With the sun fading over the edge of the horizon, Derrick seemed happy - content almost. I knew that in this place, hours whiled away like minutes, the abstract nature of time like a stranger to anybody's understanding. Even in death, time carried on its slow march - and as the sun slowly fell from the sky, bringing the dusk to a close, its light seemed to grow brighter and more intense as it began to disappear below the horizon.
"You'd like to soar through the sky, free as a bird," I said. "Is that your wish for the next life?"
"I think that would be nice," he replied.
As we sat miles above the clouds, upon the roof of the tower, it seemed to strike into the sky like a spear - piercing the heavens. The towers stood so high that from their summit, the existence of a world below felt like little more than speculation. It was impossible to tell, from here, whether or not there was a world below the clouds. It didn't matter though. The beauty of the skies, its impossible charm, was enough to captivate a person - able to transfix them with its charms for a thousand lifetimes. Amid a sky like this, one felt like a moth to a flame, drawn toward the light of that resplendent ether.
"I'd like to tell you about another world, Derrick," I began. "There's a place called Pelth, far from your own world - a place of beauty where I think you might fit in rather nicely. You could be an owl, soaring through the sky, helping families to keep in touch while touching the sky."
I sat there for a moment, my mind drifting among the skies like the colours did. I turned my gaze toward Derrick, as he too stared off into the sky, with a somewhat vacant look on his face.
"Do you think you would enjoy that life?" I asked.
With a sigh, he stared across the roof of the building, over toward the setting sun. He momentarily pondered his answer. I could see in his eyes a look of fulfilment, laced with hints of regret.
"I'm happy with that," Derrick replied. "You seem like a good person, Malarie, with good insight and good intentions. I think I'll trust in your judgement. Honestly, you probably know a lot more about how to live a good life than I ever did."
As he turned toward the sky, looking up, his face turned dour as he pondered the life he'd led. It was very much clear that he was still plagued by what he'd done in life, abandoning his family in pursuit of the deity they call a dollar. He'd spent his entire life trying to prove himself to the world, and yet, no matter his successes - he could never prove it to himself. I could see that struggle unfolding in the depths of his expression. I tried to comfort him.
"You lived a good life. Don't belittle yourself, Derrick," I said. "You had a family you cared for, you fought hard for them, and you provided a better life for them. You've done more than enough to create a good life, and I'm sure your family would tell you the same."
Derrick brought himself to his feet as he stood up with a smile. It were as if a burden had been lifted from his shoulders, as the old man finally heard those words, that he'd done enough. I was sure regret still lingered in that mind, but upon his face it had disappeared. He stood up resolutely, with a smile on his face.
"Thank you Malarie," Derrick replied. "I guess I needed to hear that."
"I'm here to help, in whatever way I can," I smiled.
As Derrick wandered toward the railing, I followed him as he approached the edge, staring out toward the light as he gripped the ornate railing. I found myself watching the sun as it fell wholly beneath the horizon - the lightshow, like a fireworks display, reaching its bold finale as rays of colour shot through the heavens like streaking bullets.
"You know, it sounds nice - living in the clouds like that," Derrick said. "I want to live that sort of life, a life not dictated by expectation, a life where I am truly free. The world can't chain you down when you're up in the sky; that's how I'd like to live."
Turning around, he looked toward me with a smile.
"Thanks for helping me, Malarie," he said.
"Not a problem," I replied. "By the way, Vincent asked me to say goodbye for him. He wanted to say... he's sorry he couldn't be there for you in life, so he wanted to at least say goodbye in death."
"That sounds just like him," he chuckled. "Going through death itself to apologise for something that he didn't need to apologise for. That kid always beats himself up over the small stuff. He never looks at all of the great things he's done."
"That must make you two birds of a feather then?" I replied.
"I guess it does," he answered, as a smile stretched across his face.
With that, I watched as he begun to change shape. His feet turned into talons as his form molded into another. Brown feathers sprung from his body, as his body compressed down - his arms transforming into wings. As his transformation completed, the small owl flapped its wings - gripping the railing with its claws, perched as it stared toward the sombre skies. An arching window opened from the air, drifting in the sky, the simple wood frame standing in stark contrast to the immaculately detailed golden towers that littered the world. The owl gazed at the window, as Derrick's disembodied voice echoed into the air.
"Goodbye Malarie," it called. "Thank you."
Leaping from the railing, the owl fluttered through the air, its wings carrying it across the skies. As it passed through that window in the void, I could feel the light of the world finally begin to fade, the rays of light subsiding from the sky as that final bit of light finally faded. With that, the life of Derrick Rodgers had finally drawn to a close.
As the wooden window began to dissipate back into the air, I felt myself rise from the skyscraper, as the world around me began to dissolve back into the void.
"Farewell, Derrick," I said to the empty air, as I drifted up from the tower toward the boundless sky.