The four friends would meet on the last Friday of each month. A few drinks, a meal, a laugh and a joke. They looked forward to it and had been doing it for years. Guy and Sue sat side by side, opposite Frank and Fiona. They talked of nothing in particular. Work, football, music all just general stuff.
The restaurant was a nice Italian on the fourth floor of new shopping centre in the heart of Leeds. A city that had changed so much over the years. From a grim industrial town in the late twentieth century, it was now a smart cosmopolitan place. Banking, law, food and entertainment were all big.
“I can’t believe we’re in Leeds sometimes,” said Frank who was sat with his back to the window. “Look at it out there, modern and clean. Smart people and places like this. Not the city we grew up in eh Guy.”
“You’re right,” said Guy who just sat staring out of the window at the crowds going to and fro. It was Thursday evening, a busy night. The friends were having a great time. Frank had known Guy for twenty years, tonight though he seemed a little distracted.
“Everything alright old chap, you don’t seem yourself,” said Frank.
“Yeah, the usual work, money, the wife,” said Guy.
The conversation faltered, it happened. The friends were comfortable together even with silences. Sue and Fiona were doing plenty of talking. They had a lot to catch up on, it was a month since they had seen each other.
The two men sat quietly. Guy seemed to be still distracted looking out of the window. The mall was four floors high with a domed glass roof built around a large atrium. On each floor was a balcony populated with shops and restaurants. Hanging from the ceiling and rising from the floor were various sculptures and pieces of art. It was like a giant man- made cavern of glass and steel.
Frank was still pondering how much his home town had changed when outside there was a commotion. He turned and saw a man standing on the opposite side of the balcony to the restaurant. He had climbed to the outside of the barrier and was holding on with his hands behind him. He was looking down towards the ground floor floor below, staring and still. He seemed unaware of those around him.
Slowly the man looked up towards the restaurant. Frank thought he was going to faint, his stomach sank and blood rushed to his head. He inhaled deeply trying to quell the panic that was washing over him. It was Guy standing at the far side of the shopping centre looking straight at him. Frank looked back at Guy sitting opposite him, his friend was their but he too was looking down.
“Guy are you alright mate, look up, look at me. What’s happening?” said Frank.
Guy slowly looked up his movement almost mechanical. Frank’s friend looked at him blankly as if in a trance. Frank turned and looked at the man hanging from the barrier, he looked straight back at him. Frank felt as if time had stopped, only seconds must have passed. The two women were still chattering, people in the restaurant going about their business. Here he was though sitting looking at his friend in two places at once.
“Guy are you alright, come on mate what’s happening,” said Frank.
Sue and Fiona had noticed the change in Frank’s voice and Guy’s wife now looked across at her husband taking him by the arm and trying to raise him from his trance.
“It might be his diabetes,” said Sue “He never has before but he could be going into a coma.”
Suddenly staff in the restaurant ran to the door, the commotion outside was growing. Security had arrived and were moving people back. The two women and most of the customer had by now rushed outside. Frank was frantic looking from one to the other of the two men he knew as Guy. Then the one sitting opposite him spoke, he said one word, “jump.”
As Frank turned once more he saw the second Guy launch himself from the balcony into the wide-open space before him. It must have only been a few seconds until he hit the ground. Frank sat looking at his friend who now it seemed was coming out of his trance.
“Guy are you alright mate, you were out of it for a minute there,” said Frank.
“It’s OK I just had a funny turn I think I need a drink what’s happening outside,” said Guy.
“Don’t you know, I have no idea really but I saw you, twice. Here and outside. It’s not possible I know but I’ve just seen you jump off that balcony,” said Frank.
Frank and Guy walked to the bar and ordered more drinks.
“I know what happened, it’s been happening for a few years now. You remember when I had that operation after the accident,” said Guy.
“Yeah, they said you died five times on the operating theatre it was a total freak thing,” said Frank.
“It was supposed to be a simple operation to have my gallbladder removed and it turned into this huge drama,” said Guy.
“What’s that got to do with this? I have never seen anything like it mate, maybe It wasn’t you,” said Frank.
“No Frank it was, I get this feeling like I am going to faint and then the next minute I am there. I suppose I’m inside other people. Don’t ask me how. I can feel them, hear them think and yet I’m still totally aware of myself. It used to be I had no control over it but always just before something bad happened. It was terrible, people in plane crashes, on operating tables, murder victims,” said Guy.
“What’s different now?” said Frank.
“I seem now to be able to influence how people behave stop them if I want to,” said Guy.
“If you want to, what do you mean if you want to surely you want to. Tell me you stop it if you can,“ said Frank.
“No, at first I did but I don’t really care what is going to happen any longer. It was going to happen anyway why should I try to stop them,” said Guy.
Frank didn’t know what to say, his friend it seemed had the power to influence whether people lived or died and seemed to be choosing to let them die. The two friends stood at the bar quietly waiting for their drinks.
“You need to get help mate, tell someone about this. They might be able to do something about it,” said Frank.
What so they can lock me up or fill me full of drugs. I did tell someone, a reporter who came snooping around after one of them didn’t die. Someone who tried to kill themselves. They went around telling people their body had been taken over by someone else just before they did the deed. I don’t know how but he had an idea it was me. Don’t tell anyone about this Frank not a soul, not ever. I don’t even know why I told you. You’re my friend and I don’t want anything bad to happen to you”
“Anything bad what do you mean Guy? You told the reporter didn’t you?” said Frank.
“Yes, I did,” said Guy.
“And he’s OK?” said Frank.
“No, he’s not. I couldn’t let him tell all the world about this could I,” said Guy.
“Why Guy where is he, what happened to him,” said Frank.
Guy took Frank by the arm and walked him from the restaurant pushing through the crowds staring over the balcony. The two men reached the barrier and looked down to the broken and bloodied remains of the poor soul who had just jumped to his death.
“That’s him” said Guy and “and that I’m afraid is what will happen to anyone who wants to tell the world about my little condition.”