Sad Fiction Romance

I stand at the edge of the platform, looking down at the view below. It’s dark, still a few minutes before daybreak, so I can only make out rough shapes and outlines of cliffs and trees. The waterfall plummets down the cliff behind me, its thunderous chorus filling my ears with the sound of crashing water. It is a powerful and terrifying sound and though I have made this kind of jump many times before, the sheer, violent speed of the water rushing down the cliff is enough to give me pause.

Just as I am about to lose my nerve, the sun peaks over the horizon, illuminating the scene before me in the first light of dawn. Never, in all my jumps, have I witnessed a more beautiful sight. The gorge stretches out in front of me, its cliffs lined with verdant, green trees. The horizon line itself is green with nature, and this green meets the blue of the early dawn sky in the most spectacular fashion. Below, at the base of the gorge, the white water of the river rushes away from the fall behind me. Daylight shines off the rocks that line the riverbank, causing them to sparkle.

And just like that, all doubt in my mind is erased. I know that I am meant to be here. Perhaps I was always meant to end up here. No, not I. We were meant to end up here. Together.

As I stare out at the beautiful scenery ahead, my toes hanging over the edge of the platform, I recall the first time I ever jumped, which was, as fate would have it, the first time I met him.


“Jump, you pussy!”

Without wanting to, I turned back to look at the source of the slur – my colleague, Greg. He was waiting in line behind me, clearly just as nervous as I was about this whole thing. I gave him the finger, before turning back to the jump ahead of me.

“Don’t worry about that guy,” the bungee instructor holding my harness said gently. “Try not to look down. Instead, focus on a distant object. Like that tree over there. You see it?”

I followed his extended hand and saw the tree he was talking about – a skinny little thing poking out from a rocky outcrop in the distance. The tree was almost completely bare of leaves and its pitiful looking branches seemed to struggle to stay intact as it was buffeted by the winds. It looked as helpless as I felt. But somehow, focusing on it did make me feel better.

“Okay,” the bungee instructor said. “You’ve been here for a while now, buddy. You can do this. I’m gonna count down from five. Then, you’re gonna jump. Arms out, just like we practiced. Ready?”

I nodded, focusing on the tree.

“Here we go. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Go!”

I felt his grip on my harness loosen and I took an involuntary step backwards, away from the edge. The line of spectators behind me, my colleagues, let out a collective groan of disappointment. From the front of the line, I heard Greg yell, “Pussy!”

I couldn’t blame the other guys for losing their patience with me, nor could I really blame Greg. As much of an asshole as he was, he was absolutely right. I was a pussy. This was the third time the instructor had counted down for me and I still hadn’t been able to jump. It didn’t seem as if I was getting any closer to taking the leap, either. At this point, I was just holding up the line.

Whose dumbass idea was it to go bungee jumping on a company retreat, anyway?

Of course, I knew the answer to this question. My boss, the self-proclaimed adrenaline junky. Mr. “I-like-to-swim-with-sharks-before-breakfast-and-go-ice-climbing-after-lunch.” Still though. Whatever happened to good ol’ fashioned paintball?

Speaking of the devil, my boss chose then to speak up from the sidelines. Of course, he had been the first to jump. He had always been the type to lead by example. “Maybe you should take a moment, son,” he said. “Let the others have a go first. We can get back to you. No one would think any less of you.”

What an asshole, I thought. Still, looking out at the horrifying plunge before me, I was just about to accept his offer.

However, at that moment, another voice spoke up from behind me. A voice I didn’t recognize. “Don’t you dare step back from that edge,” the voice said.

I looked over my shoulder at the source of the voice and saw him for the first time. He was tall and skinny, with wavy blonde hair and a boyish face – not handsome, but likeable. However, I noticed his eyes right away. They were blue and fearless. The eyes of a hero. It struck me that these eyes did not match the rest of his face, which had otherwise soft features.

He wore the same yellow uniform polo top that the other bungee instructors wore, only his had the word “TRAINEE” stenciled across the front in bold orange letters. He stepped forward as he spoke, making eye contact with me. “If you give up now, you’ll never be able to get back on that edge.”

I didn’t know this man, but something made me want to open up to him. “I can’t do it,” I said, and the words came out as a whisper.

To this, he held up a hand, telling me to wait. Then he exchanged some words with the instructor that had been holding my harness. After a brief exchange, they both nodded. The trainee started busying himself with a harness of his own, while the instructor who had been holding my harness turned to me.

“Change of plans,” the instructor said. “With your permission, our guy here is gonna jump with you.”

“What?!” I exclaimed.

“It’s called a tandem jump. We’re gonna strap you two together with a special harness and you’ll make the jump as a pair. It’s perfectly safe and just as fun as a solo jump.”

I looked at the trainee, who, upon seeing my look of disbelief, flashed me a toothy grin and a big thumbs up.

“But…” I struggled to find an excuse, any excuse, not to do this. “He’s just a trainee!”

To this, the instructor laughed. “Don’t worry. His shirt may say “trainee” but he’s perfectly capable of doing this jump with you.”

Before I knew it, the trainee and I were strapped together, standing side by side at the edge of the jumping platform. Despite the hot weather, I was shaking visibly.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” the trainee said.

I made a sound, something between a sob and a laugh.

He looked at me. “The tree thing didn’t work, huh?”

I shook my head.

“Yeah, it never worked for me either. To be honest, its not about where your eyes are. Its about where your head is. Look down.”

I stared at him.

“Go on. It won’t bite.”

I swallowed thickly and did as he said. Looking down, I saw the vast drop just before us, the green water far below.

“Good. Now what’s going through your mind?”

“I’m terrified.”


“I’ve never done this before. What if something goes wrong? What if the rope breaks?”

“Well, that would be bad news for both of us. I wish I could tell you without a doubt that that isn’t going to happen, but the truth is you never know whether or not something is going to go wrong.”

I gaped at the trainee. “Is that supposed to make me feel better?”

The trainee chuckled. I noticed that he had one dimple in his left cheek when he smiled. “Look at it like this. Life is full of unknowns. Anyone that has gone through life knowing exactly what to expect, has lived a helluva boring life. The best part of living are those moments when you don’t know what is going to happen next. Every great adventure begins with a step into the unknown.” The trainee gestured grandly in front of him. “A leap of faith.”

The trainee’s words lingered in the air between us. I stared out at the canyon below and as the realization dawned on me that I was going to do it, that I was going to freefall with this total stranger into the abyss, all I could say was, “Shit.”

The trainee laughed again. “Well, maybe some tunes will help.” He turned and yelled to the instructors behind us. “Hit it!”

Over the speakers, the opening guitar riff of ACDC’s Thunderstruck began to play. The trainee beside me nodded along as the music began to escalate. Then as the drums kicked in, he raised his hands above his head and began clapping to the beat of the song. The other instructors followed suit, clapping along. Then, amazingly, my co-workers began to clap along to the song too. I looked over my shoulder and saw that everyone was clapping and cheering, including my boss. Even Greg was into it, his own nervousness at this exercise seemingly evaporated for now.

I turned back to the trainee, who was smiling at me, continuing to clap. He nodded at me and, shaking my head, I raised my own hands above my head and began clapping along to the song. As I did so, I felt my own fears fall from my mind, as if they themselves had bungeed out of existence.

Still clapping, the trainee said to me, “You ready?”

“Yes,” I said, and for the first time, I meant it.

As Brian Johnson’s vocals crescendoed along with the cheers from my colleagues behind us, we jumped. There was no countdown needed this time. We just jumped.

The wind rushed through my hair and just before I squeezed my eyes shut, I caught a glimpse of green water rushing toward me. We fell for what felt like an eternity before I felt the bungee restraints tighten around my ankles. My stomach lurched as we were bounced in the other direction and all of a sudden we were falling upwards, a disorientating sense of weightlessness taking over. Then gravity once again took hold and we fell back down.

It was only once we stopped bouncing that I dared to open my eyes again. The first thing that I saw when I opened my eyes was that my hand was gripping tightly onto the trainee’s beside me. The second thing I saw was that the trainee was squeezing back.

I looked up at him as he beamed at me, his blonde hair falling away from his face to reveal those eyes again. Those fearless eyes.

“My name’s Jack,” he told me.

“I’m David,” I told him.


We went on many jumps together after that. He would get so excited looking up different jumps we could do together. He’d show me videos of people doing it on his phone and I would watch the videos with a never-ending sense of dread. But his excitement made me excited. It became our thing – a huge part of our relationship.

In the years that we were together, we travelled the world, always looking forward to the next jump. We went to New Zealand, China, the US, Switzerland; anywhere where there was something for us to jump off, we’d go. We always did the jumps in tandem. Even though we could have done them solo, it just felt right to do them together.

But the biggest leap we ever took together was the leap to matrimony. We tied the knot in front of a small group of our friends and family. I had been terrified, of course. But not Jack. My Jack was always fearless. Our first dance as a married couple was to ACDC’s Thunderstruck and yes, it was as cringe as that sounds.

After getting married, we didn’t go on as many jumps as we used to. Part of it was that we were getting older. We were also getting busier. Looking back, maybe it wasn’t even that. Maybe we just thought that there would be time. Every now and then, Jack would show me a video of an amazing jump from across the globe. I would smile and tell him ‘someday’. My Jack. He was always making plans. Even at the end.

By the time we caught the cancer, it had already spread across a large portion of his pancreas and invaded several lymph nodes. Once again, I was terrified. But not Jack. Never Jack. Upon hearing the prognosis, he simply smiled, held onto my hand and asked the doctor, “What’s next?”

Surgery was not an option, but we started chemo and radiation therapy straight away. The doctors initially gave him two years but he fought on for fifteen years. Fifteen years of fighting. Fifteen years of heartache. Fifteen years of joy. Fifteen years of love. But no more jumps. Those days were behind us. Still, we were able to grow old together and that’s a better deal than a lot of people get.

A few days before he passed, Jack called me to his bed. I rushed over as fast as I could, mistaking his urgent tone for distress. But he wasn’t distressed, he was excited. His skin was pale, his hair was gone, and his face was drawn and deeply lined. Yet when I looked at his excited eyes glinting at me, I could’ve sworn they were the same blue, fearless eyes he had the day that I first met him.

“Check this out!” he exclaimed, holding up his phone.

I looked at the video on the screen. According to the title, it was drone footage of a jump in Zimbabwe. The scenery was spectacular; a waterfall fell directly behind the jumping platform, the water cascading down to the Zambezi River below. Despite my usual feelings of dread, I was taken aback by how beautiful the location was.

“111 meters,” Jack said with genuine admiration. “Crazy view, right?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Crazy.”

“Man, what I wouldn’t give…” Jack trailed off.

I remembered all the times he’d shown me a video like this. I remembered all the times I’d told him ‘someday’. I fell to my knees at the side of his bed and buried my face in his arm, hot tears of regret pouring from my eyes.

“Hey now,” he said in the voice he’d always use whenever I had a meltdown.

“I just don’t know,” I sobbed. “How to go on without you.”


The scene that extends out before me now looks even more spectacular than it had in the video. The tiny screen of the phone could not do the natural beauty of the African landscape justice, particularly in the orange glow of the sunrise. Jack would have loved to have been able to see this.

I reach into my pocket and pull out a portable mp3 player – a gift from my niece. I place the headphones in my ears and scroll through my music. I quickly find the song that I’m looking for and tap the screen. As the familiar guitar riff begins to play, I place the mp3 player back into my pocket, nodding along to the tune.

I feel the bridge vibrating with footsteps. I am dimly aware of the people running toward me from both ends of the bridge. They are yelling. Telling me to stop.

Tears slide down my face. Looking down at the river below me, I find that I am not afraid. Because of Jack. My Jack. From the day that I met him, he taught me that the unknown was not something to be afraid of, but rather something to leap at.

As Brian Johnson’s vocals approach the climax of the song, before the footsteps approaching from either side of me are able to reach me, I do as I have done so many times in the past. I jump.


“I just don’t know how to go on without you.”

Jack grew quiet and let me sob into his arm. He patted the back of my head and I could feel the frailty of his fingers as he did so.

Finally, as I began to calm down, he spoke. “I know we’ve always taken our jumps together in the past,” he said and his voice sounded as if it was a million miles away. “But this next jump is something that we’re both gonna have to do alone. And that is scary.”

He lifted my head up so that he could look at me. He smiled his toothy, dimpled smile.

“The unknown is always scary. But remember? That’s what makes life worth living.”


I freefall towards the raging waters of the Zambezi River for a total of 3.05 seconds before I feel the bungee restraints tighten around my ankles. The cord tightens and I bounce back up into the air. My stomach lurches and I embrace the familiar discomfort. It’s been a while since I’ve jumped. I forgot how much I loved it. It occurs to me that this is the first time that I have performed a jump on my own.

Only I’m not on my own. As I slowly stop bouncing and the bungee cord tightens up, I unzip my jacket and remove the urn from within. It is a simple, metal affair. Engraved on the face of the urn are the words, “My fearless Jack”.

Gears turn and my automatic pulley system begins to raise me back to the jumping platform, where there are a lot of people who are no doubt angry at me for this unsupervised and unauthorized jump. I unscrew the urn and watch as the ashes scatter into the air below. There is only the slightest breeze and the ashes fall unhindered into the river below me. The river flows on, taking my Jack with it. On to the next unknown.

July 06, 2021 05:06

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Pomma Chantachak
02:22 Aug 27, 2021

I love this story. I only wish the ending is different.


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Colin Devonshire
04:47 Jul 15, 2021

Lovely story. But no, I don't fancy jumping. Even though it felt I was with them every step of the way.


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