Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: OVERLOAD (10/06/16)
TITLE: Incident on Mason Ridge
By Anne Warden
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This was just another proof of what his life was like. One loss after another over his twenty-six years. Now he was without work and no matter what he was willing to do, no one would hire him. His girlfriend had dumped him. Now this eviction. Life had turned as sour as it possibly could.
No matter how he tried he never won. Not ever. He threw the letter on the couch and went to the door. In the entry hung a ceramic plaque from his grandma. In bold letters it urged, “Choose Life.” The reference was from Deuteronomy.
“Why should I?” Bitter resistance rose in Roger’s weary soul. “What good is life anyway? Too much heartache.” Reaching up, he turned the words toward the wall.
He had been developing his suicide plan for weeks and it was foolproof. Tonight he would carry it out. Up on Mason Ridge, there was a huge oak hanging over the river. This time of year, with so many trees down, it was hard to get up there. It would be a long while before anyone missed him and longer still before they found his body. He grabbed his coat, keys and the backpack he had ready, and walked out the door for the final time.
Following obsolete forest roads, Roger drove seven miles before he came to several trees across his path. But they were small. He got out and, slipping through mud, moved them aside. It was another three miles before he encountered a tree he couldn’t budge. Grabbing his backpack, he trudged the rest of the way by the filtered light of a full moon. An occasional noise came from the woods. Each time he hollered, “Finish me off. I don’t care.”
At Mason Ridge, he examined the oak tree. It was perfect for his plan. Climbing into its thick branches, he tied his rope securely to one branch protruding far over the cliff. Glancing down, he shivered. The inky river surged wildly through the gorge far below.
He shimmied down the trunk, taking the other end of the rope, the end with the noose. As he shed his coat, the mountain’s icy chill bit into his arms. But no matter. In a few minutes, he wouldn’t be feeling anything anyway. Wasn’t that what he wanted most – to stop feeling? It hurt to feel. It hurt to be lonely, forgotten, discouraged. And always a failure.
Digging into his backpack, he came up with the other tool he needed – a pistol. He’d heard that death from hanging could be agonizing, a tortuous slow choking. Roger admitted he was a coward. He wanted a quick death. Hence the gun. But he’d also heard of people trying to shoot themselves and ending up brain damaged instead of dead. With his luck, that would be him. So he had the rope. He’d leap off the cliff and shoot himself at the same time. This was the one time he wasn’t going to fail.
The words on the plaque flashed through his mind, mocking him. “Choose life.”
“No! I’ve had enough.” He clenched his teeth, ignoring his apprehension.
With the noose secure around his neck and the pistol to his temple, Roger stepped to the edge of the cliff. He took a deep breath, exhaled, closed his eyes tight and jumped, relishing the thought that sweet relief was only a moment away. Yet his hand shook as he pulled the trigger. The blast reverberated between the cliffs and he felt himself falling into death’s welcome oblivion. Grandma’s image swirled before him and regret pierced his heart. She was the only one who had believed in him.
Suddenly he realized he wasn’t falling slowly. His eyes popped open and he saw the walls of the gorge rushing past. The rope was still around his neck but it was severed beyond the noose. He groaned. Oh no! I can’t even shoot right.
In an instant Roger hit the cold water. Breath was snatched from his lungs as he went under. He kicked toward the surface, not an easy feat against the grip of the undertow. When he rose into fresh mountain air, he gulped a delicious breath. But the current struggled to pull him down again.
Turning toward shore, Roger mustered all his strength and swam like mad to keep from drowning.
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