I never really know what to do with short stories once I’ve written them. Sure, there are some competitions that can be entered but a lot of them won’t allow you to share the work anywhere until they’ve decided whether it’s “good enough” or not. So with this one, after sitting on it for some time, I thought I would just post on here. At least there’s a chance somebody will stumble upon it.
I also finished another novel. That’s two now! Ths is unrelated to Forces and is more child friendly than that was. I don’t know what’s going to happen with it at the moment though. I would love to self publish it straight away as I’m so excted for people to read it, but then that can hamper the chances of getting it published in a more traditional sense. Being a one and done story (potentially) as opposed to a multi book one like Forces is; well I think it has more of chance. I know I love it. Maybe I’ll just stick the forst chapter up on Twitter.
Back to the short story then. It’s called The Jump and here it is in its entirety. I hope you enjoy it!
My name is David Hill, and I’m about to do something that I didn’t think I’d be capable of.
Standing on the edge of the bridge, looking down, hit me in a way I didn’t expect. I knew I would be scared, the fear was my main worry about all of this, but I didn’t expect the burst of excitement that would shoot through my body, urging me to jump whilst at the same time warning me not to. I could only have been teetering over this drop for a few seconds but time seemed to stop, allowing me to soak in the two different views that presented themselves to me. One was the distance, the sprawling landscape that was in front of me, stretching for miles. It caused me to think that however painful this world can be, at its heart it’s beautiful. The other wasn’t quite as inspiring, a view of the water below, the sharp rocks seemingly waiting for me to hit them, glistening in the sunlight whilst the ripples of the river splashed gently against them. It was both calming and daunting.
I began to think about what led me here, what caused me to do something that I never thought I would be able to do, the choices I’d made and the actions I’d taken.
Like anything, grief is something some people can handle better than others, it would be fair to say that I was not able to deal with it overly well. I spiralled. I lashed out at those who cared about me and I did things, things I would never be able to forgive myself for. At least this was a way to put those memories behind me and move on to whatever is next. I just hope it doesn’t hurt. It shouldn’t, it will be quick, fleeting, over before I know it. I wasn’t counting on how long the fall would seem, how many thoughts and memories I would be able to squeeze in to such a short space of time.
Before I could experience that though, I actually needed to jump. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it instantly, if at all. There was every chance that I would step down from the edge without even going through with it. I was determined not to let that happen though, even if I ended up standing here for an hour, I was going to do it, there was no turning back now.
Feeling the chilled springtime breeze against my face, I once again looked out to the distance, the brightness of the mid-morning sun starting to make it difficult to see as far as I would like. I thought of Olivia, of how she would have felt about what am I about to do. She would have known that I wouldn’t cope well without her, but then she was irreplaceable, one of a few things in life that would make me happy, even when everything else was bringing me down. It’s not just me that’s lost without her, it’s not just Dana, in my eyes the world is less for not having her in it.
When she passed, I tried to stay strong. I had Dana to think about, she needed me and I couldn’t let her down, I really tried not to. But I did. I allowed myself to spiral, to turn to alcohol and to close myself off from everyone that cared for me. I just hope she’s young enough for those memories to fade away, to be replaced by happier ones that I pray her future will bring. She deserves that. She’s a smart kid, always has been, she definitely got that from her mother rather than me, same too with her wit and attitude to life. Olivia’s influence has definitely shaped her into someone I’m proud to call a daughter. I of course helped to shape her into someone with impeccable taste in TV and movies, but of the two, I’d say it was her that had the most important effect. I’ll always be grateful for that.
I’d stood here thinking for long enough, If I didn’t do it now then I never would. Do I look down first? Do I close my eyes? Do I keep an eye on the view for as long as I possibly could, until it vanished from my eye sight? I surprised myself by deciding to look down, to see the ground rushing towards me. I’d always thought I would be an eyes shut kind of guy when it came to something like this. I took a deep breath and threw my body forward. The loss of control was overwhelming, knowing there was nothing I could do to pull myself back from the edge gave me a brief yet crippling fear, a worry that I had made a huge mistake. Still, nothing could be done now. The fall itself only lasted seconds but time for me froze, thoughts speeding through my mind at an uncontrollable rate. It was done, no turning back, those rocks in that river were hurtling towards me. The fear subsided and I suddenly felt content, happy in the choice I had made, and for the first time in a long while, I felt hope. Honestly, I wasn’t sure that was ever a feeling I would experience again.
Sometimes, life can get tough, it can get too tough, so tough that it becomes impossible not to consider that the world wouldn’t notice if you left it. I never thought I would be thinking those thoughts though, not me. As a child, I was always so full of optimism. I’d be the one making others laugh, helping them through their problems rather than getting bogged down with my own. One failed relationship changed that, my fault though, at eighteen I wasn’t really up to speed on how the world worked, I didn’t know how unfair it could be. I do now.
I switched from relationship to relationship after that, none serious, I didn’t trust myself to get close enough to someone like I previously had, if things looked to be heading in that direction, it was time for me to end it, or to act out and cause her to finish it. That all changed when I met Olivia.
One morning in a coffee shop, while I was nursing a particularly bad hangover, she appeared, as if out of nowhere. I mean that literally, I didn’t see her and she didn’t see me, until it was too late and her scolding hot coffee ended up all over me. It was difficult staying polite and composed when dealing with burning hot denim on my, well let’s just say it was a sensitive area. To be fair to Olivia, she was incredibly apologetic. Within five minutes she had asked my jeans size, popped over the road and come back with a new pair, insisting she paid. It seemed to be an opportune moment to ask her out for dinner. I never thought a burnt crotch could be such a good thing.
For a while, a long while actually, I began to be that guy who believed in things again. I wouldn’t say I was permanently miserable before she came along, but I was coasting, meandering through life with a bitterness that would never fully go away. It wasn’t just the end of that relationship that caused it, there were family problems, things out of my control that stopped me leading the life I wanted. I had begun doubting whether I would ever feel complete, whether I could ever stumble upon the thing I needed to feel whole, whatever that was. Olivia was that thing.
Everything moved fast with us. The more time we spent together, the more we found we had in common. After six months we moved in together, a year later we were engaged, a year after that came the wedding, and about eighteen months on from there, Dana arrived.
Having a child wasn’t planned. We were both happy when we found out we were having a baby, but for Olivia, that put some of her plans on hold. She was always the thrill seeker, she loved nothing more than doing things I could never have dreamt of doing, skydiving, bungee jumping, abseiling, you name it, she’d do it. When I said that we had a lot in common, that was the one thing that made us different from each other. She would often try to get me to join in, to get me to live a little, as she put it, but I wasn’t that brave, I’d much rather put a film on the telly and wait for her to get home and tell me all about it. Being pregnant though stopped her from doing any of that, at least for a while. I could see that despite how happy she was, she was also restless, missing the thrills that she experienced so regularly. She was preoccupied once Dana was born though, we both were, it didn’t seem to matter what we were missing out on after we had her. It was after Dana turned three that Olivia began to get that itch again, that need to do something exciting. I encouraged her to go for it, to do what she loved doing, I know I was just being supportive, but I’ve never forgiven myself for not at least trying to persuade her not to. Not that it would have done any good, because once Olivia put her mind to something, that was it, no talking her out of it, not that I had any right to try anyway.
Still it’s easy to think of the ‘what if’s’ in life, isn’t it? If you aren’t careful, they can consume you, a life time of regrets all building up over the years, as if they are all waiting to be unleashed in your brain when you least expect it.
This one will never leave though, how could I not be utterly plagued by regret? How could I not replay the conversations we had about it in my mind? If I had said something then maybe she would still be alive, and I wouldn’t have gone so long feeling nothing in my heart but loss.
Olivia’s death broke me, it changed me. It didn’t take long for Dana to be taken away. It was for the best, I know that now, but at the time I didn’t see things clearly, I just felt anger. I guess I was lucky that it was my parents that took her, looking back I can see they made the right call. If it had been Olivia’s that had got wind of how I was acting, how negligent I was becoming, they wouldn’t have just taken her for a while, they would have tried to keep her. Mum and Dad knew that if they had her, she could come back to me if I sorted myself out. They eventually reached the stage where they didn’t think that would be on option. Olivia’s death just felt like the final straw, the thing to finally break me.
Depression is a funny old thing. For me, it didn’t seem to me like the kind of mental illness you don’t realise you have. I knew I was suffering from it, I could feel it. At times, it was like there was a force pushing down on my head, causing me to get wrapped up in the anxiety and lack of self-worth that goes along with it. Knowing what I was suffering from didn’t make it any easier, it didn’t allow me to move through it just because the problem was identified, if anything it made it worse. I was embarrassed that something like this was happening to me.
My doctor signed me off work, for much longer than I was expecting, gave me some pills and told me to see how I go. He also asked me a question that I didn’t know how to answer, have I had any thoughts of suicide or self-harm? I answered in the way I thought I should, I told him no, I wouldn’t ever do something like that. I was lying. I don’t know why, I think it may have been due to the fact that even though the thought had crossed my mind, I hadn’t gone through with it. These were things I was thinking when I was drinking, the next day I would be miserable and shocked that I could even consider doing it. But the thought was there, and now the topic had been raised when I wasn’t under any kind of influence, alcohol or otherwise, I found myself thinking about it more.
Rather than talk about it, I buried it, certain that it would pass, just a phase, a natural stage of grief. The problem was that I wasn’t doing anything to stop it. Weeks passed without me seeing Dana, without me even talking to her or my parents. To be honest, after a while it kind of felt like she wasn’t mine anymore, like she was better off with other people, I had let her down this much already, how could I even look her in the eye again? It was like I had spiralled too far, I couldn’t see a way back. I tried for a while, attempted to see some friends I hadn’t seen since losing Olivia, but even then, amongst people I had been close to for years, I felt like an outsider, someone listening to what they were saying but with no drive to try and include myself in the conversation. I hated it. I hated being around people. Some time to myself, that’s what I needed, just me in the house, my own company, nobody around to see the pain I was in. That was another mistake.
I had always enjoyed time to myself, I was never the sort that had to be out and about, that had to be around people. Now though? I couldn’t stand it. Things I had enjoyed before no longer meant anything to me, TV, games, even food, nothing provided me any form of satisfaction anymore. Yet leaving the house and being around people wasn’t something I could do either, even walking to the shop filled me with dread, I would always put a hat on or wear a hoodie, just so there was less chance of someone recognising me. So, if I couldn’t be alone and I couldn’t deal with people, what could I do? What possible way was there to get myself out of this? I’d stopped seeing my doctor and stopped taking my medication, I didn’t like the way it messed up my sleep. I had also declined all offers of counselling, the thought of some stranger sitting there, making notes about me, made me feel sick to my stomach. I know now that I shouldn’t have dismissed these things, but the way my mind was, nobody could get through to me, I had already decided I wasn’t worth saving.
I didn’t leave a note. What could I say? I’d long passed the point where I thought anybody would actually care that I wasn’t around. Dana would be looked after, better than I ever thought I could. My parents? They’d get over it, as far as I was concerned, I had been enough of a disappointment to them over the years. they would probably be relieved. Whether I truly believed what I was thinking or not, I needed to think it, I needed to believe that nobody would miss me when I was gone.
The bridge down by the river seemed like the best spot, there was something about that river I had always found peaceful. So, that’s where I went. It had to be at night, I didn’t want to be spotted, didn’t want to make a scene. I did have a moment, thinking about what it would be like for the person that found me, my body, but I pushed it aside, it was just doubts stopping me from doing what needed to be done. I edged closer and closer to the edge, unable to look down and as I was about to take that step, as I was about to close my eyes and experience my last few seconds on this Earth, I heard a voice.
I still don’t know what caused Eliza to drive down that road at that time of night, neither does she. She had her own problems going on and was out for a drive, she was just about to head home when she decided to go on for just a little longer, to see the river glistening in the moonlight. I asked her about that recently, why she wanted to see the river, what made it pop into her mind, she couldn’t tell me, obviously in hindsight, we like to think that it was just where she was meant to be.
Not that she was in anyway prepared for seeing a man about take his own life. As it was dark and I was wearing black, she didn’t spot me until she was almost next to me. I remember her first words, ‘That water will be a bit nippy, won’t it?’ making me jump so much that I nearly slipped off the edge, I of course stopped myself, a bit strange considering the only thing I needed to do was fall. Human instinct, I guess it really is powerful.
We spoke for a while and after a few minutes, I did step down. She didn’t ask me why I was planning to do it, instead she started telling me about her day. I appreciated that, it was a distraction from my own thoughts. Her daughter, Cassie, had been suspended from school and she was worried it was her fault, that she was a bad parent raising her child wrong. She told me all about her, how she used to be so well behaved, but the divorce had changed her, caused her to act out. She had no idea about Dana, about how I was about to abandon her, but that one simple story, her rebellious child, a simple bit of human interaction, that was all it took to made me realise what I was doing, what I was leaving behind. The moment where that clicked in my brain was one I’d never forget, I instantly burst into tears, trying to explain to Eliza what had caused me to attempt something so drastic. She could barely understand me though, these weren’t dignified man tears, this was almost hysterics. I was ashamed that I was so close to suicide, that I had become that person. Eliza didn’t try to ask me to be more coherent, she just held my hand and listened as much as she could. I owe her everything.
Over time, things did improve. I sought the help I needed, I did the counselling, I went back on the medication and this time, stayed on some form of them until I found the one that worked for me. I’ll never forgive myself for nearly leaving Dana without either parent, but I’ll always be damn sure that I make it up to her for as long as she has me around.
Eliza and I remained friends after that night, now she’s the closest friend I have. She gave me her number before driving me home, I had walked the long trek to the bridge that night, hoping the time it took would allow me to be really be sure in what I was doing. Eventually I did tell her everything, well I told her everything again, this time I just made sure she would be able to understand me. She was supportive, never judging me for any of the decisions I had made, or the things I had done. It was the actually the opposite. Whilst I was recovering, getting my life back together, she said the one thing I needed to hear, that she understood why I wanted to die. That was the thing I could never get my head around, even after I had started the recovery process. Now I know that suicide isn’t necessarily a sign of weakness, or cowardice, it can be just an inability to handle what life throws at you, but like everything, that ability can be developed, you may just need to find help. If I had spoken to someone about what I was going through, about the depression, then the chances are I would never have been on that bridge. But I didn’t, and it took the good fortune of a stranger passing by to save me.
Do you know what that showed me though? That even when all seems lost, even when the decision to die has been made, life can still surprise you, it can still throw you a lifeline even if you had long given up hope of one coming along. If I had got to that bridge just a few seconds earlier, I would never have known that. It just takes one second for life to start getting better. And now it has.
I have Dana back, she’s six now, already got a bit of an attitude, along with Olivia’s passion for life. She has friends, she has hobbies, she loves surprisingly good TV, and I’m here to see it, to share it all with her. I’m enjoying life again, I’ve regained my love for steak, I’m close with my parents, I’m happier than I thought I ever could be. That doesn’t mean I don’t miss Olivia, I always will, but I’ve started to move on. It also doesn’t mean I’m depression free either, I don’t think it ever truly goes away completely, but I can manage it, I know the warning signs. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I feel like I control the illness, rather than it constantly controlling me.
The thought of moving on completely from Olivia still worries me. Dana keeps asking whether Eliza and Jenna, who is also doing well now, will move in with us one day. I always tell her I don’t know. We’re just friends, but one day, who knows. I haven’t said this to Eliza yet, but I hope in the future we can be something more, because I have that now, hope, and it’s a better feeling than I ever thought it could be.
As for Eliza, well it’s her fault I’m back on this bridge again now. She was the one to make me look back at Olivia and the things she did. I could never understand why she would risk her life the way she always had, Eliza said I should try it myself, experience what she felt.
So here I am, standing once again on this bridge, it had to be this one really, I needed it to be. I’m ready to jump. and yes, I’m terrified, but then that’s largely because certain friends decided to tell me bungee jumping horror stories in the days leading up to this. Bastards. But, I am excited, eager to feel the rush she felt, to learn a little more about her, years after she passed. So here I am, the man who never did anything adventurous, about to do a bungee jump of all things, with Dana, Eliza and my parents here to cheer me on. Not that I was being overly ‘cool’ about it all, I had asked the man who owns the equipment whether it was safe about fifty times. Regardless though, I wasn’t backing out, this was for Olivia, this was for Dana, this was for me.
My name is David Hill, and I’m about to do something that I didn’t think I’d be capable of.