to peer down at the avenues and minuscule vehicles not quite a thousand feet below. “He must be… rather comfortable, if he owns this place.”
“Well, yes and no,” he said thoughtfully. “Sometimes I think he’s in worse shape than the rest of us combined.” Buddy took a second to gaze up at the clouds. “You could call it a tragedy, and I tend to think of it that way, then, almost as quickly, I realize there was no tragedy, and nothing that happens was ever really tragic at all.”
After a long, unburdensome silence, during which the sunset breathed perhaps its finest breath, Jacob asked, “What the hell are you talking about?”
The man looked at him as though irritated, but not by the question, nor by Jacob himself. “We only have a little time here. I’m not sure you’re going to remember this when you wake up. If you don’t mind telling me, when you were younger, did you have many dreams about running, or flying?”
“Running, yeah. I still do once in a while.”
“And did those dreams feel very real?”
“Sure, probably the most realistic dreams I’ve ever had.”
On hearing this Buddy turned away, pretending to survey the rooftops, level and angled surfaces to the right of their towering room.
“What’s wrong with that?”
“Everything. And that’s exactly why you and I are here right now. You have a terribly important job to do,” he said, meeting Jacob’s eyes. “There’s an infinity of ways to accomplish this work, but I’m afraid you alone are qualified. You’re the lucky one who is able to do it.”
“Because I’m special.”
“Yes,” he nodded eagerly.
“Because I’m the bravest boy in the whole world, and God loves me so much and He’s so damn proud of me? I’ve heard that one before, Buddy. The lady who said it ditched me to take care of someone else’s kids. I don’t need to hear that from you, and you know what? I never needed her, either. What’s the quickest way to get out of this fake-ass building?”
He didn’t respond, merely watched him for a moment with the same unfocused irritation, before fading away into blackness with the building, the city, and the evening sky. Jacob awoke to the shrill chirping of birds in the dark outside his window.