My heart raced as I fell, anxiety welling up inside my considerable chest because I expected to die within moments of my ill-thought decision. Walking off a cliff with no idea how I would survive was the most dangerous thing I’d ever done, in this life or the previous.
Not to mention the most idiotic.
An unreal feeling filled my mind, but it was driven out by the rushing wind. If I survived I wouldn’t make this mistake again. I didn’t consider myself reckless, but something about this planet and my situation brought it out. Perhaps I had more testosterone running through the veins of this mammoth-sized body, causing me to take more risks.
One moment I had been on solid ground; the next, falling.
One moment I was calm, certain of my decision; the next, I knew I’d been rash.
My anger at Sam and John Jeffs fell with me.
They taunted me while fear and frustration threatened to override my brain. It was only with great effort that I turned my thoughts to my predicament. Sam had killed me once already; it would be my own fault if he caused my death again. If the time ever came I could repay him for what he had done, I certainly would but I had to live today to see that tomorrow.
The walls of the ravine sped past as the scant predawn light diminished, making me feel like I had fallen into a tunnel. The walls moved in, closing an inch or so at a time but at a sickening rate when compared to my speed of descent. Claustrophobia crept up the back of my mind and interacted in sickening harmony with the terror that wracked my soul.
I didn’t have long to figure out how to fly. Somehow, I refrained from looking down, knowing it would only make matters worse.
My hop off the edge had been instinct more than anything else. Anger had been part of it as well, but I’d known from the look on Jeffords’ face he wasn’t going to give me the information I needed. It had been an act of defiance more than obedience to his order.
If a fool like Jeffords could fly so could I. If I came back alive it would be like spitting in his face.
Quite the gamble just to stick it to somebody.
Perhaps the ability to fly had something to do with the jumpsuit but more likely it was the boots. I’d paid careful attention to Jeffords while he was suspended above the opening of the ravine, looking at his feet to puzzle out how he was doing what he did. He’d kept his feet still for the most part but at one point he’d moved backward when the toes of his boots spread out. The movement had been small, but the force had sent him backward until he’d corrected by doing the reverse, closing his toes and spreading his heels.
It was the boots. I just had to activate them.
Within the first ten seconds of my jump I pushed the same buttons Jeffords had fiddled with minutes before he’d walked off the edge, both the block timer button and the middle one on the other side.
Panic flared but I pushed it away.
If I dwelled on Sam or John Jeffs or John Jeffords, I would fall to my death.
There was much to live for and too much to do, especially with these new revelations.
My mind felt like it moved through mud. Adrenaline might have coursed through my veins, but fear had the run of me, making it more difficult to process my thoughts than I had ever before experienced. I had trained as an attorney to think under difficult and stressful circumstances, but nothing had prepared me for this.
First chairing a murder trial as a young attorney had been nerve-wracking and stressed my upper limits but I wouldn’t be the same if I survived today.
Jeffords’ smile had grown when I jumped. I imagined him laughing as he watched me touch my watch buttons without anything happening. I curled my hands into fists but did my best to grind my mental gears as the air sped by on all sides of me. I closed my eyes, hoping it would help me focus.
Jeffords had been right about one thing. If I overcame the pressure of thinking while falling there was little I couldn’t do.
I held in my mind a memory of him pushing the buttons on his watch right as he’d been about to hop off the edge of the ravine.
Only he hadn’t.
Had he planned to teach us to fly but thought better of it? Had he decided instead to give us a demonstration that hid how it worked before pushing us from the nest? If asked he could technically say he’d taught us what to do. John Jeffs had lied with ease, I doubted John Jeffords had developed a conscience on this side.
I pressed the buttons again but didn’t stop falling.
Without realizing what I was doing I spread my hands to the side, when I noticed what I’d done it reminded me of how I must have looked when I’d jumped off the high dive as a kid.
That first landing in the pool had not been a comfortable experience.
I saw a flash of greenish-brown from the corner of my eye. At first, I thought to put my hands in my pockets to protect them from the vegetation but realized there was no way I could. Their present position helped stabilize my descent and kept me upright.
A plant went right by my face, inches from my nose.
At least I didn’t learn the hard way if it was poisonous. I swallowed. Yet.
More plants passed. The further down I went the larger they became, as if they grew better in the dark. They soon pressed in upon me.
At least I know now why it’s called a jumpsuit, I thought, looking at the protective covering on my arms and wishing it was on my hands as well.
I almost lost my balance when a plant brushed my fingers. I pressed the buttons again, but nothing happened.
It must be the boots, I thought, remembering how Jeffords had told us to take care of them, that there was more he would explain later. It had not been my imagination when he’d moved his toes and been propelled backward.
How do I engage them?
I knocked my boots together, wondering if that might flip on the flying mechanism, but nothing happened. A bush scratched my arm, leaving marks on the suit and tearing at the fabric. Maybe I could engage the boots before hitting vegetation on my next jump.
I brought my heels together again to make sure but had the same result. My hands shook, from air or adrenaline, I could not tell. I brought them over my head and pressed the buttons on my watch, but nothing happened. I tried pressing the other buttons in a variety of combinations but remained in freefall.
Everything was dark now.
Plants whipped by on all sides, screaming when they touched my jumpsuit, tearing the fabric in some places and merely brushing against it in others.
My whole body vibrated.
It was not just the wind rushing past that caused me to shake. It became impossible to think as I clicked my heels together and pressed my watch buttons. Fear crawled up my spine like a spider and made a home in the middle of my brain.
Then it began to lay eggs.
I could think of nothing else.
I could feel nothing more.
When something brushed my hand, I brought them close above my head, almost sending me head over heels. Luckily, I stabilized once again as I continued to plummet.