After a minute, I reluctantly reached back and ripped the chord, and felt my whole body get tugged backward as the chute deployed, immediately arresting my free fall. The feeling of right and calm slowly began to fade, but the thrill was still there. I held on to the handles, tugging at the sides of the canopy as I floated down toward the street below me. There was an empty lot not far away, and I was circling around it, aiming to drop right in its center. I knew Mike and Jared were idling in a car at the corner, ready to pick me up and speed off before the cops got there. If the cops were even coming, which they probably weren’t. But I wasn’t making that mistake again.
It was only my second night jump. They were pretty damn dangerous, for a bunch of reasons, and I avoided them if I could. The first time, the moon had been full, which made it much easier to see everything below me. This time, though, there were clouds obscuring the sky, and the wind was much stronger than we had anticipated. I was having a hard time keeping myself in line as I spiraled closer to the ground.
My heart was hammering in my chest. I felt more alive, more free, than I had at any other time in my life. Everything disappeared from my mind, all of the fear and the agony and the bullshit of promotional deals and clothing brands. Falling from buildings and drifting through the sky was what I lived for, not all the other shit, like TV interviews and commercial spots. If I could, I’d jump every single day of my life, and everything else could go to hell. But I was stuck in contracts, and even though they paid me pretty damn well, I hated all the shit that kept me from drifting in the air.
I didn’t care about the fame. I just wanted to fly.
I could see the lot coming up fast. I took a deep breath.
And then the wind hit me. I yanked on the handle, trying to right myself, but I was pretty much blown horizontal, thrown off to the side. I was dropping fast, yanking at the thing, trying to control the spin, but it was too late. I could see the ground tearing up at me and my heart hammered a million miles an hour, threatening to jump right out of my ribs. It was ten feet away and I struggled with the chord. It was five feet away and I pulled hard. It was inches away. I braced myself.
My legs crashed into the windshield of the car, splintering every bone imaginable, and pain tore up through my entire body. The only sound was breaking glass and crunching metal.
The world began to go black.
I thought I was dead.
I woke up with a gasp, drenched in sweat. Weak morning light filtered in through the curtains. It took me half a second to understand that I was safe in bed, that the crash had happened a while ago.
It was the same dream I had almost every night.
I sat up, ignoring the ache in my shins and thighs. Fucking dreams. I sat there for a minute, breathing deeply and gathering myself as the phantom pain and the body-breaking dread began to slowly fade away.
Every morning with this shit. I woke up, sweating like I had been dipped into a swimming pool, forced to relive one of the worst moments in my entire life. The pain and the fear. The agony.
I couldn’t wait to get my shit together. I couldn’t wait to jump again.
As I shuffled to the side of the bed, ignoring the pain that moved up my thighs as I swung my legs over the side, I heard my doctor’s voice in my head again. Lincoln, son, you probably won’t ever skydive again. The landing itself could re-break your legs, and who knows if they’ll even properly heal. I sneered, annoyed. He didn’t even know the difference between BASE jumping and skydiving.
And then it was time for one of the worst parts of my day. I braced myself against the nightstand as I slowly put weight onto my legs, pushing up and off the bed. Pain threatened to overwhelm me, but I grunted and ignored it as I slowly stabilized, the excruciating lightning slowly fading to the dull ache that wouldn’t go away no matter how much rehab I did. I moved my hand from the nightstand and grabbed the cane that I had left propped up against the wall and moved it forward, taking a step.
It hurt like hell. But at least I was up and out of the wheelchair and hobbling around on my own power. I didn’t need anything to help me out of bed, let alone to help me shower or brush my teeth. I couldn’t have imagined Aubrie seeing me like that, shattered legs, unable to do anything on my own. That was pathetic, and I wasn’t the type of guy to let people take care of me.
I moved across the room and into the bathroom. Every time I stopped in front of a mirror and saw my tattooed body, and the cane I had to use to help me walk, I couldn’t help but reflect on how stupid it had been to go through with that jump.
True, it had been fucking amazing, one of the best jumps of my life, but it had cost so damn much. Crashing into that car, the agony, and then waking up the next day in the hospital surrounded by lawyers and cops all wanting to know how I got up to the top of that building and did I know I broke a hundred different laws and blah blah, all a bunch of bullshit.