A Dive into the Unknown
The walk up to the launching platform is even more arduous than I expected. It’s strange. I’ve been looking forward to this day for exactly one year. Now it has arrived fear makes my feet heavy and the climb harder than it should be. What if my theory is a load of bullshit? What if I’ve just volunteered to throw myself into a watery grave?
The path behind me —the only possible way back — is blocked by a solid wall of human flesh and muscle; the three men following a few steps behind making sure I don’t turn back. Once anyone has started the climb, they must finish it. The only way off this road is by way of the platform, and once I’ve arrived there, I’ll have no choice but to make the sacrifice.
A fine mist wraps itself around me as soon as I step onto the plateau. I look down and there, to my right, I find exactly what I expect to see. They are looking up and waiting for me to take that final leap of faith. Last year I was one of them. I remember us standing there, looking up at Quinn. The others cheered and waved, encouraging him to launch himself into the dive and make it as beautiful as possible. The Wiseman says that our prosperity for the coming year depends on the flawlessness of the dive. Quinn’s was immaculate.
I tried to look and sound like the rest of them. Quinn and I had managed to keep our secret for five long years and I had no intention of betraying him at the last possible moment, but it was the hardest thing I’d ever done.
I take a few more steps and stop at the edge. Below me is water; the roar from the falls drowning out everything else. I’d been so sure I’d know the instant Quinn died. I’d prepared myself for the searing pain I expected to feel. I’d had the experience when my family died. Before anyone told me, I’d doubled over in anguish as if someone had stabbed me in the stomach. Last year Quinn dove, and I gathered myself, determined that no matter how bad the pain, I wouldn’t let it show. Nothing came; no stabbing sensation, no despair, no tears - only an overwhelming sense of peace.
That’s why, this year, I volunteered. The Wiseman prefers it when someone steps forward of their own volition. He says it makes for better karma. He smiled brightly when I raised my arm and told him I’d take the dive.
Bruno, the leader of my entourage grunts the word. My heart skips a few beats—whether from fear or excitement I don’t know. I push off and take flight.
I imagine I can hear them cheer over the sound of falling water. I know my dive is perfect. My body stretches and bows, I point my toes and reach with my fingers. I need to enter the wall of water before I reach the surface below. If I’m wrong, I’m only moments away from death. If my theory is right I should find….
My hands disappear into the falling water. There’s no time for a deep breath before my head and shoulders follow. I squeeze my eyes and wait.
This is no waterfall, it’s a falling lake. There’s no end to the water. My lungs scream, the urge to open my mouth and breathe is overwhelming while my mind screams it would mean certain death. Lights flash behind my closed lids. My final thought: I was wrong!
Then something, or someone, grabs my hands and pulls — hard.
This wonderful picture for this week’s flash was suggested by Theo Fenraven, who does seem to find the most amazing images. As always, other stories based on the same photo can be found in the Monday Flash Fics Facebook page.