Careful What You Wish For
Strapped and harnessed like oxen, we are led in a sombre parade, my feet faltering on the uneven ground, refusing to give in to a stumble. The mood is solemn. A bitter taste fills my dry mouth, adding to an extreme feeling of nausea. Above us the chaffinches and blue tits taunt the line of humans with their freedom as they fly effortlessly between the branches and celebrate their soft landing with the ongoing chorus of the dawn.
We are bundled into the transport unceremoniously, and all push our bodies hard against the seats, holding ourselves as stiff as corpses to disguise the trembling within. Instructions are barked at us but fail to find responsive ears. My lips try to frame objections, yet my voice is imprisoned within, and no sound emanates. There is nothing I can do now to prevent the inevitable anyway.
My name is called. Time to leave the other wretches. A man at the door brings out the tethers. “Can my hands be free?” I plead.
“Of course,” he says, but I am disconcerted when he grabs me from behind. At least it keeps me on my feet; prevents the indignity of collapsing into a crumpled heap. His mouth is right up close to my ear now as he utters what I am convinced will be the last words I will ever hear. I am rigid with fear by the time he pushes open the door.
I jump, or he jumps, or we both do. I am not entirely clear which. All I know is that the feeling of relief is immediate. This is the best experience ever, and I understand why freefalling is so called. Arms outstretched, I sing back to the birds, elated, not interested in the inevitable reunion with the ground below. In comparison to that initial descent, the opening of the parachute and the encouragement and congratulatory words of my attached instructor are mundane.
I land, exhilarated of course, but also ecstatic in the knowledge of having achieved my secret wish: at long last to do something my sister has never done.