I was starting to be able to decipher individual buildings and black shadowy shapes which must have been trees and shrubbery. I didn’t have much time left. Cold sweat ran down my back, and I noticed a heavy object strapped there….a backpack. Could I be so lucky? I fumbled around with the straps which were bound across my shoulders and around my chest, sending me spiraling out of control again. Finally I found it….A large shiny ring was attached to a red cord hanging next to my right shoulder. The buildings were closer now. I could tell they were houses, following a wave-shaped grid of roads and street lights. A suburb. I saw a yellow car, illuminated and cartoon-like under the glare of lights, winding its way along one of the roads. For a moment I wondered whether they would see me falling and stop to watch. Time seemed to stand still as I ripped on the red chord as hard as I could. At first I didn’t think anything would happen, but then, in a whoosh, I was jerked back in a ferocious tug, forcing out the small amount of air which was left inside my lungs. I gasped and was suspended in mid-fall.
Instinct seemed to take over. There were rings hanging on the chording attached to the parachute and I grabbed them, sending my suspended figure rocking. I tested them out and found that I was able to navigate myself by pulling on the chords. I aimed for a dark expanse, which looked like a field surrounded by trees. I could see that the field was empty, a perfect landing spot. The ground was rushing toward me now, I was coming in so fast. Then a sudden gust of wind blew me to the side. I tilted in midair, my parachute heading for the looming darkness of trees. Before I could compensate for the change in direction, the parachute was snagged in the grappling grasp of knobby branches. Once again, a tremendous tug forced me backwards, but then the pressure was released, leaving me swinging in the tree.
My heart pounding in my ears, I took a few deep breaths and looked around me. I was positioned about twenty feet from the ground, my feet suspended in a surreal air dance. I was sprinkled in golden leaves, spiraling in their descent to join the jumble of color on the ground below. Another gust of wind rocked me sharply to the side, creating another flurry of cascading color. The tree seemed to protest my presence, making a loud groaning sound as I swayed heavily. A few cracks, a sudden drop, and the branches began to give way. Another gust, an explosive pop overhead, and I was falling once again. The ground came at me with fury, and this time there was no softening of the blow.
A groan escaped my lips. I was lying on the gold and rust-colored blanket of leaves, my legs awkwardly sprawled underneath me, looking up at the draping black carcass of my parachute still tangled in the branches overhead. It loomed over me like a ghostly representation of the Grim Reaper, its billowing folds fighting the clinging branches. Lying there, I was immediately immersed in the scent of dirt and decaying foliage, reminding me of….what? I don’t know. I can’t remember. I fingered one of the crinkled leaves, and the delicate framework crumbled in my hand, releasing more of the scent.
I was alive.
Groaning again, I tried to sit upright. I was caught up in the chords from my parachute and had to release myself from their entrapment. Gingerly I touched my legs, my ankles, my feet. Other than a dull throbbing ache, I seemed to have escaped any major damage. I tested them further by getting to my feet. I could walk. I took a few steps, but a wave of nausea swept over me and I lurched forward. Sucking in air, I tried to right myself again. I was so dizzy, and my vision was fuzzy around the edges. Maybe the shock of the fall….I felt a trickle running down my neck. Touching the sticky wetness, I withdrew my hand and found it covered in congealing blood.
I decided that I better find someone to help me. I didn’t even know where I was. The houses that I flew over couldn’t be too far. I started to head in the direction of the lights, crossing through the empty field. As I approached the road I could make out a dark house adjacent to the field. I decided to try it out. It was probably the owner of the property I just landed in. There was a dilapidated barn behind the house, with farming equipment and a collection of rusted out vehicles scattered throughout the yard.
The house itself was dark, but not uninviting. From the lack of lighting, it looked like a nondescript grey desperately in need of a paint job. Maybe an old farmer and his wife lived here. There was a pair of mud-encrusted work boots by the front door. There had to be someone at home.
The sagging screen door squeaked noisily as I opened it to knock. I waited a few minutes and knocked again. Finally I heard some movement inside the house and the porch light flicked on, momentarily blinding me.
The door opened and I caught my breath. This was no aging farmer. A man in his thirties was standing there, his brown hair disheveled from sleep, a red and white flannel shirt hastily thrown over a white undershirt. But what caught my attention the most was the fact that I was looking down the barrel of a shotgun, pointed directly at me.
The man seemed to falter a little when he saw me. He lowered the gun.
“Who are you? What do you want?”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know where to go,” I stammered. But then I stopped.
I didn’t know who I was.
Check back tomorrow to find out more!