“Countdown” is one of the outstanding stories of the first biannual International Short Story Contest 2018 written by Tiasha Majumdar, Indian Educational School, Kuwait.
Three minutes and thirty seconds.
She said she’d be here. Sharp noon, the cliff that overlooks the lake, beneath the bleached tree; he stood there, digging the cuffs of his shoes into the soil leaving light embellishments within the grass.
He looked up, ignoring what so clearly tempted him to look down. His gaze shifted to the lake, while a thought knocked at the back of his mind, wondering what it’d be like to jump- without care, without worry, to jump to be trapped in an envelope transcending beyond emotion.
Wishful thinking perhaps and he crumpled up the thought and threw it away somewhere in the cobwebbed corner of his mind that he was so scared to explore.
Within thirty seconds he managed to shift his train of thought from jumping to running. Nothing could snap him out of that instrumental reverie that was assured with an evening run- midnight, if you’re daring- and Chopin playing through earphones. Perhaps a car that could run into him, or a car that he ran into- none the difference, it was the three dimensions keeping him rooted between two states of matter- a solid and a solid, flesh and metal; the irony of iron in blood wasn’t lost to him.
Of course, with the expediency of music.
Two minutes and thirty seconds.
She was a minute late. His feet started tapping and fingers twitching; anxiety marked with the trickle of sweat down his neck. He knew his mind would go haywire soon; he was bereft of distraction, no place to run, no earphones to block out the sound. Neither was there a place he could sink into; 6 feet underground seemed alluring at the moment.
He decided to quiet himself down with counting sheep; a tried and true method although unnecessary while surrounded with the entire space one could ever want. He remained within his bubble though, tapping his fingers against his jean with every sheep he imagined jumping over a fence.
She arrived with a huge grin plastered onto her face. He never understood why she walked around with half her face pulled up like that but he knew it was a choice while he’d rather have his eyes sewn together- a tribute to his childhood teddy bear, he comforted himself with the thought.
One minute and thirty seconds.
She decided she had had enough; made the decision to leave, told him she couldn’t keep pulling him out of inattention every time.
He decided he had had enough; in a different sense though. He watched her walk away, memorizing the slight prance to her step, realizing the lightness she had found came with letting him go- a burden surely; the epitome of the anxious stereotype.
He waited until she disappeared within the trees that trapped the sunlight between them.
He started running. His feet wouldn’t stop, even on their accord; he kept moving, milking out the very last of his exhilaration born out of his heartbreak. There he was, in his 17 years, the first time he acted on his thoughts.
He didn’t stop when his eyes shifted down in a moment of pure weakness and met the last few inches of ground.
He didn’t stop when the land gave way to air.
He went back to three minutes in the past- jump without care, jump without worry.
There he was, trapped in the envelope transcending emotion; only the thought of morality remained. This was the coward’s way out, the fact was hammered into his head until it stuck like a nail in the wall, but he didn’t care.
He didn’t care and that’s when it hit him; he grew up on the way down.
The cliff was 200 feet down anyway, and somewhere within those 200 feet he realized there was no point to it; the collection of atoms that made him up didn’t have a point to it. Doing this didn’t have a point to it.
He grew up; matured in a way he couldn’t on the ground.
Grew up or cascaded down?
It was all for waste anyway. He let the water take over him, accepting that dreary blue was where he belonged. 6 feet underground?
He would take the water over land any day.