Flash fiction — The tyranny of numbers

[Adult themes, suicide]

The salt air stung her nostrils, as she carefully set down her purse and the signed note. A gull looked at her curiously.

Arms wide, Joan dived off the edge of the Golden Gate Bridge.

She tried to remain calm as the wind accelerated past her like a rising scream. She had been planning this for days, ever since she had found Rosen’s paper about the spiritual awakening of survivors on the internet.

Ninety eight percent of jumpers from the Golden Gate Bridge die. The two hundred and forty foot high, four second fall accelerates them to a speed of seventy five miles per hour, before they smash into the Pacific Ocean with the force of a truck hitting a brick wall.

Only ten people had ever survived the fall. David Rosen, a psychiatrist, had interviewed seven of them. Every single one had discovered on their way down that the only problem that they had which was actually unsolvable was their decision to jump off the bridge. Imminent death brought with it a sudden clarity, followed by a desperate desire to live.

For those survivors — that desire to live had stayed with them, long after the fall. It transcended everything they had ever experienced, the sheer joy of still being alive slicing through the darkest of depressions with ease.

It was their spiritual rebirth.

Joan thought it was just talk, to sell books. They all seemed to have one.

As a Maths teacher, she knew how to calculate risks. Ninety eight percent was a much higher rate of success than overdose, hanging or even a direct gunshot could promise her. Hitting the water feet-first was the only way to survive, the femurs acting as a crumple zone to protect the rest of the body.

Which meant that hitting the water head-first would guarantee her desired outcome.

She had only cared about the numbers, about their certainty. It was only now that she realised just how much of a mistake that had been, as she struggled to change direction, mid-fall.

She wanted to live.

God, she wanted…

The Pacific embraced her, like a long-lost child.