The man was on the top of the building in which he used to work. It was a stereotypical scene, one filled with morbidity and the vague whisper of hope carried on the wind. The very same hope tousled his brown floppy hair, his large forehead enveloped in wisps of brown, fluttering like a torrent of butterflies. When the wind settled, his features went back to normal. One small strand of hair made it’s way towards his deep brown eyes, deep set into his head and constantly surrounded by the furrowing of his bushy eyebrows. Inhaling in the scent of the rain, his thin straight nose turned upwards towards the sky, droplets crying from the sky and down his cheeks, each piece of his stubbly beard hurtling the water through a muddled maze of follicle. His thin lips ere pinched up at the site against the water as the rain tore down, heavier than before. He closed his eyes and imagined the very same feeling in a warmer setting, the memory of idle fingers a pale imitation of the strong flurries he felt overhead. His tall, lanky frame sagged down, skinny and bedraggled in this suit and tie, that while baggy everywhere else, managed to clasp round his protruding Adam’s apple, forcing a catch into his throat, even when one was not there before. He thought to himself about the shame that comes from giving up. He thought about how happy he was before, how everyone he loved lived with him on earth. He thought that with all the important people in his life gone, it would be a miracle if anyone would even come to his funeral if he jumped. He decided he shouldn’t care so much, as that’s what got him into this mess in the first place. If he could die and begin again there are so many things he would change, so many steps on the metaphorical spiral staircase he wouldn’t trip up on anymore. All he can think about is what’s in his heart. He shut his eyes again, dulling the thoughts that were thudding through his mind. He felt his way back to reality, the gentle scratches from the rogue leaves carrying the intonation of someone’s fingernails on his scalp, a small adjustment that both scratches and contrasts the blissful softness of a finger pad. Each memory he conjured at this moment had a vignette of blue around the edge, a poignant sadness that established his very reason for coming here. He sat down on the ledge slowly, careful of his blue suit and crisp white shirt, the only sign of any distress radiating from his tie, a strong mauve that contorted itself around the shirt buttons to flip over his shoulder, the straggly end disappearing, creating focus on the loosened knot. His tortoiseshell wayfarer glasses sat askew in front of his softened eyes as he placed his narrow fingers on the ledge, and looked down over the very lip he sat on. A small spider crawled over his brogue from where he had disturbed its web, and it ran toward a new haven, swinging down the building as he was about to. The permeated sadness of his thoughts become dominant in his mind once more as rain trickled from the sky once more, each cloud abating then breaking in an ebb, flow and tide of showers. He remembered the loving looks of his parents as he splashed in the bath, recalled the rainy days spent with his fiancée as they did the same, rolling around in the water together until it splashed over the floor ad their epic moment of love turned into a night of pyjamas, mopping up the floor and finally collapsing down exhausted into bed without even brushing their teeth. When she went away, a small bump protruding from her stomach in order to find a sponsor while charlie worked, she was returned on the tide in a bloated corpse a few months later. Her tummy was empty. It looked as though someone had battered it in and then tore out the very thing inside with its be hands before pushing her into the cold water she died in, her body caving in and then bloating out again, the seawater clogging her down and encasing her in mud before she was pulled out a few weeks later by a rescue team. She wasn’t the only one over the past few months, but she was the first, the only heavily documented murder of a pregnant woman looking for a sponsor, the manifestation Murders that were never sold, but marked down as a protest movement to scar generations into conforming. His shaking subsided as he succumbed to the cold, remembering her shocked expression that was clear even through the pale green flesh that had enveloped her lively face. The flashbacks faded as he came back to his deteriorating work life, all the times he used to spend gazing out into his garden, watching the rain water the plants, continuously turning his phone off the more it rang, slowly isolating himself from his parents and colleagues. The time off work meant he had lost his job when he came back, grievances barely covered anymore as the turnover rate for human life was so high. The economy couldn’t stand if the people had time to grieve. The days in which he lulled and relaxed seemed far behind him, but so did his psychosis. When he buried his dead wife in their back garden, under the oak tree they had planted, he had to also put to rest their dog, bought on a whim from a street peddler on their 6 month anniversary. Charlie looked at her face in wonder as it lit up, her hand absentmindedly stroking his arm until she suddenly grabbed hold of it.
’Look, Char, how adorable are they!’She rushed over, forgetting let go of him as they went along for the ride. His suit was less bedraggled then, fitting him nicely and complimenting his shiny converse and his perfectly quaffed hair, just for this date. She picked up one of the dogs, their white fur offset by fluffs of black and their curly tails standing high away from its body.
‘Um, excuse me’ Charlie turned to the peddler, how much are these?
‘One food ration, hardly anything for a breed such as these’ He handed Charlie one of the other dogs, but it was clear his girlfriend had found the one. He handed the dog back with his ration ticket, and took the puppy away. she frowned at him playfully and turned to go, leading Charlie back onto their designated path to their respective houses.
’You know…’he started, turning towards her as she took his hand in hers, ‘now they have a dog-’
‘-you bought the dog? Oh his gosh Charlie, do you even have anywhere to keep it?’ her eyes shined as she turned to him and the puppy, giving away her excitement at the pet.
‘I do, if they move in together’ His lip turned upwards in the centre and he peered cautiously towards her. She looked wide eyed at him, amazed that he would even ask, and took the dog from his hands, hugging it tight with one arm while hooking Charlie in towards her with another.
‘yeshewill! Of coursehewill oh it’s going to be so amazing they can let him run around in the garden and of course they have to ic a name oh it’s going to be so wonderful!’
She barely stopped for a breath in the time it took them to walk back home, and they at there and played with the dog until bedtime, leaving it in the living room as they shut the door to their bedroom for a loud half an hour, slowly opening the door after to let it into their bed.
When Charlie came home after he found out that his Fiancée was gone, he closed the door behind him and sat down on the sofa, right on top of what Pippin the dog had done. Urine covered his sofa, so stained that the edges had already dried and created a dark serrated line all the way round the cushion. The dog was old now, and the stain on the sofa covered Charlie in water, the last thing he wanted to see at this time. He let Pippin outside and grabbed the baseball bat they had behind the door to the bedroom in case of emergencies. Pippin was lying in a patch of sun, the grass so dry at the time he had an easy target. He swung the baseball bat down once, the shriek from the dog’s mouth covering up his own anguish as he struck down again, this time breaking the skull and giving the grass new life with the blood of the old. He caught his breath and watched for a second, the lack of movement from the dog suggesting death, until suddenly, when charlie sat down next to him, his eyes rolled forward and he started twitching again, trying so hard to move away from the pain.
‘I’m so sorry, buddy’ Charlie said, running his hands through Pippin’s flank. ‘I just can’t do it any more.’ and with one final blow, the lights in Pippin’s face burnt out, and his head shattered down like a cracked egg on a hard floor.
Coming back to reality, he looked once more at the solid earth behind him. The slight unbalance as he turned out the sole of his shoe meant the wind almost swept him over the side. His heart jumped to his throat and the adrenaline kicked in, making him sigh as he stepped down from the ledge, his emotions of the previous hours turning into a mass of grey, his concept of time blurred. His shoulders floated down as he unwound the built-up tension in his arms, and he opened the door down to the ground floor, turning back on to the street.
In 2023, a government initiative, ‘The New Law’, was implemented. The national regulation of the population had lost track of the number of people, and had spiralled out of control. Consequently, consumerism peaked and the demand could not be satiated. Everyone was starving, even in industrialised, western countries, where extreme safety measures and a huge wealth could no longer prevent the poverty that was consuming the world. The propaganda shown on screens around the world told of how successful China had become, the only country without an agricultural crisis. Although China’s one-child policy was first started to alleviate social, economic and environmental problems in China, it foresaw the population epidemic that has spread around the world today. China outlawed the use of physical force to make a woman submit to an abortion or sterilisation in 2002, but ineffectively enforced the measure. Women are constantly being spied on by their neighbours, their friends, their co-workers, people who are hired in the villages just to watch women’s abdomens to see if anybody looks pregnant. Anyone can inform on them, and the payout they receive is sometimes worth more than the trust and friendship of the local people. The ineffectiveness of the lack of physical force meant that now, in England, it is deemed socially acceptable to put mothers in prison or under anaesthetic in an abortion clinic in order to get rid of the problem at hand. Population control was enabled by labelling children ‘manifestations’, taking away all of their human rights until one person, a sponsor, was able to replace their life with the child in need. No one could be born without permission, and if you found you were with child, you would have 28 weeks in order to find a suitable candidate for death - otherwise you’d be taken to The Clinic, a large hospital in East London dedicated to the eradication of manifestations within females. After this time, the manifestation would be able to feel pain, and the humanitarian situation of the scheme would raise many questions and anger within pacified communities. No one had a right to life unless a sponsorship form had been signed, and this scheme spread around the world as governments and officials struggled to support their countries and their own families.
People with terminal illness, a poor quality of life or suicidal tendencies were now presented with ways in which they can end their suffering, and be seen as a martyr in the modern day. Being a sponsor took time, and since there were so few people in the former scenarios, couples utilised whatever means they had in order to climb to the top of the sponsor list, or to find a private sponsor for their own needs. The majority of the sponsors were terminally ill relatives of manifestations, closely followed by the suicidal. The benefits of the sponsor system drew in a lot more people than if the government incentives were any lower. In order to keep the population from growing predominantly into the elderly, the government established retreats where an exceptional quality of life was available for sponsors, until the baby had been born. Charlie, the man on top of the building, was severely suicidal. Walking away from the ledge, he made the decision to become a sponsor, and help a loving family before he died.