Fearing the Fall

    I'd been thinking about this for a long time.  Well, ever since they found the cancer I guess.  It wasn't bad yet, but I had seen what it did to my sister.  Seen how painful it was for her in the end.  That's not for me.  For about a month now, I knew it would be the bridge; the bridge at night.  Why end things in a lonely room? Why not savor the freedom of release?  I even had dreams about it.  Cool wind in my face, sparkling stars above me, and shimmering black water below.  A few seconds of perfect swan-dive exhilaration, carefree flight into the blackness, and then oblivion.  What came after that, I didn't know; didn't care.  All I did know was that this world sucked and I wanted out.  I spent the evening having a few laughs with some strangers at a bar over on the Southside. I had a decent buzz going, so I figured hey, why not tonight?  The rent is past due on Monday, what better time?  Walking up the incline of the bridge, that thought made me chuckle a little.  It was a beautiful night, clear skies, nice breeze.  When I got to the apex of the bridge, I put my hands on the rail, took a deep breath, and looked over, down into the water.  I knew I couldn't go from here.  I've heard about people surviving from here.  We can't have that.  It's the tower for me.  Still holding the rail, I tilted my head back, and looked at the steelworks looming up two hundred feet over my head.   Lit from below by a rushing stream of headlights, the tower vanished into a black silhouette against the glowing night sky.  Standing there gazing at the pinpoints of light, I swear I could perceive the motion of the earth turning on its axis. 

    The bottom of the ladder that led up the tower was surrounded by a cage at the bottom, but I was able to shimmy up the steel beam next to it in the shadows where passing traffic couldn't see me.  When I was even with the top of the cage, I grabbed a ladder rung, and swung myself over.  Nothing to stop me now.  About a third of the way up, I had to take a break and catch my breath.  I hadn't realized how strenuous it would be climbing a ladder this tall.  I stopped several more times on the way up.   As I worked my way higher, I noticed the metal ladder rungs were feeling more and more corroded.  a few of them even felt loose.  By the time I got up near the top, my arms and legs were burning.  It must have taken me nearly an hour.  I had to rest between every step.  Looking up at the end of the ladder, I could see that it ran right up into the bottom of some kind of steel trap door that must have opened onto the tiny platform at the very top of the tower.  The end is in sight.  I also noticed that the final section of ladder looked to be solid rust.  It also appeared to be completely loose on one side, and slanted down.  It's been the same all my life.  Nothing is easy.  The final ten feet was going to be gut wrenching.  Every ladder rung now was flaking off large chunks of rust when I put my hands on them.  I looked back down the ladder.  If I fell from here, there were enough crisscrossing steel beams to snag me before I dropped too far.  That could mean spending months with a mangled, broken body in a hospital room somewhere.  Definitely not part of my plan.  I had to make it up onto that platform where I could jump clear.  By the time I got my entire weight up onto the last ladder section, I could almost hear it crumbling apart.  My heart was pounding, and my limbs and lungs were on fire, but that door was only two feet above my head.  Thankfully, there didn't appear to be any kind of lock on it.  I gingerly reached up and wrapped my fingers around the final ladder rung just inches below the steel trap door.  With every ounce of strength I had left, I launched myself upward, striking the door with the palm of my free hand.  It only opened about six inches, but somehow I was able to hook my arm up into the door frame while the ladder crumbled to pieces and fell down below me.  This all happened in the same instant, and I let out a scream that sounded way too much like a little girl.

    The steel door was pinching my arm, but I had a pretty good hold on the frame of the trap door if I could just get the thing opened.  I grabbed the edge with the fingers of my free hand, and managed to swing my leg up high enough to give it a hard kick.  Again I heard the girlish scream, but this time it wasn't me.  "Stop it!" "What are you doing?" a shaky panicked voice screamed.  You have got to be kidding me.  There's somebody up there.  Do I have to deal with crowds everywhere I go?  "Let me up there!"  "The ladder just fell apart!" I shouted,  weakly kicking at the door again.  "No! Stop it! There's barely enough room for one person to stand up here! You can't open that door without knocking me off!"  she sobbed.  "Well what the hell are you doing up there?" I growled.  She was crying uncontrollably now, "I'm gonna jump! I'm gonna kill myself!"  I tried to swing my foot up again for another kick, but I had zero strength left.  I might be able to pull myself up somehow if that door was opened, but as it was, I was stuck there, hanging in mid air.  "Listen to me." I said in my best calm and collected voice.  "You have to lift up the door and let me up there.  I can't go back down.  The ladder is gone."  She was still sobbing, but with a little less panic in her voice.  "I told you I can't!  The door is what I'm standing on! There is no room!"  What the hell was she talking about?  "What the hell are you talking about? How did you get up there?"  She tried to explain in a slightly calmer voice.  "I swung around the other side of the ladder.  Swing around on the other side and you can climb up over the edge" she said.  "The ladder's gone!  Forget the ladder!" I shouted, loosing my temper.  "Why don't you just jump if you're going to jump?" I snapped, loosing all patience.  I could feel the door shake slightly as she silently sobbed.  I took a deep breath, and paused to ponder my unique new situation.  After a moment, I said in a gentler voice, "What's your name anyway?"  "Mia" she said, sniffling.

The End

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