Monday, August 7, 2017

Leap of Faith by Wei Li

I sighed and hung my head. The suit was being fitted to me and my head was still foggy from the completely idiotic reason why I was standing eighty metres above a river, straps now tight and rope secured. Flabbergasted at my situation, I tried to not look over the edge of the platform.

A bet. A cursed lost bet was the answer to the question 'Why are you bungee jumping at the top of a river in a remote forest instead of finishing your project back home?' I didn't know why I agreed to it in the first place. My co-workers were acting so childish and challenged me, knowing my every weakness in every game we played. My fate was decided the moment I said yes to them. 

And so, they were standing on the platform with me, well, behind me, giggling like schoolgirls and filming my very reaction and move on their phones. Of course, this was a moment they definitely did not want to forget, rather, let me forget. 

The water looked more like kilometres below me, the river just a blue brushstroke in my eyes. Blue and white contrasted with the lush green of the humid rainforest which lined the banks of the river, making the wide river seem even thinner and further away. About halfway down the river, from what I could see, there was a gorge, smoothed by the constant waves of water hitting it over and over again, the gorge towered over the river, and the platform on which I stood. 

All this made me dizzy. Some might've called the sight beautiful, but to me, it was terrifying. I was never an outdoorsy person. 

"Okay. You're all set, sir," the instructor said, tugging at another strap on my chest. "You are very safe with us, sir. Do you want me to push you off?"

I shook my head hurriedly, ignoring the peculiar look he momentarily flashed me. Turning back to the edge of the platform I steeled myself, exhaling. One look at the not-so-magnificent view before me and I felt nauseous again. 

"Actually, can I go back?" Is what I wanted to say, but the knowledge that I had never done anything outside of my comfort zone in my few years of adulthood stopped me. I took a step back, and in a surprising burst of courage, I leapt off the edge. 

"AHHHH, WHAT HAVE I DONE?!" I screamed as I fell down, down, down. 

My stomach felt as if it had been left back at the platform and my heart had crawled up to my throat. The scream that echoed through my ears was one I had unwillingly let out in my pure terror, and my heart was thumping to some unknown beat. 

The water came closer to my body and my entire left leg was submerged for less than a second...then I was flung back up. Weightless, and travelling much slower I left out a breath I didn't realise I was holding. I felt like I was flying, the way I just kept on going on. Maybe this wasn't so bad. 

Then I heard the rip. 

I looked up, eyes wide, and saw a growing hole in the stretchy rope out of arms' reach. "Oh no," I whispered softly. Then I realised was really was going on. "OH HELL, THERE'S A HOLE!!! BROKEN! HELP!!!!! IN THE ROPE!! GET ME OFF THIS THING!!"

Gravity took charge and I was going down again. The rope gave way and I could here the faint panicked noises of the small people on the platform which, just moments ago, I foolishly leapt off. My own panic engulfed my mind as I went down, my lungs trying to take in as much oxygen before I died. The river was growing bigger in my eyes again. This time I didn't stop screaming. And this time, the water didn't get just my leg. 

It hit me hard, or rather, I hit it.

The river wasn't just cold and wet, it felt more suffocating under the water, even though I was holding this biggest breath I had ever taken. I struggled to see and my body hurt from sudden and solid impact of the water. After what felt like minutes, but I knew were just seconds, I felt my barely-there eyesight begin to dim. I hadn't had a breath yet. 

With what little energy I had left, I pushed my sluggish limbs and forced them to propel myself up. With a grateful splash, I broke through the surface and gulped in air. And a couple mouthfuls of accidental water. 

Somehow, I gained energy when I had oxygen back in my system. Somehow I swam clumsily to the nearest river bank and collapsed on it, heaving for breath. Then I just lay there, breathing raggedly and trying to recover. I must have lain there for hours, the water hitting my legs repeatedly, as the sun had disappeared without my knowledge and the moon had risen.

Flabbergasted would not even come close to describing my shock at the incompetence of the instructor and equipment. It was truly peculiar, how stupid people could be when it came to others' safety. And of course, I'd have to check my time management when I got back. 

"Well," I stated, still not quite believing the reality of my circumstances. I'd have to follow the river back to the village. It did help that I could see the lights of some tower over the top of the gorge, but I'd have to either scale the cliff face or go around. I had no climbing skills whatsoever. 

With a new resolve, I sat up and turned to the thick rainforest and regarded the buzzing mosquitoes, humid atmosphere and squishy ground. And I knew it was going to be a long night. 

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