Falling to your Death
Tissues. Lots of them. Lots of wet, stupid tissues, that get in your way all the time and yet, you can never be bothered to throw them away. I could never be bothered to throw them away, or maybe I just couldn't, for the simple reason - those tissues held her tears. They were all that was left of her.
I kept imagining how she sat here, thinking of what was to come next, thinking of what she could do to save herself. Save herself from all the mess I got her in. But I just couldn't understand how she could do it. How she could just jump, and leave it all. I stood in front of the window and closed my eyes…..
…. 'Three days. Three days is all I'm giving you, and if you don't do what I ask in three days, then she'll be the one to pay the price.'
'I don't understand who you're talking about,' sweat trickled down my back.
'Don't act. We both understand each other, and we both know that we do. There is no need to make do or hide - you're past that now, aren't you?'
'Three days is not a lot.' I tried to make my voice sound confident and strong.
'No. But this is all I'm giving you. Three days, and a gun. If you'd like to use a kitchen knife instead - go ahead and do it. I don't care how you do it; I want the body. I want the cold body. And if you only want there to be one of those, you'd better hurry up.'
'I can't kill a person.' My hands shook.
'You will kill one anyway. Only in the first scenario, you will kill someone who has nothing to do with you, and in the second you will kill her. I'll let you choose which one you prefer. Technically, in the second one, there will be two dead bodies - hers, and his. Choose.'
I held the phone in my shaking hand, listening to the long, owl like as it seemed to me, hoots. I took a deep breath. What did they want from me? Why me of all people? Why can't they choose one of them? Why do they need an inexperienced guy, doing such a thing? Why me? Why did they pick me from the crowd? I am a normal guy, nothing else, just a normal person. Why did they pick me?
She. If they did something to her. I couldn't think about it. I heard a loud bang in the corridor. Petrified, I ran over, and saw a small parcel lying on the floor. It was something wrapped in brown paper. I picked it up slowly, and stared at it. Then ripped the packaging off. They held their promise. It was a gun. On the inside of the brown paper it was typed - IT'S LOADED. I hid it in the bookcase between the books, and took a deep breath.
It was dark outside. I went over to the bathroom and stood in the shower for what seemed like years. When I climbed out, shivering, I realised they left me with no choice. What would I prefer - keep my hands clean, or loose her? The towel was wet from yesterday; cold and sickening against my skin.
I went into the living room, picked up the phone and slowly dialled her number, every digit appearing on the screen, imprinting in my brain.
'Hello,' I heard her distant voice, 'hello?'
I didn't answer.
'Is anybody there? Hello? I can't hear you.' She paused, and we stood there, on the different sides of the phone, listening to each other breathing. 'Speak please. It's a very bad joke. Okay I'm hanging up now.' She paused for a second, as though hoping this threat would make the silent caller speak up, but I couldn't say anything. 'Bye then.' And then the beeps.
The night went by as a nightmare - I couldn't make out when I was dreaming and when I was awake. The blankets and pillow, covered in sweat, were strangling me not letting me breathe. I woke up finally with the grey dawn shimmering behind the glass of the window.
I stared at the wall. I couldn't do it. I couldn't kill a person, whoever they were. Do I go to the police? They will kill her. This man was probably one of them - a soulless and cruel person, but was I prepared to risk the life of an innocent, young girl, to save his life? I didn't realise that I ended up in the kitchen, with a glass of water in my hand, staring at the dirty grey pink of the winter sunrise. I gulped down the freezing water and shuddered.
My phone buzzed. I looked down at the screen.
Three days. Starting from now, ending on Saturday same hour.
I looked at the time. It was ten to seven. I had three days to save her life.
The day dragged on, like a snail crawling along a bright green grass blade in the middle of a field, burning under the hot sun. I couldn't force myself to get up and do it. I was planning for the future. When I'd do it, I would book tickets somewhere warm and sunny - Greece or Italy, I would do it, even if that meant spending all my money, and take her away from here. The only place I would let her fall, would be the warm Mediterranean Sea. I wouldn't let her fall to her death.
The clock ticked. I hated the sound. Each tick tock, was creaky and sounded like a cough of an old man at night. An old man. How old was that man? Did he have a family that would miss him after his death? Would they all come to his funeral, dressed in black, women wiping tears with lacy handkerchiefs? Would they all talk of what a nice man he was, and how nothing will ever be the same without him, and then move on with their lives and forget all about him?
I got up, and went outside. It was calm, and grey. It was the part of winter when you don't understand whether it's morning, or afternoon, or evening. When you don't see where the sun is. When all you see over you is grey.
I went to the street where that man lived. It was a nice street, with terraced houses, roses growing in their front gardens. I went over to the house where he lived. A woman was standing near the gate, watering roses. They were a beautiful, light purple, just like she loved, only now in the grey, they seemed dim and faded. The woman looked up and smiled at me. Who was she? His mother? Wife? Sister?
'Can I help you with anything?' she asked, and I noticed she had a piercing in her nose and eyebrow.
She looked as if she was in her middle fifties - not the type that usually walks around with piercings. Maybe she was an ex-hippie? That was now watering roses.
'No thanks,' I did my best to smile at her, 'I was just wondering around.'
She smiled again, nodded and went back to the purple roses. I walked away. Then I came back.
'Sorry, can I have a rose please?'
She looked surprised, but gave me one.
I went over to her street, climbed the stairs and put the rose in front of her apartment's door.
When I came back home it was dark. I had two days left.
….. I sat in an armchair. I don't know how long I have been sitting here for. My hands were sweating and I was shivering. The fear; the fear of killing someone, was greater than I imagined. I did nothing, in those three days. Now I had only a couple of hours left until ten to seven. I closed my eyes and felt that I was falling. Where, when - I didn't know. I was falling; falling for three days.
I opened my eyes. The clock was coughing. It was six thirty. I jumped up. Adrenaline pumped through my veins. What if they already got her? What if there was no chance to save her? I ran out of the house, grabbing the cold gun on my way. I was chasing time - chasing those three days they gave to me. They picked me out of the crowd, they pulled me into their game, and they gave me three days, three days only. I would kill him. I would kill him and I wouldn't feel anything, because I needed to save her. The grey streets were like mirrors, echoing my footsteps. My heart quickening and my legs shook as I stood, staring at his house. That was it, he would come out now, probably to go to work, or water his stupid, light purple roses that she loved so much, and I was going to watch blood spill from his body.
I looked down at my phone. It was quarter to seven. Five minutes. Five bloody minutes to save her life. I should have done it sooner. I should have used those three days. Will she want to know me after what I will do? Will she want to look at me; will she want to hear my voice, like she used to say she did? Will she understand I did it to save her?
Twelve to. Two minutes. I couldn't do it! Two minutes to take a person's life and save another one's. Why is he not coming out?! How will I kill him?! I was shaking like mad; my whole body. Two. Her coffin would be carried out, her family and friends watching. My heart was bursting. She would be inside it. Dead. Her face pale, her eyes closed. No time left. They would take it to a deep hole in the ground. I was falling - the world was falling. They would put in there and drop a flower. Clock, coughing. They would cover it with earth. Eleven to.
He went out to the street. I held the gun up.
I ran, ran again, stumbling. His face, covering with blood, dripping from his forehead, the gun lying a couple of metres away from him, in my mind. I ran to the house where she lived, climbed up the stairs, my heart ready to break. The doorbell rang under my sweaty fingers. A man dressed in black with a gun opened the door to me. My blood turned cold and my head began to spin. The fear was eating me from inside. But he smiled at me.
'You did it,' he said, 'no more worries for you.' and went away.
She was alive. They knew I did it. I ran inside the apartment. It seemed empty. I threw the door to her room open and froze. She was standing on the windowsill. The window was open, her hair wavering slightly in the wind. She looked back at me, surprise glued to her face.
'They said…' her voice was light as whisper, 'they'd kill me.' She stumbled and fell.
But not to the Mediterranean Sea. She fell to her death.
……I lay on the floor for a long time, until my tears turned cold from the wind that strolled, uninvited, into the room through the open window. I got up and stared at the wet tissues, with her tears. She preferred to die herself, rather than getting killed. Why did I wait? Why did I not do it the first day? I killed a man, a living man, who had a wife or a mother and light purple roses, like she loved. I killed a man, and I didn't save her, and I waited and fell, and was falling still.
I was falling. Falling ever since the day they picked me from the crowd and told me I had three days to take a person's life. But we were all falling. We were all like feathers, falling down. Falling all our lives. Falling with each year, falling with each day, with each night, with each cough of the clock. We were falling to our deaths. And so was that man. And so was she. And so was I.
I walked up to the window. My fall was just shorter than everybody's. I only fell for three days.
The curtains danced. I looked at the distant street for a moment. It was far away and alive, not knowing it was falling.
I ran my fingers through my hair and jumped. No. I fell. And this was my shortest fall. Because I knew that at the end of it, I would meet her.