swan dive

//mark jay

You are running, running, giddy as the wind. It is midday, and the sun colors all the field. Not that you notice, past one row of trees and then another. The skin on your face cannot keep pace.

You are a head above flailing arms and legs. The building is in the distance and its shadow dances towards you. You move carefully now, a two-dimensional figure sidestepping just outside the peripherals of the stout uniform ahead.

You are thirty yards away, twenty. Close enough to see a round, mustached face that does not change its blank expression as it crumples to the floor. A woman hastens towards you from beneath the shadow, her hand seeming to stick to her holster.

The gun in your right hand has ceased to feel heavy. You clench and re-clench. A feeling of glee tickles your throat. In another second she is twisted onto the floor and you do not look at her as you move past her body. You can feel bodies in the distance behind you, but you do not look back either; you are inside the shadow and nearing the door.

The second gun in your left hand has restored equilibrium. You fire both at the guard and bring his jarred movements to a halt. After a short sprint, you find yourself bumbling through the a glass turnstile.

More than alive, you are invincible.

You are in the lobby now, one among many. A woman lays on her child. A man shimmies on all fours. There are high ceilings and the light is bright. You think, Holy holy. A helmeted man announces himself with a shot that makes a sprinkler of the glass wall behind you. You fire with both hands until he is down.

They are scared of you. But you want nothing to do with them. Despite themselves, they look up at you. The old woman like a quaking spoon on the floor, the domineering suit imploring with both hands. You move past them, down a depopulated corridor and recede into the bowels, Frankenstein-armed and slowing down, yes, walking now, as if to savor your new reality.

Up the staircase you climb. Two and three and finally one at a time, and then you are on the roof. The legion of uniformed men chugging up the stairs, stampeding behind you, but you are calm, poised. Like this is all going right according to plan.

On the edge of the roof, you face the gathered crowd. A helicopter wobbles above. Sirens crisscross. Below the cameras snap and you show everyone a school boy’s smile.

The officers have joined you on the roof now. They crawl forward, compact, guns up. You swivel towards them, dropping both guns behind you and raise your hands to the sky. You don’t want any trouble. They tip-toe forward, as if not to startle you. Then you swing your heels back, left and then right, and send the guns in two rainbow arcs towards the swarming mass below. The police below go after each weapon like a bridal party after a tossed bouquet.

The men on the roof do not shoot you. There are dozens of them, guns trained, close range. But there is protocol and they do not shoot. They have you surrounded. The captain mouths into a bull horn.

But you are not listening. Your hands are grabbing the air and you are thinking, thinking. What beautiful, wretched thoughts are filling your head? And when the SWAT team is almost in arms reach, you take one step before jumping backwards, diving like a wingless swan unto the world below.

They play this part on a loop and each time I wish for a different ending. They show the grainy security footage and what the camera crews captured of the end. The talking faces rattle off information about the deceased. Names, birthdays, those they leave behind. You backheel your guns and swoop down after them again and again.

My daughter rolls her eyes. What a friggin’ nutjob. My wife’s hand pats along the couch until it finds my thigh and squeezes it. There’s a hiccup of a laugh that my daughter can’t keep down before she walks out of the room.

My wife looks at me with soft blue eyes that puddle into the deep bags below. She says, I know, baby, I know. She says, People do terrible, awful things. She says, Their families, the poor kids, God, can you imagine?

I want to tell her that it’s not them. But I don’t. Instead, I wait for her to kiss my forehead and walk down the hallway to our bedroom, and I sit alone through the night with the TV on mute as they keep replaying it. You are resurrected again and again, but only to dive once more. It’s as if by making the decision once, you had to be prepared to make it a thousand times. A million times. And you are doing it still as the sun replaces the moon, urging me to get up from the couch, splash some water on my face, and quiet my thoughts long enough to enter the embrace of another eternal day.

© 2015   Eli Stevick

© 2015 Eli Stevick

//Mark Jay is a co-founder of The Periphery.


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