The Jump

Chris Reads
5 min readApr 26, 2024

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The sun shone brightly from the cloudless sky, reflecting in blinding white fractures in the slate-coloured water. It was the first of May, the first truly hot day of the year. Wayne stood atop a cliff, looking around the quarry. It was a small sunken quarry, the walls unnaturally straight and bearing the scars of the mining that had occurred many years ago. Since then, nature reclaimed the harsh stone, lichens and mosses climbing up the sheer rock face, and needled pines growing on top. Warm gusts buffeted him and the trees, their needles and his hair flying everywhere. Aside from the wind, he couldn’t hear anything. Up here, he was so far from everyone and everything else. He felt strangely safe.

A sudden gust of wind blew over a pebble balancing on the ledge. It careened down the cliffside, tumbling back and making contact with the unforgiving stone wall before bouncing back down towards the water. It took a while to get down there. Wayne picked up a rock and tossed it towards the water. He counted the seconds it took to fall. One. Two. Three. Before he could finish the third count, the rock had plopped into the water and disappeared, never to be seen again. He looked over the edge. It was a long way down, and he wasn’t a rock. He could feel his palms start to become sweaty.

He had to jump. It was his only way down. When he first arrived at the bottom of the cliff, the Quebeckers were already hot on his tail. The weren’t able to climb the cliff with their day packs, and lost some time to changing, but they knew he was up there. He would not be caught dead on this cliff because he was too scared to jump. But every time he looked over the ledge, he could feel a new part of his body give. Now, his stomach dropped, and he backed away once again. They had warned him that he needed to be brave to do this. He had laughed. He served a tour in Afghanistan before coming, and there was no way that Quebec was worse than that. But he forgot the panic he would get when he was picked up by helicopter for his missions. He wasn’t scared of flying: military transport planes were fine. But something about a large height and an uncontrolled fall was just too much for him.

Another gust of wind blew past, this one bigger than the last. A few tiny rocks blew down. He looked out again. Time to jump now. When he got to the edge of the cliff, his knees buckled, and he collapsed. This wasn’t the plan. Originally, he was supposed to stay in the boat, but he had been seen. There had been no way out of this mess but up, and so up he went. While seated, he hazarded another glance off the edge. The boat was already there, and they were gesturing at him to hurry up and jump. Could he do it?
He stood right near the edge to try again. He mustered as much courage as he could. Wait, no. He should take a running start. Otherwise, there would be a chance that he hits the side of the cliff, which would be fatal for sure. He walked back towards the tree cover. No sounds of the Quebeckers yet, just the rustling of the trees. He started running for the cliff. Stop stop stop. He needed to space better. Did he start with his left foot or his right? Right left right jump. He paced it out. That was about right. He backed up from the edge and prepared to take his running start. No no no. It was far too sandy on the cliff. He might slip. He edged closer to the cliff and dusted it off best he could. There.

Then he tried. Three times he tried to jump, but he couldn’t find the confidence to throw him off. He didn’t slip or trip. A million years of human evolution screamed at him that he shouldn’t jump off the edge. It was dangerous, that it was sure death. No primate had ever furthered their chances of passing down their genetic material by leaping off cliffs, but he wasn’t a monkey, and he knew if that he didn’t jump, his life might as well be over. But he couldn’t. His legs wouldn’t let him. It was then that he heard the voices.

The Quebeckers had made their way up the cliff. He couldn’t see them yet, but he could sure hear them, laughing away, sure that he was still going to be on the cliff. But he wasn’t. He couldn’t. He would be gone by the time they showed up. They wouldn’t catch him here, scared to jump. But then they were. They materialized around a bush, tanned and wearing fluorescent bathing trunks. They saw him and smiled.

“You going to jump?” one of them yelled in his raspy accent.

“Or are you too scared?” another one said.

Then they started counting down.

“Ten.”

“Nine.”

“Eight.” Wayne realized that he would have to jump by one.

“Seven.” Wayne moved away from the cliff to take a running start.

“Six.” Wayne breathed, and willed himself to move.

“Five.” Wayne decided to wait for the count of three to start running.

“Four.” Wayne wiped his palms.

“Three.” Wayne decided to wait until the count of one to start running.

“Two.” Wayne took one last breath.

“One.” Wayne took off.

He ran in earnest, not like the way he ran before, determined to throw himself off. And he did. His heart caught in his throat the moment of the jump, his stomach in his chest, and his legs pin straight. He wrapped his arms around his chest. And in an instant, he hit the water. It wasn’t three seconds like that rock, it was over much more quickly. He immediately started swimming upwards. The adrenaline kept him from realizing the stinging in the soles of his feet, how much deeper he went in than he anticipated, and the whooping of his friends until he was on the boat.

“We were worried those Frenchies would think they were better than we were.”

“Yeah, we were waiting down here forever. We almost went back to the cottage. Or chalet, as they say in Quebec.”

“We really thought you wouldn’t jump!”

“Well I did, didn’t I?” And he did.

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