Spinning round and round in his swivel chair, the dull colours blurred and passed his half-closed eyes. He felt his body being contorted sideways, pushed and pulled as he looped around himself. And then an office slowly materialised out of the blur, as focus, like a friction dragging against his vision, seemed to bring the chair to a halt. Mr. Allan Fry, company director, sat with his back to the desk, facing the giant window, which served as the back wall to his office. He straightened himself up.

The tinted glass was three inches thick and on a dark day, with the sun hidden behind clouds or buildings, the window blackened into a vast but dim mirror. Allan studied his face, noticing how deep shadow obscured his hollowing cheeks, how his mouth and nostrils were black pits. If he moved sideways the shadow seemed to creep sideways with him, eating into his skin. He jerked his head, trying to break free from the skull shaped reflection but as he watched the disembodied and lifeless face shifting ridiculously against the glass he noticed a bright light glinting from each eye. He sat still and removed his spectacles, extinguishing the lights; shadow leaked from his pupils like murky water rising. He blinked rapidly and the reflection, mask-like, did not move.

Outside the sun began to break the cloud. A beam of light struck the window and dissolved into the dark glass, brightening the tint but finding no way through. Allan's reflection melted into the light and his focus was pulled directly through the glass so that he found himself looking through the window straight into the sky, fourteen stories up. A plane caught in his vision and he watched it trailing a white line of smoke through the blue as if it were an insect smearing a line (like a white scratch) on the outside of the glass. He closed one eye, carefully pinched his thumb and forefinger around the plane, and then pressed them together like a young child practising his torture. The plane drifted on.

As he stepped towards the glass wall the blue fell away into a chasm, and the city appeared sprawling beneath him into the distance; buildings pushed up at his feet. Way down in the street life was stuck to the bottom of the huge space, continuously shifting. Cars, blocks of colour, were lined up bumper to bumper. On the pavement a swarming mass of tiny bodies and heads formed an impenetrable canopy, rippling like water under a strong wind. Allan noticed how this street life was caught in a dark shadow, which stretched out from the library building opposite. The right side of his mouth curled in amusement as, in his mind, the shadow became an open grave reaching out from an elaborate tombstone.

Allan tilted his head backwards and looked out over the black of his lower eyelids until his line of sight raised from the pavement. It climbed seven stories of the grey library wall, until the grey merged into the rest of the city. But somewhere in the grey he registered a white fleck, making him blink as if a speck of dust had caught in his eye. He closed his eyes tight. He opened them. Replacing his glasses the fleck intensified and he realised he had been right. A man stood teetering on the edge of the library's flat roof. Allan saw that the man was naked and, unsure of how to react, he let out an uneasy chuckle, stifling it quickly as the man swayed forward on the ledge.

As he realised the man was about to jump, the chasm seemed to open up, propelling Allan and the man further apart. And with this outward movement Allan staggered back form the window as if he had been hit by a breaking wave. He braced himself. A damp sweat crept from his numb skin. The waves continued to break, through the back of his throat and into a void, which was opening out inside him. He felt sick and he could feel the tremor of his hands. Time passed, he heard himself breathing and then realised he was looking at his (well-polished) shoes. He looked up from his feet to the man, who remained on the ledge, swaying as if by the breeze.

The sun was at the man's back, but its rays curled round his limbs and torso, as if they were pulling him back from the dark drop into the light, making a filament of his body. Whenever the man swayed forwards, the light, which illuminated him, would intensify into a blazing white, radiating from him. And Allan would also sway forward, blown by an internal breeze, until his hands were holding his weight against the window and his forehead felt the cold of the glass as his skin flattened against it.

As the company director stood transfixed and helpless, his excited breathing misted the glass, shrouding the light. He raised his fist to wipe the mist away and at that moment the light blazed uncontrollably against his eye. And then the body had plunged into shadow, disappearing like a small flame engulfed by an ocean. The body fell through the mouth of Allan's reflection and was gone. He flinched forwards into the glass wall, his whole body pressed flat against it, but could not see into the blackening street. He began to moan loudly but, hearing himself, quickly snuffed the sound out. Backing away from the window he collapsed in his swivel chair and put his head in his hands, closing his eyes. His head pulsed.

An afterimage floated inside his head, burning uncontrollably, tearing the black like a fierce white scratch on the inside of his eye.

Shakespeare suffering for his art

He stepped onto the ledge.

Behind him a pile of clothes lay neatly folded and the librarian giggled nervously, wondering quite what he was doing. At first he concentrated on the surface of the ledge, an intricate chaos of grain creating the illusion of flatness. But as he blinked his focus fell through the air like a brick, smashing onto the pavement amongst the pedestrians, the shoppers, the business people; a canopy of bodies, heads and hair without one upward glance. As he looked down the wall of the library building became the floor and the floor was falling away and his body arched forwards instinctively. He jerked backwards, but then, straightening himself up, swallowed air, shuffled closer to the edge and closed his eyes.

An intense sense of freedom contracted around him, verged on total detachment, and gave way to desperate isolation. His skin seemed to tighten around the frame of his body, setting the nerves prickling above his flesh. He felt his body shaking.

With his eyes still closed he swayed forward again onto the balls of his feet, feeling his own weight as it stretched out above the chasm. The damp clung to him like a shower curtain; he was suffocating but couldn't reach his body with his mind, couldn't make himself breathe. The muscles tightened up through his legs into his back until his jaw clenched shut. But, when his eyes sprung open, he was looking at himself.

Directly opposite him a skyscraper reached into the blue and almost disappeared in the blue (reflecting the sky and almost part of it). And he could see himself suspended in one of the mirrored windows, a sharp white floating beautifully in the midst of a deep blue. And he could feel himself breathing again, swept up in a wave of calm.

He swayed into the blue.

In the instant as his feet left the roof his vision floated outwards towards the reflection. Their arms reached out towards each other, towards an embrace. But the calm shattered like splintering glass as his body plunged downwards, swamped in a cold darkness.

The reflection did not fall. It slid silently down the side of the building, disappearing before the pavement.

The tube

Down on the street, outside the library, he stood by the road waiting for the green man. The smoke from his cigarette drifted out in front of him, and out of the smoke rose a glass elevator sliding smoothly up the outside of the building which towered opposite. A pigeon fluttered against the face of the glass, its double mirrored in the blue windows. The student noticed a slash of white caught in the blue.

As the lights changed a stream of people bustled past him into the road, but he stood stock still looking upwards, mesmerised by the strange reflection which was framed high up in one of the vast windows. He couldn't make out what it was; he wanted to get closer. And then it moved. For a split second it grew in the frame before dropping suddenly down through the long wall of windows. The reflection appeared framed in one window after another, like stills in a roll of film.

In shocked reflex he span around as something thudded directly behind him. His mouth opened and the cigarette dropped from his mouth, landing on the base of the librarian's neck, spreading ash over the dead man's bare back.

Joe Sinclair