Brock loitered on the rooftop, savouring the chilled evening breeze as it caressed his cheeks. It was almost pleasant against his booze heated face, the familiar burn of alcohol ever-present within his stomach. In the distance, a small black and white creature flew into the horizon, the little devil cawing in mockery at its latest victim.
I swear, one day I’m going to turn you into chicken soup.
Cussing the creature out, Brock shook a baleful fist in the direction of the magpie and promptly collapsed back into the lawn chair he’d found earlier. While it was faint, he could still hear the idle chatter and laughter of his co-workers beneath him, enjoying the Christmas festivities and of course the alcohol that came along with it.
Being the responsible man he was, Brock had long laid off the drinks, unlike the others, who against their better judgement, were chugging down the bottles like alcoholics on a Tuesday afternoon. To sober himself up, he had retreated to the rooftops in the hopes that the cold air would help.
It did, although nothing helped sober you up more than a vicious magpie attack.
Yes, Australia’s most dangerous animal was not the mythical drop bears, nor the kangaroos that could give Floyd Mayweather a run for his money. Not the brown snake either, despite their venomous potency. No, it was the cheeky little shithead known as the magpie, the bane of cyclists and humanity alike. And unfortunately for Brock, their firm was patrolled by such a terrifying beast.
They had dutifully named the fucker ‘little shit’, a vote that had passed unanimously.
He and his co-workers were unsure when exactly the bird had arrived and where the beast’s hive was located, a fact which antagonised both them and pest control to no end. It not only forced them to approach their office with extreme caution but also to remain alert at all times on the roof, lest the shithead knock you off-
His vision flickered, sparks of misshapen pixels and multicoloured lightning jumping across the midpoint of his eyesight. He closed his eyes and shook his head and it was gone. I… didn’t have that much, did I…?
Scratching his chest and ultimately writing it off as the alcohol, the avid magpie hater kicked back and gazed up at the burgeoning stars above. The sun's escape behind the horizon only served to enhance their radiance. Over to his left, the door to the rooftop opened and out stumbled his co-worker Carrie, her lengthy golden-haired bob billowing in the soft winds, glittering with both fading sunlight and growing moonlight, creating a tapestry of the duality.
“H… hey Bwock…” she began, her face flushed and able to look at seemingly everything but Brock himself, “what… what you doin’ out here alone?”
“Just sobering up. You should try it sometime.” Chuckling at the sorry sight of his friend, Brock got off his chair and opened up a second one lying against the lip of the edge. Keeping his balance, he came over and led the drunk woman to a seated position before she threw herself off the building by accident.
It'd be an interesting way to end a Christmas party, but not one he wished to condone.
From the side, Brock glanced at his companion as she struggled to keep her head in one spot, let alone keep herself from falling off the chair. He smiled. While he loathed to admit it and be the predictable guy, along with almost every other bloke from his firm, he may or may not have a slight crush on Carrie.
What wasn’t there to like? She was gorgeous, fit, fun, had a great sense of humour and was an all-around joy to hang out with. There was definitely more to be said about her good qualities, but Brock didn’t want to seem any lamer than he already did. It was a pity he knew they’d never be together.
Alongside each other, they painted a vast contrast, with his head of short brown hair, pudgy face and belly, and the dry sense of humour too. He liked having fun, and he was certain others enjoyed hanging out with him too, but he and Carrie just offered different kinds of fun. They were different people equipped with their different perks after all.
“You guys having fun downstairs?” Brock asked, slightly curious as he gazed at the darkening sky. The black of the void was strangely dark tonight.
It took her a little while to process the fact that she was being spoken to, then a little longer to understand what had actually been said, but Carrie finally replied with an easy smile, “Yeahhhhhhh. It’s great. We… we’re playing beer pong. Everyone’s asking where you… went.”
The brown-haired office worker gave a small smile in return at her words, and raised his brow questioningly in her direction, “How many have you had, Carrie?”
“Ummm… like more than this many…”
She held up all her fingers.
Brock slapped his forehead and sighed. While Carrie was a great girl, she did have a bit of a drinking problem. She wasn’t exactly an alcoholic per se, but once the girl started drinking, she didn’t stop, even when she really really should. Not that Brock was any better. He may or may not have a bit of a gambling addiction.
May or may not. He definitely didn’t blow off his last paycheck at the casino out of town. No, he did not.
On a side note, he was never playing Poker again.
The two sat there in companionable silence, though Brock was pretty sure Carrie had just fallen unconscious. Smiling to himself wryly, Brock continued to just gaze at the stars as their glow rose to prominence in the vast expanse above him, illuminating the endless black with pinpricks of white. It was cathartic in a way, simply gazing at the night sky, feeling the evening breeze caress you with its frosty bit-
He recoiled in his chair. Again, lightning and pixels flickered across his vision, though this time they were far more distinct, depicting something akin to… words. Brock rubbed his eyes, and like before, they were gone. He furrowed his brows, feeling rather concerned at this point.
Beside him, Carrie stirred a little, but ultimately stayed passed out. Brock caught wind of a bit of commotion downstairs, though he assumed it was just another one of his co-workers spewing all over the beer pong. Wouldn’t have been the first time it had happened.
…Fifty bucks it’s Carl again.
Slowly, as his mental image of a vomiting Carl changed to that of the time he had puked on the wall of his childhood home, his thoughts turned to his family, wherever they happened to be now. His older sister Jane, last time he’d spoken to her a couple of months back, was well on her way to becoming a renowned fighter in the circles of martial arts, having moved away from Australia to train herself even further.
His brother James, who was only a few years younger than Brock himself, was still living with their mother, their father having had disappeared several years ago without so much as a warning.
Last he’d heard, the boy still hadn’t gotten a job, even though he had finally turned eighteen earlier this year. Annoyingly enough, Brock even saw his bank balance tick down every month from his brother’s ‘World of Warcraft’ subscription, though he didn’t have the heart to cancel it. The kid didn’t have all that many friends. Mostly because no one truly understood his love of machines and assorted contraptions.
Maybe he’d go and visit them during the Christmas holidays, dig into some of the paid leave that he’d been neglecting to use. They lived a handful of hours away, up in the outback, so it wouldn’t be too far out of the way, though he didn’t particularly like it up there. Seeing his sister would be another matter entirely, however. She was currently in Japan.
Brock knew his mother loved them all very much, but Jane was obviously the favourite. Hell, their mother had even paid her ticket to Japan in full for her training, though he suspected that Jane would be able to pay the money back with interest if the training paid off. Compared to her, he wasn’t much, working a simple office job with no merits to his name or girlfriend to speak of either.
It was an honest job though, with a steady stream of income, and he liked what did.
He didn’t have much room to complain about what his mother had done, however, as the single mother had raised the three of them all alone, Brock from the age of five and Jane from the age of eight, while still pregnant with James. His mother may have done well for them, but he didn’t miss the times she struggled to get through it all, especially with no one to support her, their grandparents having had died before he was born.
His mother was a powerful woman, but he’d never forgive his father for leaving her all alone, wherever he was. She didn’t deserve what he did.
Heaving out a sigh, Brock dispelled his darker thoughts and shook Carrie lightly on the shoulder, “Hey… Carrie…”
She was lying face up, which would quite certainly end quite badly if she chose to vomit. He shook her again, albeit slightly harder, “Carrie… drowning in your own vomit is not a good way to go…”
Sluggishly, her eyes fluttered open, and she gazed up at Brock with incomprehension, the previous red tint to her features having diminished marginally during her short rest, “…Bwock… what’s going on?”
The man in question sighed and spent the next few minutes explaining to the amateur alcohol glutton why you needed to lie on your side when passing out, to which she furrowed her brows in contemplation, her brain weighed down by more than ten somethings worth, whether it be shots or bottles of beer he had no idea.
Snickering at her, while thinking that she was kind of cute, Brock stood up shakily, the tinge of alcohol on his senses mostly having vacated his system by now. Taking deep breaths in of the cool air, Brock strode over to the edge of the building and leaned over carefully, watching as a sparse amount of cars zoomed past, a twenty-meter drop awaiting those who fell off.
Brock shuddered at the thought and retreated back a few steps, just in time to hear the familiar screech of the devil itself. Narrowing his eyes in annoyance, Brock spotted a figure moving in the distance opposite where it had left, obviously having looped far around to try to get the jump on him. The creature was smart, but also the biggest dick Brock had ever known, and he had been to high school and college.
Seeing as Carrie was giving a wobbling effort to stand and approach him, Brock waved his arms in the air, trying to gather Little Shit’s attention to him. Though, knowing the asshole, he was probably its target anyway. Out of everyone in the office, it seemed to hate him the most, despite all his prior efforts to befriend the creature.
Its dual-coloured visage loomed in the distance as Carrie started to stumble toward Brock with confusion, “B- Bwock… what’re you doing that for?”
Though, she soon spun around and realised the threat that was quickly speeding toward them. Groaning in annoyance, Brock let the magpie close in and finally ducked out the way of its clumsy sweep, letting the creature screech in frustration and continue on its way.
He swore after its speeding form.
“Are… is it gone, Bwock?” Carrie asked, walking over to the man in question cautiously.
Brock gave the bird the finger as it flew straight upward into the night obscured clouds and turned to Carrie to comfort her, “Yeah, it should be fine. That dick will probably loop around again to try and-”
Brock didn’t get to finish his sentence, however, as Little Shit shot out from the clouds and made a zooming beeline toward him. Shocked by the newfound speed the creature adopted, the bird managed to catch him in the chest painfully and it landed on the ground, scuttling away and returning to flight as Brock was knocked back, taking a few steps to steady himself, though oddly enough, his last step was met without substance and caused him to tilt back weightlessly.
As if the world was trapped in the realm of slow motion, Brock watched with horror as he fell back over the edge, empty space and the drop below being all that was left to catch him. He caught the form of the culprit disappearing into the distance, the flutter of its wings a baleful reminder of the deadliness of Australian wildlife.
Carrie’s eyes widened in abject terror, and she leaned over the edge desperately, grabbing Brock’s arm with both hands. Though she probably weighed less than a sack of potatoes, and her actions only served to pull her over the side as well, screaming as her eyes teared up.
Unsure of how to feel as he plummeted toward their shared doom, Brock just gazed up at the stars one last time, regretting not seeing his family sooner and leaving them behind in the world. He managed to meet eyes with a despairing Carrie, and he gave her an apologetic smile, knowing her oncoming death was partially his fault.
An echoing ding resounded in his mind just as he felt the pavement shatter his head, and he saw Carrie begin to flicker with a familiar multi-coloured lightning above him. Then, all became black, the image of the woman’s form flashing out of existence midfall seared into his mind as he was embraced by darkness.
It was cold in the void, far colder than up on the rooftop. It was thick like a liquid too, all-encompassing, cradling him like a newborn in the womb. He looked down at his hands as they too flickered with lightning like he had seen happen to Carrie, yet the flickering quickly stopped.
Within the darkness that engulfed him, a single set of words appeared, hovering in his vision ominously.
[Welcome to the System, Brock Carter.]