Might as well jump

Gavin L: Why did he do it? That’s what everybody keeps asking. I mean, yeah, we all hate working here, but if you hate it that bad, dude – get another job. Shit, go on the dole. Don’t jump off the fucking roof!

Kevin P: I don’t hate working here.

Elaine S: Ian always had such sad eyes. Like those things they hang over shop fronts – what’re they called? And they get all filled up with water when it rains, so the shopkeeper has to go out with a pole or a brush and prod all the water off. Awnings – are they awnings? I should know, I’m just having a blockage. Under his eyes, anyway – it was like he had awnings under his eyes.

Daniel J: Ruff-Ian, we used to call him – ‘cos he had such a rough deal, y’know? Honestly, we all think we get the dipped-in-doodoo end of the stick every now and then, specially working here – but this guy? I could have cried.

Gavin L: If Ian won the lottery, he’d be mown down on his way to collect the winnings. Him and Billy, they couldn’t be less alike in that regard. Billy would’ve won without even buying the ticket.

Daniel J: Roof-Ian. That’s what we should call him now. Heh… sorry, is that bad taste? Honestly, I’m only joking to hide my serious pain.

Gavin L: No, but people are making him out to be a lot more complex than he actually was. This was a very straightforward bloke, all right? His password was ‘password’, for fuck’s sake.

Lucy M: Frankly, I don’t know if I can take it anymore. First Billy, now Ian… I swear to god, if anyone else jumps off this building, I’m leaving. It’s just not a nice place to work when you can’t look out the window for fear of seeing one of your colleagues go hurtling past.

Tony C: The thing is, you’re asking the wrong questions. Forget Ian. It’s Billy you want to be asking about.

Kevin P: I have no idea where Billy went, but I have to say he won’t be missed. He never did anything while he was here anyway.

Tony C: It’s like when you’re a kid, and your mates lead you astray. With me, it was always Andy Parsons. Whatever Andy Parsons did, I had to do too. And it was always me ended up in trouble for it. Funny thing, my dad used to say to me, “if Andy Parsons went up and jumped off the roof, would you follow him?” So like I say, this isn’t really about Ian, it’s about his best mate. After all, it was Billy who found out about the nexus… or whatever you want to call it.

Elaine S: One afternoon, Billy just didn’t come back from lunch, that’s all I know. We haven’t seen him since.

Daniel J: You ask me, they were both a little bit gay for each other. Or, no – no, that’s not true, ’cos Billy was a dog and no mistake, when it came to the laydeezs. But Ian… he wanted to be a dog like Billy, especially since his missus upped sticks – but if not, I reckon he’d have settled for being Billy’s bitch. You know what I’m saying? And I reckon Billy knew it too. It’s not like this was your actual homosexual – and nothing wrong if it was, I’m not suggesting that…

Elaine S: Ian looked up to Billy like a big brother.

Tony C: OK, so there was this thing Billy was reading on the ‘net – I saw it over his shoulder. Well, you’ve got to keep an eye out for new stuff to surf, haven’t you? At work, I mean. They don’t pay me enough to… what is it I’m supposed to be doing here again? No, seriously…

Kevin P: They should restrict internet access way more than they do. It’s one thing blocking all the porn sites and Facebook – but we’re paid to do a job. Not loaf. Personally, I only ever go on there for official work-related… work-related…

Daniel J: I don’t know a lot about his personal situation, but I do know Mrs. Ian left him for a flipping Moonie. I didn’t even know they still had Moonies! Not that I want to give you the impression that I’m, like, religiously intolerant or… live and let live, right? Still, that’s really gotta kick you where you scratch, your missus going off with a cult. Ha. As opposed to, y’know…

Elaine S: Sometimes I’d ask him, just passing the time, I’d ask him what he’d done over the weekend or… but I stopped doing it because it used to make me sad, watching him stumble around trying to think of an answer. Forcing a smile, making things up – you could just tell when he was making things up. One time he told me he’d been clubbing, at the Rialto. The Rialto closed down last year. Everybody knows that.

Tony C: Anyway, so I made a note of the address of the site that’s got Billy so engrossed, and I looked it up when I got back to my desk. This guy writes the site, he’s all about the nexus… nexuses. Nexii? “The anomalous junctures between realities.” Parallel universes and that. You know, like Spock and the goatee? He reckons if you plot a chart using, what do you call ‘em, that Julian Cope shit – ley lines, that’s it – you plot a chart based on where these ley lines intertwine and intersect and, and you can locate all the hidden gateways between dimensions. Mental, right? But Billy… smart as he was, I reckon Billy believed that shit. And course, if Billy believed it, you can bet your arse someone else did too…

Gavin L: Let me clear up this whole Billy business here and now – Billy didn’t jump. I mean, if he jumped, where’s his fucking body, dude? You telling me Billy’s like that chick in Heroes, hits the ground then picks herself up and clicks her bits back into place? All Wile E. Coyote and that? Bullsh—and even, let’s say that’s what happened, just for a, don’t you think somebody would have seen him hit the fucking street? That’s like the busiest thoroughfare in this part of the – certainly since they pedestrianised Russell Street, anyway. So where the fuck did he land, dude?

Lucy M: I saw it with my own eyes. I spend a lot of time up on the 22nd. I was standing by the copier, waiting for the bloody thing to warm up, because somebody keeps turning it off – the time I waste waiting for that copier to warm up – and I was this close to him through the glass, I swear, as close as I am to you right now. I’ll never forget… I’ll never forget the look on his face. That’s what chills me. He was smiling. As Jesus is my witness, he was smiling.

Daniel J: I feel bad for Billy too, course I do. We’d worked together a long time. It… You work for the Express, right? I always read the Express. Best damn… you been there long? Really? You don’t look old enough.

Kevin P: I can’t really say much else – besides, I’ve got lots to be getting on with this afternoon. I have a number of very important projects on the… projects on the burner.

Tony C: So anyway, turns out – and you can check this if you don’t believe me, I’ll send you the URL – one of these gateways, one of these nexii – it’s right outside this very building. Only thing is, this bloke that writes the website, he has to come up with some explanation for how come these things can exist in, y’know, populous areas, right, without any old chump wandering through and blipping off the face of the earth every day. I mean, you place a dimensional gateway on the street outside this building, it’d be blocked up with Big Issue sellers by lunchtime. So what this guy posits is – you like that, ‘posits’? 12 across in yesterday’s Guardian Quick Crossword. So anyway, what this guy posits is that these gateways – they’re rarely at street level… that’d be too easy, right? Sometimes they’re under our feet, sometimes they’re over our heads… sometimes they’re right outside the 14th floor.

Elaine S: Poor Ian. It was like he spent his whole life looking for that second magpie, you know? After a while, he started telling people he’d seen it, even when he hadn’t.

Tony C: Now me, I’m not sure I believe this shit, but I reckon Billy did. And so maybe Billy figures – look at the job I’m stuck with in this reality – because, come on, this place really is the death of the soul, I’m sure I’m not the first to tell you that. And so maybe he figures – well, what has he got to lose? And the thing I would’ve loved to have asked him was, if this nexus of his really does exist, and if it is right outside the window on the fourteenth floor – then surely it’s going to be just as far off the ground in the mirror universe, Oz, Narnia, wherever the hell he was going to end up. Course, being Ian, I’m sure he had an answer for that. Zero gravity universe or the earth’s made out of marshmallow, or Newton’s laws don’t apply or whatever. You can pretty much guarantee he had a soft landing, wherever he fetched up. And you just know he walked into a job with whoever owns this building in that reality, and it was a damn sight more interested and better paid than the crap we have to put up with here.

Kevin P: I can think of far worse places to work.

Gavin L: So why do people keep saying Billy jumped? I dunno, dude, people are sick. And if their bullshit is what put this fucking crazy notion in Ian’s head – way I see it, they’re just as responsible as if they went up there and pushed him off themselves.

Daniel J: I’ll be honest with you – I cried, all last night, and the night before. I mean, poor sod – hitting that ledge up on the fifteenth, at such a weird angle, bouncing him right across the street like that, right through the atrium of the old Nat West building… poor, poor fella. I’m sorry, I’m getting quite emotional again. I… Listen, I don’t suppose you fancy going for a drink after you’re finished here…? I could do with a… No? No, that’s OK. That’s cool.

Kevin P: Excuse me. I have to go upstairs now…

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Rol Hirst was the first man in space from Huddersfield. The Russians still beat him up there.

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