The Ultimate Freedom

Authors’ Note: To know your fate without a doubt would be a powerful and liberating thing. When you know for certain what lies ahead for you, your worries and obligations no longer have any power over you. It’s a blissful state of being, even if it only lasts for a few long seconds.

“Skydiving is the ultimate freedom. When you’re up there, nothing matters — not your job, your wife, your busted car — nothing. For those few seconds you can fly, and that’s all there is. No problems, no worries. Hell, it doesn’t even matter if your chute never opens, ya’ know, ‘cause you’re free — and there’s no better way than that to die.”

In spite of his current predicament, Jason couldn’t help but smile at the fact that he’d made that bold statement less than twelve hours ago. The utter failure, first, of his primary, and then, of his secondary chute, was simply too implausible — the irony too thick. It occurred to him that only now could he fully appreciate the true meaning of the phrase “divine comedy.”

He wasn’t bitter, though, as so many others might be in this situation — nor was he afraid. He believed every word of his fateful statement. The irony, and the humor inherent in it, simply added an additional facet of pleasure to his ordeal that Jason would relish as best he could for the remaining forty-five seconds or so of his life.

To that end, he altered his course from a vertical freefall to a diagonal, nearly horizontal, streak across the sky with the vague notion of discovering how far, how fast, and how long he could actually go during this all-too-brief excursion into the avian realm.

The rush of the wind in his face was more exhilarating than anything he’d ever known, even in his hundreds of previous jumps. The thrill of facing imminent death, without reservation, electrified his body. In that instant, he felt what Jim Bowie felt when the Alamo fell, saw what Joan of Arc saw as the flames licked her naked feet, and knew what Jesus knew as he hung, dying, on the cross. The liberation from earthly concerns was intoxicating.

Still, there was a portion of his mind that cried out to be heard — that part that would have him long for the touch of his wife, cry for the loss of his successful life, and scream in an agony of fear. As he flashed across the clear summer sky, the Earth zipping by him ever faster below, and closing in on him every too-brief moment, this part of his mind threatened to take control of the remaining twenty seconds of his life. Just as it did, though, he pushed it back with a violent and dizzying, twisting and turning, barrel-roll maneuver, out of which he burst with a scream, not of fear, as those watching his demise from the ground would later report, but of absolute elation.

As he made the final corrections to his downward streak, ensuring that he would collide with the power line girder that he’d been angling toward — thus eliminating all hope of surviving this exhilarating fate only to die slowly and painfully days, weeks, or months hence — he relished the fact that he held the ultimate freedom. He had no problems, no worries — only the faulty wings that he’d been given as a means to his end and the final, fleeting hope that his family wouldn’t mind a closed-coffin funeral.

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