The wind casually drifted past the edge of the roof of One World Trade. The calm, cool day seemed a perfect day to jump off it. A beautiful set of stairs constructed of hardwood led up to the opening in the glass wall surrounding the edge. Kyle Hargrove stood at the base of the stairs waiting. A technician was busy strapping equipment to his jumpsuit as if he was nothing more than her doll to dress up. Kyle wasn’t paying attention.
Kyle found himself hesitating for the first time in 26 years. He remembered the last moment of hesitation while standing there on the roof of the tallest building in New York City. The new kid in school, Daryl, had decided to call the number on the flier hanging on the cork board by the office of the elementary school. Daryl was ready to take the leap then and his excitement had overpowered Kyle’s doubt. Hearing the gentle whistle of the brisk air pass the opening only three feet in front of him brought the reality of what he had signed up to do into sharp focus.
Kyle looked out and saw the Statue of Liberty, and nearly all of Staten Island. He wondered if the tourists on the boat had any idea that he would be jumping off the nearly 1,800 foot high ledge. Down there somewhere somebody was getting a slice of pizza, or a lap-dance, or a million-dollar deal signed. All of this would happen whether he went through with this insanity or not. I could walk away still, right. Can I back out?
Dylan Williams stood behind him, smoothly and gently coaxing him forward. “We’re here! Finally! I’m so PUMPED! Let’s do this!” His technician was fighting to strap the gear onto him with his arms waving wildly.
Smooth and gentle weren’t common descriptions of Kyle’s friend. He had crashed a motorcycle in their youth attempting to ride up and over a dirt hill by climbing the transition to a four-foot high vertical instead of riding down it. This proved that Dylan resembled a physicist in exactly zero ways–either in intellect or common sense. Kyle stood at the top of the hill to catch his friend’s hand and pull him up so the bike wouldn’t crush him as it tumbled to the bottom of the hill.
Dylan was there for Kyle, too. When Kyle had been engaged to a drug addict named Tammi right after high school, it was Dylan that gave Kyle both the news of her affair and the hand up when he finally broke it off with her. That leap was one that Dylan had stopped Kyle from taking. The leap in front of them was entirely different.
The pair had already signed the contracts and were strapped up with equipment, so backing out was not really an option. I can’t back out now. I think they would own my mom’s house if I do. All the same, he knew deep down he wanted to do this. Since the pair first met in pre-school, they had never agreed so completely on a decision. This one was right. It was important.
The brochure for this great leap was pinned to the board in the center of the train station closest to their apartment and would have been lost in the visual noise of a thousand hustlers trying to make a buck with pull-tabs on their fliers. It would have except one cryptic question caught Kyle’s eye. “Ever want to just get out of the Solar System?” He yanked the paper from the board and slid it in his bag. Kyle had some idea what was being asked. Dylan was just ‘up for whatever’ so he went along on this adventure.
The arguments for taking this leap were strong. First of all, the money couldn’t be ignored. A life-changing pile of cash—retire-at-thirty-years-old sort of money–already sat quietly minding it’s own business in their accounts. At thirty, Kyle still couldn’t call himself specifically great at anything. Worse, his general disinterest in one sticking to one thing long enough to make what his folks called “a career” made it nearly impossible to say no to.
The other compelling reason was science. This mad-man, evil scientist sort of experiment could completely change humanity forever—or destroy it. Maybe the mad-man could only be stopped if Superman and Spiderman crossed universes and teamed up again like they did in 1981. Kyle thought it could take all the DC and Marvel heroes to save the world if this worked. Or nothing would happen. Kyle had no way to guess which one would happen, but if it did work his title on social media would be “retired.” There’s worse coin tosses, right?
The instruments strapped to his body were less heavy than awkward. Some would measure and store his physiological responses. Other devices were supposed to trigger the event, and all it would really take was to reach terminal velocity. It should just happen. If it didn’t—from this height he’d be an inch tall and his mom would be retired. Either way it’s all good.
“Woo-hooooo!” Dylan was acting drunk or like it was early Sunday morning. Both were equally likely. “Let’s gooo! C’mon, buddy!”
Kyle steeled his nerves–remembered the sequence. It would only trigger at terminal velocity. That meant he should be about 300 feet up when the device triggered—one football field, or about three and a half seconds above the pavement next to the infinity pools of the 9/11 memorial. Plenty of time to hit the emergency activator button. He needed to get into a head-down position quickly so he could accelerate with the least resistance. This couldn’t be automated or done on the ground they said. At that moment, Kyle realized they might have lied.
“Alright.” Kyle said. He was finally ready. “Let’s do this thing. You’re on my six, right?”
“Clippin’ your heels, bro! I’m trippin’ on you already!”
“You’re always tripping, D. See you on the other side.” He didn’t wait for a response. He took two puffing breaths, ran up the stairs and leapt over the edge. On the way over he heard Dylan yelling behind him.
“Hell yaaaaahhhhh… motherf…” Dylan’s voice was lost to the wind and flapping of Kyle’s jumpsuit.
Chin up. Hands pinned. Toes pointed. Eyes open. Watch the velocity. Watch the elevation. It’s going to work. Elevation 1,000. Speed barely increasing. Elevation 700. I’m tingling everywhere. 500. I’m going numb. Is this supposed to hap…”
Without a sound, Kyle blinked out of existence.