I was getting ready to jump out of the plane, but just as I peered over the edge, something kept me from pushing myself through that invisible membrane separating me from terminal velocity. What was it? I couldn’t be sure, so I tried to shake it. Just nerves, I told myself. Still, I tried to jump one more time and it was the same, no good. What had gotten into me?
So I resolved to sit this one out. But Rick, my old trainer, the guy who’d taught me everything I know about skydiving, maybe he saw something that I didn’t. Maybe he had been there before, somewhat new, but enough dives under his belt to mistake the momentary hesitation for what it really was, doubt, fear, crippling anxiety. “Don’t be such a …” was all that I heard, because Rick had pushed me out midsentence, and in less than I second I went from being on the plane, to the plane disappearing above me.
The unexpected shove jolted my senses, like when your hot shower goes suddenly ice cold. But it didn’t take long for me to come to terms with how it went down. And now that I was in free fall, the familiarity of the rush started to kick in, clearing my head. A heartbeat later and I was back to where I always was, falling, flying, whatever, just pure adrenaline induced euphoria.
But the very instant before my altimeter alerted me that it was about time to deploy the shoot, it hit me, the reason that I was so reluctant to step off of that plane. The chord. I don’t know why, or for reason, but I knew that it wasn’t going to work. The idea that I was by myself up here, coupled with the lack of any details, it stopped my breath, it was like I was in the beginnings of a panic attack.
While my brain stumbled through a replay of my preparations this morning, my equipment check, refueling the tank, I couldn’t for sure identify that all of these little steps, steps that I’ve completed dozens of times by now, I wasn’t positive if they were from today or yesterday or the week before. Finally my hands took control of the situation and gripped the handle sticking out of the left side of the backpack.
And I pulled. And nothing. I pulled a little harder. It was the same. I was dead.
I thought, what do I do? Can I try to take the pack off my back, somehow go through it in mid-fall, identify the problem, fix the problem, get the pack strapped back on, with enough time to successfully open up the chute? Because the ground was coming fast. It’s like, those first few thousand feet, yeah, you feel the wind, but the surface is so far away, it doesn’t even really look like you’re moving in relation to anything down below.
But now, I was seeing less and less of certain objects in the horizon. My mind kept jumping forward, all the way to the automatic conclusion. My body cringed as I imagined what it would feel like, if I’d even have time to feel anything at all. Would death really be instant? Or would I kind of exist in a breathless state of panic while my surviving brain cells slowly shut down due to lack of oxygen?
Could I somehow make it through this? I mean, it was at least technically possible. I’ve heard of people walking away from stuff like this. Well, if not walking, at least breathing. Would it be enough to just breath? Should I try to get my body to start rolling the second I make contact with the ground?
A thousand questions, a million different thought fragments, mostly just emotions, fight, flight, instinct into overdrive.
And then just before I started totally freaking out, arms flailing uselessly in the sky, my bladder releasing its contents into my jumpsuit, just before the ground came right up to my face, I woke up.
I was in my bed. I’ve never been skydiving. What the hell man, I’ve never been on a small plane. Fuck that, are you crazy? Wow, it just felt so real. But it wasn’t real. It was a dream.
I thought I was about to fall to my death, but I didn’t, because I woke up. Because it was all a dream.