The wind whistled past Mira’s ears at first, but as she picked up speed it began to roar. It was an inconsistent noise, rapidly alternating between silence and explosive outcry. Whipping at her skin the wind tried in vain to tear her clothes away, eagerly yanking, a lover too long unsatisfied. Mira shook her head, trying to clear the streaming tears from her eyes. As she laughed the wind snatched that too.
The affair began the same way it would end – with a bang. Mira remembered the smiling face staring up at her from the glossed page of Ripley’s Believe it or Not. Blonde hair, sweet smile, and eyes bright against the dark flight attendant uniform. Veronica Venzavic. The woman who fell from the sky. Mira couldn’t look away. Each word struck her with the force of God.
Three-hundred-thousand, three-hundred-thirty feet, sucked out of a moving airplane to land in a farmer’s field and survive. Three-hundred-thousand, three-hundred-thirty feet. No matter how many times she repeated that number Mira could not digest it. Almost twenty-seven Empire State Buildings, fallen and endured.
The old fear was building now. That ape-instinct to grab at something, to scramble and secure oneself. Mira fought it, trying to breathe deeply, though the air was too fast and too thin.
She could hear her mother calling her, yelling at her to get down from the tree in their back yard. The big oak with the perfectly spaced branches all up one side, and the clear, beautiful drop on the other. She heard her scolding turn to a shriek as Mira flung herself into the empty air for the first time. She’d broken her arm that day. It was her first cast of many, and she’d drawn birds on it.
The patchwork of greens, yellows, and browns below were close enough that Mira could make out the specks of cows and sheep. She’d chosen the fields carefully, freshly hewn hay lay in the golden squares on the earthen quilt, and Mira angled towards them, heart thundering against her teeth.
She felt guilty about leaving her skydiving instructor out of the loop. He’d be watching her, worried that she hadn’t pulled her chute, chewing his nails to their quicks. He’d be thinking about telling her parents, or else liability waivers. She’d have to apologize to him later.
This was only twelve-thousand, five-hundred feet, but hopefully a good beginning for her altitude training. Her highest so far was four stories without injury, achieved through instruction in free running and lots of practice. The nurses at A&E joked about getting her a frequent visitor’s punch card. They were nice, even if they did make her see a therapist.
It was a difficult thing to explain to people. The rush of falling, the drive to beat the record. ‘Suicidal Tendencies’ they’d always write on her reports. They were wrong. She fell to be alive, not to die.
With the precision of planning and practice, Mira righted herself, keeping her legs close together. The bend in her knees was slight, not enough to lock them. Breathing deeply, she closed her eyes, raising her arms to shield her head, and relaxing her muscles against the paralyzing panic fighting her ambitions.
If she made this, it would be the next stepping stone on the way to her ultimate goal. If not, it would end how it began.