As the plane levels off at 7000 feet it feels like we’re slowing down. They open the transparent roller door and a guy in a blue suit turns his head to the right, looks at me but through me then he’s gone. If you blink you missed him. The girl with the purple malformed helmet for the built-in camera holds the bar above her head and peers out for a few seconds. The whiteness and windy exterior silhouettes her as she looks down and leans forward slightly, is she jumping after him? No. She pulls the shutter closed, my ears equalize and I can hear more.
“How was he?” My instructor yells.
She shakes her head.
“He spun out of control”, she smiles. I sense my instructor shake his head knowingly. She sits down.
I ask a couple of questions above the rumble. Everyone is nervous but acting cool. I hold my hand up in front of my face – it’s shaking. I breath deeply, aware of the physical sensations and press my other hand against the shaking palm. Looking round I see my instructor has his eyes closed meditating on his fate. I can sense his breathing is shallow and more rapid than mine. We are all bunched together sitting between the other mans thighs. The plane climbs higher above the clouds and the green squares of land fade behind them. Snaking in spirals. The flying dragon is waiting for us to ride it down.
Plane slows again. Things are in motion. There is not even time to think forwards or backwards. ‘Now’ is all there is. My heart thumping, drawing atttention to itself. I remind it that this is what it desires. Trepidation is not fear, just not knowing. I literally have to sit on the instructors lap. and he buckles us together. My flying cap is fixed on. Minor details, it is too tight. He notices and asks me then adjusts it. Details. “Are you wearing contact lenses?”, yes. “Okay, we’ll make your goggles a little tighter than normal.”
He shuffles forward. Others are also shuffling towards the open door and instantly vaporizing in to the whiteness. We are at the door, its quick. Good. Arms crossed, hands on shoulders. Knees back. Feet back more. Look left. Smile for the camera. Flash. The moment. The moment.
The moment. Cold thin air ploughs through my face. My arms are crossed, hands on my shoulders. Legs arching back like the videos. Two hands slap my shoulders. Look fowards forwards the camera. Smile. Its cold. There is a man 10 feet away waving at me and smiling at a hundred miles an hour – hands flapping happy dancer. The freefall is counterpointed by the clouds. We are falling through clouds. Grab two for Ella and Rosa. The plane gone.
We were always falling.
The earth appears again. Hello you. We spin counter clockwise. My instructor is gaming. He gets paid to do this! My 50 seconds at 55 meters per second is over now. The camera guy zips out of sight. The shoot is open and we slow. Fast. But we’re still falling. Only that’s under control. I feel elongated. Going over a hill and down. The rippling flapping of the £10,000 parachute comforts me. The wind snake hisses through the silk in awe. I can fill my lungs more easily, more full than ever before.
“Well done” my instructor says, “how was that”.
“Just brilliant” I say. We can talk. I equalise my ears, they crunch-pop like I used to do as a kid.
The Earth growing in my eyes. Looming like Google Earth on super-steroids. I say as much.
“I love Google Earth” he says.
“My favourite video game” I say.
He twists the shute, we arch around in a spiral, I can see straight down. The air is very cold, like the ocean. But thin. It is Air. Stupid. I look up and marvel at the technology and fleetingly, DaVinci’s genius. The view is crystal. The horizon connects all around, 360 degrees. I can see behind my head.
“How did you like that spin?” he says, rascal.
“Not really.” My organs aware of their freedom for the first time. Its falling but more.
“No thank you”, I say.
I can see other people falling. Small.
“Where’s our guy?” the camera man.
I look down. Maybe 2000 feet, racing ahead.
“He’ll be on the ground to film us landing”, he says.
Up higher we rehearse the landing. As you do. Knees up, palms behind calfs. “Good”.
The air is very cold still but not as difficult to take Oxygen from. My lungs and face and spaces in my head fill like never before. Inflating with effort, they yearn for more oxygen. No worries. I’m enjoying this moment. Everything else is not there. My mind is only filling with the total moment. A field of microscopic cows. The green patchwork quilt growing. I wave. My instructor is manouvering us left and right. More spins.
“Where are we aiming for?” I say.
“See that patch of lightened grass over there?”. A secret message is scorched in to the earth with weed killer for us by some other rapscallion.
“How high are we now?”
“About 600 feet.” Its nearly over but it is enough.
Knees up. All procedure now. Danger time but i’m safe.
Down down down.
“Okay, put your feet down Dan”.
I take my weight fully, its over.
Everything has changed.
Or is it just me.