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The next five seconds

by digriz 

Posted: 27 June 2004
Word Count: 1137

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Content Warning
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.

I’m falling. Falling at approximately one hundred and twenty miles per hour and my mind is racing. Six seconds earlier I was sat in a nice comfortable aeroplane at four thousand feet with no door and an engine that coughs like an old smoker after their first cigarette of the day. Quite frankly I feel safer where I am, plummeting below one thousand feet towards the all-accepting, immovable mother earth. My main parachute has failed to open. I have seven seconds before impact and the clock's running. Fast. Well, actually, I have about five seconds to make any meaningful decision about whether I live or die.

I feel I should explain. I’ve been a skydiver for about three years. Douglas Adams once called it throwing yourself at the ground and missing, I call it Russian fucking roulette and I like to play. Anything for that adrenaline rush, I just want to feel something other than misery, boredom and hatred. Hell, if I were a dog they would have offed me like they offed Old Yella long ago.
I’m a depressed, alcoholic, chain smoking, habitual drug user with little respect for you or anyone else. My doctor has me on medication for the depression; it tends not to mix to kindly with the non-prescription meds, if you know what I mean. I’ll admit it, I’ve thought about killing myself in the past; I’ve just never had the nerve to end it in a ‘conventional way’. I can’t be bothered with the ‘cries for help’ bit. I hate whiners. Pathetic bastards. You want to end it then fucking do it. I deserve to be six feet under but I never thought it would happen by accelerating though two hundred feet per second.

Four seconds.

I think I might be having what some people call a ‘moment of clarity’ or ‘religious experience’. Considering that I don’t believe in anything, never mind about the existence of God, I think I’ll go with the moment of clarity. It always appalled me how two-faced people are when it came to death. It’s strange how quickly they discover religion when they think they’re going to die.
For some unexplainable reason, I feel totally calm. There’s no adrenaline rush, no misery, no nothing. I don’t feel anything; it feels like I’m wrapped in one of those fluffy white clouds I fell through. Strangely, my mind is clearer than it has been in years. This is surprising; the six-pack of beer in the back of my chevy was all but finished off before I got onto that aeroplane. Just to take the edge off, you know?
I had asked the pilot to fly me deep of the drop zone just so I could walk back and have a quiet drink on the way in. Looking around, I’m miles from anywhere and about half a mile up from anything that looks familiar.
Graham, my drinking partner and pilot for the day has let me down, again. I should have known he would, he’s a bigger alcoholic than I am. Even though Graham and I drink together, he’s not a friend. Alcoholics don’t have friends. Most people joke about putting Vodka on their breakfast cereal, Graham does that for real. He told me he’d been woken up the other night having just pissed in his bed. There was blood. He seems to think that this will clear up given time. He had to have another drink to calm his nerves; he washed down two aspirin with it to clear up the bleeding. Fucking Idiot. I didn’t even bother telling him he should go to the Doctors, why should I? I’ve got my own problems to deal with without having to deal with his too.

Three seconds.

Maybe I should think about trying the handle of my reserve parachute again. The ground is looking damn close now. I’d tried the reserve handle almost immediately after the main one failed. Typical, the thing is jammed in tight and I can’t shift it. You see the idea is that we get the reserve or backup parachute packed every two months or fifty parachute descents which ever happens first. So far, it’s been over a year for the one I’m currently wearing. I’ve always been eager to get to the bar for that first evening drink or back to my car for a Joint with Graham and John rather than spend the thirty minutes doing the repack. It’s not my fault if no one checks up to see if I’ve been repacking the fucking thing. That’s John’s job. Useless bastard.
John, my boss, is the ‘CCI’ or ‘Club Chief Instructor’ he’s the guy that runs the drop zone when the owner’s off jetting around the world with his girlfriend, Jennie. Jennie, by the way, used to be my girlfriend. I guess she prefers the smell of money to the smell of stale cigarettes and beer. Fucking picky bitch! Never did trust her, not after that half-ounce of cocaine accidentally got sucked up into the vacuum, I mean, she thinks I don’t know that she stole it for her and the, what was then, secret man in her life.
My ‘job’, if you can call it that, is to train the unsuspecting first time parachute jumpers. We call them WUFFO’S. This endearing term comes from a phrase we hear a lot around here.
“Jump out of a plane! Wuffo?”
They must learn how to jump out of an aeroplane and survive. Hell, like I’m a good example at the moment. I live at the drop zone in a mouldy old caravan, it’s got nothing in it other than a single stinking mattress and a boarded up window.
As for a girlfriend, well, they’re more trouble than they’re worth if you ask me. It’s always the same,
“You drink too much.”
“Take a shower”
“Why don’t you shave more often?”
“Pay me more attention”
You get the gist, all that nagging just makes me want to scream, like I don’t know that I drink too much.

Two seconds.

If I survive this then maybe I should think about straightening my life out. I have no real job, no girlfriend and no sensible place to live. I could quit the drinking, I mean, I’ve done it loads of times before. It’s not hard is it? Okay, so you’ve correctly guessed that I’ve started drinking again, but there’s always been a good reason. Reasons I won’t bother boring you with, suffice to say it was always because of somebody else screwing me around.
Graham suggested we enrol in one of those twelve-step recovery programmes. Well, in my opinion, twelve-step recovery is for those pathetic whiners.

One second.

They say that you’re life flashes before your eyes just before you die. I wonder what I’ll see.

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Comments by other Members

bogdantiganov at 11:49 on 27 June 2004  Report this post
I really enjoyed this piece. It is strong and honest, no bullshit writing that I enjoy.

SamMorris at 11:26 on 28 June 2004  Report this post
Hi Digriz

I too enjoyed this piece. It had a immediacy about it which I thought worked well. At the end did he survive and get a second chance? I hoped this was the case, but with 1 sec remaining this seems unlikely?


digriz at 16:09 on 28 June 2004  Report this post
Hi all,

Thanks for the comments so far.

As for whether he survived; well as far as i'm concerned he didn't, but you never know :)

If anyone else has further comments, i'd really appreciate your feedback too.


Anna Reynolds at 17:52 on 28 June 2004  Report this post
Digriz, I wondered whether there was an element of panic in his mind? it doesn't feel like there is at present, but presumably there would be- it feels as if he's covering up anything like that, yet the voice we hear is inside his head, or at least not to an existing audience. For you, what is the truth of this- does he want to die, is he leaving it to fate, is there a desperate fight for life or a bloodymindness? Interesting story, I'd like to know more about his character as well- he's self aware but only up to a point.

bjlangley at 12:40 on 29 June 2004  Report this post
Interesting piece Digriz. I like the way we learn about the character as he falls, but thought that some sections were too long. The part with Graham after four seconds, and some of the stuff about John and his former girlfriend after three could be speeded up a little, to keep up with the fast pace of the rest of it, which works well as he's falling.

I liked this though, and look forward to seeing more of your work.

All the best,


Becca at 21:36 on 29 June 2004  Report this post
Hi Steven. This was a tough piece. I wanted to feel empathy for your MC, and at first I did, but when he gets going on the girlfriend, I felt less for him, he starts to whine there. I did like the way bits of his life unfold as he falls, so we get snapshots of his life that make a whole picture. Good concept too. Upload some more stories soon.

digriz at 07:46 on 30 June 2004  Report this post
Thank you for all your comments.

There's some great feedback here :)

The idea with the character in this piece was that he was going to die and all he could do was blame other people for the mistakes and misfortunes in his life when it was obvious that most, if not all, of them were his own fault. I had tried to make him fairly dispicable with his attitudes but reveal this more and more as you get to the end of the story.

The latter part about seeing his life flash before him and wondering what he'll see, followed by 'DAMN' was the realisation of what he was really like and it being too late for him to do anything about his situation or his imminent demise.

At some point i will rework this piece and implement some of the suggestions that have been given here.

I'll upload a new piece in the next few days.

Thanks again. If anyone wants to comment further, then please do.

amnesia at 20:29 on 30 June 2004  Report this post
Hello Digriz,

Great idea.

I can't help feeling, like Anna that there would be more panic in his voice It has a casual tone that I don't feel fits the situation. Also would he just say,'Damn,' a second before dying. Don't people think about 'bigger' things when they top themselves? I know I'd be going out screaming [if I wasn't too panicked to scream] but forgive me if I've got the wrong end of the stick. I sometimes do!

I still like it but I think it needs more tension, more pace.


digriz at 21:17 on 30 June 2004  Report this post
Hi Amnesia,

I did think about whether there should be more panic in his voice, but i'd decided that he was having a 'moment of clarity'...I've had one of these moments myself during an extremely dangerous situation i found myself in and i was totally calm...It's a very strange feeling, i can tell you :)

I guess the point didn't come across, maybe it needs a little rethink about the overall tone.

I agree about increasing the tension and pace, a previous suggestion was about increasing the pace as the seconds counted down. I like that idea.

Also, people have mentioned about the 'Damn' phrase at the end, they suggested that the word should be a little stronger. I don't agree, it was meant to signify his resigned acceptance of the situation at that point.

Thanks for your comments, all of them valid. I think i need to work on making things a little clearer in certain sections. It would also suggest that alot of people hasn't gotten a grasp on the type of character i was trying to portray.

More work on my characterisations are needed i think.

Dominic at 17:32 on 05 July 2004  Report this post
I began without much regard for teh character - it sounded very teenage angstie. I read on and I'm happy I did. Nice one.

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