Bewildering Stories

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The Edge of the World

by Jörn Grote

“When people jump from the edge of the world, I have to bring them back. That is my job,” I told the people who had come to see the edge. “So, if you want to make my job easier, don’t jump.” I heard some of the tourists laugh.

People who fell or jumped from the disc normally would die from cold or oxygen deprivation when they fall out of the flattened sphere surrounding the disc, so there would be only a small time window in which to reach them and fly them back up to the disc.

Accidents happened often, mostly people who lost their hold or idiots who tried to prove how brave they were by balancing at the edge. Every group of tourists who traveled to the edge had at least one of those, but suicides were more rare.

“How does it look like when you’re falling?” a girl asked me.

I knew immediately that she was a suicide candidate. I had seen that look often enough in their eyes. Everyday I curse the idiot who wrote the book about falling from the edge after a broken love. The guy hadn’t even been near the edge his whole life. Still, to this day young people jumped. The only thing I could do was hope I was fast enough when it happened. Or that I had erred in my prediction about the girl.

“I remember the faces of the people I’m saving, but while it’s happening I’m not much for thinking or looking at the background.” I could see she wasn’t satisfied with my answer, but what else could I tell her? There was nothing romantic in dying.

When she jumped, I missed it completely. She used the one moment I was distracted by one of the other tourists.

Without much thought, I followed her over the edge. I had saved so many people that I did it like a machine. Activating the fly-suit. Accelerating. Synchronizing the speed. Picking up the jumper. Stopping and flying up again.

With the girl in my arms, I flew to the house where all of us jumpers lived. Since every tourist group had at least three of us, I didn’t have to worry about keeping an eye on the rest of the tourists.

When we arrived I wrapped a blanket around her and gave her something hot to drink. Even her short fall had taken her to the colder areas of the atmosphere of the disc.

“It’s okay,” I said to her, even though it wasn’t. She looked at me and I could see the shame she felt, shame about trying something stupid like that, shame that she had even failed and that all the people had seen it.

“You asked me how it looks like when I’m falling. The truth is, when you’re falling and no one is there to bring you back, no one to stop your fall, then it looks like the world is not much better than hell, or death itself. But if you look back and you see that someone you don’t even know risks his life to save you, believe me, life looks much brighter. Everyone that works here has been there.”

I gave her another cup of hot tea. I saw that my speech had worked. It didn’t work on everyone, but young people who attempted suicide because of a damn book were sometimes gullible. I had been, when I was her age.

Later, when she had fallen asleep, I stepped out onto the balcony and looked at one of the artificial suns sinking down the horizon of the disc. The adrenaline push I always felt after a jump had fallen to a normal level again. Silently, I laughed.

Saving people was one of the reasons I did my job. The other was the jumping itself, the thrill of it. These were the moments when I really felt alive. I could still remember the moment all those years ago, discovering, while jumping to my death, that there was something worth living for. But someone saved me, and I came back to jump again and again, until they hired me.

For me, living is jumping over the edge of the world. And coming back.

Copyright © 2005 by Jörn Grote

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