Caribou Falling

Caribou was falling through the sky. Far below stretched beautiful lush countryside, green hills and valleys undulating gently towards a gleaming sea at the horizon. The sky was deep blue and cloudless and from somewhere behind him the sun shone bright and warm. His ears were filled with roaring rushing raging wind which wasn’t quite loud enough to drown out the racing ba-dum ba-dum ba-dum of his heart. The wind ripped at Caribou’s arms and legs as he held them splayed out in starfish fashion and it pulled vainly at the goggles wrapped tightly around his face.

Other than the noise the wind made as it tore around him Caribou was silent as he fell. He wanted to scream. He wanted to yell and cry and thrash around and flap flap flap his arms to make it stop. He wanted to beg gods, devils, angels, demons, supermen and wonder women to catch him and save him from falling so fast so far so horribly horribly high.

But Caribou was terrified that if he opened his mouth and screamed he’d never be able to stop and he didn’t want the rest of his short life to be filled with throat tearing wailing. He’d once read that when you were falling to your death you had two options. You could scream and cry and beg. And then die. Or you could spend your remaining moments taking in the view. And then die. Either way you were going to die, so why not at least attempt to enjoy your final few breaths? This was all very simple in theory but in reality Caribou found it a very hard philosophy to follow.

How long had he been falling? Seconds? Minutes? Hours? He couldn’t tell. The ground so far below didn’t seem to be any closer. He wasn’t entirely sure if that was a good thing or not. He continued to fall, not that he had any choice in the matter, spread-eagled horizontally above a world that seemed eager to hold him close again.

With a horrible thud Caribou felt himself yanked violently upwards and all the horror of the falling was like nothing compared to the sheer terror that gripped him as his mind tried to comprehend what was happening. Had something hit him? In mid-air? What the hell was going on?

The roaring wind quietened to a feathery whisper. The unbearable plummeting diminished to a gentle floaty descent. Caribou realised that the sudden jerk had been his parachute opening and grabbing hold of the straps which were now pulling tightly at his chest. He grabbed tightly on to the straps either side of his body and looked down at his legs now dangling below him. The falling was almost bearable now that he had something to hold on to. Logically he knew that holding on to the straps made no difference at all, but it kept the terrified shrieking of the tiny little animal at the centre of his brain a little quieter, so he continued to hold as hard as he could.

“How are you going there, buddy?” The German accented voice came from just over his shoulder and for a brief moment Caribou thought he’d finally tipped over into complete insanity before remembering that he was doing a tandem jump. The voice belonged to Ralf. A silver haired stocky man in his mid 50s who never stopped smiling. He’d done thousands of jumps and was strapped very tightly to Caribou’s back controlling the fall and hopefully the landing.
Caribou had never been so happy about being pressed up against a strange older man in his life.

“Ymmf, maaa oooom.” Even Caribou couldn’t work out what he was actually trying to say so he gave up on attempting to speak legibly and simply held out one arm with his hand in a vaguely encouraging but very shaky thumbs up position.
“Good, good, my friend. Now lift your legs up high so we can land.”

Caribou looked down in surprise at how close the ground was now. He lifted his legs up horizontally in front of him as high as he could get them to go. During his fairly brief training session Ralf had been very descriptive about how horribly your legs could be broken if they weren’t high enough when landing. Caribou found this thought to be very motivating as he watched the field getting closer and closer.

With a single thump they were down. While Ralf disconnected various straps Caribou simply sat in place, oblivious to the dampness from the wet grass that was seeping through to his backside. He was down.

Caribou slowly rolled over to his hands and knees then pulled himself to his feet. His knees were shaking as he looked up at the sky to watch his fellow skydivers as they swooped around him to their own landings. He could feel his heart beating and he savoured every single ba-dum ba-dum. He was alive.

As Caribou walked slowly towards the clubhouse where he intended to purchase large amounts of alcohol he realised that in spite of the terror and in spite of the trembling in his legs and the shaking in his arms he was very glad to have had this skydiving experience. He felt just a little proud of himself for actually being brave and foolish enough to go through with it. He was also pretty damn sure that he would never ever even consider trying it again!

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