"You!" came the cry, shrill and demanding. "Get down from there!"
The cries would come and go, but they would never catch him or even hang around long enough to grow threatening. Those who made such cries were caught in their own lives down on the city streets, and they moved like ants through a maze. They could never comprehend the freedom that the roof dweller felt as he moved from one rooftop to the next, running the beams over the roadways and leaping from ledge to ledge with the precision and stealth of a cat.
His name was Thom, and he was nine and a half years old. He lived in Elenshire, one of the greatest cities in the country; it went for miles in every direction, rambling on like the storybook written by a child. And indeed, this was the world of a child. A world where children either ran free across the rooftops or slipped unseen between the legs of the adults who thronged the streets. There was no form of school here. Children only learned from their parents and their masters, if ever they were caught long enough to be disciplined. Truly though, they learned from their own discoveries.
And it was a grand discovery that young Thom was about to make.
He had come a long way today and would not be home in time for supper. He was in an unfamiliar side of the city, and the buildings were older and less sturdy. The tiles were flaked, the ledges were sagging, and the bricks were lose. Still, Thom was an expert climber, and he soon came to a most challenging temptation.
The building he now stood upon was old and rich, and a decorated wall of latticed stone stretched easily some ten feet upwards to the beautiful porch of some forgotten chamber. It would be easy to reach this most desirable vantage point, and perhaps he would then gain access to an even higher level of the building. Such challenges were enough to carry the best of climbers to the sky and beyond. The dizzying heights, the breath-taking views, the light feeling of being on top of it all--these were only a few of the exhilarating sensations that the roof dweller lived for.
And so Thom began to climb.
The lattice work shook as he made his way up, threatening to come lose. It would have too, if the old english ivy had not kept it rigidly in place. He was soon climbing over the railing of the balcony above, his peripheral vision giving him a most delightful view of the city as he focused on keeping his balance. And then, barely noting his position, he was astounded to see yet another challenge awaiting him, stretching even further upwards. He did not even pause to look within the building before taking to the stonework with fingers and toes.
This brought him to a ledge with two columns that could lift him even higher. He placed one foot upon each of these columns and soon pushed his way carefully up to another ledge.
Was there no end to this building? Was it a tower he climbed? Soon however, he found himself on top of the city, higher than he'd ever been before, with only a sloped roof left to conquer. He walked this carefully, feeling the tiles beneath every step, hoping they would hold still.
This was the final moment. He was about to look over the far side of the tower. It was a powerful moment, and he almost forgot his caution. Almost, but not quite. So when the tiles beneath him moved quite suddenly, he had enough reaction to throw himself flat upon the rooftop. Except, because of his slight distraction, he had misinterpreted the motion of the tiles. They were not slipping from the building. They were falling inward!
In this quick motion of throwing himself down upon the roof, the last string had snapped and the roof finally gave way to the pressures of a hundred years.
Thom fell straight through the roof and into the unknown room below.