This is the story about Jack, and the day that poor Jack died. It was on the day of his 29th birthday. Jack had decided to celebrate the big day by going skydiving for the first time. Not being one to take the easy way out, he had signed up for the expert course and after six long hours of boring safety lectures, it was finally time for the drop. This was quite the big deal for Jack, for you see when he was a little boy his brother accidentally pushed him out of a third-story window. Much to everyone’s surprise, Jack was unharmed by the fall, this however did not stop him from fearing long drops or the sudden stops that accompany them.
The instructor had mentioned that this was a fool-proof drop. Each student’s parachute would be tethered to the airplane, and as the student left the plane, the parachute would automatically deploy. If by some freak occurrence the tether should sever, there was also a backup parachute with a sensor which would automatically deploy in case of emergency. This helped relax Jack a little, but very little.
The airplane took to the air with Jack, the instructor, and two other brave souls aboard. Jack had cleverly positioned himself so that he would be the last to jump. Cleverly, or so he thought. As each student took the big leap, Jack’s heart pounded harder and louder. He wondered if the others could hear it. He wondered if he could change his mind. “Jump or don’t, but there are no refunds,” the instructor said at the beginning of class. “Well, I already paid, so I’d better do this,” thought Jack. It was finally his turn, and he now knew the drill very well.
The instructor slid open the door and gave Jack the sign to proceed. He positioned his feet on the small pad just outside the plane and grabbed on to the strut on the wing. He nervously looked back at his instructor, who smiled and nodded, Jack stood and pulled himself onto the oncoming wind, fist by fist, across the wing until he was hanging on like superman. One final glance at the instructor, who was patiently waiting, giving the “okay” sign with his hand. “Okay indeed, “ thought Jack, “Look up and let go.” The steps were simple enough; look up, let go, count to five; by then the tether on the parachute would deploy and all he’d have to do is listen to the man on the walkie-talkie guiding him to the landing zone.
“One-Mississippi, Two-Mississippi, Three-Mississippi, Four-Mississippi, Five-Mississippi, Six-Mississippi, Seven??” Jack turned his head to try to look for the tether and saw that it was not attached to the plane, but was flapping freely in the wind instead. Although Jack was completely terrified, the words hammered into his head during the six-hour course reminded him of what he had to do. If his primary chute had deployed, he would have to execute an emergency maneuver to cut it loose in preparation for the emergency chute, but it never deployed, so all he had to do was wait.
He tried to mentally calm himself, something which did not come easy as the ground quickened its approach. He was surprised by the pure silence of the free-fall. “Any second now,” he told himself, “really, any second.” He heard a sound behind him and felt a moment of relief, he looked back in search of a deploying chute, but instead saw what appeared to be two eagles fighting in midair. That would have been of interest at any other moment, he thought, but not this one. Looking back down, Jack finally started to panic. He reached frantically, trying to grab the tether and pull it by hand. He twisted, writhed, and tumbled until finally, Jack met with the Earth.