The leap

All the boys in her neighbourhood considered themselves brave. They thought Tali would be impressed by hard partying and brawling, driving too fast, drinking too much. That was the fool they took her for. But she wanted real braveā€”the sort of madness you had to invent yourself. She’d tried their kind. It was boring. Only Vlad could tempt her. Vlad, who the others taunted. He was built like a spider, all lines and bends. He kept to himself. And at night, he’d come for her. He’d climb onto the garage roof to knock on her window. They’d climb over the back fence onto the tracks. They’d run all the way to the railway bridge. He knew a way round the barbed wire. There was a spot where the factories came alongside. The first time she took that leap into the dark she felt as if she’d conquered the world. Long seconds seemed to pass before her feet hit the roof. From there they’d roam across their elevated nightworld. Nothing could touch them. Until tonight. How could they have known that a new wire guard had been put up below the bridge. Vlad’s scream pierced the night, followed by a dull thump. Then nothing. Tali sank to her knees. In the distance a train approached at speed.